28 Apr 2019

28th April 2019 - Divine Mercy Sunday - Catholic School Retreats - Claire Devaney

On this week's programme we are joined by Claire Devaney, a daughter of Deacon Don Devaney who was on the programme recently. Claire speaks to us about her experience of working with Catholic School Retreats, Divine Mercy and a soup kitchen. We also have our usual reflection on the Sunday Gospel and local notices.

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

Catholic School Retreats - Claire Devaney

Claire Devaney of Catholic School Retreats shares with us their mission to train people for children's ministry and to run retreats for primary and secondary school children. The aim of Catholic School Retreats is to provide children with an element of fun and interweave that with faith to give children and young people a positive experience of the faith. Claire is a teacher by profession and her joyful faith and enthusiasm are evident as she speaks about the importance of sharing our faith with young people. Claire gives tips for parents or grandparents for sharing their faith with their family. Claire also shares her faith in Divine Mercy and her personal experience of volunteering with a soup kitchen. 

If you would like to book Catholic School Retreats for a retreat or for training for adults working in children's ministry, you can contact them via their website HERE or by emailing catholicschoolretreats@gmail.com or by ringing 085-1940065.

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

Divine Mercy Sunday

Pope John Paul II introduced Divine Mercy Sunday following on the private revelation to the Polish nun St Faustina. Many Catholics gather in churches throughout the world today at 3pm to partake in the Divine Mercy Chaplet, veneration of the image of Divine Mercy, confessions, Mass etc.

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

From EWTN:
From the diary of a young Polish nun, a special devotion began spreading throughout the world in the 1930s. The message is nothing new, but is a reminder of what the Church has always taught through scripture and tradition: that God is merciful and forgiving and that we, too, must show mercy and forgiveness. But in the Divine Mercy devotion, the message takes on a powerful new focus, calling people to a deeper understanding that God’s love is unlimited and available to everyone — especially the greatest sinners. The message and devotion to Jesus as The Divine Mercy is based on the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God’s mercy. Even before her death in 1938, the devotion to The Divine Mercy had begun to spread.

The message of mercy is that God loves us — all of us — no matter how great our sins. He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. 

During the course of Jesus' revelations to Saint Faustina on the Divine Mercy He asked on numerous occasions that a feast day be dedicated to the Divine Mercy and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. The liturgical texts of that day, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, concern the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, the Tribunal of the Divine Mercy, and are thus already suited to the request of Our Lord. This Feast, which had already been granted to the nation of Poland and been celebrated within Vatican City, was granted to the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization of Sr. Faustina on 30 April 2000. In a decree dated 23 May 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that "throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come." These papal acts represent the highest endorsement that the Church can give to a private revelation, an act of papal infallibility proclaiming the certain sanctity of the mystic, and the granting of a universal feast, as requested by Our Lord to St. Faustina.

A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful "who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation."

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and "in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. 'Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!')."

Gospel - John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. 
‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ 
After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him: 
You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
Reflections on this week's gospel:

Word on Fire
English Dominicans
Centre for Liturgy
Sunday Reflections

Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter Week 2

Saints of the Week
April 29th - St. Catherine of Sienna
April 30th - St. Pius V
May 1st - St. Joseph the Worker
May 2nd - St. Athansius
May 3rd - St. Philip and St. James, Apostles
May 4th - St. Conleth

24 Apr 2019

Easter 2019 Urbi et Orbi

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!

Today the Church renews the proclamation made by the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” And from mouth to mouth, from heart to heart, there resounds a call to praise: “Alleluia, Alleluia!” On this morning of Easter, the perennial youth of the Church and of humanity as a whole, I would like to address each of you in the opening words of my recent Apostolic Exhortation devoted especially to young people:

“Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world. Everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life. The very first words, then, that I would like to say to every young Christian are these: Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive! He is in you, he is with you and he never abandons you. However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One. He calls you and he waits for you to return to him and start over again. When you feel you are growing old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, he will always be there to restore your strength and your hope” (Christus Vivit, 1-2).

