Reflections on Mission for March

MARCH – WEEK 1 Fair Trade

Fair Trade is one response of ordinary people that can help the lives of millions of small craft workers and farmers. By buying a genuinely fairly traded product there is that assurance that most of the money goes to the producer and not to some billionaire multinational or millionaire mogul that runs sweatshops, uses child labour and rips off the struggling farmers by paying a pittance for their produce.

For over forty years, the fair trade movement has grown and spread around the world and thousands of world shops across Europe have brought new prosperity to once impoverished workers, craft makers and farmers. This has been achieved because they pay a just and fair price for the products and deliver back to the producers a share of earnings through many social services benefits and development projects. Fair trade is the hope of the Philippine poor.
Shay Cullen (Philippines)

Woe to those who build their houses by unrighteousness, and their upper rooms by injustice; who make their neighbours work for nothing, and do not give them their wages (Jeremiah 22:13)

Reflect: How can you give more support to the Fair Trade movement?

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MARCH – WEEK 2 Globalisation

Globalisation is a process which is transforming the spatial organisation of social relations and transactions. There has emerged a consciousness that we all belong to one world and share the same space. What is unique at the present time is the scale and the intensity of world-wide interconnections. The world feels smaller, and events in one place have an impact in no time on people thousands of miles away.

For those who are strategically placed to take advantage of the opportunities for travel or investment, all this feels exhilarating, pregnant with the possibilities. But the flip side is that globalisation is a very uneven process. A phrase like global village sounds naively cosy, but for many people the experience of the global village is an experience of alienation and exclusion from most of the benefits and prosperity associated with globalisation.

Sean Dwan (Korea, Ireland)

Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation (Mark 16:15)

Reflect: Identify who benefits and who suffers from globalisation. What imperatives are there from our faith to respond to the situation?

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MARCH – WEEK 3 Bleeding to death

I awake to the sound of loud knocking on the door downstairs. “Pader, pader tabangi intawen kami” (Father, please help us). I know from experience that it must be another sick person in my Philippines parish in need of immediate help. Downstairs I meet Josing with a worried look on his face. He is a poor tenant farmer in his early twenties. His wife, Ising, lies on the floor in a makeshift hammock, looking very pale and ill. She is seven months pregnant and has severe bleeding. She must go to hospital, 30 miles away, but Josing has no money to hire a jeep.

I drive them, and as I listen to the groans of Ising in the back seat I feel very angry. Why is there no ambulance in the town? Why so few health personnel? Ising dies three hours after being admitted to the hospital. The blame for her death must be laid at government policies that give priority to paying back so called foreign debts at the expense of providing basic health care for its people. How long must the poor bleed to death so that these debts can be paid.

Oliver McCrossan (Philippines, Ireland)

Your clothing is stained with the blood of the innocent and the poor. You killed them even though they didn’t break into your houses (Jeremiah 2:34)

Reflect: In what ways does international debt affect poor countries and communities? Why should Christians get involved in the issue?

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MARCH – WEEK 4 A simpler lifestyle

I have come to the view that the community of believers has a unique contribution to make in the struggle for a more just world, and that presently we are distracted from even beginning to identify it, much less acting out of it, because of over emphasis on political lobbying and corporate campaigning.  The last thing that I wish to imply is that the believing community should not engage the political or corporate world. However, such action has only limited power because the deepest roots – not the only ones – of the forces that destroy the poor, our environment and ourselves lie elsewhere…. within us. 

We are enmeshed in the consumer culture that has us believing that as soon as one standard of living is achieved, a higher one should be sought.  We have become immune to the truth that we are part of a rich world lifestyle where desires and life choices are at the expense of the poor, future generations and the planet itself.

Eamonn O’Brien (Philippines, Taiwan, Myanmar, China, Britain)

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17)

Reflect: In what ways could you simplify your lifestyle? How important is it to do this?

Engaging the Powers Part 2

The Bible study group will continue with the subject of The Domination System.

The Greek words Kosmos meaning world, aion meaning age and sarx meaning flesh have generally been translated as ‘world’ in the scriptures.

In ancient Greece there were various meanings according to context. Kosmos, can mean variously, world – universe, Creation, humanity, the planet Earth, the Theatre of History. These conventional usages of Kosmos are roughly similar in Greek and English but alongside them, there is in the New Testament, another usage, that is quite unique in that period. It refers to the human, sociological realm that exists in estrangement from God, or the dominant system.

The notes for the session 3rd March 2021, below can be down loaded the audio recording of the session is also avaailable

Intercessions for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

INTERCESSIONS FOR THE 2nd SUNDAY OF Lent Year B

PRIEST: With confidence in God who gave up His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to benefit us all, we humbly ask Our Loving Father to help in all our needs.

