Solemnity of Christ The King Year ‘A’ (26th November 2023) -  Gospel:-  Matthew 25:31-46


We end this Liturgical year with a Gospel that is primarily about compassion and caring for others. I also think that it’s one of the ‘richest’ Gospel passages we’ve read in this liturgical year. Rich, because it’s so descriptive in painting a picture for us of Christ as King, taking His seat on His throne of glory. Rich, because it touches on a familiar theme of the shepherd, looking after his sheep, which of course, is Christ looking after us. Rich, because it gives us an insight into the separation at the last judgement, in a way which is less gruesome than some of the other Apocalyptic Gospels. Rich, in terms of being very thought provoking.


Thought provoking in terms of the questions it prompts us to ask of ourselves. The same questions that His disciples asked Him. “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” Now, when we ask ourselves these questions, do we honestly expect the same answer that Jesus gave to His disciples? Will he say to us? “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” Do we, show that level of caring and compassion to our fellow human beings? Have we, in our lives, shown that level of love, respect, sympathy, empathy, care and compassion, to those in need? Do we stop and put some loose change in the beggars cup, or go to the nearest shop and buy a hot drink and a sandwich to give them? Would we think of taking off our coat or jacket and wrapping it round them? Do we think about our lonely neighbours and call on them, or someone who has recently suffered a loss in the family, and ring them up? 


I pose these questions, not to lay the ‘guilt trip’ on anyone, but only in an attempt to get all of us thinking about our actions towards those in need, those worse off than ourselves. There are so many different forms of help we can offer to others, and it isn’t always about helping in a financial way. Let me tell you about something I tried one time...and it backfired on me. 


Some years ago, whenever we went into town, parked the car and walked over to the shops, we always passed a young man sitting begging. Whenever we put some money in his cup, he was always very polite and said “Thank you, and God bless you.” The next time we went into town, we walked past him without giving him any money. I had decided that I could help him in another way. I went to the shop, bought a cup of tea and a hot pie, and took it back to him, only to find that he had gone. I couldn’t believe it, he was always in the same spot. I did look up towards heaven and say, “Well Lord, I did try.” I don’t think we ever saw him again. Wherever he is now, I hope he’s okay.    


So, how to best help those in need. Well here’s a suggestion: for the last few years, and we will do the same this year; we  have decided not to send / give Christmas cards to as many people as we normally would. Instead, we will use the money we would normal spend on cards and postage and add it to what we would donate to WODAC. Like all charities, they will struggle this year to provide for the needy. They truly feed the hungry, water the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless etc...The extra donations of food, certain items of clothing, toiletries etc.. will be gratefully received. Again, I’m not trying to lay the ‘guilt trip’ here, it’s just a suggestion, but what better way to live out this week’s Gospel. A Gospel so rich in many different ways, by all of us doing this together. 


On judgement day, Christ the King will sit on His royal throne, and all of the nations will be assembled before Him. We will all be there – Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, believers and non believers alike. On that day, the King will ask one question of His subjects: ‘Did you care? Did you really care?’ We will all be measured on one standard: Compassion. According to Jesus that is the ultimate test of life. That is the one characteristic our heavenly King requires of His subjects. May He find it in each of us.


Just think about what the world would be like if we all treated each other with care and compassion in the way in which Jesus spells it out to His disciples. Perhaps that vision was best summed up by John Lennon in his song ‘Imagine’:


‘Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do.

 Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.

 Imagine all the people, living life in peace.

 You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

 I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one’.


Can you imagine such a world? No wars, just peace, everyone caring for each other. Jesus doesn’t just want us to imagine such a world, he wants us to strive towards achieving it. We can achieve it by ensuring that no-one goes hungry, thirsty, cold, unclothed, unnoticed, uncared for.


If you’re wondering what happened to the cup of tea and the hot pie I bought for that young man, well, I drank the tea and ate the pie. There was no-one else around I could have given them to …. Honest!

33rd Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year 'A' (19th November 2023)  - Gospel:-  Matthew 25:14-30

Whenever I read this Gospel I can see how it can be interpreted in a few different ways. The obvious one is that the man who entrusted his finances with these three men was right to judge two of them to faithful and trustworthy, while the third man was wicked, lazy, and good for nothing. He based these judgements on the fact that the first two had invested his money and made a handsome profit for him, whilst the third man had done nothing with it.


I suppose that if you look upon it from a commercial point of view, he may be correct in his judgement. However, there are a few factors I think we need to take into consideration here. Firstly the money itself. One was given five talents, one given two and the other given one talent. I have read two differing accounts as to how much a talent was worth. One that it was equivalent to ten years wages for a working man, and the other that it was equivalent to sixteen years wages. Either way, it was a vast sum of money to entrust to servants. Secondly, given that at the time of this parable, most money was made dishonestly, and from what we hear about this man, he seems to have been what we might call today; a ‘shrewd operator’ or a ‘hard nose businessman’ or even a ‘bit of  a rogue’. Either way, he clearly expected a return on his money and therefore it’s easy to see how he would judge the three servants in the way he did.


Alternatively, we could interpret this Gospel in another way. The third servant was given a sum of money to look after while the master was away. Fearful of the masters’ reputation, this servant did what he thought was the safest thing to do, hide the money in a safe place and return it to the master when the time came. Therefore: money given, money kept safe, money returned, no risks taken...job done! He had done what was asked of him, nothing more nothing less, and therefore was being judged harshly. 


Today’s Gospel, taken literally, could be interpreted in either of these ways. We do of course, need to bare in mind that this was a parable that Jesus was using to make a point and to teach His disciples; and as with all of the parables that Jesus told, they were not meant to be taken literally. 


Let’s consider the words ‘talent’ or ‘talents’ in the context we use those words today. A ‘talent’ is considered to be a gift or a skill that someone has that others don’t. We are used to watching ‘talent’ shows on T.V. and there are some of us who will remember Hughie Green as the host of Opportunity Knocks. For the benefit of those of a ‘younger’ generation, this show was the forerunner of recent shows such as, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, ‘Pop Idol’, ‘The Voice’ and other such shows. Whilst it’s true that the people who appeared on these type shows had talent, this isn’t exactly what Jesus had in mind with this parable.


Jesus knew that His disciples all had different talents. Some were destined to be evangelisers, some healers, some great preachers and teachers. I think He was trying to get them to understand that God had given them all certain talents to be used wisely for the good of others, to spread His Word and to build the kingdom of God here on earth. Today we may think of people like St. Teresa of Calcutta, Pope St. John Paul  2nd , Martin Luther King Jnr. or Nelson Mandela as people who used their talents for the good of humanity.


Have you considered that we all have many talents? The fact is that God gave us all different talents. Perhaps you know what your talents are and are already putting them to good use. Some of us may require others to point out to us what they see as our talents and encourage us to use them for the good of others. 


Whatever talent or talents God blessed us with, He did it for a reason. He has a plan for all of us. He has a specific mission in mind for each of us and that is why we are all unique with different gifts and talents from God. I think this is summed up very well in that well known prayer of St. John Henry Newman, part of which is this:


“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.” 


So, I ask you to re-read today’s Gospel with a fresh pair of eyes. When you do, consider what talent or talents you feel that God has blessed you with, what His mission is for you. Use those blessings for the good of others, and for the building of His kingdom here on earth.


Be careful though,what you think is a talent may not be seen as such by others. I read about a man who thought he had a talent for singing. Whilst at a party, he got up, stood in the middle of the room and started to sing. The only snag was he was the only one in the room who thought he could sing. Oh, by the way, it wasn’t me. I know I can’t sing. My talents lie elsewhere ... very deeply hidden. I’m still waiting for them to be revealed!

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’  (12-11-2023) -  Gospel :- Matthew 25:1-13

“So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.” This is the last sentence in today’s Gospel, which of course is all about being sensible and prepared. 


I guess most of us will associate this Gospel and these words with being prepared for our death, as we do not know the day or the hour when that will be, and that’s quite a rational assumption. We can prepare for that eventuality in many different ways. Some of us may prepare in terms of our relationships, our financial affairs, making a will etc..We can also prepare by making our wishes known to our nearest and dearest, about what we would like in terms of the readings, Gospel and hymns at our funeral. Doing just that, does make it easier for others when the time comes, and on a personal note, I have done this. I have the readings, Gospel and hymns chosen, saved electronically as well as a hard copy in a file. Not that I’m planning on going soon...but you never know!


However, I think it’s about much more than that. I believe that the message in today’s Gospel is not just about being prepared for the end, but being prepared for the whole of our lives, and this starts at our Baptism. We are given our lamp and oil during our Baptism service. The lamp is our Baptismal candle and the oil is the sacrament, the receiving of the Holy Spirit. At this point of the service, the Deacon or Priest uses the following words:


“Parents and Godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He/she is to walk always as a child of the light. May he/she keep the flame of faith alive in his/her heart. When the Lord comes, may he/she go out to meet Him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.”


At the end of the service the Paschal candle, from which the Baptismal candle was lit, will be put out, as will the Baptismal candle. But the lamp inside, the light of faith in the heart, the fire of grace and love, they are to remain alight forever, and you yourself are the only one who can quench them. It’s up to us then, throughout our lives, to keep that flame alight. Our parents can help us with this by ensuring we receive the other sacraments of initiation: Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. As we grow up we take on this responsibility for  ourselves, ‘topping up’ the oil for that lamp from time to time with prayer, mass attendance, attending retreats, and nurturing a close relationship with Jesus by leading a good Christian life. These are the oil we need for our lamps, but we must go and obtain it for ourselves.


Even if we feel that we have been diligent in our preparations and accepted our responsibilities, when the time comes, our resources may still be inadequate but we needn’t worry. There is one who walks beside us and lives within us, and that person is Jesus. Remember His promise to all of us: “Behold, I am with you always, yes, even to the end of the world.”


With the comfort of that thought in our minds and hearts, we can be assured that there will always be a good supply of oil available for our lamps, providing we are prepared by getting it in time. 

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ (05-11-2023) - Gospel :- Matthew 23:1-12

In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus telling the people and his disciples to obey and listen to what the scribes and Pharisees are saying…but not to copy what they are actually doing. He knew that it was important that the people were taught by the them, but it was also important that they recognised that the scribes and Pharisees are an example of people possibly loving themselves or their positions in society, more than God. Of not practising what they preached.


Today we would say of these people, they need taking down a peg or two, need teaching a lesson, or they had ideas above their station, that power and position had gone to their heads. I am sure we have all come across these situations in our lives and our workplaces. So the message contained in today’s Gospel is all about humility. How many people do we all know that could do with a lesson in humility. Some of us may even have been guilty of a lack of it from time to time, if I’m honest with myself I know I have. At times it can be a painful lesson to learn, but a necessary one for all of us to remember.


Many years ago I saw a great example of  humility in a man. The T.V. news carried a story featuring a man who was a victim of the London bombings and who had to have his left leg amputated above the knee. They had been following his treatment and recovery for a period of a few months. While they were trying to exalt him as a victim among victims, a shining example of someone coping with the horror of the tragedy, he was having none of it. He was insisting that he was just one of many victims on that day, and that he was much luckier than a lot of others. He was also trying to play down the extent of his injuries and resulting disability by being thankful and praising God for sparing him to get on with his life when others were less fortunate. He was adamant he did not want to be treated any different from all the other victims. He admitted to not understanding how someone could carry out such an atrocity, but did not have any hate towards the people responsible. He just wanted to get home and to get back to work and was somewhat embarrassed by the publicity he was receiving ahead of other victims. This young man clearly did not believe in putting himself above others or feel it necessary to be thought of as more important than anyone else.


I think this story gives true meaning to the last sentence of today’s Gospel “Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.” 


Jesus goes on to remind the people that they have only one Master, one Father, one Teacher. This message is also present in the reading from the prophet Malachi, where he says “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?” The overarching theme from the first reading and the Gospel is one of priesthood and ministry, and warns against regarding the ministry as grounds for personal pride; as displayed by the Pharisees, rather than as a sacramental sign of God’s presence in word and sacrament.   

