A few thoughts along the way of the Lenten Journey
Thursday 23rd February
Friday 24th February
Saturday 25th February
Sunday 26th February
Monday 27th February
Tuesday 28th February
Wednesday 29th February
Thursday 1st March
Friday 2nd March
Saturday 3rd March
Sunday 4th March
Monday 5th March
Tuesday 6th March
Wednesday 7th March
Thursday 8th March
Friday 9th March
Saturday 10th March
Sunday 11th March
Monday 12th March
Tuesday 13th March
Wednesday 14th March
Thursday 15th March
Friday 16th March
Saturday 17th March
Sunday 18th March
Monday 19th March
Tuesday 20th March
Wednesday 21st March
Thursday 22nd March
Friday 23rd March
Saturday 24th March
Sunday 25th March
Monday 26th March
Tuesday 27th March
Wednesday 28th March
Thursday 29th March
Monday 2nd April
Tuesday 3rd April
Wednesday 4th April
Thursday 5th April
Friday 6th April
Saturday 7th April
Just had Mass here in Kilmovee at 7.30am. That’s a first for me since coming here. Our usual daily Mass time is 10am. Someone on the Parish Pastoral Council suggested an early Mass one day a week for Lent. The feeling was that it was a good idea so decided to start with Ash Wednesday and continue for the Wednesday mornings of Lent. So far so good ……
I was in the school yesterday and mentioned Ash Wednesday and the children knew about the early Mass. I asked is any of them would be there and was pleased so see a few hands going up. One boy in the First Holy Communion class looked at me and said, “Do you remember the watch I got for Christmas?” He continued, “I’m going to set the alarm on that tonight so that I can get up for the Mass tomorrow”. I was very pleased to see him in a seat just now together with his family.
I mentioned this at the end of Mass – I think the boy said something quite deep, to be honest. He made the link between a Christmas present and Ash Wednesday. The gift received at Christmas was used to (quite literally) call him into Lent. It is, in truth, the gift of the Christmas Child that is at the heart of all we are about during Lent. The little boy was so right.
So, however you’ve begun Ash Wednesday, be glad you’ve begun.
Thursday 23rd February
Today would have been my father’s 92nd Birthday. He went into hospital a day after his 91st birthday last year and died on 13th March, R.I.P. It’s been a strange year without him. He was there with us and for such a long time you’d nearly convince yourself he’d never leave. Of course he did – of course he had to. It’s been a strange year though. The house at home is more house than home now. My brothers’ homes are there, needless to say, and the welcome is assured but there’s no real pull towards the house that had my bedroom and still has some of my bits and pieces in presses and boxes.
I’m thinking today of people who are grieving. Lots of stories and lots of sadness out there. We continue to live our lives as best we can but things aren’t quite the same. There can be many different reactions to grief. Some seem to be able to get a handle on it quite early on and others don’t. Some find a balance and purpose again and others don’t.
There’s a line in today’s reading that might be worth a thought. Admittedly I may be taking it a bit out of context but it’s likely it has something to say. Moses is putting life and death before people or rather the choice between them. He’s saying we can be buried in doubt, despair, loneliness and this could all too easily lead us into sin or selfishness. There’s a choice given between life and death. The decision, in Moses’ reckoning is clear-cut: “Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God …..”
Choose life today. Do your best. Of course we’ll not forget those who have died and those for whom we grieve but life needs to be chosen ….. Certainly I know that’s what my father would want for me – for us all – and I’m sure those you are remembering want the same for you.
Friday 24th February
Well a few days into Lent now – how’s it going? Has the disappearance of the Ashes dragged off some of that initial hope and enthusiasm for this being the “best Lent ever”? The things gone off or taken on, how are they now? Fading memories or ongoing companions ….
I’ve had a middling start! While a bit on the old side to “give up sweets”, I had hoped to avoid some of these things for the next few weeks. Maybe more to do with my personal “operation transformation” than a deep spiritual desire to curb my taste buds’ desires a bit. Anyway, found some biscuits in a press and rather than let them go bad, I decided to finish them off. I think my dog had an alternative option but he didn’t seem able to voice it or maybe he did but I couldn’t hear with all the crunching of crumbs 🙂 The pack’s gone now and I suppose, that’s that.
A fall? Maybe yes, maybe no but I’d be as happy it hadn’t happened. I mentioned the falls at Mass on Ash Wednesday and encouraged people (me too) to get up and start afresh. Jesus experienced the falls and got up to fresh help – Simon and Veronica – and was able to continue the journey.
Maybe that’s the thought for this Friday as we move towards Good Friday and beyond.
Saturday 25th April
There is a call to repentance that is central to the Lenten season. I was sitting in the church the other morning, a while before Mass. This is something I don’t do often enough but was trying to make a better effort. I was reading the “Office” – Morning Prayer and feeling I was in the right place. A woman came and sat beside me. She thought I was hearing confessions. Needless to say, I was glad she approached me and even more glad to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with her.
I recently celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a secondary school and a young lad came into see me. He sat down, looking a little confused and looked at me for a nod in the right direction. Before I got a chance to say anything he found some words … “Bless me Father for I have sinned …” He sort of stopped as if this were a question – his face looked like a question ( without verbalising it he seemed to be saying “Is that what I was supposed to say??”) and I looked at him and said “you’re through to the next round!!” We both laughed and what needed to follow, followed.
I suppose the thought that’s accompanying all of this is how can I make myself more available for this Sacrament? Like many priests, I note the decline in attendance and have tried putting on confessions from time to time but, more often than not, few or nobody turns up. Does that mean we shouldn’t bother? Of course not. I’ll sit in the church a few more times during Lent – no announcement about time for confessions – just “being” there might be enough.
What about you? Is confession on the Lenten agenda this year???
Sunday 26th February
Following on from yesterday and aware that today’s Gospel calls for repentance, I thought I might share this. My dog, Alpha, seems to have picked up a soreness in his right front paw. I’ve noticed it a bit during the week but it has become more pronounced. He seems to have slowed down and is very careful leaving the foot on the ground. I’ve tried to see what’s wrong – looked and felt around the paw but can’t find anything. There’s little doubt though that there’s something amiss. If it doesn’t ease up I’ll take him to the vet tomorrow.
Where’s the Lenten thought in this? I can’t help but think how much easier it would be for me to help Alpha if he could tell me what’s wrong and where the soreness is. He hasn’t the voice of course and, were he to tell me, I’d probably faint!!! Because he hasn’t the voice – the words to communicate his pain – he remains lame and in some discomfort. Certainly I wish it were different for him.
It strikes me that we can be “spiritually lame” – little thorns and sores bringing pressure to bear on our souls and minds. We limp and wobble, cry out or muffle our pain. All the while though, unlike Alpha, we have a voice and the ability to express what is wrong. The voice ought to be found, the words or communication skills should be used so that the pain – the spiritual lameness – can be addressed and healed. God, wants to help us, to heal us and give us peace. We have the words.
Use them. Walk freely and without pain ……
Monday 27th February
Okay, first things first! Alpha’s sore has made its appearance. I’ve talked to the vet and am bringing him to the “clinic” in the morning. Shhh! I haven’t told the dog 🙂
“You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great” is a line that crops up in today’s reading from the Book of Leviticus (Chapter 19) I was travelling a fair bit today (went to Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow and back again – longish journey but good day for travelling) – I met some lovely people there and discovered a local connection that I will follow up on in the coming days. Anyway, since the journey was long I had plenty radio time. I heard many things from questions about who wrote “Forty Shades of Green” (and I knew the answer) to a discussion on Jedward’s winning the National Song Contest for the second year running.
