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Listing December - 2011
Thought For Today resumes as normal on Monday Jan 9th 2012
Thought For Today resumes as normal on Monday Jan 9th 2012
'I am not alone as I thought I was. I am never alone at all. And that of course is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.' ~Taylor Caldwell

We have all experienced those dark nights, the cold winds and a world that seems far removed from our own personal story. It is easy to feel alone, down hearted and struggling. Christmas though reminds us that we are not on our own. God is very much on our side and with us every step of the way. God chooses to be a part of our lives when we least expect it. Everyone who came to the first crib was welcome. The same goes with all of us this Christmas. No matter what our story, background or situation, we are all welcome at God's crib. There are no barriers and no exceptions. Everyone is welcome and we are never alone. Wishing you a happy, holy and peaceful Christmas.
'When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart and it is very easy to miss it.' ~Boris Pasternak

Christmas can best be described as a great moment. It stirs something special within all of us. Families have various traditions in these few days around Christmas. They are faithfully kept each year and collectively they make Christmas special. At our airports there is much joy and hugging as families welcome loved ones home. We celebrate the birth of Jesus each Christmas. Everything evolves around this. It is indeed a great moment but its greatness can easily be missed. Why did God choose to come into this world just like one of us? Why did God choose a simple stable on the outskirts of a busy town? Why was it done quietly and without fuss? Nothing has changed for Christmas 2011. God still comes into our lives quietly and without fuss. We could so easily miss it. What a pity if we were to let such a great moment slip us by.
Just For Today

Just for today I will try to live through this day only and not tackle all my problems at once.
Just for today I will try to be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said that 'most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.'
Just for today I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. If anybody knows of it, it will not count.
Just for today I will give myself some quiet time to relax and be by myself.
Just for today I will be unafraid. I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.
Just for today I will thank God for all that I have, especially my family and close friends.
Just for today I will realise that if I have make any mistakes in my life recently, I can still pick up the pieces and get on with my life, in my own time, at my own pace and in my own way.
'Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.' ~Michael Strassfeld
'A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.' ~E DeWitt Jones

During world war 1 two young soldiers became close friends. One night during battle one of them went missing. The other friend asked for permission to go and search for his friend. The commanding officer granted permission but added: "It's not worth it. Your friend is probably dead by this time and you will throw your life away." The young soldier crawled out at the peril of his life to help his friend. Some time later, he returned, dragging the body of his dead comrade and he himself mortally wounded. He looked up at the commanding officer and said with joy: "Sir, it was worth it. When I reached him he looked at me and told me: "I knew you'd come."
'Prayer is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings.' ~Chrysostom

The following by the great spiritual writer Thomas Merton gives us plenty food for thought as we head into the last week before Christmas. In prayer we discover what we already have. You start where you are and deepen what you already have and you realise that you are already there. We already have everything but we don't know it and we don't experience it. Everything has been given to us in Christ. All we need is to experience what we already possess.
The following reflection is by Jane Mellett

Today's Gospel focuses on Mary's vocation. It is her YES, her LET IT BE, that brings Light into this world. We can take the opportunity today to look at our own life situations and ask to what it is that we are being called. Mary may have had other plans for her life before the Angel Gabriel dropped in unannounced. God is so full of surprises for each one of us. Mary's choice was no easy one under any human circumstance. It was very much like passing a death sentence. Can our attitude be like Mary's: to search for God, to hear ourselves being called by name and to remember that nothing is impossible with God.
Growth grinds to a halt during these days of December particularly during recent cold and frosty days. But within a polytunnel there is still enough heat generated to allow this unusual mushroom to grow.
'The miracle of friendship can be spoken without words... hearing unspoken needs, recognizing secret dreams, understanding the silent things that only true friends know.' ~Author Unknown