I must admit, when I look at the words from the prophet Malachi in today’s first reading; “Have we not all one Father?” and the words of Jesus in the Gospel, “You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and He is in heaven.” I can understand why some people can be confused when we use the word ‘Father’ more widely when speaking about, or addressing priests.


There is a distinction between the two uses of the word though. When we address a priest as ‘Father’ it is in the context that the priest is the sacramental sign of the presence of God’s self as Father. It would be wrong for a priest to see the use of the word as a way of personal distinction, or of superiority, over others. This was, in effect, what Jesus was criticising the Pharisees for doing. Having said that, I have to add that I have never come across a priest who appeared to do so. If I ever did, I think I would leave it to the Lord to take him down a peg or two. 

30th Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ (29th October 2023)  -  Gospel:- Matthew  22:34-40

In today’s Gospel, as in last week’s, we see the Pharisees putting a loaded question to Jesus in an attempt to trip him up, to trick him into giving an answer that would contradict his teachings and totally undermine him. Yet again though Jesus does not fall into their trap. He not only gives them a clever answer, but a very important one too. Indeed, today’s Gospel summarises the Ten Commandments in two simple commandments about loving God, and loving your neighbour. It is about keeping the balance between these two, because Jesus tells them that the second is just as important than the first.

The two commandments stand side by side, you cannot have one without the other. Without the love of neighbour, the love of God remains a barren emotion; and without the love of God, love of neighbour is but a refined form of self-love. This therefore, illustrates the intimate connection between the two.  


So let’s look at this concept. We are being told to treat others as we would have them treat us. I think, if asked, we would all say that we try to do this, but do we? Really? Our first duty of course is to love God, this remains our priority as Christians, but let’s examine what Jesus means in the second part of his answer. To most people, the word neighbour will be taken as the person who lives next  door to them, but this can also mean the person who lives in the same street, the same area, the same community, and can even be taken in a much wider vein.


I believe that a lot of conflicts, dare I say it, even wars could have been avoided if more people treated their neighbours as they would wish to be treated themselves. I am thinking in particular of Northern Ireland. How many times during the thirty years of conflict in the region did we hear of people being forced out of their homes and their communities by acts of arson, violence, and general intimidation, by their neighbours, literally the people next door. Yet I also witnessed first hand, the links between those communities and proof that not everyone should be tarred with the same brush. Many years ago, during the times of the ‘troubles’ when we were on holiday in Armagh; we stayed in a B&B which was run by a protestant lady and her family. The lady’s husband had been murdered in a sectarian act of violence and their home had been petrol bombed during the marching season. Unimaginable tragedies, yet it was their catholic neighbours who came to their rescue. They knew we were a catholic family and welcomed us with open arms into their home and treated us like family. Indeed, our son and their youngest daughter remained ‘pen-pals’ for many, many years afterwards. Over the last twenty five years, the peace process has helped people from all sides of the community, to learn to live together and to respect each other. It may be a bit ambitious to say that they all love their neighbour  as they love themselves, but by the message of today’s Gospel and the will of God, the peace process will pay dividends in the future.


How wonderful it would be if the same were true of the conflict in the Middle East. If only the people in Israel and Palestine could find it in their hearts to love their neighbour as themselves we might also see some movement towards peace in that region too.


If you were to ask some of the people in either Northern Ireland or the Middle East, ‘Do you love God?’ They may well answer yes. If you then asked them, ‘do you love your neighbour as yourself?’ they would probably say “It depends on who my neighbour is!” 


Strange, because it’s a simple question, you are not out to trick them as the Pharisees tried with Jesus. We can only hope and pray that the message in today’s Gospel finds its way into their hearts, and they can all learn to live at peace with God and with their neighbours.


Love of God and love of your neighbour is the only way to peace in the world.   

29th Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ (22nd October 2023)  - Gospel:- Matthew 22:15-21

Sometimes when we ask someone something and they seem to struggle to find the answer, we may say, “It’s not a trick question!” Well, in today’s Gospel, that’s exactly what was posed to Jesus; a trick question!


Let’s take the actual question out of the equation for the moment. Let’s look at who posed the question. It was the Pharisees, together with the Herodians. Now these two sets of peoples generally hated each other and didn’t mix, but they got together to try to trap, to ensnare, Jesus, such was their joint contempt for him. For different reasons they were both intimidated and felt threatened by Jesus. Strange behaviour from two opposing factions. Today we may use that well known phrase, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. They may not have considered Jesus as an enemy, but they certainly felt threatened enough by his preaching and teaching to lay a trap for Him. Jesus, of course, saw right through them and turned the tables on them by giving a very clever response to their question, for which they had no answer, they were astonished by Him. 


Now, as to the question they posed to Jesus. For the significance of this, we need to understand two things. Firstly, the taxation system that the Romans had imposed on the people at that time. There were in fact three regular taxes which the Roman government exacted from the people. One of them was the poll tax. This tax had to be paid by every male person from the age of 14 to 65; and every female person from 12 to 65. It amounted to one denarius and it was equivalent to the day’s wage of a working man. It was about the poll tax that the Pharisees and the Herodians questioned Jesus. They thought that if He said it was unlawful to pay the tax, they could report him to the Romans for inciting people to break the law. If he said it was lawful to pay the tax, he would be discredited in the eyes of many people.


Secondly the coin itself, a denarius. The image on the denarius was most likely  that of Tiberius, who was styled on coins as “Tiberius Caesar son of the divine Augustus” thereby attributing divinity to Augustus. When He asked to see the coin and asked whose head was on it, His answer, “Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God” was that clever that it outwitted them all. In fact, the next verse in this Gospel is: ‘When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.’ When I read this line, it reminded me of something a famous comedian used to say, “And their mouths were shut!” Oh, can’t you just picture the scene.


The trap was that if Jesus had said, ‘pay the taxes’ he would be acknowledging the sovereignty of Rome and the divinity of Augustus and thereby offending the Jews; if he had said ‘don’t pay it’ he might have been charged with sedition by the Romans. Either of those answers would have suited the Pharisees but Jesus’ clever answer showed them the ‘Middle Way’. 


The bigger point is the second part of Jesus’ answer, “and to God what belongs to God.” In effect, Jesus was telling them that since the material things such as the coins, the money, were minted by Rome, they should be given back to Rome. Everything else, the power - the real power, belongs to God alone, and it is God alone that we should worship, not Caesar. In other words, we must show our loyalty to Him as His followers. We must put our trust in Him as our Saviour. We must show our faith in Him as our Lord. This is quite a list, quite a tall order, but we mustn’t flinch from doing our best to achieve our goal. We will all achieve this in our own different ways because it is a very personal thing. 


I am sure that we all with have had times in our life when the depth of our faith has helped us through a difficult time. I know I have, many times. Quite often we may then feel that we should give something back to God, it’s almost as if we think that, well He helped me through that issue, I owe Him one. That’s not how God works. Yes God has given us, and continues to give us a lot, and His love for us is unconditional. Everything we have comes to us from the blessings He bestows upon us by His grace, which raises the question, ‘What can we possibly give back to Him? Well, we can give something back to Him in many different ways. We can love Him, and adore and worship Him, but most of all, we can learn from Jesus’ teachings and live a good Christian life.


I have found that by turning to God and praying, by trying to give something back to Him, that I  receive so much more in return. When I dig deep into my faith I find that God is always helping and guiding me. By praying prayers of thanksgiving, I find ways of giving to God what belongs to God.


The Pharisees trick question backfired on them because they had an ulterior motive...Jesus did not. His only motive was that of love for God. Rulers who have their heads on coins will come and go, but God will reign forever.                              

28th Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’  (15th October 2023) -  Gospel:- Matthew 22:1-14

Use It Or Lose It! That was the phrase I used to end last weeks’ homily with, I’ve chosen to use it again this week, to start my homily with. I’m using it in a different context this week. The last few words in this week’s Gospel, are ‘For many are called, but few are chosen’. Well if we are fortunate enough to be part of the chosen few, we should accept it as an honour and a privilege, and grab the opportunity with both hands. We never know if we will ever be called again, so when given the opportunity, we should ‘Use It Or Lose It’. The parable in today’s Gospel is a great example of this.


The guests who had originally been invited to the wedding feast spurned their opportunity, the guests who eventually came grabbed it with both hands. Of course, if we take the parable literally we may well conclude that for the original guests, it probably wasn’t the first wedding feast they had been invited to and wouldn’t be the last, so it wasn’t that important to them.  Now, for the people who eventually came, let’s face it, it was probably a once in a lifetime invitation for them, so they will have jumped at the chance. Again if we take it literally, what are we to make of the man who was ejected because he wasn’t wearing a wedding robe? Think about it, if the guests were collected from the crossroads of the town, then realistically how many of them will have been appropriately dressed? I suspect none of them. So taken literally, it can be understood in a certain way, but this isn’t the point that Jesus was trying to make.


As with the last couple of weeks, the parable was aimed at the religious leaders of the time. It was designed to get them to understand that the kingdom of heaven is available to everyone, and everyone can enter it, but only if we can demonstrate that we deserve our place, our place at the Lord’s high feast. So the man was ejected, not because of how he was dressed, but because of his attitude and lack of respect for what he was being invited to. You could say that his heart wasn’t in it, and that’s why he was ejected. He was ejected because he either didn’t understand or didn’t appreciate, the privilege of the invitation. He clearly failed to grasp that ‘Many are called, but few are chosen’.    


I guess a lot of us, as children, were dragged to church each Sunday under sufferance by our parents (I know I was), and as parents, did the same with our children. We’ve all been invited to the Lord’s banquet, He wants us all to be there, but to be there willingly, not out of any misplaced sense of duty, or because we’ve been dragged there kicking and screaming. I can hear parents thinking, ‘yeah good luck explaining that to a small child!’ but at least we don’t eject people because their ‘hearts aren’t in it’. His banquet, His church, His mansion, His kingdom, His heart, is open to all of us. All that he asks of us is that our hearts are open to Him too.


We can achieve this through prayer. The more we pray, the more open our hearts become to our Lord. We can of course pray any place any time, but what better time and place to do so than during Holy Mass at church. By doing so we’re opening our hearts to God in prayer and accepting His invitation to be present at the banquet of the Lord.    


For the man in the parable, it really was a case of ‘Use it or lose it’ but not so for us. The Lord’s invitation to His banquet is an open one…..but He does want us to ‘Use it’.


So come to the banqueting table of the Lord. Come to mass with an open heart and no matter what clothes you are wearing, you will be welcomed in, not ejected, for it is in your heart that the Lord wants to greet you. You are one of the chosen few!

27th Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ - (8th October 2023)  Gospel:- Matthew 21:33-43

For the third consecutive week, the Gospel has Jesus using a parable about the vineyard. Have you noticed that a lot of the parables that Jesus used were about farming, crop farming or fishing? This is because a lot of the population made their living from working on the land or the sea. It was their way of life, and therefore they were more likely to understand the message if it was put in terms of farming or fishing. They could relate to it better. That’s fine, it’s obvious, but what about today? Our way of life and our ways of earning a living, are so diverse today. How do we relate to those parables in the context of our present world, our present way of living? 


I must admit that this is another one of those parables that I had to read through a few times to get my head around it, and how we can relate to it in the context our lives today. 


If we can understand the parables in the context of the time they were told, we can understand them today. Our way of life may have changed, but the message hasn’t. The vineyard represented Israel; the vine dressers, its religious leaders; the successive servants, the Old Testament prophets; the son, Jesus the Messiah; his murder, the crucifixion. Understanding this interpretation for this parable, enables us to easily interpret and understand all the other parables. 


So, we can see today’s Gospel as a form of eviction notice to the nation of Israel. Jesus was warning the Jews that they either pay their rent or they would lose their place in His kingdom. In other words, Use It Or Lose It!


So how can we implement those principles in our everyday lives? Well let’s think about our prayer life. If we don’t pray, we weaken our ability to pray. If we don’t give, we forget the joy of giving. It’s very sad when we fail to use the privileges at our disposal, but every privilege carries with it a corresponding responsibility. If we don’t use it, we lose it. We all have the opportunity to live life to the full, what we do with it is up to us. The grace of God is there helping us to make the most of life. Life holds us accountable for the things that we have, and if we don’t pay the rent, we lose the lease.


