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Listing June - 2009
Today those who wish to preach the gospel need to connect with their audience, speaking to them in their own language and connecting with their hopes and fears, their aspirations and disappointments.’ ~Francis Cousins

Last night saw the final programme of ‘Questions & Answers’ on RTE after a historic long run of 25 years. Part of the final programme was looking back over this period of time and the sweeping changes that all of us have encountered in these years. It was agreed last night that the biggest change has been the digital revolution and how technology has progressed at an incredible pace. From a spiritual point of view we also have to adapt to the progress all around us. Some would say is it really progress? But such an attitude will simply leave us watching from the sidelines with many opportunities slipping us by. The gospel message will always be the same, fresh, energetic and uplifting. The challenge is to connect it to peoples lives by using every modern means of communication. There is still room for tradition and bringing forward many things that worked well for us in the past. But only if we’re open to exploring new methods of evangelisation.
'Death was not God's doing. God takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living. To be - for this God created all' ~Wisdom 1:13-15

The following reflection has been written by Fr.Tom Cahill

Realising that we are made in God’s image, we too should not ‘make death’ nor delight in the death of anyone – not just their physical death, but in anything that diminishes the quality of their life. Every day we have life and death in our hands, in a manner of speaking. We can raise up, or bring down. We can praise, or criticise. We can work with, or plot against. We can bring joy, or instil fear. We can have people love us, or hate us. The choice is ours. Temperament has a lot to do with this, but not everything. Much depends on our awareness and our generosity. Somebody once remarked that since we have to look someway it might as well be happy. So too, since we have to speak someway it might as well be positively. There is so much gloom and doom around at times, you’d wonder if we really realise in whose image and likeness we’re made: the God of life and creativity.
‘In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.’ ~Michael Jackson

There was only one news story yesterday and that of course was the death of Michael Jackson. The common link in all the reporting and chat about him was his pure talent as a singer and dancer. Despite much controversy about his personal lifestyle in recent years it got little space yesterday. Neither was it an appropriate day to bring it up either. He once said himself: “If you enter this world knowing that you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.” It is clear that Michael Jackson was loved by so many people and he will be missed by many. His life touched many and we thank God for the many blessings he brought to the world of music. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Another legend in the world of entertainment died yesterday too, US actress Farrah Fawcett who died from cancer. She is best remembered for her role in the highly successful 'Charlie's Angels'. May she also rest in peace
‘The great crisis of Christian faith in Europe and elsewhere is not the lack of vocations or the scandals or the very real lack of financial resources. The great crisis is that the Church, all of us who are baptised, has lost its hunger for the living God’ ~Seamus O’Connell

There is no denying that the Church is in crisis, not a small one but one of colossal proportions. For many years when a crack appeared, it was covered up without asking the fundamental question is there subsidence? We know today that the Church has indeed major subsidence. Builders tackle subsidence by pumping the strongest of concrete into the foundations. Then all the cracks and external damage can be dealt with. What are we going to pump into the foundations of the Church of which we are all a part of in some way? There is a need to get back to the simple basics and renew a hunger for our living God. As we rebuild and restart there has to be openness, inclusion and honesty. Let’s invite God back in again and then start building. It can’t be a few here and a few there. It has to be everyone building together.
The Thought For Today is updated each day. It is always short, relevant and connected to the stories that make up all of our lives, especially our story of today.

‘Whilst developing the skills to be socially confident, we need to be ruthlessly honest in acknowledging that these social skills have got to be achieved without the aid of drugs or drink.’ ~Mary Hogan

It is quite noticeable with our recent sunshine (at least its sunny across Ireland anyway!) how everyone is in much better form. The sunglasses are on, the summer clothes look colourful and everyone in turn also looks great. We are told that 55% of what we say is communicated by our body, 38% by our tone of voice and only 7% is communicated through our words. With so much negativity around over the past few months with the recession, the body language of many people has reflected this. Heads have been down, few smiles and a lack of bounce or energy. Sadly the option of alcohol and drugs to overcome negativity is always attractive. But it’s so temporary and it simply pulls us further into negativity. Quite simply we need each other so much, to keep us positive and focussed. Lots of words have less impact than we realise. Often it’s the smile, the hug, the phonecall, the text, the encouraging word that can make all the difference. Is there someone in my life at the moment who could do with a little lift?

