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Listing August - 2008
The following reflection written by Joseph Cassidy....

'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let them renounce themselves and take up their cross and follow me.' (Mt 16:24)

Did I say something that disturbed you? Probably not. Although the words I've quoted ought to disturb us greatly because they are so radical in their implications, the chances are that they made little impression at all. We've heard them too often perhaps!

All of us make sacrifices. We take up the cross when we live a good life, do the right thing and keep the commandments. We take up the cross when we do our work conscientiously and well. We take up the cross when we look after our families, when we love somebody in the family that we'd love to kill. We take up the cross when we accept the sickness and sorrow that comes our way, when we are really generous towards others, especially the suffering and the poor. It's not easy to be good, hard working, loving, patient, generous. It's not easy. And you may be finding it very, very hard right now. But according to himself, it's the Christian way, the cost or price of discipleship. May the Lord, help us carry the cross that's hurting in our lives right now.
‘God often visits us but most of the time we are not at home.’ ~Joseph Roux

I'm not sure about other countries across the world but there was no surprise last night when Met Eireann told us we had the wettest summer in Ireland since their records began. It has been a big talking point all summer. This weekend we gently say goodbye to the month of August. Hopefully we can still look back on our summer for some moment to be grateful for. It might not have been an earth shattering moment, it may not have made the headlines but it was a special moment for you. Such a precious moment always has a divine origin. We pause today to thank God for moments that were special and important to us this summer.
The following prayer for strength was written by Pope John 23rd

Every day, I need you Lord, but today especially I need some extra strength to face whatever is to come. This day, more than any other day, I need to feel you near me to strengthen my courage and to overcome my fear. By myself I cannot meet the challenge of the hour. We are frail human creatures and we need a Higher Power to sustain us in all that life may bring. And so dear Lord, hold my trembling hand. Be with me Lord, this day and stretch out your powerful arm to help me. May your love be upon me as I place all my hope in you. Amen
‘Paradox is everywhere. Sometimes the things you think will make you happy end up saddening you and sometimes the very thing that breaks your heart is also the thing that opens it to warmth and gratitude.’ ~Roland Ronheiser

Life can never be described as predictable and boring. So much can happen in a week, a day, even in a few minutes. There are many twists and turns in life. If we are happy with our lot and with what we are doing then we should be grateful. It too can change. It is comforting to know that sadness too has a turning point. We know that God is very much in touch with all our life experiences. Scripture reminds us that sadness does have a turning point. Sometimes we have to wait patiently to know when the tide has turned. When we hear of personal tragedies and utter sadness it’s hard to believe that there will be a turning point. But through our faith we are gently reminded, assured and even promised that the tide does turn and will turn.
‘The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all.’ ~Mark 12:10

In years gone by horse shoe nails were common and important. Today horses have no input in our public transport system. It was so different years ago and horse shoe nails could often be found at the side of the road. Benjamin Franklin in one of his poems wrote: “For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the battle was lost.” One nail here made all the difference. So often each day it’s the humble one that can make all the difference. It could be a simple smile, a word of thanks, a little gift, a text, a phone call, a hug, a get well wish, a prayer and so on. On its own it may look insignificant but it often will turn out to be the most important of all.
‘When we hold back our contribution, our community suffers. We deprive our community, just as we deprive ourselves of the pleasure of offering our gift.’ ~Corrina Gordon

We often take our contribution so much for granted. We live in a consumer society. The emphasis is on using, buying, gathering, storing, hoarding, selling, deadlines, pressure, stress and so on. No one is directly to blame but it’s all around us and we’re all a part of it. It leaves little room for the real person to shine and our contribution is never fully appreciated for what it is. There are things that only each of us can do in our own unique individual way. Your way is important, valued and respected. As the old saying puts it so well: “God has given us two hands, one for receiving and the other for giving.” The best way to give back is to value your contribution. Don’t let others smother or block what you are good at doing. Our contribution whatever it might be does make a big difference. Not just a big difference but the world of a difference.
‘The Olympic Games are the quadrennial celebration of the springtime of humanity.’ ~Pierre de Coubertin

The closing ceremony yesterday of the Olympic Games was colourful, spectacular and breathtaking at times. It brought an end to 16 days of action packed sport. They were a major success throughout including the medals that Ireland won in the boxing. (We also acknowledge the many medals won by other countries too across the world!) The Olympic Games were not allowed to fizzle out without in some way marking the occasion by looking back and importantly looking forward to the next games in London 2012. The closing ceremony brought good meaningful closure to a hugely important event. We could all do with good closure in certain areas of our lives. Whether it’s a mistake we have made, a bad decision, relationships that didn’t work out, grudges and so on. Unless we bring closure we will always be stuck in the past. What part of my life do I need to close the door and begin to move on with my life?
‘We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.’ ~Adelle Davis