READER: We pray for the Church that in this time of preparation we may be renewed in faith and hope reaching out to one another as true disciples. . Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

In God’s infinite love we have each been called to repent and renew our lives in Christ. May we help each other to grow in our understanding of the Word of God and receive it in love and joy. Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Let us pray that the world’s leaders and diplomats may find the courage and will to work together with genuine care and compassion for their people. Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Let us remember the victims of violence and hatred everywhere,and especially the children who suffer so much. May they know the Love and compassion they need. Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Let us pray for those affected by the changing climate. Those displaced and homeless through floods, drought, fires and storms. May those with the means and ability find ways of helping those most in need. Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Let us pray for all who are sick and for all who are in hospital that the health services be given the means to be able to put the patients welfare before the cost. Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

We pray for all who have died in recent days, Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and may they rest in peace.

In the silence of our hearts, let us pray for our own families and friends.

Let us ask Mary the Mother of the Lord to pray with us. Hail Mary …

PRIEST: Almighty and ever-living God, we give thanks for all the graces that you bless us with. Help us to be filled with your spirit of Love and compassion as we prepare for the Day of the Lord. May be true witnesses to your Love; we ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Bible Study Engaging the Powers

Engaging the Powers, a study of Scriptural Themes
by Denis Carter SSC

based of the works of John Barton, and Walter Wink

outline of the study

Below are the audio .mp4 and texts files of the 1st session recorded on the 24th February 2021

The Powers in mythological context

The Myth of Redemptive Violence.

The Origin of the Domination System (Kosmos)

Naming the Domination System (Kosmos Aion Sarx)

The Powers, (Created Good, fallen, Redeemed)

Unmasking the System (Delusional Idolatry)

Jesus and the Reign of God (equality, healing, non-violence sacrifice)

Victory of the Cross (breaking the spiral of violence)

What are the ‘Powers?’

what do we understand as the powers?

In the bible the term is used many times to describe forces at work in the world that control and influence humanity, society and world events.

The ancients used the term to mean a merging of both spiritual and material forces. But there is no definition or explanation of the meaning any where in the scriptures. And modern western scholars have always tried to interpret the powers, principalities and elements as merely spiritual.

Gods, Angels, Demons Ghosts and spirits, were understood and accepted by the ancients as the elements that determined all life.

Eph.3:8- 11. I, who am less than the least of all the saints have been entrusted with this special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ

but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed. Through all the ages, this has been kept hidden in God, the creator of everything. Why?

So that the Sovereignties and Powers should learn only now, through the Church, how comprehensive God’s wisdom really is, exactly according to the plan which he had had from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We tend to think that the ancients believed in these sovereignties and powers, as a way to explain the world they did not understand, as we do today, with our more mature science and better tech.

But maybe the reality is that they were much more in touch with the elements of the universe than we are.

Is it hard for us to see the principalities and powers as anything but imagination and not real forces.

Then how to explain the great popular interest in the occult, in stories of demonic battles, magic, witches and the like. It is almost as if there is a great psychological need in us for these to be true.

There is a major gap between ourselves and the writers of the Biblical texts in their world view and the meaning of these words. It is a gap that we as students of the scriptures and of our God really must bridge. We cannot interpret the scriptures using our modern world view of science and nature. We must go back to understand the meaning of the world as they did and to see the world as they did.

Doing that will change our understanding of the power of the Scriptures and revolutionise our belief in God and humanity’s relationship with our creator.

The Language of Power in the new Testament.

Archai kai exousiai = principalities and powers, is seen throughout the New Testament, arche’ referrers to human rulers 8 times and to divine rulers about 24 times.

Archon is used for the Prince of Demons and for Jewish leaders in Matthew and John

Matt. 20: 25, Acts 4:8, 4:26, Rulers and kings, elders (Archontes)

Mk. 10:42 hoi dukountes archien (those who supposedly rule and great men.

Rom. 8:38 (Archai), Angels and principalities

Acts 4:7, 1Cor.1:24, Luke 9:1, Rev. 17:13 Powers = Dynamin,

World Rulers = Kosmo kratoras.

Acts 26:12. Exousias= Authority. In the New Testament, 85% of its use is about a structural dimension of existence. The majority of its use is not about spiritual beings but ideological justification, political and religious legitimisation and delegated permission for authority.

The Greek terms are somewhat fluid and meaning can change according to context and could and were used in referring to both temporal/ human and spiritual powers.

There are many more references but we will get to them later as we discuss the scriptures in the light of the meaning of these words in their context.

Unfortunately, for too long there has been a common translation of all these terms to be spiritual while these terms in use by the Greeks and others of the time, always referred to an incumbent in office, or the structure of power , government, kingdom, realm or dominion.

Dynamis= Power. Mostly used for military or political power. By extension also used for the angelic army or host of God, heavenly hosts. In some of the disputed texts of Paul, 1Cor. 15:24, Eph. 1:21, and 1 Peter 3;22. the use could mean evil power. So in later writings of both Christian, orthodox and Gnostics we see a focus on the spiritual dimension of the powers no longer being agents of God but God’s enemies, evil spirits / powers in a cosmic struggle with God.

Rom. 8:38-39. For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Myth of Redemptive Violence.

