30 Apr 2018

1st May 2018 - "Bring flowers of the fairest...O Mary we crown thee Queen of the May"

Our Lady of Advent
Patron of the Unborn
Sr Maria Paul PDDM
All months of the year are devoted to God. Some months have additional themes to help deepen our faith and trust in our God. 

In May we give thanks for Mary, Mother of God. 

The month of May is the "month which the piety of the faithful has especially dedicated to Our Blessed Lady," and it is the occasion for a "moving tribute of faith and love which Catholics in every part of the world [pay] to the Queen of Heaven. During this month Christians, both in church and in the privacy of the home, offer up to Mary from their hearts an especially fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration. In this month, too, the benefits of God's mercy come down to us from her throne in greater abundance" (Paul VI: Encyclical on the Month of May, no. 1).

Bring flowers of the rarest
Bring blossoms the fairest,
From garden and woodland and hillside and dale;
Our full hearts are swelling,
Our glad voices telling...
The praise of the loveliest flower of the vale!
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.

There are many and varied hymns and songs to Mary and three years ago we posted a short series of some of your favourites. You will find them under the tag Songs for Mary's month

Our Lady of Silence

29 Apr 2018

So what is coming up over the next few weeks on SS102fm?

Well we figured if the Late Late Show can start telling their audience what is going to be happening ahead of time well it might not be a bad idea for SS102fm to let our listeners and readers know in case there was something in particular which caught your eye. So in the next few weeks our planned schedule (which is always subject to change!!) is as follows:

May 6 – Reflection on May as the month dedicated to Mary

May 13 – Fr Martin Browne from Glenstal  will give us an introduction to Ecumenism

May 20 – Bishop Donal Murray interview on what it means to have an ‘Informed Conscience’

May 27 - Reflection with Fr Eamon Conway on Pope Francis’s latest apostolic exhortation ‘Rejoice and be glad’

We hope you can join us!

SS102fm team

29th April 2018 - SS102fm gets to know L'Arche Community Ireland

On this weeks programme John is joined by members of L'Arche Ireland community and in particular members of the community from Callan in Co Kilkenny. We have our regular reflection on this weeks Sunday gospel as well as other liturgical odds & ends.

You can listen to this weeks full programme HERE.

L'Arche Ireland

L'Arche is a group of over 149 worldwide communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together in community and on this weeks programme Diana Walsh, Helen O'Shea, Madeline Regan and Peter Brabazon join John to share the story of L'Arche and what it means to each of them to be part of this community.

L'Arche was founded in 1964 when Jean Vanier, welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Vanier became aware of the plight of thousands of people institutionalized with developmental disabilities. Vanier felt led by God to invite two men, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institutions where they resided and share their lives with him in a household in Trosly-Breuil, France. He named their home "L'Arche", which is French for "The Ark", as in Noah's Ark.

The first community in Ireland was founded in 1978 in Kilmoganny, County Kilkenny. Since then, communities have been established in Belfast, Cork and Dublin. L'Arche in Ireland is currently home to over fifty people with intellectual disabilities and the assistants with whom they share life. The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, in her remarks at the Millennium celebration of L'Arche, Faith and Light, Faith and Friendship and Faith and Sharing, said:". . . If you want to see Ireland at its best. If you want to see God's people at their best. If you want to see His work done well - Yes, this is the place to be". You can find out about each community HERE.

L'Arche fosters an environment to celebrate the unique value of each and every person in those communities and recognizes our need of one another.

You can listen to the interview excerpted from the main programme HERE.

L'Arche Ireland website
L'Arche Ireland Facebook

Gospel -  John 15:1-8

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
Reflections on this weeks gospel

Word on Fire
Centre for Liturgy
English Dominicans
Sunday Reflections

Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 1; 5th week of Easter

Saints of the Week
April 30th - St Pius V
May 1st - St Joseph the Worker 
May 2nd - St Athanasius of Alexandria
May 3rd - St Philip and St James
May 4th - St Conleth (First Friday)
May 5th - Bl Edmund Rice (First Saturday)

May as Mary's month
All months of the year are devoted to God. Some months have additional themes to help deepen our faith and trust in our God. In May we give thanks for Mary, Mother of God. 

Invite parishioners (or your family!) to create a May altar in your homes this month - HERE  and HERE are two nice articles from mothers about creating a family May altar at home.