Dear brothers and sisters, this message is also addressed to every person in the world. The resurrection of Christ is the principle of new life for every man and every woman, for true renewal always begins from the heart, from the conscience. Yet Easter is also the beginning of the new world, set free from the slavery of sin and death: the world open at last to the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of love, peace and fraternity.

Christ is alive and he remains with us. Risen, he shows us the light of his face, and he does not abandon all those experiencing hardship, pain and sorrow. May he, the Living One, be hope for the beloved Syrian people, victims of an ongoing conflict to which we risk becoming ever more resigned and even indifferent. Now is instead the time for a renewed commitment for a political solution able to respond to people’s legitimate hopes for freedom, peace and justice, confront the humanitarian crisis and favour the secure re-entry of the homeless, along with all those who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, especially Lebanon and Jordan.

Easter makes us keep our eyes fixed on the Middle East, torn by continuing divisions and tensions. May the Christians of the region patiently persevere in their witness to the Risen Lord and to the victory of life over death. I think in particular of the people of Yemen, especially the children, exhausted by hunger and war. May the light of Easter illumine all government leaders and peoples in the Middle East, beginning with Israelis and Palestinians, and spur them to alleviate such great suffering and to pursue a future of peace and stability.

May conflict and bloodshed cease in Libya, where defenceless people are once more dying in recent weeks and many families have been forced to abandon their homes. I urge the parties involved to choose dialogue over force and to avoid reopening wounds left by a decade of conflicts and political instability.

May the Living Christ grant his peace to the entire beloved African continent, still rife with social tensions, conflicts and at times violent forms of extremism that leave in their wake insecurity, destruction and death, especially in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. I think too of Sudan, presently experiencing a moment of political uncertainty; it is my hope that all voices will be heard, and that everyone will work to enable the country to find the freedom, development and well-being to which it has long aspired.

May the Risen Lord accompany the efforts of the civil and religious authorities of South Sudan, sustained by the fruits of the spiritual retreat held several days ago here in the Vatican. May a new page open in the history of that country, in which all political, social and religious components actively commit themselves to the pursuit of the common good and the reconciliation of the nation.

May this Easter bring comfort to the people of the eastern regions of Ukraine, who suffer from the continuing conflict. May the Lord encourage initiatives of humanitarian aid and those aimed at pursuing a lasting peace.

May the joy of the resurrection fill the hearts of those who on the American continent are experiencing the effects of difficult political and economic situations. I think in particular of the Venezuelan people, of all those who lack the minimal conditions for leading a dignified and secure life due to a crisis that endures and worsens. May the Lord grant that all those with political responsibilities may work to end social injustices, abuses and acts of violence, and take the concrete steps needed to heal divisions and offer the population the help they need.

May the Risen Lord shed his light on the efforts made in Nicaragua to find as rapidly as possible a peaceful negotiated solution for the benefit of the entire Nicaraguan people.
Before the many sufferings of our time, may the Lord of life not find us cold and indifferent. May he make us builders of bridges, not walls. May the One who gives us his peace end the roar of arms, both in areas of conflict and in our cities, and inspire the leaders of nations to work for an end to the arms race and the troubling spread of weaponry, especially in the economically more advanced countries. May the Risen Christ, who flung open the doors of the tomb, open our hearts to the needs of the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, the poor, the unemployed, the marginalized, and all those who knock at our door in search of bread, refuge, and the recognition of their dignity.

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is alive! He is hope and youth for each of us and for the entire world. May we let ourselves be renewed by him! Happy Easter!

On Easter Night, "In My Life, Where Am I Going? What Is The Stone I Need To Remove?" - Pope Francis

20 APRIL 2019

The women bring spices to the tomb, but they fear that their journey is in vain, since a large stone bars the entrance to the sepulcher. The journey of those women is also our own journey; it resembles the journey of salvation that we have made this evening. At times, it seems that everything comes up against a stone: the beauty of creation against the tragedy of sin; liberation from slavery against infidelity to the covenant; the promises of the prophets against the listless indifference of the people. So too, in the history of the Church and in our own personal history. It seems that the steps we take never take us to the goal. We can be tempted to think that dashed hope is the bleak law of life.