It is a modern bias to separate the physical from the spiritual, but for the ancients reality was a seamless robe, a continuous interactive reality.

The physical matter, spiritual energy, life force, nature, the world, was understood as being part of the whole of creation. Not separate bits but a unified whole, interconnected with the creator.

Different cultures and times, thought and reason came up with variations and differing creation stories to explain the way things worked.

A common thread for almost all of humanity around the planet, is the notion of a supreme creator.

Some peoples developed an idea of a group of deities, ruled by a Father God . The minor gods were responsible for different aspects of the world and nature. Gods that controlled the seas, the air, the land, fertility, war, death-life of creatures and tribes and ethnic groups.

But nearly always there was a ruling deity over the minor gods that existed in a kingdom beyond this world outside of our perception of time and space.

For some of the earliest civilisations this physical world was thought to be a mirror of the spiritual that worked both ways. Events in the heavens were mirrored on earth, wars on earth were extensions of the cosmic wars between the deities. The actions of the gods influenced and determined the events on earth. Ritual actions here influenced the gods to look with favour, on a particular people and on their desires. Sometimes the rituals were an attempt to control the gods as in trying to claim the god for their own exclusive protection. [what god is as great as our God?] there are many variations of that idea in the OT.

Violence is the dominant force today as it has been for thousands of years. It a religion with it’s own rules and rituals.

It demands total obedience even to the devotees willing to die to uphold the myth that violence is the way to peace. Violence seems to be accepted as the only way since it appears to work. The threat of violent retaliation keeps the peace. It is the nature of the world.

Where does this idea come from?

We must go back to the origin of the oldest religion in the world to Mesopotamia, the time of Babylon and their creation stories, such as the Enuma Elish,an epic saga of the creation of the world (Kosmos). The story of Tiamat and Marduk. [The texts we have today are dated to about 1250 BC but they are much, much older. There are significant similarities with the Hindu creation stories which may predate it, with the Norse sagas and Japanese myths].

Jesus taught that we should love our enemies, But the ancient world of Mesopotamia taught extermination of one’s enemies is the only solution.

For them violence was the central dynamic of existence. Life is cruel, nature is violent, the earth is violent, floods earthquakes, volcanoes, storms. Chaos threatened every one’s attempt to bring some semblance of order to their lives. From this perception the creation myth of Tiamat and Marduk is told to explain the violence of the cosmos. Tiamat, the primeval serpent, the female symbol of chaos and evil. Marduk, a minor god is elected to defeat Tiamat in exchange he becomes the ruler of the Gods. From the murder of Tiamat by Marduk and the dismemberment of her body, physical creation comes into existence. A prisoner god is murdered, his blood is mixed with the soil making humans to become the slaves of the gods. Chaos is defeated by Marduk and order is established, a paradox in that it was through the violence and chaos of war that the rule of Evil, Violence and Chaos is defeated. So existence is created from evil and the actions of an evil, violent god. In this myth the primal force of nature is evil.

Violence was seen to work and was and is worshipped.

In this creation story, humans are made from an act of evil, it is in our blood to be violent and to kill. We are made by a god from the blood of a murdered god. We are not responsible for evil in the world but the product of evil. The human task then, is to produce food to be sacrificed to the gods by way of the representatives of the gods, the priests and the king. Sometimes that sacrificial food is a human being. The king is through ritual to re-enact the war of the gods to constantly bring order out of chaos. There must be a death to bring peace, the king must subdue or destroy all enemies to maintain order and dominance. The system of dominance politics is a cosmic rule and can only be maintained through constant conflict and expansion of the rule. The basic ideology of the domination system is that the gods favour the conqueror. People exist to serve and perpetuate the power of the gods through conflict and war. Through the idea that might is right.

The Hebrew exiles in Babylon [Modern Iraq] were well aware of this creation story in the Enuma Elish and the Gilgamesh Epic, but it was alien to their experience of their God, Yahweh.

Up until this point in time they had no coherent creation story. For the Hebrew people their history begins with Abram and Sarai, obeying the voice of God to leave their city culture and become nomadic, to spend the rest of their lives as wanderers with a vague promise of becoming a nation and to be settled in a land that would be their home.

Their God was active, involved personally in their lives and communicated with them. Yahweh/ Elohim treated them as children and cared for them, even if at times punishing them as a parent punishes a wilful child.

For the Hebrew people the created world was designed and maintained by God. They took the Babylonian Myth and turned it on it’s head. The cosmos was created by a loving God that made everything good. There was no evil, chaos was not evil, just formless.

The chaos of an unformed cosmos was overcome by a word of love not violence. The elements of the myths were used to explain the problem of evil in the world, through the stories of the garden of Eden and Adam and Eve. Gilgamesh in that epic, searches for immortality and finds the Garden of Eden with a couple of immortals living there. They gained their immortality through the snake/ serpent, but are not able to have children, since procreation of immortals would be a disaster and unsustainable for the world.