Jesus uses the example of a vineyard but we can substitute the vineyard for the earth. It’s up to us to tend to and care for the earth and its resources as God wants us to. We all have a responsibility for caring for the earth. A few days ago we came to the end of ‘Creation Time’ a time when Pope Francis asks us to take our responsibility for the earth and its resources seriously and understand that we are but stewards of God’s creation. Unlike the tenants in today’s Gospel, we don’t have to hand over any physical produce but we do have to hand over the fruits of God’s creation to future generations. That’s the price we have to pay, that’s our responsibility, that’s what God wants from us. That responsibility is summed up, I think, by the last sentence in today’s Gospel:


‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit’.


Let us then be that people who will produce the fruit that God wants from us. Let us care for His ‘vineyard’, our earth, His creation, by using the gifts He gave us. He bestows that very special blessing on all of us, so ….. Use It Or Lose It! 

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year 'A' (1st October 2023) - Gospel :- Matthew 21: 28-32

I was away last week in Durham and I used the SatNav in my car to get me to where I wanted to be. I put in the street name and listened to the directions of that wonderful lady who is hidden deep inside my car...‘SatNav Sally’ I call her. Now, there can be times when she gets it wrong, or more likely, I get it wrong, and she tells us me do a ‘U’ turn. How was I to know that there are three streets with the same name and almost identical postcodes in Durham! Annoying isn’t it? 


Now this may seem a flippant way to explore the message contained in today’s Gospel, but my aim is simple. It’s to get us to think about what we are doing and where we are heading. Realising that it’s not the right way, and being willing to change what you’re doing and get yourself back on the right track, is something we all have to do from time to time.  


Well, isn’t that what Jesus was experiencing with the Chief Priests and Elders? Wasn’t that the reason why he used this parable with them? You may find it a bit surprising that, with their education, their status, their piety, their knowledge of God’s laws, and their adherence to their religious beliefs; that they could be so blind to the things that God actually wanted from them. Were they being stubborn or arrogant? Who knows, but I think that it must have been very frustrating for Jesus to have to resort to parables such as this to get them to understand God’s wishes for all of us. To get them to understand that, despite their knowledge of the Jewish religion and laws, they didn’t understand at all, that those whom they looked down upon, were the ones who were actually getting it right. 


Jesus was trying to get them to understand that it’s not about living a perfect life, none of us can do that no matter how hard we try; but it’s more about recognising that we have all made mistakes in the past. It’s about being willing and able to atone for our sins, and being willing and able to correct our past behaviours, amend our way of life, become a better person, and show respect, love and peace to others. That’s what God wants from us, and that’s the way to enter the kingdom of God, no matter who you are. Prince or pauper, master or servant, rich or poor; none of this matters to God. We are all equal in his sight and we will all be judged by him in the same way. Only God will judge us. Only God will decide who enters His kingdom. But only we can affect how we are judged. We do this by living our lives in the way that God wants us to do. 


It’s up to each of us to think about how we live our lives. Do we show signs of stubbornness and arrogance in our view that our way is the only way? Or, are we willing to admit to ourselves and others, that we may have got things wrong and be willing to perform one of the many a ‘U’ turns’ that life requires of us from time to time. Yes, it can be a difficult thing to have to do, it can hurt our pride.


Let us look into our consciences and see how much of our past life we have given to God and how much we have kept for ourselves. If we were called tonight to render an account to the Lord would we be on God’s side? Would we have been capable of recognising that changing our mind, doing a ‘U’ turn to do something good, is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength? It’s up to us to make the time to do the right thing, even if it requires some sacrifice on our part.


So if you feel that the decisions you have made are taking your life in the wrong direction; don’t be afraid to change those decisions, change direction, even if it means having ‘SatNav Sally’s’ voice in your head telling you to do a ‘U’ turn. The best ‘U’ turn you will ever make, is when YOU turn to God.          

25th Sunday Of ordinary Time Year ‘A’ (24th September  2023)  - Gospel:-  Matthew 20:1-16

For a while now we have become used to industrial action such as overtime bans and strikes across many sectors of the economy. Those involved are, by and large, taking action to achieve ‘a fair days pay for a fair days work’. Now we may all have our own opinions as to the role of the Trades Union Movement; but I think it’s fair to say that had they been around at the time of the events in the parable in today’s Gospel, they would have had something to say about the way the landowner treated his labourers. They would probably have called for strike action and my dad would have been right there with them.  My dad was a hard working man who worked in engineering works and shipyards all his life, and whilst he was not the militant type, he was a strong union man who firmly believed in ‘a fair days pay for a fair days work’. I’m not sure he would totally have got the lesson in today’s Gospel though.


However, if we look at the last sentence of today’s Gospel, “thus the last will be first, and the first, last.” we can see that the landowner is the kind of person who believes in treating everyone the same. A man of great humanity and love and respect for his fellow man. Possibly unusual and unique in today’s society. If we also compare his actions to the words of Isaiah in today’s first reading, where the message is to turn away from wickedness and evil, to turn back to the Lord for forgiveness; we can see that God treats us all as equals, despite our failings, because of his love for everyone.


Now the men who worked hard all day in the vineyard felt hard done by, because they were  paid the same as the others who arrived later and had worked a only a few hours,  but the landowner took a different view. To him, the men who  arrived at the eleventh hour were just as important to him as those who had been there all day and he treated them so.


Is this, therefore, not the same way the Lord treat us? Those who come to him late in the day…at the eleventh hour…are just as important to him as those who have been with him longer. He clearly treats everyone the same through his great love for us all. We are all valued and treated the same by the Lord. Just as a mother has a bond of unconditional love for her child, the Lord shows his unconditional love for us by not abandoning us in our hour of need.


The author Jeffrey Archer wrote a novel entitled “First among equals”, but how can there be a “first” among equals. There is also a well known saying “all men are equal, but some are more equal than others”. This feeling or attitude is surely illustrated in today’s Gospel when some vineyard workers felt they were better or more deserving than others. They were not of course, and the action of the landowner showed that to be the case. Perhaps that made them think again about how they see themselves in relation to others. Some of them feeling that they were more deserving of greater reward for the greater effort they put into their work. They were shown otherwise by the landowner.


This is true of God also. He does not offer greater reward purely for greater effort, no, he offers reward to everyone who is willing to follow in His ways and values. This is the true measure of God’s love for us. The workers in the Gospel were not wicked or evil or even in  great need of forgiveness as those suggested by Isaiah, but they did show that they had failings, just as we all do.  We must therefore be willing to follow God’s example, (and that of the landowner), by treating everyone equally, with love and respect. It is only by doing this that we will come to fully understand the meaning and depth of God’s love and humanity. 


There is of course a lesson in that last sentence of the Gospel, ‘Thus the last will be first, and the first last’ but surely there doesn’t have to be a ‘first’ or a ‘last’. We are all equal in the eyes of God and we will all be rewarded equally in His kingdom.

24th Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’  (17th September 2023)  - Gospel:- Matthew 18:21-35

 I sometimes feel sorry for St. Peter. In the last few weeks, we have heard of him either getting things wrong, or saying the wrong thing and being rebuked by Jesus, (“Man of little faith” “Get behind me Satan”). The only thing he seems to get right, is when Jesus asks the disciples “Who do you say I am.” Peter is praised by him when he gives the right answer. However, he seems to get it wrong again in today’s Gospel. He asks Jesus “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” Jesus answered, “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy -seven times.” Poor Peter, he reminds me of the boy who sat at the back of the class and was always getting into trouble, getting things wrong, and yes, I was that boy! Well it seems he got it wrong again. Or did he?


Jesus’ answer to Peter implies an infinite number, “seventy-seven times.” (other translations of this Gospel say “seventy times seven.”), in other words a very large number. Our forgiving has to be unlimited, because God’s mercy is unlimited, and surely that’s the whole point of today’s Gospel. If we expect God to always show his mercy and forgive us, then surely we need to be willing to show that same level of mercy to others, who have wronged us, and forgive them.  


It’s no coincidence that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray with the words he specifically chose. We say this prayer, the Our Father, every day perhaps many times a day, and within it lies the meaning of the parable and the true answer posed in today’s Gospel: “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”


Of course only God can forgive, we may try with all that we have to forgive, but only God can forgive. Indeed when Jesus was nailed to the cross, He didn’t say to His torturers, ‘I forgive you’ His words were, “Father, forgive them.” When we ask for God’s forgiveness or God’s help to forgive others, we are dipping into that divine pool of mercy, which is God dwelling in our hearts, and then God’s mercy flows out of us. If then, God forgiving us, is Him showing his mercy to us, then by Him helping us to forgive others, he is releasing His mercy into the world.


Have you ever been forgiven by someone for a wrong you have done to them and felt you didn’t deserve their forgiveness? Have you ever been able to forgive someone for a wrong they’ve done to you when you didn’t think you could? How did it make you feel? Did you have feelings of satisfaction? Or relief? Or what about joy? Yes, joy. The joy that we feel when we forgive, or having been forgiven, is an expression of God’s mercy and love for us. 


Now I’m not saying that forgiving someone who has wronged you can be easy, far from it, and it can be easy to see how some people may find it very difficult, if not impossible, to find it in their hearts to forgive. When I say this, I am thinking of the big story in the news a few weeks ago, the Lucy Letby, case as an example. 


The verdict and sentencing in that case probably disturbed and upset many of us so much. Perhaps we couldn’t help thinking of how those families may never be able to find forgiveness in their hearts for the pain and suffering they endure, and some may say ‘why should they’. We can only hope and pray that in time, God will help to heal their broken hearts and bring peace to them, for it’s in the heart, where God lives within us, that healing and forgiveness starts. If we cannot find it in our hearts to forgive, then it is we who can suffer. We can become prisoners to the hurt and resentment we hold on to. We shouldn’t want that for ourselves, God certainly doesn’t want that for us. He will help us to overcome the difficulties and obstacles that are preventing us from showing forgiveness to others.


From a personal point of view, this is something I have struggled with for a large part of my adult life. I too have held onto feelings of hurt and resentment for too long before finally finding it within myself to forgive those who I have felt wronged by. I must admit, it did feel like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders when I finally ‘let go’. 


Perhaps the man mentioned in the parable would have benefited from knowing the words of the Our Father and been wise enough to have stopped and thought along those lines before doing what he did. He showed no mercy, and in return, received no mercy. Maybe we can all learn from his mistakes. 


Mercy and forgiveness can go hand in hand. God shows His mercy to us and forgives us always. Perhaps we need to find it in our hearts to show mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. There may be times when when we find this difficult to do, but both parties, the forgiver and the forgiven, will both benefit. It’s a ‘win-win’ situation ... and who wouldn’t want to be a winner?  

23rd Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’  -  (10th September 2023)  Gospel:- Matthew 18:15-20

I come from a very close family, and whilst my brother and I don’t always agree on absolutely everything, we have never fallen out with each other, let alone argued or fought. So I could never foresee us being in the situation as described in today’s Gospel, where we hear of Jesus telling His disciples, “If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves.” Of course, the Gospel doesn’t literally mean your ‘brother’ in that sense. It means your fellow man or woman. 


Now, when I first read it, I was a bit confused with the message that Jesus was getting across. He seemed to advocate, as a last resort, giving up on somebody in certain circumstances. I was confused because we know that our Lord would never give up on us. He is a forgiving Lord, one who will always give us the opportunity to repent for our sins, to change our ways, and be brought back into the fold once more.


So for me the two words that spring to mind having re-read the Gospel, are: Reconciliation and Forgiveness. For our part, we have to be open to reconciling ourselves with those who have wronged us, to those who we have wronged, and of course, to be reconciled with God. The route to Reconciliation and Forgiveness is a two way street.