In the western world one third of all food purchased in households is thrown away. Much of this food discarded is actually in date and perfectly useable. In England alone we’re told that 1.3 million cartons of yoghurt are thrown out each day. Such wastage of food can best be described as shocking and a sad reflection on all of us. It’s not that we can point the finger of blame at others. We’ve all been there and we’ve all thrown food carelessly out. We live in abundance whereas in many parts of the world its survival on little and nothing. Do I throw out food? Do I buy and cook more than I need? Do I give in to so called special offers in supermarkets and stuff I don’t want? We thank God for the food we eat each day, food that is our lifeline, nourishing and wholesome. May we never waste it or take it for granted.
'Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.' ~Eric Liddell

We have all grumbled and complained about circumstances in our lives. We sometimes feel that we may have got a raw deal. We sometimes wonder why God allowed these things to happen to us. But what appears broken and lost in our lives, is not so with God. In our brokenness God's love is still working and such love is the greatest healer of them all. We need to be sensitive and compassionate with all brokenness. We need to be patient, courageous and strong. As God gently holds our brokenness, we too need to be gentle with ourselves and with others.
‘There is an old saying, “It’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried.” There is something to be gained by failing. In the humility of defeat one learns a little more about the frailty of one’s human nature.’ ~Brendan Murphy

The Olympic Games are all about honour and glory. The news that Ireland has at least two bronze medals in the boxing through Paddy Barnes and Kenny Egan was greeted with great joy yesterday. The Olympics are also made up of many stories of failure. Many athletes who competed with great expectation and promise came away disappointed with nothing to show. In the eyes of the world they have failed. But their story is much more about failure. Their story is about determination, commitment, sacrifices, bravery and much more. Our own personal failures should never become heavy burdens that continue to drag us down. The message from the Gospels is that we cannot do it on our own. God is always there to pick up the pieces and to help us begin again.
‘Love is the light and in the end the only light that can always illuminate a world grown dim. Love is possible and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God.’ ~Pope Benedict

Much has been written about love but sometimes the most carefully chosen words do not always do it justice. The words of Pope Benedict are so appropriate and uplifting. It gives great courage and hope to all of us, particularly those areas of our lives that have grown dim. We have all experienced its impact during times of doubt, tragedy and suffering. We often don’t know what to say. Sometimes there are no words. But deep down we know that God’s presence is felt at the very time when the only thing to do is love. As a verse from a poem puts it so well: “Love never dies. So when all that’s left is love make sure you keep giving it away, today and everyday.”
The following story is food for thought:

In the faint light of the attic, an old man, tall and stooped, bent his great frame and made his way to a stack of boxes that sat near one of the little half-windows. Brushing aside a wisp of cobwebs, he tilted the top box toward the light and began to carefully lift out one old photograph album after another and his old journal. Opening the yellowed pages, he glanced over a short reading, and his lips curved in an unconscious smile. His eyes brightened as he read the words that spoke clear and sweet to his soul as he read the inscription for Aug 18th. It stood out because it was so brief in comparison to other days. In his own neat handwriting were these words: ‘Wasted the whole day fishing with Jimmy. Didn't catch a thing.’ With a deep sigh and a shaking hand, he took up Jimmy's journal and found the boy's entry for the same day. Large scrawling letters, pressed deeply into the paper, read: ‘Went fishing with my dad. Best day of my life.’
Jesus left Genenesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, 'Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.' But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. 'Give her what she wants,' they said 'because she is shouting after us.' He said in reply, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel'. But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. 'Lord,' she said 'help me.' He replied, 'It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the house-dogs'. She retorted, 'Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master's table'. Then Jesus answered her, 'Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.' And from that moment her daughter was well again.

The following reflection is written by Fr.Tom Clancy

At all times and in most places there are people who find themselves on the edge, who do not quite belong, who do not get their share, who are deprived and in need. In our time, there are people like the homeless, the travellers, the unemployed and the uneducated who feel outside the main stream of society and are often marginalised.
In Christ's time, the Canaanites were one of the marginalised groupings. As descendants of a pagan tribe of doubtful morals they were utterly despised by the Jews. So when a Caananite woman came to the true Jew, Christ, to heal her daughter, she knew she was reaching across the great divide. The reception she got at first did not encourage her but she persevered. Somehow, she sensed that there was more to Christ than inherited prejudices against her people. In her heart she knew he cared for her sick child. Her trust was not misplaced and Christ cared for her daughter.
In our time the brave reach out for justice for the marginalised. They hope that under the current malaise of greed and grasping that there is a Christlike generosity. May their courage always evoke a response worthy of followers of Christ.
‘Whatever the struggle, continue the climb. It may be only one step to the summit.’ ~Diane Westlake