It follows logic that if everything was made good, there is a problem. There really was evil in the world, there was the reality of death. It was obvious that some people were destructive and bad and the forces of nature seemed to have no care for humanity,so who or what made evil?

The ideal paradise created by a good and caring God became corrupted. For the Hebrew people their experience of Yahweh, showed that the troubles they faced came from their own disobedience of God’s Law, they were to blame.

It is widely accepted now by most Scripture scholars that it is during the exile period [6th- 5th Century BC] that reflection on the origins of the Hebrew people started to take shape and recorded their folk memory of their history. What little written records of the times of Moses, the Judges, prophets and kings were organised and collated, The editors not wanting to lose anything from the different traditions, included what they had, to the effect that some of the texts seem to either contradict or jar in style and content. In the book of Exodus, Yahweh is thought of as a god of war and as a god of thunder. Ex. 15:1-15. 19.

What these texts show is the reality that as a people they were always in conflict with the the surrounding populations, as they tried to remain faithful to the covenant with God and at the same time adapt to and claim the land they occupied. And when they resorted to the same tactics of their enemies they lost. [as when they entered the promised land to become farmers, they adopted the local fertility gods.]

In-spite of what seems to contradict, what emerges is the understanding that they were a people that their God, Yahweh/ Elohim, adopted and claimed, so that they would be different from all other people, in their way of life and relationship with each other and God.

Redemptive Violence.

Take a look at modern myths of redemptive violence. The cartoons and films of the early and mid 20th Century. Popey and Bluto, Tom and Jerry, the Cowboy and Indians, the war films

Superman (Kal El, a Jewish name),

1938 With Hitler’s rise in Europe with his anti-Semitic words and the negative stereotypes of Jewish people, pushed Siegel and Shuster to make a hero that defended the weak. They often would portray Superman, an other world being, protecting the weak and those who were mistreated. He was a hero the world needed as World War II began in Europe

Captain America, an enhanced human, Batman a vigilante, highly trained in martial arts and technology , Green Lantern, a human given super powers by aliens, Captain Marvel taken to another world infused with alien energy, and so on. All of them as individuals or together fight superior forces, to restore order from the chaos of super evil villains.

The Babylonian Myth of redemptive violence is alive and thriving, evil violence is overcome by the hero’s violence, a just might against a bad might. Little Popeye defeats the bigger villain Bluto, Little Jerry mouse always gets the better of Tom the Cat. It goes on and on, a never ending of fight after fight, revenge and retaliation, between indestructible adversaries. Battle after Battle in a never ending War.

In every story the formula is the same, the hero in trying to defend the weak, is almost defeated and villain appears to have won and gloats but the hero escapes and in the last moments beats the enemy and order is restored. In psychological terms we the onlooker initially identifies with the hero. But we are able to project our anger and violence and live out our repressed feeling with the aggressor while he seems to be winning. And when the hero finally wins we can reassert our self control and salvation is guaranteed by identifying with the hero.

Discussion…

Homily For 1st Sunday of Lent Mission Appeal

by Fr. Denis Carter SSC

Readings: Gen. 9: 8-15 Covenant with all creation after the Flood.

Ps. 24(25) 4-6,

1 Peter 3:18-22 The Spirit saves through Water/ Baptism

Mk. 1:12-15 Jesus led by The Spirit to be tempted by Satan

Since it is not possible for me to be with you today, I have written my appeal to you.

Having listened to these powerful words of scripture, I cannot help seeing that they are so appropriate for me in speaking to you about the Missionary Society of St. Columban.

The Columbans were founded over 100 years ago by young Priests inspired with the call of God and led by the Spirit to go out to the world and evangelise, beginning with China.

The challenges of being a missionary in those days were many and dangerous.

learning new languages and cultures. risking ones health and life by living with and sharing the suffering of the poor .

The Columbans were soon asked to take on new missions to other countries mainly in the Far East and eventually Latin America. Vocations from Ireland, the UK, Australia and America, grew to meet the demand.

As the Society grew our purpose and way of being on mission was shaped and refined by the people we served and by the conditions that they had to endure. Recalling the Temptation of Jesus, He was driven by the Spirit into the desert and tested to refine his understanding of what God was asking of him and what kind of Messiah he should be. Jesus rejected the common expectations of what kind of Messiah the ruling class of his day wanted.

Jesus saw the suffering people, the sick and outcast, those with little or no hope. He touched their lives with healing and acceptance as the suffering servant, not as a ruler.

After much discernment, the Columbans accepted a mandate from the Church.

It was the challenge of Crossing boundaries, boundaries of preconceived ideas, languages, culture and attitude, to Stand with the Poor and Marginalised, to help them understand and experience the love and healing of God.

We are to help people experience that Love God has for every individual regardless of social status, cast or ethnic origin. To realise that we are all one human race, children of a loving God.

We are to help establish the Church among peoples to whom the Gospel has not been preached;

We have to promote and encourage inter-faith dialogue between Christians and those of other religious traditions; to have the courage to listen to and hear the other.