HERE are a series of May reflections that you might adapt

Pope's Prayer Intentions for May
Evangelization – The Mission of Laity
That the lay faithful may fulfill their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today.

22 Apr 2018

22 April 2018 - Good Shepherd Sunday (Vocation Sunday)

On this weeks programme John and Shane take a dive into the archive to one of our more popular interviews with Fr Chris O'Donnell about vocations which was originally broadcast back in 2012. We have our regular reflection on this Sundays gospel from St John which has the great discourse of Jesus as the Good Shepherd as well as a run through the liturgical odds & ends for this week and some notices.

You can listen to the full programme podcast HERE.

Vocations Sunday - A Reflection with Fr Chris O'Donnell

“What will you do with your life? What are your plans? Have you ever thought of committing your existence totally to Christ? Do you think that there can be anything greater than to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus?” -Pope John Paul II

22nd April 2018 is Vocations Sunday. Pope Paul VI instituted the World Day of Prayer for Vocations on the 11 April 1964 by saying: “O Jesus, divine Shepherd of the spirit, you have called the Apostles in order to make them fishermen of men, you still attract to you burning spirits and generous young people, in order to render them your followers and ministers to us” (Pope Paul VI )

Pope Francis reminds us:'Vocation is today. The Christian mission is now. We should not wait to be perfect in order to respond with our generous 'yes', nor be fearful of our limitations and sin but instead open our hearts to the voice of the Lord. It is a beautiful and a great grace yo be completely and forever consecrated to the Lord.'

In the years since, successive pontiffs have called on the Church to focus and pray for vocations. Prayer and promotion of vocations takes place on a daily basis here in Ireland but in a particular way on Vocations Sunday which this year falls on Sunday 22 April, the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

On this weeks programme we go back into the archive and dig out a reflection on vocation from Fr Chris O'Donnell which was originally broadcast in 2012 where Fr Chris reminds us of the need to find space to be able to figure out what it is we are all individually being called to.

You can listen to the interview with Fr Chris HERE.

Gospel - John 10: 11-18

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
Reflections on this weeks gospel:

Word on Fire
English Dominicans
Sunday Reflections
Centre for Liturgy

Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 4; 4th week of Easter

Saints of the Week

April 23rd - St George
April 24th - St Fidelis of Sigmaringen
April 25th - St Mark the Evangelist
April 26th - Our Lady of Good Counsel
April 27th - St Asicus of Elphin
April 28th - St Louise de Montefort

14 Apr 2018

15th April 2018 - World Meeting of Families 2018 Update with Emer Williams & Noirin Lynch

On this weeks programme we get an update on WMOF2018 from Noirin Lynch and Emer Williams including the upcoming Volunteering Roadshow in Limerick. We have our regular reflection on this weeks gospel as well as other liturgical odds and ends. 

You can listen to the podcast of this weeks programme HERE.

WMOF2018 - An Update

On this weeks programme John is joined by Emer William's and Noirin Lynch to give an update in relation to World Meeting of Families 2018 which is being held in Dublin during August 2018. 

Emer is one of Limerick's diocesan representatives and Noirin is familiar to listeners of SS102fm from her work in the Limerick Diocesan Pastoral Centre.

They give us an update in relation to whats happening with the preparations for the WMOF and also provide some clarity in relation to things like tickets and registration and encourage people to volunteer.

You can listen to their interview with John HERE.

The Amoris Programme in parishes which is a six–session parish conversation, where participants are helped to reflect on and share their experience of family life and their response to Pope Francis’ reflections in The Joy of LoveThe Joy of Love is the key document for reflection from Pope Francis as preparation for the WMOF2018. WMOF2018 after all isn't just a once off event but rather what is to be the highlight of a programme of preparation and an opportunity for the church to put across the positive nature of its teaching on the family.

The Pastoral Congress Outline Programme has now been released with information on the programme and speakers for the three day congress. Check out the Programme At a Glance page for updates on the themes for each day and the Pastoral Congress page for updated links and information. The WMOF2018 website also has pages about the daily programme for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday's Programmes as well as Business Breakfast Lectures. The website also has a new section where they are including the speakers and performers that will be taking part in the WMOF2018 events. This page is being updated daily as speakers and performers are confirmed. Click here

Registration & tickets - it is essential that if you want to attend any of the WMOF2018 that you register and where necessary book your tickets. For the Pastoral Congress there is a fee for adult participants but the papal Mass while being ticketed will be free. For up to date information about ticketing and registration please refer to the website of the WMOF2018. Also to note that only tickets obtained through the official website are valid tickets.