Let me illustrate forgiveness with an example. In her book, ‘The Hiding Place’, Corrie Ten Boon describes how her family hid some Jews in Holland from the Nazis. She writes about the sufferings in the concentration camps where she and her sister were sent. Her sister died in one of the camps. After the war, she lectured and preached throughout Europe on the need to forgive one another. After one of her talks, a man came to her and said “How grateful I am for your message ... To think that, as you say, Christ has forgiven me.” He didn’t recognise her, but she recognised him as one of the SS guards at the camp where she was imprisoned. All of the horrific memories of that camp came back to her. The former SS guard extended his hand to shake hers. And she, who had preached so often about forgiveness, kept her hand at her side as she began to have angry, raging and vengeful thoughts. Then she remembered; Jesus Christ had died for this man, and forgives him. Was I going to ask for more? “Lord Jesus” she prayed, “forgive me and help me to forgive him.” She tried to smile and raise her hand, but she couldn’t. She breathed a silent prayer, ‘Jesus, I can’t forgive him for what he did to my sister and so many other people. Give ME, YOUR forgiveness.’ As she took his hand, she felt an ‘electric current’ pass from her shoulder, along her arm through her hand, into the hand of this SS guard; and she felt a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed her. She discovered that forgiveness depended, not upon her, but upon God’s grace.


When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he also gives us the grace to love, to forgive. Christ doesn’t ask us to forgive on our own. He simply asks us to participate in His gift of forgiveness. As Corrie Ten Boon discovered, forgiveness is possible, not when we try to forgive on our own, but only when we trust in God, to bring healing, forgiveness and reconciliation to our broken relationships.


Sometimes it is the easiest course of action to give up on someone that you feel you are just not getting through to. Maybe some people just are a lost cause. However, our Christian beliefs tell us that this shouldn’t be the case. Everyone is worthy of trying for. I think the example Jesus uses in the Gospel today is perhaps an extreme case, he didn’t normally give up on people, and he won’t give up on us.

We are all sinners, but we have the advantage of a loving God who will always forgive our sins and give us another chance. If God is willing to do that for us, shouldn’t we be willing to do that for each other?


Of course we should, that’s what God wants us to do, to follow His example.    

22nd Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ - (3rd September 2023)    Gospel:- Matthew 16:21-27

What’s in a name? The reason I pose this question is to illustrate some of the differences and contradictions we may have within us. In last week’s Gospel, Jesus named Peter as His Rock. The one whom He would build His church upon. In this week’s Gospel, Jesus calls Peter by a totally different name, He calls him Satan! This shows some of the differences and contradictions that lay within Peter. In last week’s Gospel, Peter demonstrates his true faith and belief in Jesus, and now we hear of him doubting Jesus’ words.


We don’t know for sure what time difference there was between these two Gospel events but, Jesus obviously felt that he had to establish the level of understanding that there was within his close followers as to who He truly was. Hence the question in last week’s Gospel, “But you, who do you say I am?” Having established that, Jesus is now preparing them for what is to come. This can’t have been easy for any of them to hear, but it is Peter who remonstrates with Jesus by saying to Him, “Heaven preserve you, Lord, this must not happen to you.” Jesus then turns to Peter and says, “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle in  my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.”


Can you imagine the look on Peter’s face, and those of the others, when Jesus said that? Peter accepted the rebuke because in the context in which that phrase was used, it meant that he was being seen as an obstacle more than an evil devil. It’s still a very powerful rebuke.


I must admit, I quite often use very similar words when I feel I need to rebuke myself. This usually happens when I am at prayer, or, dare I admit this, during mass, when I let my mind wander instead of concentrating on what I should be doing. I quite often say to myself, ‘Get thee behind me Satan’ and it usually helps me to focus on what I should be doing. So if you notice me mumbling to myself during mass, don’t worry, I’m not talking to myself, well I am in a way, but it’s my way of rebuking Satan who is trying to distract me from prayer.


Jesus also tells His disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Have you ever wondered exactly what that statement means? Well, it can of course mean different things to different people as we all have our crosses to bare.


 When I was sitting thinking about what to say in this homily, I found myself looking up at a crucifix I have in my study and it resulted in me stopping what I was thinking and having a conversation with the image of Christ hanging on that cross. I asked Him what exactly are the crosses he wants me to bare in this life to be a follower of His. I assumed it was the pain and discomfort I endure on a daily basis with my many health issues. I also assumed that it was the regret and guilt I live with for the mistakes and bad decisions I have made in my life and the pain and hurt I have caused others as a result. Maybe my assumptions are right, maybe they are not, maybe He has something else in store for me to endure yet. I guess I’ll never truly know. 


What I do know is that, whatever crosses we all have to bare in this life, whatever pain we must endure, will be rewarded by the eternal life we shall all gain in His kingdom. As the saying goes, ‘No pain, No gain’ and if you have a nagging voice in your ear telling you that it’s not worth it, just mutter to yourself...’Get thee behind me Satan!’ and let the Lord take care of it all. It works for me.

21st Sunday Of Ordinary Time  Year ‘A’ - (27th August 2023)    Gospel:- Matthew 16:13-20

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus asking His apostles two questions. Firstly He asks them, “ Who do people say the Son of Man is?” He is given various answers such as, John The Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Secondly, He asks them what is possibly one of the most important questions in the Gospels; “But you,” He said, “Who do you say I am?” The reason this second question was perhaps more important than the first one was that it mattered only a little what others had to say, but He needed to know what the apostles had to say. Every place that Jesus went He taught the people, but they were different people each time. The apostles however, were present to hear all of His teachings. Surely they should have a much clearer idea than the general public. Simon Peter then gave Jesus the answer he was looking for by saying, “ You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus knew that the answer came from his heart and that is why He said, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”


Today, if that question was put to us, we would be able to answer it with as much conviction as Simon Peter did. That’s mainly because we have the benefit of the Gospels and two thousand years of history to rely on. However, that conviction must come from within our heart, just at it did for Simon Peter, and not just because of what we have read in books or been taught in school. We must truly believe it in our hearts. 


What happens next in the Gospel is quite astonishing really, Jesus says to him, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.” If there was anything that Peter did not appear to be, it was a rock!  He was impetuous, temperamental and hot headed. Anyone else addressing Peter might have said, “You are as unstable as water.” But Jesus looked deeper, saw more and said. “You are a rock.” He considered him to be as solid as a rock, as steady as a rock, and as firm as a rock. That’s how Jesus dealt with people, He never tried to make them something they were not. Instead, He tried to show them who they really were and help them to become that. He does that for all of us too.


I’m sure most of you in your various careers have had to have annual appraisals. Horrible, aren’t they. I always hated receiving mine and also didn’t enjoy appraising others. During my working life I had many jobs, many bosses and many appraisals. Some good, some bad. I’m sure most of you will have had similar experiences, sometimes our weaknesses are pointed out to us more than our strengths, which can be very discouraging.


Jesus, of course, knew all of Peter’s weaknesses and knew that he would go on to deny him three times, but also saw the potential in him to overcome them and build on his strengths. That must have been so encouraging for Peter, it must have given him such boost. That strength of character shone through in the end and Jesus’ trust in Peter paid off, and the rest, as they say, ‘is history’.


So what about us? Can we  conduct a self appraisal and take that long hard look at ourselves? Can we recognise our weaknesses and do something about them? Can we build on our strengths? The answer to all of these questions is Yes! We know we can do this because we know that Jesus is right there with us, every step of the way. He sees that ‘Rock’ within us, and just as He did with Peter, he will discover, reveal and develop the possibilities that have always been there within us.  


Jesus may never ask us the same direct question He asked the apostles, but he will always challenge and encourage us to be able to answer a slightly different question; “But you, who do you say you can become?” If we have true faith and belief in Jesus in our hearts, the answer can be, “Anything You want us to be in Your name!”  

Twentieth Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ (20th August 2023) - Gospel:- Matthew 15:21-28 

I don’t know about you, but when I first read today’s Gospel, I found it a little puzzling to say the least. It seemed strange to hear of Jesus dismissing someone the way he dismissed the woman at first, even to the point where I thought he came across as a little hostile towards her. The Canaanite woman pleaded with Jesus saying, “Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.” Eventually, through her persistence, Jesus replied, “Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.”


What we need to understand firstly is that in Jesus’ time, women were generally treated not much better than slaves or chattels. It was not their place to speak to men unless they were spoken to first. Secondly we need to take into account that this woman was a Gentile and a Canaanite. Now the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles, especially the Canaanites, was a hostile one. Indeed, the Jews looked upon the Canaanites as nothing better than the stray dogs in the street. Now, when you take those two factors into consideration, it puts the Gospel into perspective I think. 


It was only after reading it a few times and thinking it through that I began to understand it better. She knew, even though she was a Gentile, that Jesus would show her mercy. I read a passage the other day that looks at it from her perspective:


‘I am a Gentile; He a Jew. You see, His people looked down on my people. Called us dogs. This one was no different. It did not bother me. He was human after  all. Dogs! No more than a figure of speech. But my voice would not be silenced. Nothing would silence my voice – not gender, not ethnic difference, not socioeconomics, not politics, not culture. I would not be silent. I am the voice of the Canaanite woman! You may ask what kept my voice from faltering? Why did I persist?...One word...Mercy. I knew Him as a man of great mercy. I am the voice of the Canaanite woman!


When I read that, I looked at this Gospel with a different pair of eyes. There is a lesson there for us all. Matthew’s Gospel of course, was written for the Jewish Christians and he was trying to emphasise to them that faith, and faith alone, breaks down the barriers between Jews and Gentiles. If we speak to Jesus, he will help us, even though we may think he isn’t willing to listen to us at first. He will always listen to us and he is always there to help us, even if we don’t recognise it at the time. This is where our faith comes in.


Many years ago I was sent a card by our son, who wrote in it the following verse from a song called ‘Unanswered Prayers’ by an American country singer named Garth Brooks.


“Sometimes I thank God for the unanswered prayers. Remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs that just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”


I must admit when I read that, I got a bit chocked up. I thought how true it was, and how true it had been at times in my life when I failed to recognise it. I am sure we have all had times in our lives when we turned to God in prayer for help, and we have prayed time and again for the same thing, convinced that we aren’t being listened to. Sometimes we may have given up, sometimes we may have persisted.


Just because we think our prayers have gone unanswered at the time, we need to realise that they haven’t gone unnoticed. As the example of the Canaanite woman shows, persistence through faith pays off.      

Nineteenth Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ (13th August 2023) - Gospel:- Matt 14:22-33 

Today’s Gospel story is one of the most well known stories, up there with the miracles of the raising of Lazarus, turning the water into wine, and last weeks Gospel story of the feeding of the five thousand. We didn’t hear that Gospel last week because we celebrated the Feast of The Transfiguration of The Lord, but I did post a homily on it on the website.


All of these Gospels have the same message at their heart ... that of trust and faith in the Lord. Jesus wanted Peter to put his trust and faith in Him, and he did, to a certain degree, until fear kicked in and he began to sink. This is why Jesus said to him, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?” That moment of doubt, that temporary loss of faith in Jesus is not unique to Peter, we all experience that from time to time.


Any parent who has taught their child to ride a bike or to swim will understand why the child is a bit fearful and doubtful to begin with. Telling your child that they can ride their bike without the stabilisers on, or that they can get across the gap between you and them in the swimming pool; and that you are there to make sure that nothing will happen to them, that you will keep them safe, is easier for you to say than it is for them to initially accept. That’s where their trust and faith in you comes in. That’s the message in today’s Gospel.


We can look at this Gospel and see that the boat represents the church and the storm represents the persecution through which Matthew’s community is passing. That representation of the boat as the church is true for any age and the storm will always represent some difficulty that we, as individuals, or as a community are enduring. The story then becomes timeless as does the message of trust and faith in the Lord.  


Given that some of the disciples were fishermen, sailing in stormy waters will have been nothing new to them, but on this occasion it does seem to have been an emergency situation. When we are faced with emergency situations we have a list of numbers for the emergency services we call upon; the police, the fire service, the ambulance service, the coast guard, the doctors and so on. Have you ever thought who’s number is not on that list? .. God’s number. We’ve all got it, but how often do we think of giving Him a call? He will always answer and respond, so if you’re having some serious doubts about your trust and faith in Him, give him a call. Having said that, please don’t keep Jesus’ number for emergencies only, practice involving Him in everything you do. Don’t wait for the storm to call for help. I don’t know about you, but I would rather be guided safely by a lighthouse than rescued by a lifeboat.  