To learn how to find common ground in our understanding of God. We have to find ways of doing this with integrity and honesty, building up communities of faith and hope, sharing our abilities and gifts, for the common good.

We are to help facilitate interchange between local Churches, especially those from which we come and those to which we are sent. So today we have young Lay-people from the mission lands, working with us in other missions.

We have to promote Justice, Peace and Reconciliation. Which means we must discover just what are the root causes of conflict and violence and then to find ways of repairing and healing it. We must use the means and method of Jesus, in confronting evil, with non-violent resistance, compassion and love.

We have to promote care for the Integrity of Creation. Remembering that the covenant God made with Noah, was with all of Creation not just with Humanity. So as the stewards of Creation and our environment, we are responsible for the earth. The earth is our home, it is all we have to sustain all life here, if we do not look after it, how will it feed us and be a home for us?

And finally we must foster in local Churches an awareness of their missionary responsibility.

That is why I am here today, to help foster that awareness of the need for the Church to be more missionary.

All that I have said here is not easy to make real and to put into practice.

We often find ourselves at odds with the powers and vested interests of those who see us as a threat. It is by our educating the poor and our non-violent fight for Justice with mercy that we risk our lives for the sake of the Gospel.

Columbans have for the last 100 years served in many countries where Martial Law and Dictators were and are the rule. And many of our members have made such a difference in the lives of so many people, some have even been killed.

It is a sad fact that when the Gospel is preached and lived out authentically, then there are forces and people who will try to stop it with violence, deadly violence. In spite of this we keep trying

We accept that there have been times we failed, but there are also many successes.

We sometimes measure our success by the number of Martyrs we are blessed with.

Missionary life is not easy, but looking back at about 40 years as a Columban, I have had pain, but I also have many memories of great Joy and knowing that I have made a difference in the lives of perhaps thousands of people, people that I was a part of and people who will always be a part of me.

I wish that I had more time to share with you some of the stories of my life in Pakistan among the tribal people of the southern province of Sindh. Some of the stories of success, such as how we were part of the campaign to abolish slavery and bonded labour. Or programmes of adult literacy, projects to immunise children in the remote villages, and celebrating 3 hour long Masses under the stars with congregations of Christian, Hindu and Muslims, where we shared our understanding of God and the joys and hardships of life.

Maybe another time?

If you would like to help us continue this work, I would like you pray for us, for vocations to the missionary life, or if you are able, to join us as a missionary.

You could help by a donation, through the collection, or through the website, details on the notice board.

If you wish to learn more about the Columbans you can subscribe to the Far East Magazine the details can be found on our website: www.columbans.co.uk or you could write to us by email: office@columbans.co.uk or by snail-mail to St. Columbans Widney Manor Road, Solihull B93 9AB

Many thanks for having the patience of listening to this, and God Bless you and yours.

Reflections on Mission for February

FEBRUARY – WEEK 1

Mission today

Missionaries who work in cross-cultural situations are acutely aware that the poverty they encounter in one part of the world is structurally related to decisions and behaviour in another part, perhaps in the missionary’s home country. Therefore questions of justice loom large for the modern missionary. One of the most intractable of these justice issues is the wholesale destruction of the environment in order to facilitate Western cultures’ insatiable consumption. Practical efforts to encourage respect for God’s creation are encouraged and missionaries are involved in a kind of international mediation.

Another point which distinguishes the modern missionary from his or her colleagues in the past is a more positive attitude towards the other religions. Many missionaries find that through genuine dialogue with other religions, their own religious experience is deepened even to the extent of being able to pray together. And they may find common ground for cooperation in dealing with justice issues.

Sean Dwan (Korea, Ireland)

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him… When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matthew 8:5,10)

Reflect: How have understandings of mission developed since the Second Vatican Council?

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FEBRUARY – WEEK 2

Indifference kills

A lot of the Christian churches don’t see justice and peace as a core Christian activity. If there is any justification for calling yourself a Christian, it is because you have compassion for the poorest of the poor. Yet somehow the poverty of the majority is not impinging on us. When I’m in church preaching, I can often see the resistance, I sometimes feel like shaking people and saying, “What if you had to sell your child into slavery just to exist?” Because it’s not going on here we don’t want to know about it, and even when we do know, we don’t want to respond. 

My job as a priest and missionary here in Australia is not to comfort the afflicted, but to afflict the comfortable.  I suppose I’m trying to touch the consciences and hearts of people and say, “This is just not acceptable, that we, the 20 percent have for our disposal more than 86 percent of the world’s wealth; the bottom 20 percent have something like 1.4 percent, so that divide has to be breached”.

Brian Gore (Philippines, Australia)

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:52-53)

Reflect: How far would you agree that missionary outreach is not just about comforting the afflicted but afflicting the comfortable?