Today however we see that our journey is not in vain; it does not come up against a tombstone. A single phrase astounds the woman and changes history: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). Why do you think that everything is hopeless, that no one can take away your own tombstones? Why do you give into resignation and failure? Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness. Human history does not end before a tombstone, because today it encounters the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pet 2:4), the risen Jesus. We, as Church, are built on him, and, even when we grow disheartened and tempted to judge everything in the light of our failures, he comes to make all things new, tooverturn our every disappointment. Each of us is called tonight to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones. So let us first ask: What is the stone that I need to remove, what is its name?

Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement. Once we start thinking that everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we lose heart and come to believe that death is stronger than life. We become cynical, negative and despondent. Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a monument to our own dissatisfaction: the sepulcher of hope. Life becomes a succession of complaints and we grow sick in spirit. A kind of tomb psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging alive. But at that moment, we hear once more the insistent question of Easter: Why do you seek the living among the dead? The Lord is not to be found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living (cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!

There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why not make up your mind to abandon that sin which, like a stone before the entrance to your heart, keeps God’s light from entering in? Why not prefer Jesus, the true light (cf. Jn1:9), to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord of life?

Holy Land Easter Message 2019 - lasting peace in Jerusalem and the world

Thirteen Patriarchs and Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem have issued an Easter Message praying for lasting peace throughout the world and urging that the multi-religious and multi-cultural status of Jerusalem be maintained
We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, bring you Easter greetings in the name of our Risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. From the heart of Jerusalem and the center of the world we proclaim again: Christ is Risen; He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! This Easter greetings have been handed over to us by our faithful fathers and mothers across the centuries. “He is not here. He has been raised…,” this was the announcement of the angel who appeared to the women at the tomb, and proclaimed that it is not death that has the final word, rather, it is the God of life.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10.10). We, as people of faith, are called to walk in Jesus’ risen life; in abundance, not in scarcity. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus brought about new creation and restored all things; including God’s image in human beings. The Feast of the Resurrection reminds us that human dignity is to be respected and honoured.
Human beings are created in God’s image, and therefore stand equal before God. Easter is a season where the human family is celebrated in the light of the divine life and abundance. Jerusalem, the city of the resurrection, is the beacon of hope and life. The empty tomb constantly reminds us of the events that took place in and around the holy city. Jesus came to offer abundant life in which sin and death are defeated. The city of life is also the city of peace and reconciliation. Therefore, the multi-religious and multi-cultural status of Jerusalem have to be maintained and all Abrahamic faiths may find it none other than the city of peace and tranquility. We continue to pray for a just and lasting peace in Jerusalem and throughout the world.
We are steadfast in praying for all regions of violence and distress, especially, violence against innocent people and places of worship. We also remember in our prayers all women and children who face violence and injustice throughout the globe. We call upon all people to respect the dignity of every human person and walk together toward wholeness and fullness of life.
We invite all our fellow Christians around the world in general, and our faithful people in the Holy Land and the wider Middle East in particular, to take strength in the Easter celebrations. May we all be witnesses to the resurrection through promoting the values of our Risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, through active involvement in the life of the church and the wider society.
Christ is Risen; He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate

Fr. Francesco Patton, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land

Archbishop Anba Antonious, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem

Archbishop Gabriel Daho, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate

Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate

Archbishop Yaser AL-Ayash, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate

Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate

Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

Bishop Ibrahim Sani Azar, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

Most Rev. Krikor-Okosdinos Coussa, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

Sabbath Soul Space

Recently on the programme, we were joined by Martina Leehane Sheehan. Martina and her husband Patrick Sheehan have pioneered Cork Wellbeing Counselling & Holistic Living. They offer one to one Counselling, Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Spiritual Guidance. They also facilitate workshops, conferences and retreats etc. In our practice, we offer a three-dimensional approach to good mental health, we believe that mind, body and spirit need to be in balance in order for our lives to flourish.

You can sign up for Martina's weekly reflection newsletter Sabbath Soul Space at their website HERE.