There is a story told about a woman who believed she had a hearing problem. Her friends kept telling her she had a problem. She was always asking them to repeat what had been said in conversation. So she made an appointment at a hearing clinic. The doctor told her that he had the latest diagnostic technology but that he preferred using his old reliable test first. So the doctor took out his old pocket watch. Seated across from the woman, he held up the watch and asked her if she could hear the watch ticking. "Sure, just fine" she answered. So the doctor got up and walked behind her, getting the same positive response from the woman. The doctor then walked to the other side of the room, standing 20 feet away and asked if the ticking could still be heard. She said she could hear it easy. The doctor returned to his chair putting the old reliable watch back into his pocket. Looking at the woman he gave her his diagnosis. "Your hearing is perfect" he said, "your problem is not in your hearing, you just don't know how to listen!"
'An individual is harder than iron, stronger than stone and more fragile than a rose.' ~Turkish Proverb

Every person is a complex mixture of strengths and weaknesses, toughness and gentleness, good points and not so good. We are delicate and fragile. Yet we are also capable of showing remarkable resilience. Everyone's personal story, beliefs and viewpoints are so varied and different. As life is complex so are we. At the heart of the message of Christmas, God is present in the middle of all our complexities. God isn't present on the outskirts but right in the middle of whatever is going on for us. It may not be pretty, it may not be exciting, it may even be a huge struggle but that's where God wants to be. God isn't the cause of complexities but is most definitely the cause of a sense of purpose, hope, and a guiding force through these complexities.
'I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.' ~Mahatma Gandhi

There is a story told by Mary Engelbreit about a man who got lost while driving through the country. As he tried to reach for a map he accidentally drove off the road into a ditch. Though he wasn't injured, his car was stuck deep in the mud. So he walked to a nearby farm for help. The farmer called a mule from the field for help. The helpless driver looked at the poor old mule thinking it couldn't do much. The farmer hitched the mule to the car and with a snap of the reins shouted "Pull Warwick, Pull Tom, Pull Jack, Pull Molly, Pull Star". The mule pulled the car straight out of the ditch. After thanking the farmer the driver asked him why he called all the different names? The farmer answered: "Old Warwick is nearly blind and as long as he believes he is part of a team he doesn't mind pulling!"
'We need to show that the message of Jesus is indeed good news, not boring or suffocating or restrictive but extraordinary, life-enhancing and life changing good news.' ~Gerard Moloney

There is little point complaining about the commercial side of Christmas. Nothing can stop this momentum but at least today so many are being careful in spending wisely and carefully. The Credit Union Movement have an appropriate catchphrase this year: "Let the only person in red this Christmas be Santa". Likewise it's futile in giving out about things we cannot change. Much more important is to nurture and encourage what is glaringly obvious. This is the good news that makes up every single one of us. No one is perfect, no one has everything straight forward or easy. But our good news is ours. It is healthy, important and life giving. Equally the good news of Jesus in our Gospel stories is extraordinary, life-enhancing and life changing. But it often gets lost in a lot of unnecessary complaining, wishful thinking and idle projects that go on around us. The challenge is to bring this good news alive and to believe that it does make a difference. This is at the heart of the Christmas message. The birth of Jesus is a reminder of God with us and among us. It's not just about some event in the past but all about the difference it can make in our lives right now.
Silent night holy night, All is calm all is bright, Round yon Virgin Mother and Child, Holy Infant so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace. ~1st verse of Silent Night

Little Mix won the X-Factor last night in what could best be described as an uninspiring final. Coldplay as the guest performing group rose the tempo with a very impressive input. Little Mix's version of Silent Night was different but beautiful and definitely pushed them to the finish line as winners. It was exactly 180 years ago when the carol "Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht" was first heard in the village church of Oberndorf, Austria. On that Christmas Eve, a song was born that would wind its way into the hearts of people right across the world. It has since been translated into hundreds of languages. There are different versions as to how it came to be. Some say mice ate the bellows of the organ which meant the carol had to be accompanied by a guitar. Others say that the organ broke down and the words were put together so that a guitar could be used. The words of Silent Night echo what we all long for in our hearts at Christmas: silence, peace, calm, tenderness and light. Silent Night will never lose its popularity or impact. May its words become our words too this Christmas.
The following reflection is by Jane Mellett

Today is GAUDATE Sunday which means 'Rejoice'. We light the pink Advent candle and perhaps we should THINK PINK or even wear pink as St Paul says to us: 'Brothers and Sisters: Rejoice always!' These final days of preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth are sacred. There is much darkness around us in society, in our church community and Advent expresses the complexity of the world, the yearning for the Light. We could easily become cynical but today we are asked to REJOICE (think pink!), to be thankful for those who come as witnesses for Christ (think pink!) whether they be the Mother Teresas of this world or in the words of Margaret Silf: 'The teacher who helps a child solve a problem; the teenager who stops to share a word and a sandwich with a homeless person; the activist who insists on justice for the asylum seeker, they are all reflecting the glory of the Lord.'