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FEBRUARY – WEEK 3

Enthusiasm for Mission

It can be hard to keep one’s initial enthusiasm for mission. Enthusiasm can be eroded by increasing age, diminishing energy, the struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds, the constantly changing situation, and the lack of success for one’s best efforts. It’s easy to slip into the ‘survival mode’ and settle for what can be handled comfortably and without hassle.

Perhaps one of the best antidotes for the erosion of enthusiasm is a deep sense of being called and sent on mission. The prophets of old had that conviction of being called, empowered and sent by God and that kept them going in trying circumstances. As one filled with the Spirit, Jesus too had a strong sense of being called and sent to bring good news to the poor.

For the ancient Greeks, enthusiasm (enthousiasmos) had to do with being inspired, being possessed by a god. We can keep our enthusiasm for mission only if we remain open to the Spirit and allow God to take possession of us.

Tom O’Reilly (Pakistan, Ireland, Britain)

You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:16)

Reflect: Identify the ways in which we can keep up our enthusiasm for mission.

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FEBRUARY – WEEK 4

Water of Life

Water is life. That is why it has a central role in the liturgies of many religions. Life began in the oceans 3.8 billion years ago. It remained there for almost 2 billion years. All the creatures in our world emerged from a watery environment and carry around this water with them. Human beings are almost 70 percent water. If we continue to abuse and poison water then humans and all other forms of life will be adversely affected. If our waters are polluted our tears will be toxic and the water in the wombs of women who nurture new life will also be toxic.

Caring for water globally and locally is a major ethical and religious challenge for Christians today. Each local Christian community must ensure that the water used for baptism is truly ‘living water’ with the ability to carry all the symbolic dimensions highlighted. We need to respect water as Jesus did and do all in our power to ensure that it remains living water and a source of life for all creation.

Sean McDonagh (Philippines, Ireland)

They deliberately ignore the fact that the heavens existed of old and earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God (2 Peter 3:5)

Reflect: Why is appreciation of water and the earth’s natural resources an important dimension of our faith?

Reflections on Mission for October

October -week- 1 Mission in Weakness

October -Week – 2 Listening and Learning

October -Week – 3 Right relationships

October – Week – 4 Christian Comfort

OCTOBER – WEEK 1 Mission in Weakness

Are you weak enough to be a missionary? Hardly a question one expects to find in a vocations’ brochure. Yet mission today needs people who have a real sense of their own limitations and feel the need for God’s empowering Spirit.

Faced with the global challenges of structural injustice, environmental destruction and increasing tension between peoples of different cultures and religions, one can easily lose heart and say, “How can I possibly change the situation?” The Spirit, however, is the principal agent of mission. Our task is to discern what the Spirit is doing in our world and offer ourselves as channels of the Spirit’s transforming activity.

To engage in mission in the way of Jesus means loving even those who do not deserve our love, forgiving when it is humanly impossible to forgive, hoping when we see no grounds for hope. Responding to these gospel imperatives is beyond human strength. But the Spirit can make us effective instruments in the hands of God who is bringing about the new creation.

Tom O’Reilly (Pakistan, Ireland, Britain)

I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me… for whenever I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Reflect: How important is prayer and contemplation in allowing the Spirit to work through us?

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OCTOBER – WEEK 2 Listening and Learning

I set out on mission to the Philippines in 1967 believing I was bringing God to the Filipino people. That changed the day I went to say mass for villagers celebrating a fiesta in honour of their patron saint. I arrived early and the church was empty. As I waited, I noticed that people nearby were already busy making preparations for visitors and that many were at the basketball court and the cock pit. I realised that God wasn’t in the little empty church but among the people, in their homes, with them while they were fishing or in their rice fields, with them in the cock pit and in the basketball court. God was with them when they struggled to survive in the midst of poverty.

Mission for me is being led by the same Spirit which took Jesus out among the people to listen and learn from the word of God that lives among the people. Going on mission is not about bringing God to people but of going to meet God, which is very much a listening and learning experience.

Ray Collier (Philippines, Britain)

Morning by morning he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple (Isaiah 50:4)

Reflect: Use the long quote above to reflect on where you find God in your own lives.

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OCTOBER – WEEK 3 Right relationships

Every day we come into contact with the victims of globalisation. We meet asylum seekers caught in the crossfire of forces whose origins are in many cases global. We meet the unemployed from factories, from mines, from City offices, all closed as a result of global consolidation and merger. We meet the victims of child labour from countries who can compete in global markets only because they must exploit their weakest citizens. We feel everyday to some degree the ongoing devastation of the planet.

We shall walk in the Spirit of justice by which we shall exert every energy to create a social order, local and global, based on right relationship with our life systems. Thomas Aquinas wrote that in order to change the world we must change the images through which we perceive the world. To the extent that we can dream about and build a different world order which is just, equal, compassionate, and non-violent, we shall be salt and leaven and so change the world.

Frank Regan (Peru, Britain)

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11)

Reflect: In what ways can Christians be “salt” and “leaven” in today’s world?
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OCTOBER – WEEK 4 Christian comfort

The world economic system today is particularly embarrassing for Christians. The 1.5 billion followers of Christ, ‘who had no place to lay his head’, now control two-thirds of the Earth’s resources and, on average, are three times better off than their non-Christian neighbours.