I think the talk about Jedward jarred most with me. I’ve nothing against them and, as was pointed out, they seem to be two good living lads but the hype is something else. Seemingly RTE’s grounds were littered with teenagers and younger wanting to catch a glimpse of the famous twins. Some of the fans brought an inflatable swimming pool and the “spiked” ones joined them for a “pool party”. Three girls travelled from Belfast and the mother of one of them who had driven them to Dublin slept in her car, until the girls felt it was time to go home. Others spoke of being told by their mother to order a taxi to take them home but to take the registration number of the taxi and text it home so that the parents would know who had collected them. This was lauded as great advice and the presenter suggested they should also take a photo of the car with their phone just to be doubly sure.
What was it that allowed these children to be away from home, un-supervised and with a pretty much “access all areas” welcome in the grounds of RTE? (I doubt very much if I’d be allowed wander there even in the light of day, never mind at night and I don’t think my inflatable pool – even if I had one – would be very welcome!!)
The answer lies somewhere in “celebrity” and wanting to be with, close to and in obvious awe of what is considered as such. Jedward certainly have tapped into this and the nation’s children are responding. One girl said she had voted “100 times for them”. Another spoke of “jedication”! 100 texts!
You can see where the Book of Leviticus is coming from. You’d wonder how many of those young people would drop a coin or two into a poor box, open the Trocaire Box this Lent and put a few euro aside for the “little man”. 100 texts!
Another item on the radio featured a Belfast man telling of his son’s death about three weeks ago and the discovery of his body yesterday. He had gone to a pub or club where on Wednesday nights drinks are served at £1.00 each. His son drank to excess, refused to take a taxi home, climbed on a bridge and shouted at those who tried to help him. He slipped into the water and tragically lost his life. He was twenty years of age. The father said he has been campaigning to ask clubs to stop this practice of selling cheap drink but he’s doesn’t feel anyone’s listening. “Partial to the little man”.
As for Forty Shades of Green … Johnny Cash wrote it, when visiting Ireland – I had posted a bit about this in January. He said the place names in Ireland ask to be put into a song …. I think he’s right ……… http://sherlockshome.info/2012/01/22/a-thought-and-a-tune-not-necessarily-related/
Tuesday 28th February
“When you pray ….” The Our Father is at the centre of today’s Gospel passage. The wording is so familiar to us all. It is probably the most commonly used prayer form. Christians, of all denominations can share it with one voice and purpose.
There’s a line in it I like a lot and that might be the thought for today. It’s the line “give us this day our daily bread”. I like it because it calls us to a place where we ask for enough to get us through this ONE day and tomorrow, please God, we can ask again.
The “bread”, can be patience, love, peace, health, strength, FAITH, humour, blessings …. whatever word or need it is, God is saying ask for enough of it to get you through today.
“Give us this day our daily bread ……. “
Wednesday 29th February
We’re a week in now! Hope all is going well.
Today is the “extra day” (one in four adds one day more) so what will we do with it? It could be an extra day to do nothing, to be the same, to just let pass or it could be a day to be seized. Anything good that could be done today should not be left undone.
Can you think of anything good that needs doing? Possibly a visit to a hospital, a nursing home or to the home of a friend who might be feeling a bit low or unwell. Maybe an extra prayer or two might be the order of the day. Some time spent with family – real time – rather than time through TV watching, Facebook updates etc – just “how are you doing?” time.
Last night, I heard a young father speak of going camping with his wife, family and the family pet. The children wanted to camp out over night. He didn’t excel in the tent building and felt the other, more experienced, campers were looking at him in a bemused manner. Offers to help were refused, not least because they came from women who knew much more about what he was doing than he did himself and he found that hard to admit (though he absolutely knew it was true!!). Eventually the camp was in place and a night’s sleep followed, not without a few hiccups along the way. The next day the camp was taken down and they went home but the memories of making the effort and the delight in its recall linger on.
Could he have spent the day differently and more productively? Quite likely yes, but I’m not convinced he could have spent it any better than wanting to do what his children wanted – even if it wasn’t his “thing”.
So, we have an extra day. Do something worthwhile with it – even if it’s daft! Between now and the next Leap Year, you’ll have happy memories.
Thursday 1st March
We’ve stepped into March. Spring is certainly in the air.
A friend gave me a “cup and saucer” last weekend. I prefer mugs but this is not a cup and saucer for tea or coffee. It’s for plants. The idea, seemingly, is to bring a bit of colour to my doorstep. It’s a big cup and a big saucer. She even bought and brought me a flower to go with it. That’s still in its wrapper. Seemingly all I need is soil/compost and the miracle of a transformed doorstep begins. The word is “you can’t go wrong” …. watch this space:)
Flower buds in wrappers and empty “cups and saucers” will never produce the intended colour and fragrance of growing plants. Though all the ingredients (apart from the compost) are to hand as long as they remain ingredients they’re less than is intended for them.
That’s sort of the thought for today. We have all the ingredients we need to be better people. Humour, faith, hope, love, talents, strengths and weaknesses, ideas, dreams, friends, family, church, prayer, Eucharist, reconciliation ….. they need to be brought together and into play that their full potential be realised and we become the people God’s eye can see.
Might get some compost today. That “cup and saucer” are way too clean ……..
Friday 2nd March
“The Tenth Station – Jesus is stripped of his garments”
I had Stations of The Cross in Urlaur last night. There were a few people there and it was a quiet time. I tried to lead a bit of reflection on the Stations and used two or three hymns. At the tenth station, I heard these words come from my mouth “Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble … Were you there when the sun refused to shine?” Not my words of course but those familiar lines from the Spiritual “Were you there?” I’ve often used them but wasn’t sure why I used them at the tenth station.
I said that to the people that never before had I linked these lines with this station and wondered why it had just happened. Could it be that the “sun” refused to shine to spare the embarrassment of an almost naked and mistreated Jesus? I think the tenth station is particularly cruel in that nobody could have wanted the clothes Jesus was wearing. Bloodied, torn, sweaty … I said, last night, that it would be unlikely if even a dog would lie on them. So why take them? I think the answer lies somewhere in wanting to belittle Jesus and to humiliate him. Maybe there was a practicality in it too but it was not necessary. The thought of them “casting lots” to see who’d bring home the garment is beyond comprehension.
Could it be that the “sun” decided I’ll not throw light on this? Of course I know, as you know, there’s no direct link but it’s worth a thought this Lenten day. Are there times when we shouldn’t shine lights on people’s fragility and vulnerability? Those flashing cameras of paparazzi, those headlines that dramatise pain and weakness – how necessary are they all? Are there times when it’s appropriate not to shine lamps but to stand back, allow a bit of dignity and space?
I’m inclined towards thinking there are! Maybe the sun knew what it was doing when it refused to shine!
Saturday 3rd March
I was in Dublin earlier today, preached at a Novena Mass in the parish of a classmate this evening and have just arrived home. March 3rd is gone now ……
A quick thought. Following Mass I led a short time of reflection before the Blessed Sacrament. I tried to develop some thoughts around the theme of the borrowed room/upper room where Jesus shared the passover with his disciples. It struck me that as they looked around the room, taking in its furnishings, stone walls, floor, timber and more, it most likely never occurred to them that Jesus would bring centre stage some of the most fragile contents of the room – a basin of water, a jug of wine and a piece of bread. Could it be that he was drawing their attention to the potential of the fragile? If so, isn’t there a comfort for us in knowing we don’t have to be strong to be instruments of meaning and significance in the Lord’s plan?
When you are weak then you are strong.
Sunday 4th March
No thought today!!! Well some but I’ve not written any!!
Monday 5th March
I missed a day!!
I was travelling yesterday and thought I’d get to do something later in the day but laziness/tiredness or some member of that family seemed to get in the way. Not a lot to say today either other than hope all is going well for you along the way.