The Premiership begins today and another reminder that the summer is nearly over. Much has been written about the vast amounts of money that is spent by nearly all the big clubs trying to compete for the top places. It is also a reflection of life too. The rich and wealthy clubs at the top reflect the rich and wealthy of the world, who will always dominate and get ahead of everyone else. The three clubs that are relegated at the lower end represent the poor, the marginalised and those who cannot keep up with the rest. In the middle are the many who aspire for the top and desperately try and avoid the bottom. At the end of the day football is only a game but life is far from a game. We pray today for all those who struggle in life, those who find themselves relegated because of personal circumstances and those who simply can’t find their feet because of the hectic pace around them.
‘I believe a new appreciation of Mary as mother of the earth can help reorient the way we relate to our world.’ ~Sean McDonagh

Today is the feast of the Assumption of Mary. Coming right in the middle of August it is always a reminder that the summer is nearly over and back to school is just around the corner! The greatest disservice we have done to Mary down through the years is to have put on her on a pedestal as if she is far removed from our world and our lives. She is in fact closer than we can possibly imagine. In Luke’s Gospel she is seen as taking her stand as a fellow member of the community of the poor and afflicted. She is acutely aware of what is going on in our lives too. Not just all the good stuff but also our deepest pains and struggles. Mary’s voice extends to the world we live in too particularly a world that is being choked with pollution, greed and exploitation. We pray to Mary today to be our hope, inspiration and guide in all we do each day.
'I have known shadow, I have known sun and now I know these two are one.’ ~Rudyard Kipling

Every day is a contrast between light and darkness and between colour and shadows. Nature always finds the balance point especially as the seasons evolve and merge into each other. In our own lives we are not as comfortable in finding the balance. We all find it difficult to find the balance between what goes well and what’s struggling for us. There are few whose lives are just sunshine. Every person has some shadow that follows them. We always have to remember that for every shadow, the sun is never too far away. At the heart of our Gospel message is how God journeys with us, even in the middle of our darkest moments. We are reminded that good never looses grip even when our darker moments seem to have a firmer grip.
‘The greatest gift you can give to another person is a deeper understanding of life and the ability to love and believe in oneself.’ ~Author Unknown

Any understanding of life must begin with the knowledge that life is fragile, unpredictable, challenging but also full of promise, opportunity and hope. Today many Leaving Cert students will pick up their results from their local secondary school. Hopefully for many of them the results will present much promise, many opportunities and a great sense of hope in moving onto new beginnings. Not everyone will get what they want and what to do next may not be as clear. Exam results are important but life will go on and life will continue to bubble with options and things to do. We pray for all those who got their results today. We ask God to gently direct them as they move onto new things, new opportunities and new beginnings.
‘Perhaps once in a hundred years a person may be ruined by excessive praise, but surely once every minute someone dies inside for lack of it.’ ~Cecil Osborne

It’s been said so many times how we’re quick to find fault and so slow to give praise and encouragement. This is not a new phenomenon that has recently started. Even Jesus recognised how people were slow to encourage, give praise and show appreciation. A few words of praise may seem hardly worth the effort but to someone else they can mean so much. There are many people out there who are quietly struggling, finding it difficult and doing their best to keep going. A friendly word or a word of praise can give such a boost and lift. Is there anyone close and near to me who could do with a word of praise? Today is infinitely better than leaving it till tomorrow.
‘Every great player has learned the two C’s: how to concentrate and how to maintain composure.’ ~Byron Nelson

There is a story told about St.Francis of Sales. He observed the custom of the country area where he was living. He noticed a farm servant going across a farmyard to draw water at the well. Before she lifted the bucket, the girl always put a piece of wood into it. One day Francis asked the girl, “Why do you do that?” She looked surprised and answered, as if it were a matter of course, “It’s to keep the water from spilling. By concentrating on the piece of wood I can keep the water steady.” Life can be such a mixture of different things happening. Sometimes we can be all over the place and sometimes it’s good to have something to help us concentrate. Our piece of wood could be a simple prayer. It can help us keep everything and life in perspective.
'Lord! Save me!' he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. 'Man of little faith,' he said 'why did you doubt?' And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, 'Truly, you are the Son of God'. ~Matthew 14:33

The following reflection is written by Fran Salone Pelletier
The prayerfulness of Jesus empowered him to rise above the tumult, to walk on the waves of fear that were engulfing his friends. By contrast, in their terror, the disciples could only see a ghost. All the wonder they had witnessed, all the commitment they had clutched, disappeared in the night.
Fear nibbled at their shaky points. It never dawned on them that God might not be in the strong head wind. God is in the simple heart whisper. They gave the strength of that wind permission to swallow the whisper of their hearts. But Jesus could not leave them in that place. With the tenderness of a mother, Jesus reassures his friends. He reminded them of their own ability and of his continued presence that would eliminate all fear. His beautiful words to them were: "Take heart it is I, do not be afraid."
‘Christian prayer is not an attempt to move out of mundane human life but rather to enter into it more fully. If prayer is not to be hypocritical, it must come from the heart, from the centre of our being, from the reality of our lives rather than from our lips. ~Joseph Schmidt