Today, THINK PINK, remember we are all called by the Lord. Remember the great things he has done and continues to do for you. Remember how your goodness and compassion can bring the Light of Christ to others. And of course, remember to THINK PINK.
Bad news isn't wine. It doesn't improve with age.' ~Colin Powell

It's hard not to avoid bad, negative or sad news these days. It's everywhere and at times we're saturated with it. It's like a cold damp miserable fog that just won't blow away. Tomorrow we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent better known as 'Joyful Sunday' or 'Gaudette Sunday'. This is wise and well thought through day and it puts the spotlight back onto the good and positive. We mark, acknowledge and thank God for all the blessings in our own lives. What's the point you may say? It is absolutely essential that we do not let waves of negative news smother the many small stories of good news in every community and in every person. It's not a denial of what's going on in our world. It's not a denial of many sad stories in every community. But it is all about acknowledging that every form of good news does inspire. It gives us the momentum to keep going and keep us in touch with the heartbeat of life itself. In the midst of every cold damp and miserable fog, it is good to know that warmth and sunshine will always break through.
'God is a circle whose centre is everywhere.' ~Timaeus of Locris

There is a story told about a mother who was trying to teach her 2 year old to say "Please" and "Thank You". She gave her child a biscuit and asked, "What do you say?" "Please" replied the child. "No, No" said the Mum, "what do you say after you've been give something?" "More please" came the reply!! Sometimes you can't win and teaching the basics can often be a challenge. Another huge challenge is to describe God and put it into words that can be understood. Everyone's version will be different but the idea of God as a circle is inclusive, meaningful and accurate. God like a circle is at the centre of everything, not just the good stuff, but also the difficult and challenging moments in our lives too. If a circle is symbolic of the arms of God, then we are surrounded by love through every experience. Nothing will ever or can ever change this. As we approach Christmas, it is all about celebrating a God who is at the centre of everything in our lives. God is never to be found on the fringes but always at the heartbeat of life.
We must plan, after all. We must have a sense of who we are and what we want to give to the world. We have to be open, totally open, to God's spirit working within our own plans and even taking us out of them.' ~Amy Weborn

The only news in Ireland yesterday was the budget and its implications for everyone. It's hard to plan in the midst of an economic downturn and when we are surrounded by so many uncertainties. The easy option is to retreat, find a safe place and wait for a better day. The invitation to be upbeat, positive and enthusiastic can often be a step too much for us. The invitation to be open to God working within our own plans or even taking us out of them can also be hard to take in. But this invitation is not new and has constantly been shared in different ways through all scripture stories. These stories recall lots of life experiences including the ones that are harsh, barren, difficult and almost devoid of hope or any progress. In the midst of each story is the invitation to remain strong and steady, to be hopeful and upbeat and to know that God is with us every step of the way. This message is a constant link throughout all of scripture. Again this may be a step too far for some of us but at least the invitation to be open to something good, better and positive in our lives is a good outlook to have. We gently invite God to help us with all our plans as we journey towards Christmas and to also help us take steps back out of them when needed.
'Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.' ~Francis Church, New York Sun, 1897

There is a lovely story about a girl who wanted to write a letter to Santa Claus. "Of course dear," said her mother, "You want to tell him what you would like for Christmas then?" Her daughter shook her head, "I just want to tell him I love him," she simply replied. Today is the feast of St.Nicholas. He came from a wealthy family and decided to give all his money to the poor. He always did so quietly and without fuss. He would drop some gold coins down the chimney of those who were really poor. People wondered who the generous donor was. One day someone found out it was Nicholas. His name and fame began to spread to many countries and so Santa Claus as we know him today came into being. We give gifts at Christmas because we know deep within that it's good to express our love for those who are special and important to us. Thanks to Nicholas, Santa is alive and well. Our world would be such a darker place without his inspiring presence.
'Complicated answers tend to get more complicated all the time and it's hard to find an answer to a question when the question keeps changing.' ~Denis Reardon