I was thinking yesterday about the Transfiguration and that moment when Jesus allowed himself be seen in a powerful way. His mountain-climbing companions got caught up in the moment and never wanted it to end. “It’s wonderful for us to be here. Let us build three tents” – but he had to gently take them back to .ground level. It was there they had to live their lives, make a difference and remember what they had seen.
This year, as we prepare for the International Eucharistic Congress, there is a lot of nostalgia surrounding 1932 and the major event that was the Eucharistic Congress that year. Those who remember it or those who have revisited it in photos and text, in song and in word, may well believe or, at least hope and pray, that this year’s event will be similar. It’s almost certain it won’t. Our country has changed much in those eighty years. Some say we have advanced and others might (with some justification question that. Either way, 1932 will not be recreated.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be! Maybe, like the moment of Transfiguration, it was a glimpe and a taste of what might be. Once seen and tasted, it had to be left there so that life in the small parish, in the family kitchen, in the office, field, school, hospital – wherever, life could continue – shaped by the memory of the moment The moment itself though cannot be captured in some sort of glass container – it was a lived moment and it passed.
We will have other moments – maybe even some today – when God reveals His presence; it might be a smile, a baby reaching out to hold your finger, a moment of recognition for you by one who has alzheimers – maybe a proposal, a date set for marriage – the flowering of a vocation. It might be a sunrise or sunset – just something or someone that catches your gaze and attention and says “there’s more to it – more to life – than we can really take in!” Accept that moment – maybe in prayer or at Mass – when God allows Himself be seen in a breathtaking way.
Enjoy the moment, remember it and be prepared to let it go. The moment might pass but the memory will remain.
Tuesday 6th March
The Stations …..
I spent a few weeks in London when I was a deacon. I was in the parish of St Gabriel on the Holloway Road. It was a good experience and a very special time as I looked forward to ordination.
One of the priests working there told me of a prish liturgy meeting they’d had some months earlier. They were planning for Easter and were discussing have the Stations of the Cross some evening in Lent. One of those attending the meeting asked “How many stations are there?” My friend said he replied jokingly “well there’s Archway …….” and went on to name a few of the local Tube Stations. They laughed about this but then began to think about it and thought of fourteen Tube stations around London. They based a little story around each. I don’t remember them now but maybe something like a person being ignored at one station (Jesus condemned to death) or a woman meeting her son or daughter at another (the Fourth Station) or maybe helping someone with a wheelchair at another (Simon at the fifth). It was a good idea and I’m sure it worked well.
It strikes me then, that the Stations of The Cross are all around us. They’re not just images on a church wall. Maybe during the day and the days to come we might keep an eye out for them – someone badly treated and trying to do something for him or her, helping another who might feel tired, being understanding of those who fall ….. There will be many opportunities.
“Lord, by your cross and ressurrection you have set us free. You are the Saviour of the world”
Wednesday 7th March
Today is the birthday of a woman called Felicity MacDermot who lives in Coolavin (Monasteraden) – we used to call her Madam MacDermot. She lives in the home of The MacDermots, a family of historical significance and her late husband had the title “Prince of Coolavin”. The family was and is Catholic and would have been very suportive of local people through the years.
Felicity was born on the feast day of St Felicty, hence the name. She is proud of that connection. The name, though not very common around home, is very important to her and she is happy it’s taken from a sainted and holy source. I wish her a Happy Birthday though she certainly won’t be logging on to this or any other website or blog! The internet would not be her thing. Yet she has told me in the past that friends have printed different pieces for her – some from this blog even – and I know she has read and enjoyed them. She has not been too well in recent weeks and, on her birthday, I remember her and pray for her peace of mind and heart.
I wish her well today and am reminded of a piece I wrote in our parish bulletin (Ballaghaderreen Parish) about seven years ago. It was Father’s Day and I wrote a piece to and for my father. It was sort of intended to make a point that we should acknowledge our fathers and the sacrifices they make for us. I was saying, in the piece, that I found it difficult enough to find anything on the internet about Father’s Day and that quite likely a search for something for Mother’s Day would have been more fruitful. I wrote a few lines to my father and said it was certainly not a very private way of acknowleding him – in a thousand copies of our parish bulletin – but that maybe it should’d be private. If something is worth saying and needs to be said privacy does not always have to be “obeyed” and I hoped in my few lines that others might turn to their fathers too.
It was one of those bullein pieces that people commented upon. The comments were favourable, not least from those who knew my father. The most direct and memorable comment came from Felicity:
“That was lovely. Bill is such a wonderful man. You did the right thing. Give them flowers while they still can smell them” ……
So then, on Felicity’s birthday and mindful that it’s moving towards the twelfth hour – God Bless You Felicity and mind you and thanks for the work you’ve done, the words you’ve spoken and the difference you’ve made.
The thought for today for all of us is look around, see those that matter and give them flowers while they still can smell them.
I have been in London for a few days along with my good friend James McDonagh. It has become a sort of annual event over the past few years and began with an invitation from Fr Eddie McGettrick to “come over sometime” and spend a few days – at the time Eddie was in St Patrick’s in East Molesey. It’s a Kiltegan house and a lovely place to spend a bit of time. Since then Eddie has been re-assigned to a mission posting in Peru but the welcome of St Patrick’s continues through the priests still here in the house. As I say, a good place to be and I’m glad to be here. James is always mighty company and we have good laughs along the way.
The photo above was taken yesterday when we went for a walk to the local bus stop but never quite made it! Well we did, insofar as we walked past it. The walk took us to the edge of the Thames River and onto the grounds of Hampton Court Palace (certainly not our intended destination) but good to see nonetheless. We chatted and laughed a bit along the way and somehow didn’t seem to mind that we never managed to connect with the intended bus at the designated bus stop.
Sometimes, it seems to me, our journey veers off course but quite often there’s no need to panic or regret the fact. As long as the journey was enjoyable and caused no offence or pain, chances are it was a worthwhile journey.
You may well have plans for today – maybe even a “to do” list and hopefully, come end of day, you’ll have done what needed doing. If you have, be grateful and take some well deserved pride in your achievement. On the other hand, if it’s not all done or none of it seemed to work out, just smile and thank God you lived another day and did your best to live it well.
The bus and the bus stop are still there. Maybe we’ll walk that way again later today, then again maybe not!
Mind the Gap ……
For those of you who have travelled on London Underground these are familiar words. They are usually repeated when a train pulls into a station and are intended to draw the passengers’ attention to the fact that there may be a gap between the train and the platform and that caution is required.
Well I didn’t travel on the underground at all over the past few days – in fact I didn’t make it into London at all but those words struck home to me today when our train pulled in at Clapham Junction. There was quite a gap between train and platform and nobody mentioned it. In the absence of it being mentioned, I was even more aware of why it should be mentioned. NO, I didn’t fall but as I left the train the gap was very obvious.
The “gap” has the potential to cause bother and, if not treated with due regard, can do just that. The gap is open space, uncertainty, unsafe and ultimately unhelpful. It can throw us, quite literally, off our path and into the way of danger.
What “gap” need we “mind” these Lenten days?
Monday 12th March
“But his servants approached him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? All the more reason, then, when he says to you, “Bathe, and you will become clean”.’ So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.” (2 Kings Chapter 5)
This is an extract from today’s readings at Mass. It tells of Naaman who had leprosy. One of his servants said he could be cured if he went to the Prophet in Israel. He did this and the prophet asked him to bathe seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman was offended, feeling that the prophet would come out, call down God in a powerful way and bring instant healing. Furthermore he resented bathing in the Jordan since he believed the rivers in his own country were superior. His servants felt he had misread the situation and offered the advice quoted above.
It’s interesting that sometimes we seem to believe healing involves some gigantic effort on all parts. We find it difficult to accept that, at times, God offers healing in a very real and practical way. Bathing in a river is fairly straight forward and was, as can be seen in this story, all that was required.