20 Apr 2019

21st April 2019 - Easter Sunday



"Let everyone share this feast of faith; let everyone enjoy the riches of goodness. Let none lament their poverty; for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let none mourn their sins; for forgiveness has dawned from the grave. Let none fear death; for the Saviour's death has set us free"
- St John Chrysostom

Welcome to this weeks SacredSpace102fm and to the celebration of Easter Sunday - the highpoint of the Christian year; the reason why we call ourselves Christian. We have a reflection with Martina Leehane-Sheehan on Resurrection. We have a reflection on the Sunday gospel and other bits and pieces. 

You can listen to the full programme podcast HERE.

Reflecting on Resurrection in everyday life

On this week's programme SS102fm team are joined by Martina Lehane Sheehan who gives us a beautiful, thought-provoking reflection on Easter. Martina reflects on Resurrection, Transformation and Hope. She points out that the resurrected Jesus meets us in our wounded-ness and brings about transformation. Resurrection brings hope and the availability of the abundant life as well as expansion and growth. We are called to look for the light and to be the light. Real faith is believing that there is light even though there is still dark.

You can listen to Martina's reflection excerpted from the main programme podcast HERE.


With great joy we welcome back the Alleluia! We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!

Victimae paschali (Easter Sunday, Sequence)

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb;
and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners to his Father reconciled.

Death with life contended:
combat strangely ended!

Life’s own Champion, slain,
yet lives to reign.

Tell us, Mary: 
say what thou didst see 
upon the way.

The tomb the Living did enclose;
I saw Christ’s glory as he rose!

The angels there attesting;
shroud with grave-clothes resting.

Christ, my hope, has risen:
he goes before you into Galilee.

That Christ is truly risen
from the dead we know.
Victorious king, thy mercy show!

Gospel - John 20:1-9

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Reflections on this weeks gospel:

Word on Fire

English Dominicans
Centre for Liturgy
Sunday Reflections

Easter Traditions

Colours associated with Easter are white- purity - and gold - glory. Peacocks are an ancient symbol of the Resurrection and in the USA lilies are symbols of Easter and new life. During Eastertide (Easter Sunday to Pentecost) the Angelus is replaced by the Regina Caeili. 

Diego Velázquez - Coronation of the Virgin
Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia:

For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia,

Has risen as He said, alleluia.

Pray for us to God, alleluia.

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray: O God, who by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, granted joy to the whole world: grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may lay hold of the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

Of course one of the big traditions associated with Easter is the Easter Egg. The egg is seen by followers of Christianity as a symbol of resurrection: while being dormant it contains a new life sealed within it. In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ, shed on the Cross, and the hard shell of the egg symbolized the sealed Tomb of Christ—the cracking of which symbolized his resurrection from the dead. Easter eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the Paschal Vigil, and distributed to the faithful. Each household also brings an Easter basket to church, filled not only with Easter eggs but also with other Paschal foods such as paskha, kulich or Easter breads, and these are blessed by the priest as well. During Paschaltide, in some traditions the Paschal greeting with the Easter egg is even extended to the deceased. On either the second Monday or Tuesday of Pascha, after a memorial service people bring blessed eggs to the cemetery and bring the joyous paschal greeting, "Christ has risen", to their beloved departed. While the origin of easter eggs can be explained in the symbolic terms described above, a sacred tradition among followers of Eastern Christianity says that Mary Magdalene was bringing cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb of Jesus, and the eggs in her basket miraculously turned brilliant red when she saw the risen Christ.The egg represents the boulder of the tomb of Jesus.A different, but not necessarily conflicting legend concerns Mary Magdalene's efforts to spread the Gospel. According to this tradition, after the Ascension of Jesus, Mary went to the Emperor of Rome and greeted him with "Christ has risen," whereupon he pointed to an egg on his table and stated, "Christ has no more risen than that egg is red." After making this statement it is said the egg immediately turned blood red.

You can find out more about Easter traditions HERE.

Liturgical odds & ends

As Eastertide continues for 50 days, this week we will forgo listing the upcoming saints of the week except to note that next Sunday is Low Sunday and also marks the devotion to Divine Mercy Sunday.

And finally keeping with SS102fm tradition:

16 Apr 2019

Limerick Dioceses Chrism Mass 2019

The Annual Chrism Mass will take place on Wednesday 17th April at 7.30pm in St John’s Cathedral.