Fortunately, there are signs that attitudes are beginning to change. During the past two decades some Christians in the ‘developed’ world are beginning to respond to the challenge of their brothers and sisters in the ‘developing’ countries. They are becoming more aware of the legacy of colonialism. This formed the basis of much of the West’s wealth while it often impoverished Third World countries. They now feel challenged to work for a new, more just, international economic order which will redistribute the world’s resources in order to ensure that every person in the world has enough of the world’s goods to live a decent human life.

Sean McDonagh (Philippines, Ireland)

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Reflect: What challenges does the affluence of Christians present to us?

Our vocation our Spirituality.

Christian vocation is a call to live out a particular spirituality. It is a way of life guided and empowered by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 49:1-7. Gal. 1:15-16.

St. Paul often speaks about Christian vocation in terms of ‘walking in the Spirit.’

Without the activity of the Spirit in us, it is not possible to follow Jesus, to accept his message and to live by his values.
Spirituality is about being led by the Spirit as we commit ourselves to engage in the mission of Jesus in today’s world.

The Spirit is the principal agent of our vocation as Christians, Christians with a mission.

When Jesus sent his disciples on mission, it was as the Father had sent him, the risen Jesus breathed on them, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John 20:22).

In his Gospel, St. Luke characterises Jesus as a person of the Spirit with an urgent sense of mission. The Spirit leads Jesus and, at every turning point in his life, Jesus opens himself in prayer to the guidance and power of the Spirit. Mk. 1:35-39, 6:45-47

When St. Luke tells us the story of the mission of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, he again emphasises that the Spirit is the driving force of mission. Acts.2;

To be a Christian is to seek and co-operate with the Spirit of Jesus at work in today’s world.

To engage with the Spirit of Jesus is to stand with the poor

According to St. Luke’s Gospel, at the beginning of his mission, Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18).

He took the side of the poor and the outcasts. He challenged structures and cultural practices which excluded people in any way from the society of his day. He healed people who were prevented from active worship of God because of ritual impurity, He cast out the evil demons that enslaved the people, freeing them to the fullness of humanity and in the image of the living God.

To engage in the Spirit of Jesus, is to stand with the poor who are exploited today and to work for a situation and an environment in which no one is excluded from the blessings God wishes for all.

It also involves action on behalf of the exploited earth from a deep respect for God’s creation. It is through God’s creation that we can see the love and beauty that God put into the world. “God so loved the world that he sent his Son”… (Jn 3:16)

Through work for social and environmental justice, Christians discover and are evangelised by God’s Spirit moving in people’s lives and in the whole of creation.

We Cross Boundaries

The vocation of a Christian involves crossing boundaries of language, ethnic origin, culture and religion. We must go to peoples of different cultures and faiths to share what we have experienced in and through the Good News of Jesus Christ.

In responding to Jesus’ call to proclaim his Good News, we realise that what we have is a gift to be freely offered, shared, but never to be imposed.

But we are also conscious that our experience is always culturally limited and needs to be enriched through openness to other cultural practices and religious beliefs. We must be convinced that the Spirit of Jesus is at work in all cultures and religions, helping people to live together in just and loving relationships and leading them to experience God’s salvation.

We seek and affirm the Spirit who is already active in people’s lives before we arrive on the scene, knowing that we have much to learn about the ways of the Spirit of Jesus. Our crossing of boundaries is an experience of giving and receiving.

The ongoing experience in the life of a Christian.

Our Vocation is to respond to a call, rather than pursue a career.

The ancient prophets insisted that they did not choose to be messengers of God, but were called to this role, often unexpectedly and without any clear understanding of how things would turn out.

The Call of Gideon, Jgs.6:11-24. The call of Samuel, Sam. 3:1-21. The call of Jeremiah Jer. 1:4-10. The call of Isaiah, Is. 6:1-13.

Jesus had a deep sense of being called by God and he invites us to join him in responding to that call. Mk.1:9-13, The mission of the disciples Matt.10:1-16, Matt. 28:16-20, Mk.16:16-20.

You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit’ (John 15:16).

The call is not just a one-off event, but an ongoing experience of life. It is an experience that is constantly evolving, being enriched and becoming.

Each day is a time for hearing and responding to the call in the changing circumstances of life. Rom.5:1-5. Rom. 12:2. ‘Let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God- what is good and acceptable and mature.’

Knowing that we are called instils confidence, because the God who calls is the God who always empowers us to respond. Jn.17:21-23.

But this also involves a commitment to learn, to study, to hear the word of God, to absorb it and to be absorbed by it.

That is a risk that one must take in trust and faith, knowing that it means change. It means letting go of preconceived ideas and attitudes in order to follow the call of Christ and enter into a world with new eyes and heart.

Christians also enter partnerships for action

Our life is a journey with others who also hear the call, supporting and encouraging each other on the way.