We are all in need of cleansing from the various forms of spiritual leprosy that take hold of us. Perhaps the healing is simple for us too. Maybe the answer is at hand. Possibly the “river” is close by. Let us approach and, through the approach, be cleansed.
Today is my father’s first anniversary and I just put a piece on the blog. If you have a chance to read it, please do – even if you didn’t know him – I’d like to think it’s speaking to all belonging to us who have died. While your memories and stories are different, there’s a common need to look back, acknowledge those gone before us and, having done so continue our journey in faith.
Wednesday 14th March
I spent a few days in Dromantine, Co. Down a few years ago. It was a retreat with the priests of Kilmore diocese. I really enjoyed the few days with them – meeting again some priests I’d have known from my student days in Maynooth and others from the diocese. I was happy to be there. It was a lovely place as well which was an added bonus 🙂
There were lots of walks around the place and the countryside was quite hilly. I walked a fair bit and that too was good. I noticed something that day that I saw again today. Along a quiet stretch of road there were yellow markings placed here and there – painted markings. It wasn’t immediately obvious what they were for but, as I walked that day, I realised they marked little blemishes, potential potholes or blind spots that needed attention. Someone or maybe more than one had analysed the road, noticed its weak points and painted markings for those who would follow to do the maintenance. It made the job easier for those coming afterwards since they could immediately attend to what had to be done.
The road is intended to bring us safely from one place to another. We can’t and don’t all live on highways and the small roads suffer the consequences of traffic and their weak spots are exposed with repeated travels. The job of that first person along that little road in Co. Down or the road from here to Carracastle, was to recognise and identify these spots. Once identified and marked the work of re-surfacing, levelling and making safer for travel could begin.
The thought! Lent is possibly that first contact with our Spiritual Road. The little weaknesses are being identified and marked. The work of healing/fixing will follow. For now we acknowledge the markings and the fact that God wants the road to be smoother and safer for us all. We welcome what follows – that healing and attention to defect that makes again for smoother passage.
Thursday 15th March
The 13th and 14th Stations of the Cross – We have been having the Stations of the Cross in Urlaur Church for lent. This evening I linked the 13th and 14th Stations where Jesus is taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb. The taking down was necessary but the tomb was made available through “gift”. Joseph of Arimathea offered the tomb – it was intended for him and presumably his family but he offered it to the family of Jesus. Why? I think it had something to do with him being moved by what he had witnessed over the days and particularly in the final hours of Jesus’ life. He did not allow himself be dulled to or numbed by the happenings of that first Good Friday. On the contrary what he saw moved him to action.
Sadly there are difficult situations evidenced every day in our world. The news bulletins bring them to our living rooms and kitchens, to our smartphones and computer screens. Sometimes the “viewers” are warned that the pictures might be upsetting. It’s a sort of opt out clause that if we cannot handle what’s on screen we can switch, even momentarily, to another channel of go to the kitchen and hit the switch on cooker or electric kettle and prepare a mug of coffee or tea. The atrocity does not disappear however and even if we’re in another room the truth remains that wrong is being done.
I think Joseph of Arimathea is calling us to keep our eyes open, to be changed by what we see and to respond even if it’s difficult to do so. There’s something here about not becoming distanced from the suffering of others and a call to do what’s within our power to help.
Friday 16th March
I’m grateful to Roger who sent me the following piece! Otherwise this was going to be a blank piece of “net”!! I think this is a good piece. It was sent as a “forward” email and intended to show that forwarded emails, far from being impersonal, seek to remind us someone is thinking of us – even if it’s just to click a mouse and hit “send”! Thanks for that …..
A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.
After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble.. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side. When he was close enough, he called out,
‘Excuse me, where are we?’ ‘This is Heaven, sir,’ the man answered. ‘Wow! Would you happen to have some water?’ the man asked. ‘Of course, sir. Come right in and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.’
The man gestured and the gate began to open. ‘Can my friend,’ gesturing toward his dog, ‘come in, too?’ the traveller asked. ‘I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.’ The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.
After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book…. ‘Excuse me!’ he called to the man. ‘Do you have any water?’ ‘Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there, come on in.’ ‘How about my friend here?’ the traveller gestured to the dog. ‘There should be a bowl by the pump,’ said the man.
They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.. The traveller filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog. When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.
‘What do you call this place?’ the traveller asked. ‘This is Heaven,’ he answered. ‘Well, that’s confusing,’ the traveller said. ‘The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.’
‘Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That’s hell.’ ‘Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?’ ‘No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.’
I woke up this morning and switched on the radio. It was our National Broadcaster, RTE RADIO 1, and I heard the presenter say that he was going to the Cork studio to get a flavour of St Patrick’s Day in Cork. I don’t know who he was. Neither do I know the presenter in Cork. There was the usual banter that goes on between presenters on these sort of shows. “I take it you’re sporting the shamrock?”, said the Dublin based presenter. “No, I’m not”, came a swift response. “I don’t feel the need to wear part of a hedge on my clothes”. (I can’t swear they’re the exact words but more or less …) “Why not?” “Well I suppose I did it one time when I was religious and used go to Mass but I don’t anymore”. “Which don’t you do?” “Either” came the reply. I was in shock – before I got a chance to change channels the Cork presenter said “On my way here I saw people going to 8 O’Clock Mass. Some of them had shamrock. I suppose it’s a thing for older people”! I switched channels but really didn’t hear anything on the other channel. I felt hurt, annoyed and let down.
Today is St Patrick’s Day. It’s a day intended to celebrate the Saint who brought the Faith to our shores and who left us a legacy that endures to this day. To hear it belittled at the beginning of the day was less than I’d hoped for. I had spoken at Mass last night about giving “respect” to St Patrick and avoiding reference to “Paddy’s Day”. Somehow this seems to cheapen what we’re about. I think if you’re grateful to someone you’d never belittle them in word or deed. That’s what you’d like to think would happen on a day like this.
I’m not foolish enough to think that people don’t miss the point and that this day can become an excuse for all sorts of daftness but I still like to think at the root of it all, there’s a sense of awareness and gratitude. Even if we don’t fully grasp everything of our faith, there’s a connection there – a “family” thing that seems to bring with it a call for reverence and respect.
The “shamrock” is part of our National heritage and a widely used as a symbol of Ireland. Our telling of the St Patrick story says it had something to do with an attempt to grapple with the mystery of Trinity. That story has served us well and the little plant at the heart of that story speaks volumes. It’s more than a piece of hedge ….
Well that’s off my chest for now ….. The thought – something about respect for what has gone before us.
Sunday 18th March
I met a lady recently who told me she has a memory of attending the Holy Week ceremonies with her young daughter. She said the daughter especially liked to go to the Good Friday celebration of The Lord’s Passion and was fascinated by the reverencing/kissing of the Cross. The priest however held the Cross in such a way that the little child couldn’t reach it. She used to ask her mother “Do you think I’ll be able to reach the Cross this year?” I’m assuming someday she did and wonder if she remembers this. Her mother remembers it well even though I’m sure the child is quite likely a mother herself at this stage.
The question is a good one though – “Do you think I’ll be able to reach the Cross this year?” Reaching the Cross has, I think, something to do with an awareness of its meaning in our lives. Chances are we are all reaching for it in some way or another – trying to understand more of it – some, sadly from the vantage point of the cross itself as they struggle with personal illness or the illness of a family member. The answer, we are called to believe, lies in some understanding of the Cross and Jesus’ triumph over suffering and pain.
We pray then, as our Lenten journey goes onward, that we will “reach” the cross this year and, in reaching it, find answers to our deepest and most difficult questions.
Monday 19th March
A video and tune to share! “The Servant Song” by David Haas.
