All Saints Day

Billy O’Leary was seven and lived in a very small village miles from anywhere and anyone.

The village had a general store which sold just about everything, a small school, and a small Church.

Billy’s father was the teacher at the school, the only teacher, so Billy use to say his father was the Headteacher.

One day, Billy’s father had to travel to the city for business reasons and invited Billy to travel with him.

Billy was excited for two reasons: he had heard his parents talk of the city and yet had no idea where it was, and second, it meant travelling on the train, which Billy had never done.

The day arrived, and Billy presented himself at breakfast in his Sunday best. He and his father walked to the train station and duly caught the train.

Billy sat by the window and watched cows, sheep, corn, and maize whizzing by.

When his father had finished his business, he asked Billy if there were anything he would like to do.

Now, back at school,  Fr O’Grady from the Church had talked to the class about St Brendan’s Cathedral and had shown pictures of the Cathedral in this city, so he asked his father whether they could go and look inside.

So off they went.

Now St Brendan’s was a very, very, very old cathedral, built when in some countries there were still kings and queens and princes and princesses and knights in armour and ladies in waiting.

Inside, the cathedral was dark and cold and kind of spooky.

Billy was slightly scared, and a shiver ran through his body, so he held his father’s hand tight as they walked around.

The walls inside were very high; at the top there were stained glass windows all the way around.

Each window had a saint’s name.

Some Billy knew: St Patrick, of course, the twelve apostles, and St Brendan.

He had never heard of others like St Finbar, St Brigid and St Ciarán.

An amazing thing happened as he walked around looking at all the windows.

Outside, the clouds broke, and the sun streamed through the stained-glass windows, and suddenly, the inside of the church was bathed in light.

Billy let go of his father’s hand and walked confidently on his own.

The following day at school, Fr O’Grady from the town Church came to the school to prepare the children for the coming feast of All Saints.

He asked the children, “Does anyone know what a saint is?”

Upshot Billy’s hand and he waved it about with enthusiasm.

Fr O’Grady could not help but notice the enthusiastic waving, and besides, there was no other hand raised seeking the priest’s attention.

“Yes, Billy, do you know what a saint is? Tell us now.”

“Father,” spoke Billy with confidence, “it is someone who lets the sun in and lights up the whole Church.”

(If you want to, you may spell the word either sun or Son.)

30th Sundary of Ordinary Time

At the time of Jesus, the Law consisted of some 613 commandments.

The question of which commandment was the greatest was frequently asked and argued by rabbis.

Today’s Gospel has Jesus being asked the same question. However, rather than replying with one, Jesus responded by naming two as if they were one.

‘You shall love the Lord your God’ is found in the Book of Deuteronomy (6:4), and ‘you shall love you neighbour as yourself’ is found in the Book of Leviticus (19:18).

The image I find most helpful is the image of my breathing – I need to breathe both in and out to live.

Once upon a time, in the desert of Egypt, there lived an old abbot named Barnabas. Around him lived a small coterie of fellow monks.

Christmas was approaching, and the monks met to see how they ought to prepare for the approaching feast and decided to fast for the seven days before the feast day.

Each monk went off to their cell to fast and pray.

About the middle of the week, two itinerant monks came to visit Abbot Barnabas.

Seeing that they were very hungry after their journey, the Abbot cooked a little vegetable stew for them.

To make them feel at ease, he took a little of the stew himself.

The other monks saw the smoke rising from the abbot’s cell.

This could mean only one thing – he had lit a fire to cook some food, which meant he had broken the solemn fast.

They were shocked.

Together, as one body, they went to confront him.

Seeing judgement in their eyes, the abbot asked, “What crime have I committed that makes you look at me like this?”

“You have broken the solemn fast,” they answered.

“So I have, “he replied.

“I have broken the commandment you have made, however, in sharing my food with these brothers of ours, I have kept the commandment of God that we ought love one another.”

On hearing this the monks grew silent, and returned to their own cell, humbled but wiser.

Mission Sunday

In November 1995 John Barlow was convicted and sentenced to a non-parole prison term of 14 years at a third trial after two previous juries were unable to convict him.

I attended some of the court sessions, and one of my observations was that those giving witness appeared as much on trial as the person being held.

On occasions, individuals would be thoroughly examined by both the prosecuting attorney and defence attorney.

Being in the witness box was not a comfortable place to be!

Pope Francis’ message for World Mission Sunday this year reflects on the theme: “You shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

Does he desire us to be “uncomfortable” Christians?

Almost 50 years ago, St Paul VI wrote,

“Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness.

“Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show a capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good.

“Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine.

“Through this wordless witness, these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live:

        • Why are they like this?
        • Why do they live in this way?
        • What or who is it that inspires them?
        • Why are they in our midst?

“Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one.” – (Evangelization in the Modern World, Pope Paul VI, 1975; No. 21)

Giving witness to Christ today requires precisely that we build communities that are wide enough to hold our differences.

What we need is

not a new technique,

but a new sanctity;

not a cooler dress,

but a more inclusive embrace;

not some updating of the gospel to make it more acceptable to the world,

but a more courageous radiating of its wide compassion;

not some new secret that catches peoples’ curiosity,

but a way of following Christ that can hold more of the tensions of our world in proper balance so that everyone, irrespective of temperament and ideology, will find themselves better understood and embraced by what we hold most dear.


28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Nasruddin had been working in the fields all day long.

He was tired and sweaty, and his clothes and shoes were covered with mud and stains.

The wealthiest man in town had invited everyone in the village to come to his home that evening for a huge feast.

Nasruddin knew he would be late if he went home to change his clothes before heading into town.

He decided arriving in dirty clothes was better than being late.

As he walked to the wealthy man’s home, Nasruddin imagined the delicious foods he would soon be eating; his stomach began to rumble.

When Nasruddin arrived, the wealthy man opened the door and looked Nasruddin up and down scornfully, from his worn, ragged clothes down to his muddy shoes.

“You can’t come in dressed like that,” the wealthy man exclaimed and shut the door.

Nasruddin hurried home and changed into his finest clothing, including a beautiful coat.

He returned to the wealthy man’s home and to the feast. This time, the host welcomed him with a huge smile.

“Come in, come in,” greeted the host.

As Nasruddin entered, people waved and called to him from all corners of the room as they invited him to sit near them and offered him food.

Nasruddin sat down quietly.

He picked up a plump fig and carefully placed it into a coat pocket.

Next, he took a handful of nuts and put them into the pocket.

Food went into the coat pockets, and when they were filled, Nasruddin began stuffing food into the coat sleeves.

Soon, everyone in the room stared at Nasruddin, wondering what he was doing.

The host hurried over.

“Nasruddin, whatever are you doing?

Why are you feeding your coat in this manner?”

“Well,” replied Nasruddin, “I was not welcome when I first came to this feast in my old farming clothes.

“You shut the door in my face.

“But when I changed into this coat, suddenly, I was greeted warmly.

“So, I realized I was not welcome at this party, but my clothing. And so, I am feeding my coat.”