I came across this story the other day. A village had been flooded and every available help had been sent in. The village priest was an obstinate man, he stayed in his house and nothing would move him. As the floods rose, he sought refuge on the roof of his house. A man in a rowing boat pleaded with him to come to his boat for safety, but the priest sent him away and told him to go and help someone else in need. The waters rose higher, and he now sought refuge on the roof of his church. A man in a motor boat told him to jump in. “Don’t worry” the priest said, “ God will look after me.” Then a rescue helicopter came, but he was still adamant and would not take their help. Finally the waters rose so high that the priest drowned. When he met God, he complained, “I thought you promised that you would never let your children down. Why, then did you let me drown?” God replied, “ My son, I sent you a rowing boat, a motor boat and a rescue helicopter and you turned them all down. What more could I do?”


It’s true, God will never desert us. In the midst of every storm in our lives, His presence is always there and He will enable us to weather those stormy times. All we have to do is to put our trust and faith in Him!

The Transfiguration Of The Lord Year ‘A’ (6th August 2023) - Gospel:- Matthew 17:1-9

The Gospel we hear today on this Feast Of The Transfiguration Of The Lord, may seem familiar to you in terms of you having heard it not too long ago. That’s because it’s the Gospel we heard on the second Sunday of Lent. On that occasion it’s significance was in relation to the preparation for the Lord’s Passion. Indeed, when Jesus came back down from the mountain He made His way to Jerusalem knowing that His death was near.


When we listen again today to Matthew’s Gospel; we hear the story of Jesus taking Peter, James and John up a high mountain where they witnessed the Transfiguration of our Lord, and interpret it in relation to the glorified, ascended Christ. Because of His ascended glory, unveiled in the Transfiguration, we can start to understand that He belongs not to the past as a mere human example, but to the present as the ever contemporary Lord. In this way we can seek to do justice to the true definition of Christ as both Human and Divine, without division or separation.


For Peter, James and John, this was an experience like no other they ever had. They witnessed the meeting of Jesus with Moses and Elijah. Now Moses had been dead for about fifteen hundred years and Elijah for almost a thousand years. Yet, there they were, alive, visible, and obviously recognisable. The appearance of Moses, as the Lawgiver, and Elijah, as the Prophet, were very significant figures, because Jesus had come to announce that His mission was to fulfil the law and the prophets. It’s hard for us to identify with that because we have never experienced anything even remotely like it. They saw the radiance of the glory of God in the transfigured Jesus, and they heard the voice of God addressing them directly. Here again is something outside the realm of our own experience. We are in touch with God in prayer and in nature; but we have never been privileged to hear His audible voice. Peter, James and John were truly honoured by God to be the ones chosen to witness this event.


Each one of us will have a story to tell of a very special, and possibly life changing, experience we have had. We have probably shared it with many people by re-living the event through telling the story of it. We probably all have photographs or videos of some aspects of it. Some of us may even have written an account of it in a diary or journal. Unlike us, Peter, James and John didn’t have cameras and videos to ‘capture the moment’ but we are fortunate to be able to share in their experience through the re-telling of this story in the Gospels. Reading this Gospel passage is not enough, we need to take the time to consider the actual words. Their descriptive nature paints a picture that enables us to re-live that moment on the mountain. Just as we pour over someone’s photographs, taking in all the details to see what they saw, maybe we should consider doing the same with the written word. The Gospels were written to ‘capture the moment’ for us too.


Last week in my homily, I spoke about a photograph I have that shows me being peaceful. I suspect if there had been a photograph taken of Peter, James and John up on the mountain, they would not be looking peaceful. In the Gospel, we hear that ‘the disciples fell on their faces, overcome with fear.’ Jesus then said to them, “Stand up, do not be afraid.” Those last four words, ‘do not be afraid’ are used quite a lot by Jesus. So, whenever we feel overawed by an unusual experience in life, trust in Jesus’ words, and ‘Do not be afraid’. It worked for Peter, James and John up the mountain, it will work for you too.


Eighteenth Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ - (6th August 2023) Gospel:- Matthew 14:13-21 

Today’s Gospel of the loaves and fishes is probably one of the best known of all the miracles that Jesus performed. It’s the only one that’s mentioned in all four Gospels. Each of those accounts vary slightly, but that’s not surprising, as different people can tell the same story but with a few differences, but the story remains the same. The message of this story gives us ‘food for thought’ (pun intended), and it’s not just about loaves and fishes. It’s about compassion and caring. If we put aside the food aspect of it for a while, and focus instead on the reason why Jesus was there, in that place, at that time, we arrive at the true message of this Gospel. 


He had gone there to be alone. He was grieving, mourning the loss of someone who wasn’t just a dear friend, he was also a blood relative, His second cousin, John the Baptist. John had just been beheaded on the orders of Herod, to satisfy a whim of his ‘stepdaughter’. Let’s not forget that Jesus was fully Divine, and, fully Human. Just like the rest of us, he was upset and hurting at the news of the loss of a relative, a dear loved one. He didn’t get the peace and quiet, the solitude that he was seeking for himself, but, his love and compassion for others took precedence over his own needs. 


When someone very close to you dies it can hit you very hard. Some people just want to be on their own or with close family or friends at a time like that. You may just want to get away from everyone and everything, to be on your own and have your own space. I’m not suggesting that Jesus did what He did as a way of dealing with His grief, and I don’t think we can just dismiss His actions by saying that everyone deals with their grief in different ways. No, this is yet another example of the character of Jesus, only ever wanting to put the needs of others before His own needs. I am sure we all know people like that and consider them to be very special indeed. They show their compassion for others when it is really themselves who could do with being shown a bit of compassion by those around them. Those very special people truly live by Jesus’ example. Something we should all aspire to do. 


Providing for those in most need from our own surplus is what is at the heart of our Christian faith. In the western world, most of us have more than we need, we may not have as much as we would like, but we do have more than we need. The Christian thing to do is to share our abundant resources with those in need. This is what Jesus was doing, this is the lesson He was teaching His disciples, this is the true message of compassion for others that is in today’s Gospel.


Let me leave you with this thought. All four Gospel accounts of this story tell us about there being enough leftovers to fill twelve baskets. Well, given that the crowd numbered over five thousand, presumably from the local towns and villages, what happened to the leftovers? Just a thought.


Well, whatever happened to the scraps, I’m sure that Jesus made sure they were put to good use for the most needy.                    

Seventeenth Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ (30th July 2023) - Gospel:-  Matthew 13:44-52 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses three parables to explain to the crowds what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like. The first two are about finding treasure and doing all you can to keep hold of it. At first glance, these two parables seem to be all about material riches, material treasures; the hidden treasure found in a field and the fine pearl of great value. In each case, the finder sells everything he owns to be able to buy the field, buy the pearl, to possess, to have ownership, of the great treasure. I don’t think that Jesus was advocating a totally materialistic approach to measuring real treasure because real treasure isn’t materialistic. I think he was trying to emphasise the fact that some people will go to any lengths to keep hold of what they consider to be the most valuable thing in their lives. Some of the greatest treasures to be had are from within ourselves. Being at peace with God and with ourselves is one of them, it is priceless.  


Perhaps some of you who have just returned from your pilgrimage to Lourdes may have been lucky to have experienced such a find whilst you were there. Some of us will be lucky and experience that level of peace with God often, but most of us will only experience it a few times in our lives, and sadly, there are those who will never experience it all. They will never find that treasure that Jesus is talking about.


I think I have been extremely fortunate to have found that treasure, to have experienced that kind of inner peace with God a few times in my life. A few years ago, I saw a photograph someone had taken of me when I wasn’t looking. When Selena and I saw it, we both thought the same thing, that I looked very peaceful. The funny thing was that, at the time the picture was taken, I was feeling totally at peace with myself and my God. An all too rare experience for me. How wonderful for someone to capture the moment on film without realising what they had. Now that photograph, to me, is a true treasure, but more on that later. 


In today’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus talking to the crowds and explaining to them how the kingdom of heaven is like a hidden treasure. He also talks about it being, “like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds.” This of course implies that from that haul, the bad has to sifted out from the good and cast out. This can be interpreted as what will happen at the last judgement, and that may well be the case. However, we don’t need to wait until then. We can prepare ourselves for that day by casting a net across the sea of our souls, gathering in everything good, bad, or indifferent about ourselves. By carrying out this type of soul searching and being able to sift out the good from the bad in our lives; we will be able to find that treasure hidden deep within our souls that will lead to  us finding that inner peace with ourselves and God. We may find this difficult to do, and just like the people in the parable who had to sell everything they owned to buy the field and the pearl, we must be willing to pay the price here and now. We can’t ‘buy now, pay later’ there are no credit cards in heaven.


Take the time to think about what you really value in life and give thanks to God for what brings you deep joy. The kingdom of God is close at hand and can be within us, but only if we recognise that the treasures of this world are within our grasp by living the lives that Jesus wants us to live.


There’s an old Dublin saying that, ‘There is good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us, and treasure in all of us.’ Perhaps it’s up to us to ensure that the seeds of the Gospel bear fruit in us all, and that our treasures don’t remain too deeply hidden within us.


Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about that photograph of me I mentioned earlier; it was taken at my ordination. Well, I suppose if I didn’t feel at total peace with God and myself at that point in my life, I don’t deserve to be stood up here now preaching to you do I? 


So if you want to find treasure in your life, search your heart, that’s where the real treasure is, that’s where God is.

Sixteenth Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ (23rd July 2023)  - Gospel:- Matthew 13:24-43 

Last week we heard the first section of chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel (verses 1-23) and today’s Gospel is the middle section of chapter 13 (verses 24-43), we will hear the majority of the final section (verses 44-52) next week. The message told in parables over this three week period has a central theme, it’s about judgement and patience. You could say that the parables in each section are all a variation on a theme; that of crops, seeds, weeds, things mixed in with others that stunt their growth, and things discarded and thrown away. The message, however is clear; it’s not for us to judge, we should be patient and let God be the only judge.


We hear in the Gospel today that, ‘In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables.’ I have to admit, there are times when I read the Gospels, that I feel a bit like some of His disciples who had to ask Him to explain the parables to them. Sometimes I just don’t get it at first, but I do eventually. In today’s parable it’s obvious that the wheat is the good in the world and the weeds are the evil, and God will be the judge of us all at the end of time. Now I’m sure that we would all liken ourselves to the wheat and not the weeds. But we are not plants we are people, and unlike a plant, which is what it is, we can grow to be who God intended us to be. We can serve the kingdom with fruitfulness we never knew we had inside us.


Jesus wants us to interpret today’s parable in terms of a world view. He is telling us that we live in a world of good and evil, and it will be like this until the end of time. We must be patient as God alone is our judge and He will judge us in His time, not ours. He is talking about you and me as well, and this story is not only a window with which we can look out at the world, but it’s also a mirror by which we can look back at ourselves. We are being invited to search our own souls and see if there are any weeds in amongst the wheat of our lives.


There are times when I’ve done or said things that I shouldn’t have, but I don’t believe that makes me truly bad or evil. Without trying to ‘brush off’ or diminish the wrong I have done, there have been times when I’ve said, “I wasn’t myself” or “I don’t know what got into me” or “I don’t know why I did that.” if we say those type of things, we must act upon them and take the opportunity to recognise that we all have the capacity for both good and bad. In everyone of us there is a strange mixture of wheat and weeds. I would like to think that given time, and with God’s grace, I may learn how to recognise the weeds inside my soul, leave God to be the judge of their influence on me, and instead, concentrate on cultivating the wheat for it to grow stronger. That’s where the work of the Holy Spirit is at it’s best, in the depths of my heart and soul, and that’s why I constantly pray for the Holy Spirit to help and strengthen me.