Apart from that, there’s something of a thought today around St Joseph. It’s his Feast Day and a reminder to us of tough decisions that have to be made in life. His love for Mary seemed ill-placed on discovering that she was expecting a baby. We’re told he had decided to “divorce her informally” and I think that means something along the lines that he’d not embarrass her but maybe let things quietly fade or maybe it meant he’d pretend to be her husband – either way, his heart must have been broken. His dreams spoke to him and reassured him that Mary was part of God’s plan for salvation and, by extension, so was he. He allowed the dream shape his decision and we know that he remained loyal to Mary and was an excellent and abiding presence in the life of the child Jesus.
I often mention him at the end of a Baptism ceremony when blessing the father of the child just Christened. I pray that the father might model himself on his own father and on St Joseph “the foster father of Jesus who put his family first in all things”. My prayer is that the father before us will equally seek to put his family first in all things.
Joseph is something of a role model for us – not just on his Feast day but always. In him we might well find guidance when tough decisions have to be made and the example we need to make them. We make the decision, though not always easy to do so, because it is the right thing to do.
Tuesday 20th March
A man was found dead. I’m not sure if it was this morning or yesterday. He lived in a town – within the shadows of a Friary. People spoke with genuine sorrow and more than a little regret. He kept to himself. He’d moved from England. He used sit on a park bench and some would say hello to him. One of the Friars spoke on the evening news. He said it was really sad and especially since he lived so close to the Friary. His little house seemed so small on the widescreen TV. The houses around looked bigger but the TV camera is focused on his. He’s not there anymore. He was found dead today or maybe yesterday. Someone walking the footpath that touched his threshold noticed something and wondered. The Gardaí were called. Someone must have taken the decision to break in and make sure all was okay – though I’d imagine there were doubts – they found him, the news report says, on the floor of his bedroom. He’d been there for sometime.
It’s the 20th March now. They found him dead. The Christmas Tree was on in the kitchen and the Christmas decorations still up. He had been taken down but the decorations stayed in place. The camera focuses on a bit of tinsel. The passer by, in March, noticed a Christmas Tree and wondered. Thank God the Christmas Tree was on –
It’s sad of course but sadly understandable too. It could happen anywhere. Some people are very private. They keep to themselves a lot. Maybe that’s the way they want it. We rush too and mightn’t always notice things.
What’s happening on Coronation Street? Fair City? Neighbours? East Enders? Home and Away?
You’d hope he had a Happy Christmas – he must have wanted one – he put up decorations. God rest his Soul.
Wednesday 21st March
We had a priests’ conference today. Part of my job includes sending out reminders about things like this to the priests of the diocese. Sometimes I do it by email but, more often now, by text since it’s so instant. I sent a text earlier today, reminding the priests that we were having a Conference in Charlestown, beginning at 4pm on Thursday. You’ve most likely spotted the mistake! The Conference was arranged for Wednesday 🙁 Anyway it meant an immediate follow up with a correction text. As it turned out we had one of the biggest gatherings I’ve seen in a while.
One older priest told me he hadn’t realised it was on “either day” and he smiled. He said they had a lecturer in Maynooth who used, on occasion, say to the students “I have nothing ready to say to you today, I thought it was tomorrow”!!
Messages get confused on occasion and wires can get crossed but there’s always the chance to correct the error as long as people are open to it. Don’t dwell on the wrong message – just correct it as quickly as possible. Chances are the correction will do the trick.
Thursday 22nd March
My phone is on the blink today! The line is totally dead. That said, if someone calls me the phone rings out at their end so they think it’s a “no reply”. There’s no way of letting them know this. Chances are people might say “he never answers the phone”. The more cynical might think it’s a case of call screening. The reality is the phone isn’t working.
It’s easy to draw wrong conclusions. The evidence may well seem clear but maybe – just maybe – there’s another explanation.
So today’s thought – give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there’s nobody at the other end of the line or it might be that the line’s down. Chances are it will be fixed by tomorrow.
Friday 23rd March
What sort of a day had you?
I’m sometimes asked that and I’m not always sure how to answer. Indeed at day’s end, I sometimes wonder what if anything I did. It’s 11.07pm now and maybe I’ll see what happened today.
I woke up after 8am and listened to Morning Ireland and endless reports and analysis of the Mahon Tribunal. I always had a sort of fondness for Bertie Ahern so found that hard to take in. Of course I’m disappointed by him but there’s still a man there – it’s likely it went to his head. I was shocked to hear that he can earn €1000 a minute for giving speeches. I might try giving longer sermons 🙂 Anyway, I decided to get up and see what I could do with the day.
I had a mug of coffee around 9ish, let the dog out and got a bit of food ready for him. Went to the Church around 9.40, opened up and got ready for Mass. I met some people after Mass to arrange dates for Masses they wanted celebrated and got a text from a woman whose aunt is ill at present. The text was followed by a call from the hospital where the aunt is a patient and a request to go to visit the woman. I went to Sligo and was there before noon. She was in a very deep sleep so I sat for a while, said the Angelus with her at noon and a few more prayers. Another friend of hers arrived just before 1pm so we said a decade of the Rosary (Presentation in the Temple) for her and I left. I called a friend from Collooney who now lives and works in Sligo. We had talked about meeting for lunch some day and since I was there around lunchtime, thought it might be a good idea to call. She was at work and happy to meet me. We did and had a pleasant lunch and a bit of a catch up as it’s been more than a year since we met.
Just before going into the hospital I had a call from a cousin to tell me that his uncle (my father’s first cousin) John McDonnell had died in White Plains, New York. I was sorry to hear this. The first time I ever went to America was at John’s invitation and I stayed with him and his wife Teresa on a few occasions since then and always visited over the years when I’d be in Rockville Centre. John was a good man, a few months younger than my father, and his death is the closing of another generational connection. May he rest in peace. After leaving my lunching friend, I called John’s wife but there was no reply and then spoke with his daughter. I managed to speak with Teresa a bit later in the day. Part of me would like to attend John’s funeral but I know it’s not practical and the family didn’t expect that anyway. I will remember him in Mass during the week and hopefully visit later in the year.
I called to see friends in Ballaghaderreen and had “more” food but seemed to be able to manage that. (Need to build my strength for these longer €1000 a minute sermons!!) and came back to my own house. Chatted with a parishioner in the church for a while. She was doing a bit of tidying there and I wanted her to know it’s appreciated.
Around 5pm I began to do some work on the parish bulletin. My priest colleague, Fr John, had sent draft email of bulletin but I usually edit it a bit and add in the bits and pieces from this end of the parish. I spent over two hours at that, before doing a bit of work on our Diocesan website and went to the church at 7.40pm to get ready for a wedding practice at 8. The couple and their “bridal party” arrived and we chatted for a while, went through a rehearsal and concluded with a prayer. There were a few things to talk about afterwards. I locked the church and was back in my house around 9pm. I had arranged to meet a couple who are due to marry later in the year and they arrived shortly after 9. They left at 10 and I came back to the unfinished bulletin. I emailed the completed bulletin to Fr John at 11.00.
I then took a look at the blog and realised I hadn’t put in any thought for yesterday. Just put a few lines there to mark the day and then turned to Friday March 23rd ….
It’s 11.30pm now and I’m going to call it a day. So if anyone asks “what sort of a day had you?” I think I can answer a “full one”. That said there’s nobody here with me only the dog and he’s hardly likely to ask …….
Is there a Lenten thought in this? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s something to do with realising we fit a lot into a day. A lot of emotion, a bit of faith, a few prayers and hopefully a laugh or three …..
Saturday 24th March
I had a wedding today. The bride’s nephew was serving the Wedding Mass. We chatted a bit before the ceremony. I asked what he thought about his aunt and he replied “She’s brilliant”. I thought it could not get much better than that. He then said “You can always depend on her. She’d never let you down”. I was wrong 🙂 There was better than brilliant …..