Volunteering - to make any event of this size a success, volunteers will be needed to help out. If you would like to get involved check out the website or if you are in Limerick there is a Volunteering Roadshow on Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th April - see poster below for details:

  • Tues, 17th April,4pm : St Munichin’s Diocesan Centre, Corbally Focus on Schools and Youth Grps
  • Tuesday, 17th April, 7:30pm : Desmond Complex, Newcastlewest, Focus on Parish, Individuals, Families
  • Wednesday, 18th April 10:30 : Mt St Alphonsus, Redemptorists

Gospel - Luke 24:35-48

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
Reflections on this weeks gospel:

Word on Fire
Centre for Liturgy
English Dominicans
Sunday Reflections

Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 3; 3rd week of Easter

April 16th - St Bernadette of Lourdes
April 17th - St Katori Tekakwitha
April 18th - St Laserian
April 19th - Bl James Duckett
April 20th - Bl Maurice MacKenraghty
April 21st - St Anselm

11 Apr 2018

The inspiring rite of the Holy Fire in the Holy Sepulcher

Orthodox Christian communities in Jerusalem witnessed an ancient ceremony on their Holy Saturday, thousands gathering for the event.

The Orthodox Christians celebration of Easter in Jerusalem was long awaited. According to the Julian Calendar, kept by most Eastern Churches, the Resurrection of Christ was celebrated this year on April 8th. In days leading up to the feast, the faithful of various origins, keeping various rites, commemorated the Passion of Jesus, culminating on Holy Saturday inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher with the ceremony of the Holy Fire.

In a centuries-old tradition, it is believed that an angel;visits the Aedicule, housing the tomb of Jesus, and ignites a lamp alternately flaming for minutes before the ceremony.

Each year, differing rites are celebrated in turn by Coptic, Syrian and Armenian clerics in the presence of thousands. There are processions of local Christians accompanied by choirs, drumming and the sounds of other instruments.

Then the Greek Orthodow Patrirach, Theophilus III makes his solmen entrty, and having processed around the aedicule three times, he enters the tomb in subdued lighting, for the great event.

The silence is broken by a joyful cry as the surrounding crowd acclaims the kindled fire.

Within seconds, the fire spreads from candle to candle throughout the church and, even throughout the World, for the Easter celebrations.

"Christòs anèsti - alithòs anèsti" / Christ is risen! – he is risen indeed!

9 Apr 2018

The Annunciation

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." 
And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

The Annunciation – John O’Donohue             
Cast from afar before the storms were born
And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour,
The words have waited for the hunger in her
To become the silence where they could form.

The day’s last light frames her by the window,
A young women with distance in her gaze.
She could never imagine the surprise
That is hovering over her life now.

The sentence awakens like a raven, fluttering and dark,
Opening her heart to nest the voice
That first whispered the earth,
From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean,

She offers to mother the shadow’s child,
Her untouched life becoming wild inside.

Gaudete et exsultate: On the call to holiness in today’s world.- UPDATED

The Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and be glad), and subtitled “On the call to holiness in the contemporary world” was published today (Monday 9th April).
The very readable document has five chapters which explore the call to holiness, the enemies of holiness, what it is to be holy – through living out the beatitudes, the signs of holiness in today’s world and spiritual combat.
Pope Francis reminds the church of the example of the saints and how their lives are an imitation of Christ. He also states that this imitation is not limited to the canonised or beatified but to “God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”.
Stressing the importance of women, he writes, “I would stress too that the “genius of woman” is seen in feminine styles of holiness, which are an essential means of reflecting God’s holiness in this world. Indeed, in times when women tended to be most ignored or overlooked, the Holy Spirit raised up saints whose attractiveness produced new spiritual vigour and important reforms in the Church. We can mention Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Saint Bridget, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. But I think too of all those unknown or forgotten women who, each in her own way, sustained and transformed families and communities by the power of their witness”.
In  chapter 3, Pope Francis answers the question: “What must one do to be a good Christian?, the answer is clear. We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes, we find a portrait of the Master, which we are called to reflect in our daily lives”.
Calling for patience, perseverance and meekness, as signs of holiness in today’s world, the Holy Father also states the need for joy and a sense of humour. “Not a joy that is gained from today’s individualistic and consumerist culture”, he writes, “but a joy lived in communion, which shares and is shared, since “there is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35) and “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).
He concludes by writing, “It is my hope that these pages will prove helpful by enabling the whole Church to devote herself anew to promoting the desire for holiness. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us a fervent longing to be saints for God’s greater glory, and let us encourage one another in this effort. In this way, we will share a happiness that the world will not be able to take from us”.