We pray to God asking for reassurance. We need to be reassured that it's not always about lots of words but much more about doing something small and knowing that this makes such a difference.
‘Learn to use things and love people, rather than using people and loving things.’ ~Author Unknown

Today (June 24th) we celebrate the feast of John the Baptist. He was a celebrity in his own way. Thousands flocked to hear him and be baptised by him. But John was not interested in fame. He never wanted to draw attention to himself. John’s mission was to prepare the way for Jesus. He was a bit like a grounds man before an important game. He lined the pitch, mowed the grass just right and got everything ready as it should be. Then when the game started he stepped back knowing his job was done. He wanted to draw attention only to Jesus. Sometimes we hang our heads and often we're not proud of what we believe in. It's almost as if it is unfashionable and a bit embarrassing to say we believe. John was the exact opposite. He had no reservations and no inhibitions in proclaiming that he was proud to be a follower of Jesus. We too are called to hold our heads up. We are called to be proud of what we believe and to be grateful that we have indeed something to build our lives on.
'Some things occur only in darkness, the sprouting of a seed, the development of an unborn child, the bustle of nocturnal animals and insects. We humans know the beauty of eating by candlelight, sitting around a campfire, praying in an unlit chapel or making love in the darkness.' ~Melannie Svoboda
The following reflection called ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’ gives us food for thought:

Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear. For I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off and none of them is me. Pretending is second nature to me but don’t be fooled. I give you the impression that I’m secure, that confidence is my name and coolness is my game. But don’t believe me. My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask, ever varying and ever concealing. Beneath lies confusion, fear and aloneness. But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it. My only hope is acceptance if it’s followed by love. It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself. You have got to help me. You’ve got to hold out your hand even when that’s the last thing I seem to want. Only you can call me into aliveness. Each time you’re kind, gentle and encouraging. Each time you try to understand you can breathe life into me. Who am I you may wonder? I am someone you know very well. I am every man and woman you meet each day.
‘Though religion claims more believers than ever, it has seldom wielded so little influence on public life. Now we compete tooth and claw for the new values our civilization holds most dear.’ ~Michael Farrell

These values do tend to change and particularly during an economic downturn. A few years ago some of these values could have been named as wealth, dominance, prosperity, celebrity status, control and the notion that ‘I can have more and I can have nearly everything I want’. These values in recent times have got a right old knock and have been shaken to the core. Rightly or wrongly these values will always be around but there is a noticeable shift. We now realise that we can’t have everything, that there are limits and that new values need to be nurtured. So what might these be? A sense of fairness, equality and balance. A sense of humility and openness. A sense of community and togetherness. A sense of feet firmly on the ground and taking it one step at a time. A sense of spirituality, sacredness, mystery and that there is a bigger picture of which God is a central part. I’m sure you could add more.
‘It wasn’t mine. I could have taken it and no one would have known the difference but it was someone else’s ticket and someone else’s luck. Maybe I’ll get a bit of luck myself now.’ ~Tom Heavey

A rather unique story made all the headlines over the weekend. It all evolved around a very honest man whose name is Tom Heavey. Tom works at the till in a Centra shop in Drogheda. During the week a customer left a Lotto ticket on the counter and Tom signed the ticket saying it was paid for and put it beside the till. Next morning another member of staff found the ticket, checked the numbers and it was a winning ticket worth €350,000. With Tom’s writing it was assumed it was his. But he said it wasn’t, they checked the CCTV cameras and got a picture of the person who really owned it. Pictures were put out in the papers over the weekend and the real owner Dermot Finglas turned up. It was such an honest gesture on behalf of Tom Heavey and he deserves much credit for what he has done. But the key question today is what would you have done?
Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, 'We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed'. Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. ~Exodus 24:3

The following reflection is by Fr.Tom Cahill

Johnny got the message early in life. When asked by his religion teacher what he thought of God he replied with a gravity beyond his young years, ‘I bet it’s very hard for him to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it.’ Out of the mouth of babes!