Now, talking of prayer, it occurred to me the other day that when I pray, I have a habit of looking upward, I’m sure some of you do that too. It then led me to realise that it’s not a case of ‘me down here’ speaking to ‘God up there’. If I am a true believer, and I am, then it’s not just ‘me down here’ – it is the Spirit of God within me praying to ‘God up there’. Think about it, but don’t be too self conscious if you realise that you too look upward, I suspect we all do. And anyway, even if you do, who’s judging you? Only the one true God and He will never judge us harshly for praying to him, whatever position we do it in.

Fifteenth Sunday Of Ordinary Time  Year ‘A’ (16th July 2023)   - Gospel:- Matthew 13:1-23

I like the type of Christmas card which has a picture of houses and streets all covered in snow. It reminds me of how I like to see my garden, all covered in snow. The reason is that it’s the only time that my garden looks as good as anybody else’s in our road. You will gather from that remark that I am not green fingered. I can’t tell a weed from a flower, in fact I recently sprayed some weedkiller on what I thought was a weed, only to find out later it was a plant which was growing wild. I do admire those people who have beautiful lawns and flowerbeds. I suppose you need to know all about turf and soil, whether it has a lot of clay or lime in it, whether it is suitable for growing certain plants and flowers. It is important, so I am told, to know how good the soil is before planting a seed, that way you will know whether or not what you plant will grow as some seeds will only flourish in rich soil. Some will grow in certain areas even though the ground may not at first seem suitable for growth.


The same principal is true of the word of God. It doesn’t necessarily need to be planted in rich soil to grow initially, but it does for it to flourish. That rich soil which Jesus is talking about is our heart. If our heart is open and receptive to the word of God, then it will flourish within us and we in turn will flourish as Christians. If our hearts are hardened and not receptive, then God has His work cut out. Just as a farmer or a gardener has to work at preparing the soil before planting the seeds, so God does with us; and just as the farmer or the gardener perseveres to achieve the result they want, so God does with us. He will never give up on us.


I found today’s Gospel quite fitting in terms of thinking about how I received the word of God. Years ago, I would have laughed at the idea of being chosen by God to spread His word. That is why today’s Gospel rang true with me. Jesus talks about the sower going out to sow and the seed falling on various types of ground. Some of it was stony, some among thorns and some at the edge of a path. Depending on where the seed fell there was a chance that it wouldn’t grow. Now years ago, I would have said that if God tried to sow the seed of vocation in me, it would definitely have fallen on stony ground. There would not have been enough rich soil in my heart to enable the seed to grow. Just how and when the soil within my heart became rich enough I do not know. All I do know is that God persevered and eventually was successful. 


Perhaps we all have the rich soil within us without us being aware of it. I think that I am testament to the fact that God will always find a way to cultivate something within each of us. Somehow, somewhere inside me that seed flourished. Let it flourish in you too. As I have said many times, we all may have a vocation in us for different things if only we are willing to listen to the word of God and let it grow within us. If the soil is rich enough, the seed will grow, and each of us will receive and understand the Word of God. The seed that God wants to plant in us is His love. He wants to give us His love and for us to spread that love to others


To help us do this, try this: 


On your in-breath, echo the word Love.

On the out-breath send this ‘Love’ to someone who may need it now.

May I live, Lord, in your ‘Love’ that never ends.

Fourteenth Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’  - (9th July 2023)   Gospel:- Matthew 11:25-30

Today’s Gospel is relatively short, but I think it can be broken down into three distinct parts.


Part one is about simplicity and humility.  

Each time we read a Gospel passage we know that Jesus is talking to us. Today however, part of the Gospel is taken up with Jesus talking to his Father. He is acclaiming his Father for keeping His message hidden from the learned and the clever, and revealing it in such a way that mere children can understand it. This is the beauty of God’s message, that it’s simple and uncomplicated, easy for all of us to understand it.  No one needs to be academically minded to take in the word of God. To use an everyday phrase, ‘It’s not rocket science.’ Some people complicate matters unnecessarily to impress others, or because it is what they think others would expect.


A good example of this is a story I read some years ago about, as she was known then, Blessed Mother Teresa. Some years previously, she had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and travelled to Oslo to be presented with it. The ‘powers-that-be’ sent two limousines to the airport to meet her. One for her and the other for her luggage! She arrived smiling, with her personal belongings in a shopping bag, and the welcoming committee were at a complete loss as to what to do. They would have no problems at all with heads of state and other dignitaries, but this frail old woman who had some sort of extraordinary aura about her made them feel powerless. They did not know how to deal with the humility and sheer simplicity of the woman. They were in awe in the presence of a power and strength with which they were totally unfamiliar. That is what Jesus speaks of today, simplicity in humility.


Part two is about how we can get to know the Father.

Jesus says, “just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” Jesus also speaks about knowing the Father, rather than knowing about him. We are invited into a relationship with the Father, and prayer would be a lot easier if we could talk to Him as a child speaks to his or her father. However, not all fathers are good listeners, nor are some of them good at making the time and space for their children.


I know this from my own father. I know he always loved us all, but he wasn’t the type of father who took the time to listen to us or make time for us. This of course contributed to the type of relationship we all had with him. Of course I always knew my father, but I didn’t know about him. I only really got to know about him in his latter years, through his illness and after his death. He was always there for us as our father but the true man was only revealed to us when it was almost too late to really get to know him.


This is not the case with God. He is our Father who is always there for us and we can all get to know about him and his message for us, through Jesus.


Part three is about letting Jesus in to lighten our load.

Jesus then invites us to unburden ourselves and let Him help to carry our load. He says, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.” In last week’s Gospel, we heard that we must be willing to love Christ more than family or life itself. Well that’s a heavy burden to bear. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling us that he is “gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” We may ask ourselves how we can achieve this, and the answer is easy. Our spiritual journey can be made effortless by waking up each day with Christ in our hearts and living one day at a time in His company. 


By breaking this Gospel down into three parts, it’s easy to see the message of Christ. It’s simple, we only have to open our hearts and let him in. In prayer we can say; Take into your hands, Lord, the burdens in my life; help me to trust in you.

Thirteenth Sunday Of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’  - (2nd July 2023) Gospel:- Matthew 10:37-42

In the Gospel of St. Matthew that we hear today, this is the third and final part of the ‘Instructions Discourse’ Jesus had with the Twelve, and the first paragraph seems a little strange at first sight. Jesus seems to be telling the Twelve that to be worthy of Him, they must reject their families, which seems a drastic thing to do. However, if you read through it a few times, you will understand exactly what Jesus was telling them.


To help me understand this Gospel better, I found it helped if I broke it down into six categories or headings. Bear with me while I take you through my thought process:


Discipleship and Priority: Jesus emphasises the supreme importance of following Him wholeheartedly, even if it means putting Him above family relationships. He challenges His disciples to prioritise their commitment to Him above all else.


Cost of Discipleship: Jesus acknowledges that following Him may result in division and conflict within families, highlighting the potential sacrifices and challenges that disciples may face for their faith.


Love for Jesus: Jesus calls His disciples to love Him above all, indicating the depth of devotion and allegiance required in discipleship.


Taking Up the Cross: Jesus instructs His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him, signifying the willingness to bear the burdens and endure hardships that come with following Christ.


Hospitality and Reception: Jesus encourages His disciples to show hospitality and receive others in His name, emphasising the importance of caring for and supporting fellow believers and those who proclaim the message of the Gospel.


Reward and Recognition: Jesus assures His disciples that even the smallest acts of kindness and service done in His name will not go unnoticed by God, promising a reward and recognition in the kingdom of heaven.


Now I know that this may all sound a bit heavy and a bit deep, but breaking it down and analysing in that way helped me. I suppose a shorter and simpler way of understanding this Gospel, would just be to acknowledge that to be a true disciple of Jesus, we all must be willing to make sacrifices that we would rather not have to make. Being a follower of Christ can come at a very high price for some of us, we must be willing to bear witness by our actions as well as our words.


Bearing witness to Christ was very evident last Saturday when a large number of people took part in Padgate Walking Day. As always, there were a number of churches and schools taking part from the area from all different denominations. It was a show of solidarity in Christ, of public witness to Christ, and of common discipleship. From a personal point of view, I was happy and proud to walk behind our parish banner. I saw this as a way of myself and all those who took part, living out the Gospel. We are all disciples of Christ. 


I look upon Padgate Walking Day, and indeed Warrington Walking Day, as an opportunity for those who take part, to show their willingness to follow Jesus. No one is being asked to take today’s Gospel literally and to shun their father, mother, brother or sister, but we are all asked to take up our cross and follow in Christ’s footsteps. What better way to do that than by taking part in walking day. 


If you took part in any way this year, well done and thank you. If for some reason you weren’t able to, please consider taking part next year. Join us in our show of solidarity in our Christian faith, and in our very public witness to Christ.


Twelfth Sunday Of Ordinary Time  Year ‘A’ (25th June 2023) - Gospel:- Matthew 10:26-33

Today’s Gospel contains many themes and messages for us. For me, the messages of Fear, Trust and Faith are the ones that stand out. 


Jesus tells the twelve, “Do not be afraid of those who can destroy the body but cannot kill the soul;” This passage led me to think about those who are facing up to dealing with a terminal illness. Hard though it is to deal with for all concerned, perhaps we should reflect on these words. Our faith tells us that our bodies die to this world and God saves our souls for the eternal life. There are some people I know who are in that position at the moment and I admire their strength of faith which is helping them at this time. Their relationship with God is one of trust and pure faith and it is through this trust, faith and prayer, that they have found the strength to face the inevitable. They know they cannot alter what will happen to their bodies, but they can have some influence in what happens to their souls. Without this level of faith, I would imagine their lives, or what is left of it, would be full of emptiness and regrets.


We cannot know how we ourselves would deal with the same situation unless and until we are faced with it ourselves. I do know this; the courage I have seen shown by those I know has amazed and humbled me, so much so that I can only hope that I would have the type of relationship with God that would allow me to take heed of the first four words Jesus tells the twelve “Do not be afraid.”  


We all have  a certain amount of fear in our lives. It may be fear of health problems, work problems, financial or relationship fears, or simply fear of the unknown. For some of us it may be a fear of being ridiculed for professing our faith in public. In some places I have worked over the years, I have taken a bit of ‘ribbing’ for being very open and upfront about my faith, but nothing really bad. Certainly nothing that had me in fear of mentioning it. In fact, a lot of my former colleagues respected me for it and would come for advice, or for a blessing and indeed asked me to baptise their children. So witnessing to our faith is nothing to be afraid of and can be a very positive thing.


Indeed, this weekend has seen us bear witness to our faith by taking part in Padgate Walking Day. For some this may have been an opportunity for them to conquer that Fear of being ridiculed for taking part. They were putting their Trust in the Lord and bearing witness to their Faith. To those for whom those three words: Fear, Trust and Faith have taken on a special meaning for them by joining in with us this weekend; well done and thank you.


In today’s Gospel, Jesus is trying to reassure the Twelve that they need not fear, but to put their trust in Him and spread the faith. It will have taken a lot of courage for them to go out into the world and evangelise. I’m sure that they too will have been ridiculed at times, but they persevered and the Lord’s church developed and grew because of them.


How many of us would have had the courage to do that? How many of us have the courage to openly witness to our faith? If all of us were arrested, taken to the police station and charged with being a Christian; how many of us would get off scot-free for lack of evidence? 


Yes it can be difficult at times, but bear this thought in mind, ‘You cannot cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark!’


As I said at the beginning, the three words that stand out for me from this Gospel are; Fear, Trust and Faith. So put your Trust in your Faith and remember Jesus’ first four words to the Twelve...“Do not be afraid.”  

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A - (18th June 2023)     Gospel:- Matthew 9:36-10:8

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Clearly this was a call to the disciples to go out and spread the word, to evangelise. For the disciples to be able to spread the word of the Lord, they would have to reach out to as many people as they could. They in turn, would help to form the solid foundations on which our church was formed, and without whom, the church would not have flourished. In some ways you could say that their mission of evangelisation was similar to a modern day recruitment drive. You need to attract enough of the right type of people to get any new venture off the ground and up and running, let alone grow and flourish. This was their vocation in life.