I mentioned this at the beginning of the Mass and told her husband-to-be that he was lucky to be marrying someone on whom he could depend and who would never let him down. His smile and nod of head seemed to acknowledge and already existing awareness of this truth. I wish them well.
A thought – what a difference we can make in the life of other people if we are “dependable” and, likewise, what a difference dependability in others makes to our lives.
The Lord summed it up well when he said “I am with you always, until the end of time”. That’s dependability. Like yesterday’s groom and today’s husband maybe we could nod the head and smile in our acknowledgement of this truth. He is with us always …..
Sunday 25th March
Were today not Sunday, we’d be thinking and celebrating the moment of “Annunciation” when the Angel (Archangel) Gabriel visited the teenage Mary and told her she was to become the mother of Jesus. It was an uncertain moment for her and not without its questioning “How can this be …… ?” The questions and doubts were put to rest with the words “do not be afraid”.
I like that story of the Annunciation. There’s something very special about Heaven meeting earth in a family home. There’s something inspirational in the ability of one so young being able to take in what has been said and finding her “yes”. There’s something deeply consoling in the repeated message “do not be afraid” and the added bonus “The Lord is with you”. I wonder how deeply that sinks into us? Do we allow it hit home? This idea that God does not want us to be afraid and what causes fear does not come from His hand or through his messengers. “Do not be afraid. You have won God’s favour. The Lord is with you ……”
Are there fears in your heart today? If so, what are they? From where do you think they’ve come? What can be done about them? Can you – can we really take it in that God is with us? If we can – if we might be able to do that – allow Him speak to our problems and worries – “Do not be afraid”.
Monday 26th March
Today we celebrated the Solemnity of The Annunciation with its Gospel account of the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary. There is a one word phrase in the middle of the Gospel passage. A word and exclamation mark. It speaks volumes because it calls for a response – a silent response that allows for the delivering of a message. It reminds us of a posture to be adopted, an attitude to be accepted that can make all the difference in the world. It’s not always easily done and the drawbacks of it not happening are readily identifiable at all levels of society – from a family fireside to a Government decision. When it happens things can be very differerent and life much more rewarding. On the contrary when it doesn’t confusion, hurt and dissapointment abound.
What is this one word phrase – that turns up in the midst of this most special conversation between the Divine and the human, between Heaven and earth and should form part of all our relationships?
Tuesday 26th March
I was in a local butcher shop today (Duffys in Kilkelly … they deserve a mention!) I got a few pieces of beef and then asked if they had a few bones for Alpha. They obliged and gave me three large bones. I came home and proudly dropped one of them down to Alpha. He immediately went to it and, after an initial technical examination :), took it in his mouth and walked to his resting place near the back door.
A short while later I went out and Alpha was perched at the back door but no sign of the bone. Now I know he can be an enthusiastic eater but I felt fairly certain he’d not consumed it in its totality. I walked around the back yard, into his shed, searched high up and low down but no bone was found. It’s clearly obvious he had buried it. Big deal, you might say, that’s what dogs do. I know that but I had never brought home a bone like that to him before. He hadn’t read some sort of dog manual that told him this is what he should do. It was pure instinct and nature at its best!
Later, as I left to go to Glann Church for the celebration of First Confessions, I glanced across the wall to see a very contented Doberman in face of a juicy bone! He knew where he had left it and knew where to find it when he needed it. To all extents and purposes it looked like a lost cause a few hours earlier.
Maybe, and here’s the thought, our Faith is like that. I’m thinking of the Faith that seems buried now in some. Has their instinct still a role to play? When it’s needed, will they know exactly where they left it? I’m inclined to think they will.
Wednesday 28th March
There are phrases that amuse me, puzzle me, animate me and annoy me! One from the last category is “Now let’s be clear about this” or “ah, come on now, let’s be clear on this”, or – for added daftness – “let’s be PERFECTLY clear about this”!! It’s not exclusive to but seemed well used by politicians during radio and television interviews. A question has been put – usually one that involves “yes” or “no” as an appropriate answer and there’s a waffling answer. The presenter interjects, “I asked a simple question ….” but the responder insists we “need to be very clear about this” … of course the “yes” or “no” never makes an appearance.
What does the phrase mean? Could it be the case that the interviewee has for “one night only” decided to be “clear”, “perfectly clear” on the topic up for discussion. Is there a suggestion that he or she more often speaks without clarity? Should the phrase then be “well I’d rather not be too clear about this so stick with me and I’ll try to confuse things as much as I possibly can ….”?
If you want to be clear, it seems to me, you need to be clear and if you are – if I am – chances are there’s no need to say it!!
Thursday 29th March
Remembering Paul and Stephen ….
I had First Confessions in Kilmovee yesterday evening. Like Glann, the night before, there were ten children celebrating the sacrament. I have to say it’s a very special celebration and I think the children enjoy it, I hope they remember it and that it sets the tone for future celebrations of Reconciliation throughout their lives.
We reflected on the story of the lost sheep or, perhaps, more accurately titled “The Good Shepherd” – reminding them that the Lord always seeks out what is lost and is not totally content until it is found. I tried to explain to them that the sheep got out of the field because he found a “hole in the fence”. We all find such holes in fences from time to time, when opportunities for mistakes present themselves. Sometimes we can step back in time and avoid the wandering and other times, sadly, we don’t. The Lord continues to love us, seek us out and want us home. I wanted them to try stay away from holes in fences – maybe an open pack of biscuits that they were told not go near, or a refusal to help out in the house – whatever it was, to try stay clear but to know that Jesus still loves and will always try to bring us home safely if we call to him and allow him help us.
I didn’t give the children any individual penance but spoke to them afterwards and asked if they’s say “one Hail Mary” for two special men – Paul and Stephen. I asked them to repeat the names so that they’d get them into their memories. “Who are you going to remember?” “Paul and Stephen”, the ten replied as one. “Now, I’ll tell you who Paul and Stephen are. They are two men that are studying to become priests in our diocese. The only two we have just now. They are badly needed. Maybe one day one of them will stand where I am now and celebrate an evening like this with other children and their families. So I want you to say ONE HAIL MARY for them tonight before you go to sleep. That’s called a penance and reminds you that you have been forgiven and that Jesus loves you. So who are you going to remember tonight?” “Paul and Stephen”. “What are you going to do for them?” “Say one Hail Mary”.
As the families moved away, one of the ten came back (I think that happened to Jesus one time as well but in a very different setting!). “Can I say Two Hail Marys?” she asked “one for each of them”. A much better idea!!
So, if you’re reading this you might say TWO Hail Marys – one each, for Paul and Stephen. Maybe you could throw in a third for me, a fourth for the children preparing for First Holy Communion and, when you’re that far – go for the decade. You’ll find an intention for each bead.
No entries for Friday, Saturday or Sunday …….
Monday 2nd April
Not sure how you’ll receive this letter but I think I know you well enough to know you’ll read it. That would be the Judge in you – the one who reads and listens to the evidence before a judgement is handed down. You’re trained for this so I’m fairly sure you’ll read and reflect before leaving down this page.
They say your wife sent you a message that day. Even as I stood before you a woman out of our line of vision saw what you and others could not see. I’m told she said it was a dream, as if my Father doesn’t speak to us in our dreams. “Have nothing to do with that man” – is that what she said? Needless to say, I’m glad you didn’t fully take that advice literally. You see that’s why we met that day because too many people decided they’d have “nothing to do with that man”. I know that’s not what she meant but it’s what they meant. For having nothing to do with that man gave them an excuse not to listen and not to change and not to follow. Having nothing to do with that man allowed them distance and, at times distance is dangerous. It leaves too much room, literally, too much room for error, gossip, lack of judgement – wrong decisions.
