7th week of Ordinary Time

A collection of pearls from Savusavu, Fiji . The town is located on the south coast of Vanua Levu.

Three weeks shy of his twenty-fifth birthday, the French composer, George Bizet completed his opera, known in English as “The Pearl Fishers”.

Set in Ceylon, the opera centres around the competitive love two men have for the same woman.

The two men, one known as Nadir and the other Zurga, have been life-long friends, however this competitive love has forced them apart.

After a self-imposed absence, Nadir returns to the shores of Ceylon, where his friend Zurga has just been elected Fisher King. In a well-known aria, known in English as “from the depths of the Temple” the two men seek to recover and embrace their life-long friendship.

They sing:

Your hand pushes my hand away!

Your hand pushes my hand away!

From our hearts love seizes
And changes us into enemies!

No, let nothing separate us!

No, nothing!

Swear to stay friends!
Oh yes, let’s swear to stay friends!

The words in the aria may well be an echo of today’s Gospel, “but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” ( Mtt. 5: 44).

Whenever, we choose to love our enemy, we exhibit something of the love of God.

Whenever we forgive instead of getting angry at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another . . . in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

God summons us to a radical way of living.

We are called to be more than just moral: God invites us to be virtuous.

We become virtuous by habitually choosing to do good.

Naturally, we are not perfect, however God calls us to reflect on how we live and to understand what has gone right and wrong for us. Such reflection can lead us to insight that will help us to live better – be virtuous – in the future.

Therefore, by reflecting on our experiences in the light of our faith, we grow in wisdom.

The author of today’s first reading, Sirach, affirms that God knows every human action; St Paul reminds us that God has many riches for those who love him; and Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel says that he has come not to abolish but to fulfil the Law and the Prophets.

What we see clearly in the readings today is that there are repercussions, and consequences – good or bad – for all our actions.

Our challenge is to avoid the opportunities that do harm and to choose what directs us to God.

Sirach, the Psalmist, Paul and Jesus embraced this way of life; they are examples of how it is possible for us to become virtuous and wise. If we take to heart their messages from the readings this Sunday, we too, like them, will be true beacons of virtue – people of faith, hope and love.

If you have ever been to a circus or a carnival of one sort or another, you may well have walked passed what is known as a “distorting mirror”.

They are a popular attraction.

Instead of a normal plane mirror that reflects a perfect mirror image, distorting mirrors are curved mirrors, often using convex and concave sections to achieve the distorted effect. The result is you look much taller or shorter, much fatter or slimmer!

It is not you, however, there is enough of you to capture your attention, for you to pause, and, if there is none nearby, for you to pull a funny face and make the image of yourself more distorted still.

This image of the “distorting mirror” came to mind as I read this Sunday’s Gospel.

Just two Sunday’s ago we read from St. Matthew’s Gospel what are known as the Beatitudes, (Mtt. 5: 1 – 11). Often referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount”. The Sermon on the Mount is the very blueprint for the Christian lifestyle, and most scholars see it as the best summary of Jesus’ teaching.

If you have a New Testament that is in the form of columns, sitting in the column next to these wonderful blessings is today’s Gospel passage, and it is like you have walked past a “distorting mirror”.


5th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Both today’s First Reading from the prophet Isaiah,(58: 7-10), and the Gospel from St Matthew (5: 13 – 16) feature strong imagery of light.

Ovalau Island is a lush tropical volcanic island of about 100 square kilometres It is the main island of the Lomaiviti Group which is part of the Fiji group of islands. The islands are the peaks of deep-sea volcanoes that became extinct millions of years ago.

The island, like many in the Pacific, is surrounded by a large coral reef. These coral reefs are hazardous for shipping, they can tear the bottom out of a boat irrespective of its size.

The island’s main town, Levuka, has a tuna canning processing plant owned and run by PAFCO. With regularity, boats arrive with fresh tuna for processing. Of course, they need to negotiate with real care for the one entry spot among the coral reef which enables them to dock and unload.

Sacred Heart, Beach St. Levuka, Ovalau, Fiji. The navigation light can be seen sitting on the top of the tower.

Sitting on the foreshore of Levuka township is the Catholic Church named the Sacred Heart. The church was built and consecrated in 1858 by the Marist Fathers.

A feature of the Church is its 80ft high masonry bell tower.

The church sits opposite the safe entry spot through the reef.

The spire of the tower is fitted with a neon light in the form of a cross, which is used by ships to navigate safely through the Levuka Passage to the port; this light works in synchronization with another green light fitted on the hill.

Fishing boats from Taiwan, Korea and China, all are dependent on safe passage through the reef by lining up their bow to the “light” shining out from the Church.

It is quite an experience to be returning by sea to Levuka town, and through the absolute blackness of a tropical night to be beckoned on, to be drawn home by “the light “ on the Church tower!

There is certainly no “hiding your light under a bushel” going on here, rather “the light” is drawing one forward and ensuring safe passage, entry, and arrival home!

I invite you to sit for a time with the image being offered: a navigation light sitting atop a Catholic Church!