There are indeed many forms of prayer. There is one form of prayer that is unique to everyone and that is praying our daily experience or whatever is going on in our own lives. It calls for great honesty. Formal prayer may not always help us to get in touch with the totally unique and private happenings in our own lives. But if our own prayer is honest and in some way touches on all that’s going on in our lives then we are onto a winner. It allows us to be simply present to God in the unfolding story of our daily lives. This weekend I could set aside some few minutes to reflect and pray on all that’s happening in my life at the moment.
‘Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our frantic scramble for brownie points and our wallowing in guilt are a flat denial of the gospel of grace.’ ~Martin Tierney

What is grace? It’s a question that would send many heads turning if it was asked at a table quiz! It has nothing to do with grace before meals! Grace could best be described as God showering me with blessings and love. I may feel I don’t deserve them, I may feel I have let God down, I may feel unworthy but if that’s our thinking we are wide of the mark. God always sees things in a different light. We seem to have a natural inclination to embrace negativity. But God always focuses in on goodness, love, creativity, life, energy, inclusiveness and so on. One could sum it up in one word - grace. Through the grace of God, today is a good day to be alive and a good day to make the most of what comes my way.
‘Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality’ ~George Santayana

Progress in our modern world has been hectic and frantic. The pace of change can be described as wonderful or frightening. There is no denying that we have made great progress in terms of technology, quality of living and more opportunities. But have we sacrificed quality for quantity? Have we let go of important values? Do we prioritise time for each other, time to listen, time to nourish what’s important and time to be there for each other. Or are we too busy caught up in the world of quantity instead of quality. God always encourages us to make quality time and especially to prioritise those quiet down to earth ordinary moments where God is often present. God isn’t into deadlines, quotas or time constraints. I don’t have to be a slave to quantity and trying to get everything done. Today and during the week I can prioritise quality time.
The following prayer was written by Marjorie Ahern:

I have the power to choose to see things as they really are. I choose to see things as God does, with the eyes of love. Since it is the nature of God to be present everywhere, I know that all there really is in this entire universe is the love of God. The love of God surrounds me, dwells within me, goes before me and soothes the way for me. I am a beloved child of the universe and the universe lovingly takes care of me now and forevermore. When I need something, I turn to God who created me. I ask for what I need and then I give thanks even before receiving, knowing that it will come to me in the perfect time, space and sequence. Amen
'When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, 'This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food'. Jesus replied, 'There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves'. But they answered 'All we have with us is five loaves and two fish'. 'Bring them here to me' he said. He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining; twelve baskets full. Those who ate numbered about five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.' ~Mt 14:14-21

The following reflection/thought is written by Fr.Tom Clancy
It happened in Christ's time and it has happened often since. When Jesus asked the disciples to feed the hungry crowd, their first reaction was to point out the difficulties. Their answer was to send the crowd away and to let others care for them. Jesus would not accept that viewpoint. He prodded them into sharing even the little they had and he multiplied it a thousandfold.
These first disciples were paralysed by the apparent hopelessness of the situation. They saw only the difficulties, whereas Jesus was opening up an opportunity. Today's Gospel is a call to be especially aware of the little opportunities where we can enrich even one of our brothers and sisters and to realise that God will bless our efforts beyond all our expectations.
‘Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.' ~Oscar Wilde

There are many things that can be taken from us in life. Even under lock and key nothing is absolutely safe. But there are many things within each of us that are just so precious. These are special and unique to you. They are in that sacred place called the soul of each person. Your faith may be barely hanging in there, lukewarm or deep rooted. But it can never take from what's special to you. The problem is that so many completely ignore the vast treasures within each of us. Our world may not be the nicest of places at times, but there is such a reserve of deep love in so many people that it can't be ignored. This deep reserve is God's most precious gift to each of us.
‘A gift should be enjoyed or it can be put away and forgotten. It can challenge us, surprise us, fulfil a need or change our lives. A good gift brings joy with it. I have realised that my family and friends are not a haphazard quirk of fate but gifts from a loving God.’ ~Sue Whitehead

How often we take for granted those around us, particularly those who are generous with their time, loving and kind. Just like turning on a tap we expect the water to flow because this is what happens every time we use it. But what if the water didn’t flow? What if those who are special to us simply dried up in all they give us? We would soon be lost, lonely and dispirited. There is a lovely saying that says: ‘A good friend is hard to find and when you find one good and true, don’t change the old one for the new.’ Today I thank God for my family and friends. I thank God for their friendship and support. May I never take them for granted.


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