There was very little room between us. I knew you knew what was happening was wrong. You wondered why I was silent. You even uttered something stupid about your authority. You were searching for words Pilate, but deep down you knew what I knew. All this was happening because of jealousy. Your wife spoke to you out of love – love for you and, through her dreams, love for me. Her dreams told her something of what I was about – the Author of her dreams, wanted to awaken in her an awareness of hope and change. You didn’t listen to her – well you did and you didn’t. You washed your hands, declared your innocence and handed me over. It’s not what you wanted to do though and that’s the bit that stayed with me. Not so much that you caved in, passed sentence as you didn’t do what you wanted to do – needed to do – the right thing to do.
I don’t blame you Pilate. When we were on our own, I knew what you wanted. The crowd just got the better of you. All I’d ask is that now you’d follow your inner promptings more – err always on the side of compassion. “Be compassionate as your Heavenly Father is compassionate and you will have compassion shown you”.
Tuesday 3rd April
Again, you were right. I read your letter and re-read it many times. Just as I have re-lived that day many times. It was my chance to do the right thing. I felt guilty about letting Barrabas go. He was a nasty piece of goods. I couldn’t believe it when they called his name. I still hear that chant when I try to sleep. “Not this man, Barabbas” Oddly enough, I heard that you later pardoned a criminal and I took some small consolation from that. At least we did something the same, even if your forgiveness were less reluctant than mine.
Authority is such a difficult place to be. I felt so stupid talking to you about my authority to release you or condemn you. People used me to suit themselves. Your case, no different than many for always there were victors and losers after a case. I always hoped I’d made the right decision but sometimes would have heard that someone I declared innocent had, in fact, used the system to beat the system. Bad as that was, I heard too of the innocence of ones I judged guilty. Your case was different though. I knew you shouldn’t be there. Everything in me wanted to shout at them “leave him alone” but the words wouldn’t come. Yes, I got a message from my wife that day. Pretty much along the lines you mention. “Have nothing to do with that man. I have been troubled all day by a dream I had about him”. Her words, much as I value them, were not what convinced me. I was convinced, even before I met you. We talked, at our judicial parties, in our houses, on our travels about you. We heard all the things you had done. Word gets around. There was something very different about you. Of course my wife’s words were significant. But like mine, they were drowned out by the roar of the crowd. “Crucify him”, “If you let him go you are no friend of Caesar’s”, “Not this man, Barrabas” “Let his blood be on us and on our children”. The judge was afraid. The good word was drowned out by the bad. The light overshadowed by the darkness. I lost my way. Washing my hands was a wasted exercise – a waste of water – and, as I thought at the time, a waste of your life.
I was pleased, shocked yes, but breathlessly pleased to hear of an empty tomb, shocked guards and new hope. Could it be true? The one condemned, the one executed, the one betrayed had risen from the dead. Today I get your letter. Your words and your eternal promise jump off the page and find life in my heart. You live. Praised be God forever.
Wednesday 4th April
Did you ever think it would come to this? When I asked you to follow me and you left family and friends to walk in my steps, did you ever wonder what the future would hold? I know you did. You were full of future and full of hopes. They’ll say you were greedy and that’s why you put yourself in charge of the funds but we both know that’s not true. If it was greed that motivated you there were bigger funds to draw from that the few coppers we often had. Do you remember the time we got a coin from a fish’s mouth? I’m sure that amused you – you who had charge of the funds – that when a coin was needed we had to go fishing! I know it wasn’t the money that attracted you or kept you walking with me. I never had any worries about you and money but I did worry about you. I worried that you wanted more, no not more money, but more from me! I talked of peace and you dreamt of change. I talked of the past and future you longed for now. I talked of patience, turning the other cheek, giving the cloak to the man who stole your shirt and you – you wanted action and change. You were tired of being the underdog. You wanted so much wanted it so quickly. You think I didn’t notice your inner thoughts and dreams – your belief that I would overthrow authority, call the bluff of those who pretended they knew all. I knew that disappointment had set in – more than that, frustration. You wanted things to happen at a swifter pace, a more urgent pace but the word you missed and kept missing, was “pace”. I needed you to “pace yourself Judas”, to slow down, reflect, acknowledge the goodness that was in those around us – even those we did not understand.
Did you think it would come to this Judas? That you’d leave the table, having dipped your fingers in the same dish as I and that the freshly washed hands would open themselves to thirty pieces of silver? Silver you didn’t really care for, despite what the people thought. Judas, I know you didn’t sell me for those silver pieces. I heard them bang off the floor when you threw them back. You just lost sight of me for a while. You didn’t pace yourself. Judas, I understand now as I understood then. Your heart was in the right place … if only you had paced yourself …
Thursday 5th April
Thursday 5th April (Holy Thursday)
How I wished we’d talked that night. Passover night! I sat so close to you but felt so far away. What were you saying to us when you took the bread and wine? “My Body, given up for you – my blood, poured out for you” – I thought you were talking about it all being over. I didn’t want to have to do anything “in memory” of you. It seemed as if you’d thrown in the towel. Even the towel. When I saw you wrap one around your waist and bend and wash our feet. I just could not take it in. It seemed to me as if all were falling in around us. Here we were, not even a place to call our own – gathered in a borrowed room. They all seemed so close to you. John, leaning back on your breast. How innocent he seemed, childish even and you seemed all right with that. Peter, changing his mind as ever – first he wouldn’t let you wash his feet and then he wanted a shower! And you seemed all right with that. Then you talked about denial and one by one the table assured you that there’d be no denial. Yes, I said it too and somehow that’s when I seemed to change. You didn’t seem to expect much from us. “one of you will betray me” – I’m not sure whether I imagined it or not but I thought I heard you say it would be the one to whom you hand the piece of bread – maybe I just imagined it but when you passed it to me, something clicked. Something changed and suddenly I forgot the conversations we had. I forgot all the wonderful things you said and my ears wandered from you to those who whispered on the edge of our gatherings about you being a “wanted man”. Those voices took over and the whispering grew louder in my head. Faces matched the voices and I just found myself going to those faces. Temptation I suppose. That’s what happens when we take our eyes off you and suddenly and I honestly don’t know how it happened, I was in front of them, making a deal with them for thirty sliver pieces. You’re right – you were always right – it wasn’t the money. I know the others don’t believe that but it wasn’t. I couldn’t have cared less about the money. Something just clicked. They asked what sign I’d give. That’s the bit that upsets me most. Jesus, I told them I’d give you a kiss – I betrayed you with a kiss. That’s the bit that gets me most. I know you had respect for the kiss – you told us that the night that Mary (Magdalene wasn’t it) covered your feet with kisses and I let you down with one …. I’m so SO sorry.
You see now I know what you were saying to us when you took the bread and wine. Now I know you wanted me to slow down, to follow your lead and not always have to set my own pace. For what it’s worth Jesus, I banged those silver pieces off the ground and when they scattered, I remembered the scattered tables in the temple and thought I’m doing this much, at least, in memory of him …..
Friday 6th April (Good Friday)
I’ve been meaning to write to you for some time. Part of the delay, to be honest about it, is I didn’t know your name or where you come from. As you can imagine a lot happened over those days. I’ve tried to put some of it out of my head but haven’t really managed that too well. I hear insults, feel blows to my body and my head still stings from those thorns (I really wish my Father hadn’t included the thorn bush in creation!) and saddest of all, the confusion on my mother’s face when I caught a glimpse of her. I was so glad to see her but she looked so sad. I think that’s when I decided to ask John to look after her but I didn’t have the chance to ask him just then. I did later though.