The document is available online HERE

Vatican News - A guide to Christianity for the 21st Century: the new Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis

Crux - In Gaudete et Exsultate , Pope answers ‘Amoris’ critics: Don’t ‘reduce, constrict’ Gospel
NCR - Francis' new exhortation a call to become holy by serving others, especially migrants
America magazine analysis here
Catholic Herald - Pope Francis offers practical steps to holiness in new exhortation
Catholic Herald - What does ‘Gaudete et Exsultate’ mean for the Church?

Fr James Martin's interpretation:

20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement -

Joint statement to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement by Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop Richard Clarke,

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement tomorrow, we wish together to give thanks to God for all that has been achieved in building peace since that historic moment. 

The Good Friday Agreement sought to address contentious political problems in the context of decades of violence, divided communities and immense suffering and death on our streets.  As such it was a complex and, in places, controversial document.  However, we are convinced that its explicit rejection of the use or threat of violence, together with its emphasis on the principles of “partnership, equality and mutual respect” as the “basis of relationships” within these islands, has continuing potential to transform society and life for all of us.  Nothing remotely its equal has been outlined then or since.

We thank God for all that has been achieved in shaping a peaceful and shared future over the past twenty years.  We acknowledge the efforts of the international community who not only invested significantly in the process which led to the Agreement, but who have remained alongside us as our partners for peace.  Above all we thank God for the generation of young people who are growing up without the sounds of bomb or bullet on a daily basis; for the livelihoods and businesses which have not been destroyed; for the families and neighbourhoods who have been spared the heart-breaking pain and trauma of death or serious injury. 

No single political agreement can be expected, of itself, to solve or heal the deep wounds in any society.  The Good Friday Agreement offered a framework for a new beginning, outlining the interlocking structures and safeguards under which the relationships required for healthy democracy could develop and be sustained.  Northern Ireland still presents many problems and opportunities, but these are problems and opportunities for all of us – and not simply politicians – to solve and grasp.  Some say we have failed in this task; others that we have only just begun.  Too often, any vision of a common good has been submerged beneath sectional interests.  At this present impasse in political life in Northern Ireland it is worth asking ourselves: is it because the principles and structure of the Good Friday Agreement have failed us, or, rather is it that we have together failed to make the most of those supportive principles which it offered?

In the Christian tradition we share, Good Friday is a time of returning to God and of “calling out” anything which prevents us from living truly as disciples of Jesus Christ.  This can be a painful exercise.  But we are an Easter people.  We are always beginning.  We are always making a fresh start.  It was in the light of the Resurrection that Saint Paul urged us to be “ambassadors” of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5.20). 

The peace we have today took a great effort to achieve; it will equally take risk, and leadership at all levels, to maintain.  It is therefore our sincere shared prayer that this anniversary will help to rekindle a spirit of opportunity, healing and hope for lasting peace which is now needed more than ever.  We call on all people of good will to be ambassadors of reconciliation, helping to rebuild trust and mutual respect in order to move us further forward and closer together as a society that places the common good as its primary purpose.