In today’s First Reading from the Book of Exodus (24:3-8) the word ‘all’ is used repeatedly. In brief: all the people promise obedience to all the words of the Lord. There’s no half measure, no à la carte approach to God’s commands. There wasn’t then, and there isn’t now.

Today we celebrate the feast of The Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi as it’s more popularly known. The Eucharist that Christ gave us is a meal open to all people who have committed themselves in faith to Jesus as Saviour. The Eucharist, while it needs to be celebrated in a manner that expresses life, joy and community, is not an entertainment event. It’s joyful yet serious, lively yet dignified and, in a sense, ‘ordinary’ yet holy.
What we need to realise too, however, is that it also requires effort on our part to prepare for it and further effort to celebrate it well. That’s where the ‘all’ comes in again. We can’t prepare for the Eucharist with only part of our life. Following Jesus is a total life-long commitment. How could anyone celebrate Mass on a Sunday, having lived like a pagan on Saturday?
‘Tides come in and tides go out and tides will come in again. Jobs are created and jobs are lost and jobs will be created again. We can learn to affirm life, taking whatever knocks it sends us, glad to be alive and to have the opportunity to breathe, to live and to love.’ ~Joe Armstrong

During these tough economic times it is hard to be positive and upbeat. But we’ve got to believe that every tide that is out must have a turning point and must come back in. The greatest challenge we face is to turn a crisis into an opportunity. We’ve got to build on the great backbone of a strong human spirit that is part of everyone. A fine example during the last few days has been the 96FM radiothon raising thousands of Euros for sick children in hospital. The touching stories and the willingness of so many to do something have been inspiring. Well done to everyone who took part and shows just what can be done even in the middle of a recession. It’s a gentle reminder to all of us that with a collected effort we can turn a crisis into an opportunity.
‘To describe something, to simply name something properly, in some way already sets you above it. To name something is not to be fully imprisoned by it.’ ~Ronald Ronheiser

It is good to name something, be upfront and then deal with it. It is often tempting to tip toe around something without actually naming it. We do so in case we upset or offend, but we also do it to avoid something we don’t want to face up to. What sort of stuff do we avoid naming? Examples could include any form of addiction, feeling depressed, feeling suicidal, pressures at home or in work, pressure within a relationship or a mistake made. Once we name something it is out in the open and it gives us the freedom to do something about it. When it’s not named, we tend to be in denial and never give ourselves the chance to move on. In many of our Gospel stories Jesus often asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” He gave each person the opportunity to name it and then he helped them into a much better place. Today and this weekend can I name something I have been avoiding?
‘I must reflect that there are other people who would somehow remain peaceful, optimistic, gentle and unruffled if they were in my shoes at this time.’ ~John Powell

We all react in different ways to different situations. We sometimes get it wrong, we overreact and we put ourselves under unnecessary pressure. We often think we are dealing with it the right way but sometimes what we think is right may not always be the best way. It is quite true that someone else might do things differently if they were in our shoes. They may also get it wrong. Most of the time we do just fine and we handle situations as best we can. But if we tend to overreact, get worried, anxious or stressed over lots of small things in our life, then we need to be much gentler with ourselves. How would Jesus react if he were in our shoes? He probably would remain calm, optimistic, peaceful, compassionate, understanding and helpful. He would be honest, challenging and upfront too. But most importantly we would know that he was on our side. Can I be the same for anyone in my life?
‘If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘Thank you’, it will be enough.’ ~Meister Eckhart

Children as soon as they begin to speak are taught to say thank you. It is generally recognised that a spirit of thankfulness must start at a young age. Not everyone is fluent in a second language but we all know how to say thank you in a number of languages. In faith matters we know that saying thanks to God is also important. God doesn’t need our thanks and if we don’t say thanks, God’s love for us won’t be any less. So why bother? When we develop a spirit of thankfulness in our lives, we will find that we will grow in our relationship with God. This growth will happen naturally rather than forcing it or making it artificially happen. So whether we say Thanks, Go raibh maith agat, Merci, Dziekuje or Gracias, it is all well worth the effort.
‘If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.’ ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Yesterday was the feast of the Holy Trinity. It is sometimes easy to get caught up in the numbers game, one in three, three in one and then come up with explanations. One certainty in life is that we will never fully understand God. We can never describe God from A to Z. It’s a lifetime challenge. But we do have endless pointers on the journey of life that remind us of God’s unique presence in our world and universe. Some of these describe God as love, as our creator, who is generous, who is with us always, who forgives wholeheartedly, who delights in each of us, who trusts us, encourages us, watches over us, comforts us and someone who brings light and hope to our dark corners. There are thousands of more words that could be added and we would still be short. In trying to understand God we must always remember God’s endless love for each of us. Everything else evolves from this.
The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.'