I remember you well. It was one of those very clear moments. My eyes were burning with the mixture of sweat and blood. I wanted to rub my eyes but the cross saw to it that my hands weren’t free. Even if they were, I’d have been trying to clean my eyes with hands that were in as bad, if not worse shape. Then you were there. When the towel touched my face all went dark for a second but it was a consoling darkness. There was a softness in it, a smell in it, that seemed to say the light will come again and things will be better than before. It only lasted seconds but it felt like hours as the towel found those places of soreness, little cuts and bruises and rubbed away much of the soreness. Of course it wasn’t the towel. The same towel in the hands of one of the soldiers would only have added to my pain. It was the gentleness of your touch and the obvious love and recognition behind it. You were doing a decent thing because you were decent – a loving thing because you were loving and it meant more than you can ever imagine. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I’m told the track of my face was left on the towel. Some say you kept it as was and didn’t wash it. I’m not sure if this is true or not. I’d imagine, if there’s truth in it, the image must be less than flattering. I can tell you this though, even if my face’s image wasn’t imprinted on the towel, know that I will always know it touched me and made a difference. I actually thought of it a lot since and compared it with the towel the judge used to wash his hands when he passed sentence. I’ve written to him too and I think we understand each other pretty well at this stage. The towel – just a piece of material depended so much on the hands of its user. You used it well. I can’t imagine why you had it with you. Maybe you rushed from the house. It doesn’t really matter. You had it with you and you did well with it. Please know, I’m grateful and not just because you wiped my face but because somehow you seemed to get the message.
I remembered that moment of darkness just before I closed my eyes on Calvary. I had shouted at my Father and was full of confusion. I knew the moment of darkness had arrived. I wondered what would happen and then the softness of that towel, its momentary darkness came to mind and I knew that light would follow.
I’m glad I found out who you were. You struck quite a chord with people that day. When I asked about you, almost everyone remembered exactly what you had done though most of them didn’t know your name. Eventually someone was able to tell me who you were. I’m fairly sure people will remember you when they remember me. I really believe acts of kindness must not be forgotten.
Saturday 7th April
Saturday 7th April (Holy Saturday)
I was so surprised to get your letter. To be honest, I thought you’d have forgotten the moment, though part of me felt you hadn’t. It seemed so small in all that happened that day. I’d imagine you’d never be told all that was being said over those few days. I remembered the entry to Jerusalem. I saw them cutting branches and spreading them across the road in front of you. Some even took off their cloaks and likewise spread them to make a sort of “carpet of welcome for you”. It’s fair to say some did this. There were some who didn’t and never would. They were there that day as well. Watching, weighing up form but not getting involved. I remember being annoyed by them. It’s quite likely I could have told you who’d lay their cloak down for you and who wouldn’t lift a finger for you. That’s the sort I am – I just seem to be there at moments like that, never sure why – not really getting involved. I sort of wished I wore a cloak that Sunday. I had no way of cutting palm leaves but thought if only I had a cloak. I don’t wear cloaks – not even sure what I was wearing that day – probably the first thing I found (fashion not really my thing!!) but I didn’t have a cloak.
Afterwards I wondered why I was so bothered that I hadn’t been able to dress the road for you. Of course I knew who you were. We all did and anyone that says they didn’t is really living a lie. You couldn’t but know who you were. Everyone talked about you. Miracles – I’d never heard the word before you – five loves and fish to feed thousands, water into wine, a widow’s son on the outskirts of a small town called Nain, a blind man sitting by the side of the road near Jericho, ten lepers, calming stormy waters, a coin in a fish’s mouth – these were the talk of the place. Some questioned how you could do all this, being just the carpenter’s son. As if a carpenter wasn’t worthy of a powerful son. Others said he wasn’t your father but your “foster father” and maybe that explained things. The truth is everyone knew you. Sadly they didn’t all like you though. You really got their backs up when you toppled the tables in the temple. They hated the way you called them hypocrites. Yeah, you weren’t everyone’s flavour of the month.
I liked you before ever I laid an eye on you. I liked what I heard. There was great hope in it – mighty humanity. I knew the poor woman they dragged in front of you for stoning. Lord love her, she hadn’t it easy. There was a lot of talk about her too. It was unbelievable the way you turned that moment. I can imagine how slowly they dropped the stones. What did you say again “let him who has no sin cast the first stone”? That’s the humanity I’m talking about. I never heard that from anyone before. We were made feel so guilty about things, even things we didn’t fully understand. I liked you for your humanity. That’s why I’d like to have been able to place a cloak on the road for you. Well that and to annoy those who wouldn’t. The tut-tutters in the crowd. The “holier-than-thous” who are always close at hand. I thought I might shame them into copping on and having a change of heart. But no cloak, no shawl, no shears – no branches – and you passed by and I felt I’d done nothing for you. It’s amazing how sad I felt. I had looked forward to seeing you and yet, when I did, I felt sad. That’s not your fault. It’s nothing you did but rather what I didn’t. Even, if truth be told, I couldn’t. No, I didn’t shout “Hosanna”. That sort of shouting does nothing for me. It’s the roar of a crowd and, as we saw a few days earlier, just different words were put to the tune of the roar “Crucify him! Crucify him!” No, if I couldn’t lay down my cloak for you I had no business shouting with a mob. I knew it had to be personal.
That Friday I went out on the street. I had no heart for what I’d see. Neither was I prepared for what I saw. You looked so broken and bruised. It’s fair to say, your balance was gone and your steps were anxious steps, uncertain steps that led to more than one fall. Some say three, I’d not be surprised had there been more. Based on what I saw, I have no idea what kept you upright. That man Simon, certainly was a help. I sort of admired him because I heard later he was forced to help you but he didn’t give that impression. He seemed pleased to be able to help. I think I know how he felt. I tried to talk to him about it afterwards but he kept a lot to himself. I wondered had he heard some of your “prayers” as you went along. I wondered how close he was to you when you met your mother. There’s no doubt it had a big effect on him. Some say he’ll never be the same again – I think that’s a good thing. I really think people should be changed through contact with you.
Anyway, I stood there. The towel? You wondered why I had it? I’ve no idea. Admittedly, as I said earlier, fashion is not my thing, but I never saw a towel as an accessory to any garment. Maybe I was doing something in the kitchen – I really don’t know but I had it in my hand. I was sort of wringing it in pure frustration. Beating my anger into it. It seemed to stiffen in my hands – a sort of course feeling, crude feeling that was in keeping with what was happening. Then oddly enough, and this is absolutely true, as you walked towards me, the towel seemed warm – almost like it was steamed – and soft. A total contrast to a few seconds earlier. Without a thought I stepped towards you and found my towelled hands reaching towards your face. You stopped. Everything seemed to stop. I wiped your face. I was able to do something. It felt so right. I don’t think you said a word to me – I wasn’t even sure you noticed what was happening. I’m sure it must have seemed very different to all else that was going on around you. For that second, there was just the two of us and yet, as I say, you said nothing that I can remember. You were gone. Maybe I’m fooling myself but I thought you walked straighter and stronger than a few seconds before. Simon was with you and I had a sense of you being nourished in some way.
Your face on the towel? I know you won’t believe this but I can’t tell you whether it was or not. People have told me it is, that they’ve seen it but I really don’t know. I do know your face remained with me. Every detail of it is fresh in my memory. When the towel came away from your skin, I saw the face of a twelve year old getting lost in a big town, of a young man at a wedding feast, of a wandering preacher, of a baptized man in the Jordan – I saw everything I had heard about you, imagined you to be and needed you to be. Yes, thinking about it, your face must have been left on the towel. That said, I’m not sure which towel it was. I don’t really think it matters to you. Your face and all it stands for remain with me.
I may not have had a cloak or a shawl, I did not join in any chant but when the moment came, I had a towel and, more importantly, I used it. I had hoped this would please you since it’s what you’d have done. Your letter lets me know it did. Enough said!