Vocations are not just for those who wish to enter the priesthood, the diaconate or religious life, they are for all of us. We saw a perfect example of this last week when Father Mark commissioned our four new Eucharistic Ministers; Susan, Sonia, Steve and John. Over the coming few weeks, they will go out with some of our experienced ministers, and soon after that, they will go out on their own. Susan, Sonia, Steve and John are the latest in a long line of ‘labourers’ our church has produced for the Lord’s ‘harvest’ and I ask you to keep them in your prayers in their new ministry.


Sometimes when someone is approached to follow a vocation they are a bit unsure of committing themselves because they feel they are unworthy. That’s an understandable reaction and shows a level of humility that actually speaks of their worthiness in a way. We all think we are not worthy, but that’s not the case. If the Lord is calling us, then He deems us worthy, so who are we to doubt His judgement, but we do. I did.


A couple of weeks before I was to be ordained, our group had a meeting with the then Director of the Diaconate and I was having serious doubts about going through with it. I mentioned this to the group, that I didn’t feel I was worthy of  being called by the Lord. One of the guys snapped at me and said, “None of us are worthy! If the Lord is calling us, He is deeming us worthy!” I was a bit taken aback by this, but over the next few weeks it did make me think and start to understand what he meant. 


As I have said before, we all have a vocation in life. Some of us to serve the Lord in a more visible, more high profile way than others, but no one in any greater a way than anyone else. We are are all ‘labourers’ called to serve the Lord in the ‘harvest’ just as the disciples were.  


In terms of ‘worthiness’ we need look no further than the list of names we have just heard in the Gospel. People like Simon Peter, who would go on to deny Christ. Thomas, who openly doubted Jesus in that upper room. Matthew, a tax collector, someone who would have been despised by many. Judas Iscariot, the one who would ultimately betray Jesus and hand Him over to be killed. By their actions, these men could not exactly be called ‘pillars of society’ they were deeply flawed. Jesus knew this but still called them and found them worthy to send out on a mission of evangelisation. He did this because He knew that when His mission was complete, He would need His followers to take over and continue with it – as we do today. 


Before sending the twelve out, Jesus instructed them and said to them, “You have received without charge, give without charge.”  Those words should be familiar to us in the hymn which could be said to sum up today’s Gospel ...


He said:

“Freely, freely you have received; freely, freely give.

Go in my name, and because you believe,

others will know that I live.”


Through the evangelisation work of those disciples, God gave us our church. It is my church, it is your church, it is our church, and it is up to you, and me and all of us to be the labourers of the rich harvest that Jesus mentions in today’s Gospel. 

The Most Holy Body And Blood Of Christ  'Year ‘A’ - (11th June 2023) Gospel:- John 6:51-58

Today we celebrate the second of the great solemnities of the Lord in ordinary time...The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known as Corpus Christi. This great feast is very special as we celebrate the Eucharist, the point of the mass when we receive Christ in the form of the Eucharistic Host and the Precious Blood. 


To be able to receive Holy Communion at mass shouldn’t be seen as a ‘right’ or a ‘given’ just because we are present. It should be seen as a privilege, we are being honoured by the Lord to receive him into our bodies, into our souls. To do so, we must prepare ourselves in mind, body and soul. When you come forward to receive Holy Communion, the priest or deacon will say, ‘The Body Of Christ’ but of course we could use Latin  and say, ‘Corpus Christi.’ Either way, at that point, we are acknowledging that the Eucharist is the ‘source and summit of of the Christian life.’  


That process of preparation was evident a few weeks ago when our schoolchildren were here on a Saturday morning to receive Holy Communion for the very first time. They had been well prepared by their parents, their teachers and their catechists. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of. Now we all know that communion hosts have no taste to them and that we can’t actually see Jesus when we receive Holy Communion, but it didn’t stop the children from singing a beautiful hymn – ‘Taste and See’ the chorus of which is ‘Taste and see, the goodness of the Lord.’ It was beautiful to see and listen to them, especially as they didn’t just sing it, they ‘performed’ it by doing all the hand movements, signs and gestures. I don’t mind admitting, it brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. Yes, if only we could all come to receive communion as well prepared as the children did that day, but I’m sure we all did on the day we made our first Holy Communion...if you can remember that far back. 


When someone is very ill and may be close to death, they may receive Holy Communion, and in these circumstances it may be referred to as Viaticum. This is a Latin word which means ‘provision for a journey’ or ‘food for the journey.’ When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we too are taking in food for the journey, our journey through life. Receiving Jesus in the form of Holy Communion is a very personal thing, but it should also be a sharing thing and will influence how we live our lives and treat others.


After mass, when we go back into the sacristy, we say a prayer, ‘Bless O Lord, our hearts and minds, and grant that as we leave your house, we may aware of your presence through Christ Our Lord. Amen.’ That prayer reminds me that I am going out into the community with Jesus in me to help and guide me and all those I come into contact with. Like Mary visiting Elizabeth, I too must carry Jesus within me to the people I meet on the road of life.


Three years ago, on the corresponding Sunday of year ‘A’ we were still in the first lockdown and couldn’t be at church for this great feast. Most of us were live streaming mass from various churches all over the world, which meant that we couldn’t receive Holy Communion in it’s physical form. We received it sacramentally instead, which I found meaningful, but not the same. When our church opened up again in July of that year, the first time I was able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at mass, was a very special day for me. I truly felt that I was experiencing something so special, that I have tried to maintain that feeling each time I receive Holy Communion. 

The Most Holy Trinity Year ‘A’ - (4th June 2023)    Gospel:- John 3:16-18

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”


Those are the words that Father Mark says at the beginning of each mass. They are not just words of welcome to signify that the mass has started, they are an affirmation of the Most Holy Trinity. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity, the first of the three great solemnities of the Lord in Ordinary Time. The other two will be celebrated within the next twelve days: The Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood Of Christ (Corpus Christi) next Sunday, and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on Friday 16th June. These three great solemnities are the very essence of our faith.


A few years ago, on this great feast day, I attended the ordination a group of men who were being ordained into the Ministry of the Permanent Diaconate at Liverpool Cathedral. I must admit, when I read today’s Gospel, I thought it was very fitting to their situation. I couldn’t help making a comparison between their journey of faith and that of the Apostles. Here were a group of men who have shown their commitment to their faith in God and followed their calling over a period of three years, the same length of time as Our Lord’s mission here on earth. At the end of that time, they are called to gather before Jesus in a place special to Him and them. The Apostles to a mountain in Galilee, the men to the Cathedral. The Gospel tells us that when the Apostles saw Jesus, they fell down before him, though some hesitated. The men prostrated themselves before the Archbishop, one of God’s representatives on earth, and I am sure there wasan element of hesitancy and doubt among the group as to whether they were ready and worthy to take on their ministry. 


Jesus tells the Apostles to baptise the nations ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.’ The men, once they were ordained as Deacons would also go on to baptise in God’s name asking those being baptised to observe God’s commands through the promises made in baptism. I think we can safely say that the Apostles felt a certain amount of uncertainty in their ministry once they no longer had Jesus physically with them. He had of course assured them that he is always with them to the end of time. I am sure the men also felt that same uncertainty but would have had the comfort of knowing that the support of the entire Diaconate was there for them, and above all else of course, Jesus is always with them in their ministry, just as he was for the Apostles.


One of our tutors, a Deacon of many years, told us of his experience at his ordination. He said that it is difficult to put into words just how he felt when he was being ordained. He truly believes, and could only explain it, as the being taken over by, and being filled by the Holy Spirit. There is no other way he could explain his wonderful experience. 


In recent weeks we have heard a lot about the Holy Spirit, especially on Pentecost Sunday, and hopefully we have felt the presence of the Spirit within us. Jesus gave the Apostles the assurance that his spirit would always be with them. I am sure those men who were ordained that day would have known that this applies to them also as they set out in their ministry.

Week 7 (Ordinary Time)  Year 'A' - (19th February 2023) Gospel:- Matthew 5:38-48

‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’, so the saying goes. Surely revenge is just acting in retaliation for a wrong, avenging yourself or someone else. That may seem what the saying ‘An Eye for an Eye, and a Tooth for a Tooth’ could be taken as, but it’s not quite that. It’s actually saying, do more to others than has been done to you. But that’s not justice, that’s just about getting your own back on someone who has wronged you. Where’s the Mercy, Forgiveness and the Compassion in that?


In the Gospel today, Jesus is trying to get his point across that we need to be better than that, we need to show others that we are the better person. If we only do the same as others then we are no better than the tax collectors and the Pagans. As Christians, much more is expected of us, we should be all about Mercy, Forgiveness and Compassion. With the help of the Christian way of doing things, people can be shown how to make up for the error of their ways and do good for others instead in many different ways. They can become the better person.


Showing Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness can not only affect the one you are showing it too, but it can have a ripple affect on those around them. Some of us here may have skeletons in our cupboards that we have kept secret from our loved ones for many many years. We may think it would be too painful to reveal all, but if we know our loved ones as well as we think we do, then we can be sure that we will be shown Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness. We can be that better person and live that better life. Trust me, I know!


And now it’s confession time. I have been struggling with a moral dilemma. I have a situation coming soon where I need to face someone who wronged me a long time ago, and to my shame, I still bear a grudge towards this person. I know it is wrong of me to feel the way I do. I’m not seeking revenge or anything like that, but that ill feeling is still lurking within me. I have spoken to Selena about this and she said exactly what I knew she would say. She said, “You need to be the bigger man!” She’s right. Today’s Gospel has actually helped me realise that I do need to turn the other cheek in this situation.


Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness, are not just words. They are actions which at times may be hard to deal with, but this is the message we should take from today’s Gospel. This is the way that Jesus wants us to live our lives It is the Christian way of life, it needs to be our way of life, difficult as that can be at times.


So please, if you are struggling with a similar dilemma, find it within yourself to ‘Be the bigger man, or woman.’ 

Week 6 (Ordinary Time) Year ‘A’ - (12th February 2023)   Gospel:- Matthew 5:17-37

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to His disciples, “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, I have not come to abolish them but to complete them.” This is what I was referring to a couple of weeks ago with regards to the Gospel of the Beatitudes. I said then that the Beatitudes were not Jesus’ alternative to Moses’ ten commandments, they were to compliment them, to complete them. This is what Jesus is explaining to His disciples. 


Next week will see us complete chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel, which has been dealing with the sermon on the mount. If we take the sermon on the mount as a whole lesson, we can see it as a manifesto – a vision – a mission statement for Jesus’ life and ministry.


In today’s Gospel, we are reminded of the law of Christ. Jesus repeats the original ten commandments, but He adds the necessity of serving God from the heart. It is not enough to just avoid evil actions, we need to regret our many faults in thought and desire. Indeed, in a speech on the 9th May 2016, Pope Francis said, “It is not enough to just respect the commandments and do nothing more. Christian life is not just an ethical life: it is an encounter with Jesus Christ.”


We need to be willing to listen to the words of Jesus and act upon them. One way of helping us to do this is by taking on board today’s Gospel Acclamation: ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening: you have the message of eternal life.’ Look carefully at the first six words...‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’ there is a huge difference between that statement and a very similar one we may be guilty of thinking should be the case...‘Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking.’ Almost identical words in a different sequence, but with a totally different meaning!


God wants us to have a clean heart, a pure heart, a faithful, gentle and humble heart. To achieve this, we must first examine our conscience and be prepared to repent and free ourselves of the burden of sin. This will help us to cleanse our hearts and minds. Maybe we could look upon this as having a ‘spring cleaning’ of ourselves. Just as we would throw open all the windows in our house, let out the stale air and let in fresh air, dust and polish everywhere to make the house clean, and feel better about where we live. Let’s do the same with our hearts and minds to feel better about how we live. If we can do this, we will have taken onboard the message Jesus was trying to get across during His sermon on the mount.