Bishop Brendan warmly invites parishioners from across the Diocese to join him for this Mass.

The Chrism Mass is the great annual gathering of the Diocese – lay faithful, religious, priests and Bishop, all gathered in the one Eucharist. Everyone renews their baptismal promises and the priests renew the promises made at Ordination. The sacred oils are blessed. It is always a joyful, moving ceremony of the People of God united with one another around the Bishop.

St. Ambrose commented that every Catholic should try and attend the Chrism Mass at least once in their life. Many attend each year. It is always a beautiful ceremony. It is a celebration that celebrates our Diocesan identity, encouraging one another, thanking God for the gifts of the sacraments and the gift of priestly ministry and a chance to renew our Christian identity as we move into the celebration of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday

The Chrism Mass will also be streamed live. You can view it HERE

The burning of Notre Dame de Paris - a metaphor for our time?

Watching the terrible scenes from Paris last night it can be said that the burning of Notre Dame de Paris is a tragedy - for Paris, for France, for European culture & history. But it could also perhaps be a metaphor - for the Church; for faith; for Europe's understanding of itself. 

But in this Holy Week it is truly a reminder that out of death, destruction and grief can come Resurrection. For Christians the church is the living temple of the faithful not necessarily bricks and mortar. 

But Notre Dame de Paris will rise again as she has so many times before through war, revolution and neglect. Hopefully the Great Rose windows will be restored and still inspire and teach, the great relics of France from the Holy Land have been saved and I am sure her bells will ring out over Paris once more - who knows maybe even this Sunday coming for Easter Sunday. 

Ave crux spes unica!
Hail to the Cross, our only hope!
Hopefully it will be a metaphor for renewal, rebirth and Resurrection too in a world calling out for signs and symbols - a bit like St Mel's Cathedral in Longford. We have to remember this too shall pass. And as Julian of Norwich once said all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

15 Apr 2019

Grace freely given-the Anointing at Bethany

Cross post from Pilgrims Progress:
Grace, Mercy, Compassion, and Forgiveness freely and willingly offered to those who repent.


Strangely so, all the excitement of the procession into Jersualem, the crowds chanting, the road strewn with coats and branches – it all leads up to, well, nothing. Mark Chapter 11, 11 tells us that Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts, he looked around he then turns around and returns to Bethany. And Bethany is where a very significant event takes place, one that often is glossed over on our Holy Week journey.

Today, Monday of Holy Week, we are given a Gospel text which often passed over, the Anointing at Bethany. The anointing of Jesus at Bethany is an event which is narrated in the accounts of the four evangelists, something which is relatively rare. The details differ slightly from evangelist to evangelist.
As Jesus dines with his beloved friends, Mary does something which only love can do. She took the most precious thing she had and spent it all on Jesus. Her love was not calculated but extravagant. Not some cheap romance or TV soap love but one of complete and oblivious donation! Mary's action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus and her gratitude for God’s mercy.  Mary anoints Jesus with a costly ointment called nard or spikenard, a fragrant oil from the root and spike of the nard plant of northern India. It would have been extremely expensive, costing up to a year’s pay for an average labourer. 

Anointing of Christ- Julia Stankova
We can imagine how that precious perfume may have run down His clothes and onto His feet. Mary got on the ground, on her knees, with her hair, and she washed His feet. She did something; however, a Jewish woman would never do in public. She loosed her hair and anointed Jesus with her tears. Matthew and Mark have the woman who carries out the anointing anoint Jesus on the head, Luke and John have her anoint his feet. It was customary for a woman on her wedding day to bind her hair and for a married woman to loosen her hair in public was a sign of grave immodesty. Mary was oblivious to all around her, except for Jesus. She took no thought for what others would think. In humility she stooped to anoint Jesus' feet and to dry them with her hair.