8 Apr 2018

An Eastertide Sunrise

Eastertide Sunrise, Lough Gur
(C) 2018 Eoin Noonan
......When the cross hits your life, a loneliness, a blindness and a darkness come all around you. Darkness and lostness are the worst parts of suffering. The wonder of the Resurrection is that this darkness was opened out and at the heart of the darkness a secret light was discovered. Each one of us who has come here hasn’t come to this place out of curiosity but we have come because we know the need that is in our lives and we know the frailty that is in our hearts and minds. We are strangers in the world. In our journey through life anything can befall us. It seems to be very difficult for us as humans to learn how to love, to learn how the let the fear and the resentment and the blindness fall away from us and to come into the special joy and peace and freedom of love. No matter how assured or competent we may feel, there is none of us who has not large territories of fear in our hearts, fear of sharing ourselves, of opening ourselves, of entering life. That is why we come to an ancient holy place like this, before the dawn, to let the new tender light of the resurrection touch our helpless fear and transfigure it and open it into courage................... 
.................."On this Easter morning, let us look again at the lives we have been so generously given and let us let fall away the useless baggage that we carry -- old pains, old habits, old ways of seeing and feeling -- and let us have the courage to begin again. Life is very short, and we are no sooner here than it is time to depart again, and we should use to the full the time that we still have.
We don't realize all the good we can do. A kind, encouraging word or helping hand can bring many a person through dark valleys in their lives. We weren't put here to make money or to acquire status or reputation. We were sent here to search for the light of Easter in our hearts, and when we find it we are meant to give it away generously. The dawn that is rising this Easter morning is a gift to our hearts and we are meant to celebrate it and to carry away from this holy, ancient place the gifts of healing and light and the courage of a new beginning."

~ John O'Donohue from his Easter Homily at Corcomroe Abbey 1992. Included in "Walking on the Pastures of Wonder: John O'Donohue in Conversation with John Quinn"

(C) 2018 Eoin Noonan

Sunrise - Becky Littmann (2014)

Have you ever seen the sun rise?
Witnessed with your own two eyes?
Watching exactly how it went?
Not through someone else's photo captured moment
You'll really enjoy it more if you view it live
& you'll appreciate just being alive

I've watched the sun rise countless mornings
It's like my own private showings
Each one completely different in every way 
& the best way to start any day
They're bright & beautiful
Breatakingly blissful

You'll never feel the same once you've experienced it
& so many will never understand the feeling you get
It's hard to explain but I'll do my best
I'd imagine it's like fresh air deepily inhaled into your chest
Your lungs fill up with all the freshness
& you exhale all that causes you stress

Your worries all just disappear
Your mind is calm & clear 
It's a feeling that just forever stays
Until your dying days
Joy & happiness is all you release
It is what brings you inner peace

All you care to do now is enjoy everything
No matter the troubles & obstacles life may bring
A happy soul is all you've got & need
Your heart has compassion & optimism is what you bleed
Sharing your smile with all you pass or whoever you meet
That is your favorite way to say hello & greet

All from experiencing a live sun rise happen
That all may seem impossible to imagine
All that out of just a sun rising?
When it happens to you, it IS quite surprising
Shocking at first, you just can't believe how you feel
& you wonder how can this even be real?

If you allow yourself to let go of your worries & any doubt
Then you make room to clearly feel what it's about
You're allowing yourself to be vulnerable
& that's when you become more relatable
Clearing your clouded mind of opinions from useless chatter
Let's you finally enjoy what most may think or say doesn't really matter

Those are the ones who don't pay a lot of attention
& are afraid to get lost in their imagination
Never will they set a foot out of their "safe" box & risk crossing that thin line
It's OK, it's their loss & that's just fine
They'll just never understand your constant positive attitude
& can't recall a time you were even the slightest bit rude

They will never know how to just live happily
Inside their soul will be dying slowly
Some won't see how beautiful a sun rise really is
It's something no one should ever miss
A sun rise & even a sun set
Are too amazing to just forget!!

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter - Fr Martin Browne OSB, Glenstal Abbey

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter
Fr Martin Browne OSB
Glenstal Abbey

The Church treats the entire week after Easter Sunday as if it were a single celebration. The mystery is too big for us to simply pack it away and go back to normal life the day after Easter Sunday. And so, Mass was festive and solemn all week. The hours of the Divine Office were almost identical every day. It has been a single feast. Some denominations call the third day of the Triduum ‘Easter Day’, whereas we call it ‘Easter Sunday’, and I think we’re right, because every day this week has been ‘Easter Day’. Easter Sunday was followed by Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, Easter Wednesday, Easter Thursday, Easter Friday and Easter Saturday.