While I have been writing this homily, a childhood memory has come to my mind. My mother always used to say of someone who used foul language, “He needs his mouth washing out with soap and water.” Well, maybe our hearts need a good cleansing, a good washing out, and the Spirit Himself will be the soap!

Week 5 of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ - (5th February 2023)   Gospel:- Matthew 5:13-16

When you walk into our school hall, the first thing that catches your eye is the scripture quote at the top of the wall. It’s the ‘take away’ headline from today’s Gospel: “Let Your Light Shine.” It reflects the whole ethos of our school. It’s the message that our headteacher, Mrs Helen Lea and all her staff, not only promote, but instil in the children.


Today’s Gospel is about Christian witness, and that Gospel message is implanted by the very presence of our Christian living. This Gospel passage follows on from last week and is another part of the Sermon On The Mount.


Jesus does not say that His disciples were to become: ‘salt of the earth, or a light of the world, or a city on a hill top’. They already were all of these things by virtue of the fact that Jesus called them and they responded. He was instructing them to show by their deeds, that they can lead others by the light which shines from them. The good work of the disciples point away from themselves to the grace of God, and that His grace is there for all of us. By living the Christian life, we are that light of the world, and this is what our children are taught in our school.


We are all called to be witnesses and we can respond to that call in many different ways. I’ve mentioned before that every parish relies on a team of volunteers to help run it, and our parish is no exception. Some are more visible, more ‘high profile’ than others, not because they are any better than anyone else, only because what they do is more visible than the things that  some others do ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. Those whose contributions you don’t see, and probably aren’t even aware of, doesn’t mean that those people are ‘hiding their lamp under a tub’ it’s just that their form of witness is different to some others, but no less important.


Responding to the call of Christian witness is not reserved for the few, but is open to the many. We should be that ‘city on a hill top’ that’s there for all to see. We shouldn’t ‘hide our lamp under a tub’ we should let Christ’s light shine out through us.


I’m now going to use this opportunity to ‘plug’ the Diaconate. If there any men in the parish who feel they may be being called to witness Christ by becoming a Deacon, please let me know. There is an information evening for enquirers next Wednesday (8th Feb) at St. George’s in Maghull. So guys, if you do feel you are being called to witness in that way, please don’t hide your light under a tub, come and talk to me.


You can all see part of what I do as a Deacon and may have an idea of the qualities required to fulfil that role. I’m not going to go into all of that here, what I would do is ask you to have a look at the noticeboard in the porch. Recently, the children in Year 4 at our school were asked to consider the role of a Deacon and the qualities required of that person. I have put a few copies of  what they came up with on view in the porch.


Now I’m not saying that I consider myself to have all the qualities that the children may think I have. If I did, I may start thinking of myself as some sort of saint, which I’m not. I’m a sinner just like everyone else, but then, Christ called sinners to serve, well He called me didn’t He.

Week 4 of Ordinary Time Year 'A' - (29th January 2023) Gospel:- Matthew 5:1-12


Today’s Gospel is commonly known as ‘The Beatitudes’ and is also referred to as ‘The Sermon On The Mount’. Some people see it as Jesus’ alternative to Moses’ Ten Commandments. It wasn’t. It was never meant to replace the commandments, but to compliment them. It could be said that Jesus was laying out a form of road map to heaven. In other words, if you live your life by these standards, the way to heaven will be easier for you, this is what God will do for you. 


The last time I proclaimed this Gospel was almost three months ago at Father Gildea’s funeral, and the next time I will proclaim it will be on Friday at Selena’s dad’s funeral. Each time I read this Gospel passage I get something different from it. Recently it has made me think about whether Jesus actually rhymed of the list of Beatitudes all in one go, or whether they were mentioned bit by bit throughout the day as part of His teachings. We will never really know, but it really doesn’t matter I suppose. The important thing, as always, is the message itself. 


We are all familiar with political manifestos. These are statements about what a political party stands for and what’s in it for you if you vote for them, and what they intend to achieve if you elect them. Many people are cynical about politicians and politics in general, because no matter how sincere their promises are, many of them fail to deliver on those promises. Well, today’s Gospel is Jesus’ manifesto. The important thing for us to remember is that, in the words of Jesus, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away before my word passes away.’ In other words, this is a manifesto in which He certainly will keep His side of the bargain. 


The ‘Sermon On The Mount’ has great significance for many obvious reasons, not least because it was given on a mountain. Have you noticed that mountains have a religious significance in the drama of salvation history in both the Old and New Testaments? After surviving the great flood, Noah’s ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat; at Mount Horeb “The mountain of God,” an angel of the Lord first appeared to Moses in a burning bush; it was on Mount Sinai that Moses would receive the Ten Commandments. Elijah was commanded to “go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” When Jesus was tempted in the desert , Matthew says, “ The devil took him to a very high mountain.” So when it comes to events of religious significance, mountains have long been a favourite venue, but the true significance is of course the message, not the venue. Jesus was teaching his disciples that by living our lives in a certain way, we will reap the rewards in heaven. He is setting out for them the importance of living by a set of values, morals and ethics. When you think about it, isn’t that what we all should be aiming to achieve? 


The Beatitudes can also be interpreted as being ‘auto biographical’ after all, Jesus did lead by example. He was no politician, but unlike the political manifestos we are used to, His stood the test of time. He delivered, and continues to deliver, on His promises. Someone who tells the truth, lives up to His word, looks out for the poor, the needy, the marginalised in society and keeps His promises...that’s Jesus. 


He acted like no politician we have seen, but if today’s politicians acted like Him, well the world would be a better place wouldn’t it?

Week 3 of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’  - (22nd January 2023)   Gospel:- Matthew 4:12-23

‘The light at the end of the tunnel’ a phrase often used for many different reasons. Selena takes it literally. Whenever we drive through a tunnel, the Mersey tunnel or the Clyde tunnel, or any other tunnel or long underpass; she tenses up and cringes until we are almost at the other side. Until she can see the light at the end of the tunnel, she can’t relax. Maybe it is a fear of enclosed dark spaces, or just the fact that she can’t see what is around her properly that causes her to react that way, I don’t know. The phrase is sometimes used by people when they are going through a difficult time in their lives, when their problems seem too much to cope with and they don’t have hope in the future. They say that they ‘just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel’. 


The word light seems to be used a lot as a positive thing. ‘Out of the darkness into the light’, ‘I finally saw the light’, ‘the light of my life’ etc. … Now and again we may hear of someone who has had a near death experience and saw a bright light before regaining consciousness. 


I recently came across a few lines of a song which seem to sum up the importance of light in our lives:


                    “Ring out the bells that can still ring.

                     Forget your perfect offering.

                     There is a crack in everything. 

                     That is how the light gets in.”


It reminds us that it’s only because of our shortcomings that the Light of Christ came into the world. It’s through our very flaws that He enters our lives. Then it’s up to us to let Him shine out again. This then surely is the message in today’s Gospel. We hear how Jesus settled in Capernaum thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah who said “The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned.”


It’s God’s will that we live in light as each new day dawns for us. His son, Jesus came to save us, to lead us out of the darkness into the light. To those around him at that time, he was the light at the end of their tunnel. Jesus truly is, The Light of Our World.


I wonder if Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John ‘saw the light’ when Jesus approached them to follow Him and become fishers of men? Something must have sparked in them. 


Today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, part of which is referenced in the Gospel, reminds me of a hymn we quite often sing:


                    ‘The Spirit lives to set us free,

                     Walk, walk in the light.

                     He binds us all in unity,

                     Walk, walk in the light.

                     Walk in the light,

                     Walk in the light,

                     Walk in the light,

                     Walk in the light of the Lord.’  


I feel that this hymn sums up the hope which the light of the Lord brings us all, especially in our darkest moments. I hope it does for you too.  

 Week 2  of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ - (15th January 2023)  Gospel:- John 1:29-34          

Today’s Gospel is a lesson in humility, and when we look for a good example of humility, we need look no further than John the Baptist. Indeed, in today’s Gospel we can see this attribute shining through him in how he describes Jesus to those around him. He tells them that Jesus ranks before him, because he existed before him. He then goes on to say, “Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.” In John there is no doubt about whom Jesus was, and that it was now time for him to step aside to make way for the Messiah. 


John would have been aware of his own importance in the mission he was carrying out, but was always aware also that it was not about him. In that sense, he did not see himself as important at all. He always preached that his mission was not the end in itself, but the beginning of what was to come. His role was to prepare others for the coming of the Messiah. Someone of whom he felt that he wasn’t even worthy to undo the straps of his sandals. John the Baptist, was, and still is, an example of humility for us all. A man who not only knew the meaning of the word, but indeed lived it.


In today’s world, some may look upon John the Baptist as the ‘warm-up’ act before the main attraction. This would be totally wrong, and a view that totally misses the whole point of John’s mission. He was the last of the old testament prophets, and the only one who actually straddles both the old and new testaments. Just as the prophets of old foretold of the coming of the Messiah, John not only did the same, but prepared the way for him. By announcing to the people that Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’ John has completed his mission. He may also have confused and perhaps even horrified those people because a lamb was seen as the sacrificial animal to atone for wrongdoing. They may not have understood that God sent His Son as the sacrificial lamb to atone for our sins.


Today’s Gospel has made me think more deeply about the Agnus Dei which we recite at mass prior to receiving Holy Communion when we say: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace. It made me think that this is a prayer which can also be used for occasions other that its mass setting. 


Over the last few days I have found myself saying this prayer a lot and thinking of all the occasions where it would have been appropriate to recite it. I felt that one of those occasions would have been a few nights ago. Some of you will be aware that Selena’s dad passed away on Tuesday evening. I said a few prayers over him and gave him a blessing, but now I wish I had thought of saying the Agnus Dei. I had been praying that the Lord would show him mercy and let him slip away peacefully, which he did. I now feel that it would have been appropriate to say this prayer as it sums up the situation the family were in. I’m sure that all you can think of situations in which this would be right for you. Can I please encourage you to do so, it’s a beautiful prayer.

Feast Of The Baptism Of The Lord - (8th January 2023)  Gospel: Matthew  3:13-17  

We all celebrate our birthday with great joy and we have just celebrated the birthday of Jesus, certainly the greatest birthday of all. Now we are celebrating the feast of His Baptism. How many of us celebrate the anniversary of our own baptisms? How many of us even know when we were baptised? I don’t have a clue when I was baptised. I did have to get a copy of my baptism certificate as proof that I was actually baptised as part of the process of applying for the Diaconate, but unfortunately, it was never returned to me. When I conduct baptisms, I always give the parents a lovely certificate which they can keep safe for their child. I wonder if any of them actually celebrate that day each year with their child, not many I suppose. We all remember and celebrate Jesus’ baptism, which marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmas.


For more than two weeks we have celebrated Jesus as an infant. Now once again, on this first Sunday of Ordinary time, we begin celebrating Jesus as an adult. It’s therefore appropriate we begin with Jesus’ first appearance as an adult, His baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan. 


Have you ever wondered why Jesus insisted on John baptising Him? John baptised sinners who wanted to repent, yet Jesus was without sin so why would He need John to baptise Him?


In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells John, “Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands.” This may be difficult to understand as Jesus was already righteous. So how could His baptism by John fulfil all righteousness?


The late Pope Benedict explains it like this in his book, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (pp17-23); ‘Sinless Jesus did not have any sins of His own to take down to the river Jordan, therefore it could only have been our sins that He took down into the river Jordan. Naturally no one would understand this at that time but they would realise this later when they understood that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. So Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan and His dying on the cross go together; He did both for our sins. He took our sins on His shoulders as He went down into the Jordan and as He died on the cross.’


There are many examples in the Scriptures where we can see this close connection between Jesus’ baptism and His death on the cross. 


Jesus’ baptism by John was an important step in Jesus making Himself known to the Jewish people. When God the Father spoke and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, this was the first public display of the Holy Trinity for all to see.


The baptisms I conduct aren’t as dramatic as that, but then, I’m no John the Baptist! I do hope that everyone present understands the importance of the sacrament. It is, after all, the legacy of Jesus.