In this holy week, we can ask ourselves, how do we anoint the Lord’s feet and show him our love and gratitude? Her deed of love shows the extravagance of love, a love that we cannot outmatch. The Lord Jesus showed us the extravagance of his love in giving the best he had by pouring out his own blood for our sake and by anointing us with his Holy Spirit. Judas viewed her act as extravagant wastefulness because of greed. It is here that we see that Judas was an embittered man and had a warped sense of what was precious and valuable, especially to God.
The anointing of the Jesus brings out an important contrast, a contrast of the insight and devotion of Mary, and the indifference and deadened responses of the disciples. Remember, just a few days later, in the upper room, Jesus is going to wash their feet as an example of servanthood. She is washing the feet of the Son of God in the most extravagant way. She’s serving, but with a spirit of devotion. She’s doing the foot-washing, but in a way that cost her entire inheritance. She threw her whole future into this.

From start to finish, then, life as a child of God is marked by excess and extravagance, both given and received. We see that God never holds back on the extravagance, but it is not nard that is poured but the blood of his Beloved Son from the Cross which anoints us. Extravagance moves both ways. It's reciprocal, both given and received, by both God and his people. Sometimes God is the giver; at other times we are. At the wedding party in Cana, God provided a surplus of wine. At this dinner party in Bethany, Mary gave a gift of expensive perfume. Whether divine or human, given or received, these acts of reckless abundance are signs of what life is like with the living God. All of us want to feel that we are ‘worth’ something, to somebody, to the world. We like to feel our worth reflected back to us through affirmation, compliments, success and much more. But often we forget that we don’t have to do anything to earn the love of the Father. It is grace, pure grace.
The question is, are we ready to do the same? To be this self-emptying gift of prayer and joyful love, unafraid of stares or conflict from an often uncomprehending society? Are you willing to be balm for the brokenness and hurt of today’s humanity?” For those around her, the gesture by the woman in the Gospel was a ‘waste’!  We may not have the huge supply of nard but we can offer our time and prayer and our presence. We can ‘waste’ time with Jesus and just bask in his presence and feel that balm being applied to our weary lives, restoring our health and welcoming us as beloved children.

Pope Francis’ favourite image of the priest is of one who is anointed so as to anoint others with the oil, that is, the oil of gladness. He said a good priest anoints his people “with the oil of gladness,” by preaching the Gospel “with unction.” He continues saying “We need to ‘go out,’ then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the ‘outskirts’ where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. The power of grace “comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.”

The anointing which a priest receives at his ordination is not meant just for himself: it is to flow through him to those he serves. So at the heart of the priesthood is joy, a humbling joy received from God and a joy to be shared with others. God anointed his servants so they would be there for others, serving “the poor, prisoners, the sick, for those who are in sorrow and alone. The precious sacramental oil “is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid and the heart bitter.”

During Holy Week, the bishop, joined by the priests of the diocese, gather at the Cathedral to celebrate the Chrism Mass. This Mass manifests the unity of the priests with their bishop and there the bishop blesses three oils, the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Infirm and Holy Chrism which will be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese for the year.
The oils are kept in sacred vessels and here we can reflect on how often we too are vessels of the graces of the Father. However, St. Paul reminds us that we are very human and we must rely on his grace, “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” (2 Cor 4:7). The alabaster jar which held the perfume was broken to release the nard in order for Mary to carry out the anointing. Clay jars can break easily too. There is a very interesting quote from the late Bishop Fulton Sheen.
"Broken things are precious. We eat broken bread because we share in the depth of our Lord and His broken life. Broken flowers give perfume. Broken incense is used in adoration. A broken ship saved Paul and many other passengers on their way to Rome. Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them."  -Fulton Sheen
Yes we all have cracks but that doesn’t mean we are broken. Those cracks are the hairline fractures of life which remind us that we are fragile and that we can break. The cracks make us who we are. It’s when we are crushed and broken and disappointed, our dreams shattered, that we begin to rely on the Lord. In China, when a precious vase breaks, the cracks are painted over in gold paint, indicating that the cracks are precious and are now part of the vase. So in some sense we are and will be always cracked pots (or crackpots!), until we reach that perfection in Heaven.
Without a deep sense of being held in this extravagant love, it would be hard to trust, face various decisions or let go of any safety nets which we have woven in order to keep God’s plans out and ours in! I am sure that, like the woman in the Gospel, that only when we stop measuring our relationship and respond to God’s call without measuring or counting, that we receive the immensity of grace which He wants to pour onto our vulnerable love.