The following reflection is written by Fr.John Byrne

Jesus meets the disciples for the last time. His final words give them direction for their future. Perhaps you can recall such parting moments in your own life – leaving home, school, college, or the death of a loved one. Was there an occasion when the words spoken to you gave you direction for the future? Perhaps you can identify with Jesus in the story, when as a parent, teacher, or in some other way, you sent someone on his/her way in life, knowing that you would not be with him or her as in the past.

Despite this extraordinary encounter with Jesus some of the disciples doubted. Dealing with questions and doubt is part of an adult faith journey. How have your questions and doubts helped to shape the faith you have today? Jesus commissioned this collection of believing and doubting disciples to carry on his work. We inherit that mission today.
Jesus told his disciples that although he would not be physically with them he would be with them in a new way right through life. Have there been times when you were reassured by the love and support of another even though they were not physically present with you?
'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.
‘This is what the world wants from the Church, not sermons, not words, but to live in such a way that Christian qualities can be seen in the way we live our lives.’ ~The Universe

There is a story told about a young Armenian nurse working in a hospital in the Middle East. A Turkish man was brought into her ward and placed under her care. She recognised him as the one who had killed her father and mother. He also recognised her. The man lived in constant fear, waiting for the revenge he was sure would come. At mealtimes, he expected a lethal dose of poison in his food. At night, he listened for the slightest sound, expecting the thrust of a dagger in his back. Nothing of the sort happened. Day and night the young nurse cared for him, pleasantly and patiently as if he were her brother. Finally the man could stand it not longer. He said to the nurse: “You know who I am. Why do you treat me with such kindness?” The nurse replied: “I am a Christian, Christ has taught us to love our enemies.” He answered: “I never knew there was a religion like that.”
We who live in prison, have to measure time by throbs of pain and the record of bitter memories.’ ~Oscar Wilde

The film ‘Shawshank Redemption’ did well when it came out first fifteen years ago. But its spectacular success has come in the years since. It is one of the most popular rented DVD and sales of the film have been consistent over a long period of time. It’s a story of hope against all the odds. It’s about people in jail and having the hope to get out. Why does this film have such universal appeal? It’s not because everyone has been to jail. But on a deeper level many people feel at times that they are. The feel enslaved and trapped in their own lives, in their work situations, in their lack of work, in relationships, families or whatever puts walls and bars around us. Shawshank Redemption is a story about escaping from that imprisonment. God also wants to free us from whatever our prison might be. God wants to unlock those gates, bring us out and throw the keys away. Whatever our prison might be, can I invite God in and help me to a better place in my life?
‘Creativity is not ultimately about public recognition or outstanding achievement. It’s about self expression, about nurturing something into life and about the satisfaction this brings with it.’ ~Ronald Ronheiser

It’s good and important to be creative and it is not limited by age. By being creative we are open to possibility and to God’s gentle presence in our lives. When we choose not be creative we can become stale, negative, cynical and lacking energy to do anything. We tend to see people who are creative as the people who achieve much in life and who are always in the public limelight. We often call these people celebrities. But this is only a tiny fraction of the story. Everyone can be creative and when we do we add something special to each day that God gives us. Creativity can be as simple as reading a book, gardening, baking bread, keeping a journal, going for a walk, texting a friend, coaching the local sports team, playing cards, keeping a diary, enjoying photography, praying, cycling, woodwork and so much more. It doesn’t have to get recognition. If you enjoy doing it then you are creative and you add something special to each day that God gives to you.


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