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny addressed the nation last night. It was an honest attempt to be upfront about the mess our country is in at the moment. It looks like we're in a mess for quite a while yet. There are endless unanswered questions with many people fearful, afraid, upset and wondering where it will all end. This Christmas will pose massive challenges for many families. In the midst of all the upset and uncertainty, the message of Advent is never more relevant. The readings throughout Advent pick up on the stories of people plagued by doubt, darkness and uncertainty. In the midst of all of this, there was the promise of some new beginning and a promise of hope. Many felt it was idle talk, soft talk and out of touch talk. But the first Christmas made sure that it all happened. The birth of Jesus was a turning point, an invitation to move on in hope and a realisation that there is light even in the darkest of corners. We may be in a dark corner at the moment but we know that there is meaning and fulfilment beyond all the complicated questions and answers that life throws at us. In the middle of a humble stable, are the keys and answers, to help us unlock some of the complexities we are journeying through at the moment.
The following reflection is by Jane Mellett

We often miss Advent's power because these weeks are full of parties and intense consumerism in 'preparation' for Christmas. In today's Gospel, John the Baptist tells us to Prepare a Way and this is the commitment we are asked to make, to clear a space for God in our lives. God is with us in many different ways, trying to catch our attention in the midst of our crazy, busy days. The Gospel today calls to us to PREPARE SPACE, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 20 mins... what can we give each day to stop, be still, to ask God for what we need, to listen?

The world says to God, 'we no longer need you, we know what is best'. And then we look at the wilderness of our modern world and hear the voice of one crying, 'PREPARE A WAY'. Today ask for the grace to prepare space for the Lord in one's own heart, in the family, in the parish and in the human community. In the body there is a little shrine. In that shrine there is a lotus. In that lotus there is a little space. The whole universe is in that little space, because the Creator, the source of all, is in the heart of each one of us.
Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.' ~ Albert Schweitzer

We can all recall times in our lives when we were in trouble, when our options were limited, when it seemed our light had gone out. But some person in our lives made all the difference and got us back on track again. It may have been a parent, brother, sister, grandparent, partner, friend or may even have been the inspiration of an outsider. We owe this person our deepest thanks. Today we can say a quiet little prayer for them. As we think of them, we know that we can also now blow into flame the darkened light of somebody else. The fact that we have been there before should be enough inspiration.
'No one ever finds life worth living. One always has to make it worth living.' ~Richard Feeley

Life has often been compared to a gift and it is a very good image except that at times we just look only at the wrapping paper. We need to go deeper and appreciate the special gift that it is. As we grow older we get a greater sense of the complexities of life and also a sense that all these complexities usually work themselves out in their own time. Quick fix solutions are very scarce. Life we are told will meet us half way. But we often have to go more than half way. We have to make life work, we have to do our bit and we have to keep taking those steps forward. It is easy to be bitter, cynical, critical, hostile and angry with life but there are no gains with such an outlook on life. Our spiritual beliefs help us to make sense of life and its complexities. Most importantly they help us stay on the road of openness, trying to make life work, doing our best and trying to help others along the same road.
'God, I spend so much time reliving yesterday or anticipating tomorrow, that I lose sight of the only time which is really mine: the present. That's all I have and all I ever will. Give me the faith that knows each moment contains exactly what is best for me. Give me that love which makes each minute of life an anticipation of eternity with you.' ~Author Unknown

It's hard to believe that today is the first day of December. In Latin, 'decem' means 10 and December was also the tenth month in the Roman calendar. But January and February were later added to take account of the winter months. It is one of seven months with the length of 31 days. December starts on the same day as September every year and ends on the same day as April as well. The main highlight of this month of course is Christmas. While many look forward to Christmas there are many more who find it a particularly sad and difficult time for various reasons. For all of us the invitation is to make the most of the present moment be it today Dec 1st or any other day during the coming month. The present moment is all any of us have or ever will. We ask God's blessings on all of us throughout this month of December. We especially include in our prayers any person or family who will find this month difficult and we pray for the strength, courage and hope to get through each day.


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