In the Gospel readings at Mass throughout the week, we’ve been hearing of some of Jesus’s appearances to various groups of his followers after his resurrection – followers who were often ‘foolish… and … slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had declared’. Today, on the last day of the Octave, the second Easter Sunday, the Gospel begins on the evening of Easter Sunday, where we left off a week ago. Last Sunday’s reading ended with that heart-jolting tender encounter between Mary Magdalene and the Risen Jesus in the garden, when she mistook him for a gardener until he called her name. Then when she responded by addressing him as ‘Rabbouni (which means Teacher)’, he commissioned her to announce his resurrection to the disciples – to be the Apostle to the Apostles. Last Sunday’s reading ended with the glorious announcement by Mary; ‘I have seen the Lord’. Today’s Gospel reading begins at the very next verse: ‘When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week…’

It’s hard not to wonder: Did they not hear what Mary had announced to them? Did they not believe what she told them? Or were they just confused by it all? Because the scene at the start of today’s Gospel doesn’t suggest that they were filled with resurrection joy and singing alleluias…. ‘the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews’. Because we hear these two readings on two different Sundays, it’s easy to forget that they are consecutive passages. It’s a striking detail, and one which is easily overlooked: even when they had heard that Jesus was alive, the disciples were afraid.

And as they huddled in fear, somehow, Jesus ‘came and stood among them’. They might have barricaded themselves in for fear of the authorities, but no door was going to keep out the One whom neither a tomb nor Death itself could contain. Like the scene with Mary in the garden, this encounter is a tender one. He could have complained and berated them for their stupidity and unbelief. But no. He simply said, ‘Peace be with you’ and showed them his hands and his side. The hands that were pierced by the nails that bound him to the wood of the Cross… and the side that was pierced after his death, releasing a saving torrent of blood and water. And that was it. Then, ‘…the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord’. 

The Gospel doesn’t give us many details of this encounter. But it does tell us that Jesus said ‘Peace be with you’ twice. In a story that is so short on details, that this detail is reported surely means that it is important, and invites us to consider it with care. ‘Peace be with you’… Some might say it was just a greeting – a stylised way of saying ‘Hello’, like we find in other parts of the New Testament. But here, ‘Peace be with you’ is more than a greeting. It echoes words Jesus spoke to the disciples at the Last Supper just days before. ‘Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid’.

As he prepared for his crucifixion, Jesus bequeathed peace to his disciples, encouraging them to not be afraid. Now, risen from the dead, he brings the same blessing. Peace. A peace that dispels fear. He repeated the phrase after they had recognised him and rejoiced. It’s clearly more than a nice greeting. Peace be with you - a prelude to sending the disciples in his name. Peace be with you – a prelude to Jesus breathing on the disciples and giving them the power, comfort and fire of the Holy Spirit. Peace be with you – a prelude to their continuing his mission in the world. It is an important ‘word’ from the Lord at an important moment. No wonder he said it twice! By it, the disciples’ timidity was transformed into joy. And just like Mary last week – or rather, ‘like Mary earlier that same day’, they weren’t allowed to simply luxuriate in the joy of the extraordinary news that Jesus was alive. Instead, they were sent out to continue his ministry – ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. Like Mary earlier in the day, their encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus was both a moment of joy and a moment of commissioning.

The story moves on, with the arrival back to the group of Thomas. He has been saddled throughout history with the unfortunate title of ‘Doubting Thomas’, but when you read this text carefully, you see that he is no different to the rest of the disciples. He’s just a bit more direct. One poet describes him as the ‘Courageous master of the awkward question, [who] spoke the words the others dared not say’. Thomas is famous for not believing the other disciples’ story of seeing the Lord. But the other disciples didn’t believe Mary Magdalene either. When Jesus appeared among the barricaded disciples on Easter Sunday he did exactly as he did with Thomas eight days later: He showed them his hands and he showed them his side. The description of the encounter with Thomas is a bit more detailed and graphic, but the action is the same: the greeting ‘Peace be with you’, followed by the manifestation of his gloriously transformed wounds.

Today’s Gospel shouldn’t be known as the Gospel of ‘Doubting Thomas’. It is the Gospel of ‘Revealing Jesus’. It is Good News. And here is more Good News: Today, in our midst, in his Word and in the gifts of bread and wine over which we give thanks, the risen and glorified Lord Jesus is present and is revealing himself again. He greets each one of us with his peace, empowers us with the Holy Spirit, and sends us forth to continue his work in the world.

Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord, alleluia, alleluia!