We are members of a missionary Church in which all are called to witness to Jesus Christ.

The Spirit endows people in the Church with different gifts and ministries, which are meant to complement one another in our one mission to help establish the reign of God.

The partnership of ordained and lay, highlights the missionary vocation of all the baptised and with the spirit, help us to explore new avenues of ministry in the Church.

The way we relate to each other is meant to be a sign of the life-giving relationships we are promoting in the mission of Jesus and a challenge to a world often divided and in conflict on the basis of cultural differences.

Convinced that the Spirit of God moves everywhere, we even enter partnerships for action with people outside the Church whose vision and values are similar to our own.

Ultimately, we are caught up in the mission of God through Jesus, who continues to reach out to all, inviting everyone to share the divine life and blessings as a people of God. We believe we are being constantly drawn into the community of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit and asked to live as loving people in our daily lives. We hope, we pray, we can do that faithfully and help others to respond to God’s ongoing outreach and invitation to them.

The 15 Stations of the Resurrection

15 stations of the Resurrection

This is intended to be used as Lectio Divina, or meditation,

prayers can be added as inspired. (biblical texts adapted from ‘The Jerusalem Bible’)

1/ the Resurrection

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

According to the Gospels, there was no human witness to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. We are not told how it happened, only that early in the morning of the first day of the week, Sunday, Jesus physically rose from the dead and he left the tomb in which he was laid.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

2/ Mary of Magdala finds the empty tomb.Mt. 28:1-8.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

After the Sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre.

And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it.

His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow.

The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men.

But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay,

then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him”. Now I have told you.’

Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

3/ Peter and John go to the tomb Jn. 20:3-9.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb.

They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first;

he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in.

Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground,

and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.

Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.

Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

4/ Mary meets the risen Jesus. Jn. 20:11-18.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

Meanwhile Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside,

and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet.

They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’

As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him.

Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him’.

Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.

Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’

So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

5/ Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus LK. 24:13-27.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

That very same day, two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem,

and they were talking together about all that had happened.

Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side;

but something prevented them from recognising him.

He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only is person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days’.

‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people;

and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified.

Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened;

and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning,

and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive.

Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets!

Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’

Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

  1. 6/ Jesus is recognised in the breaking of the Bread Lk.24:28-32.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on;

but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.

Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them.

And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight.

Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

7/ Jesus appears to the apostles in the upper rooms Lk.24:36-43

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

They were still talking about all this when he himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’

In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost.

But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts?

Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’

And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet.

Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’

And they offered him a piece of grilled fish,

which he took and ate before their eyes.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

8/ Thomas the doubter Jn.20:26-29.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said.

Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’

Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus said to him: ‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

9/ Jesus sends the Apostles. The mission to the world Mt.28:16-20.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

Meanwhile 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.’

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

10 /The appearance on the shore of Tiberias. Peter is questioned Jn.21:15-19

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you’. Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs’.

A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you’. Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep’.

Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you’. Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me’.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

  1. 11/ The Ascension Acts. 1:6-11.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority,

but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth’.

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight.

They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them

and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

12/Pentecost Acts. 2:1-4.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room,

when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting;

and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them.

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

13/ Peter’s address to the crowd Acts. 2;14-18

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed them in a loud voice: ‘Men of Judaea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, make no mistake about this, but listen carefully to what I say.

These men are not drunk, as you imagine; why, it is only the third hour of the day.

‘On the contrary, this is what the prophet spoke of:

In the days to come-it is the Lord who speaks-I will pour out my spirit on all mankind. Their sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.

Even on my slaves, men and women, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

14/ The cure of a lame man Acts. 3:1-10.

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour,

it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in.

When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them.

Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us’.

He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them,

but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’

Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm,

he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God.

Everyone could see him walking and praising God,

and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

15/ Peter raises Dorcas from the dead Acts. 9:36-43

V. Jesus we adore you and we bless you:

R. By your Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.

At Jaffa there was a woman disciple called Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek, who never tired of doing good or giving in charity.

But the time came when she got ill and died, and they washed her and laid her out in a room upstairs.

Lydda is not far from Jaffa, so when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two men with an urgent message for him, ‘Come and visit us as soon as possible’.

Peter went back with them straight-away, and on his arrival they took him to the upstairs room, where all the widows stood round him in tears, showing him tunics and other clothes Dorcas had made when she was with them.

Peter sent them all out of the room and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the dead woman and said, ‘Tabitha, stand up’. She opened her eyes, looked at Peter and sat up.

Peter helped her to her feet, then he called in the saints and widows and showed them she was alive.

The whole of Jaffa heard about it and many believed in the Lord.

Peter stayed on some time in Jaffa, lodging with a leather-tanner called Simon.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Our Father….

Glory be…

My Very Special Stole

Sindh Team 1983

Frs. Denis Carter, Pat McCaffrey, David Arms, Robert McCulloch

My Special Stole

In the Summer of 1983 I was appointed as a member of a new team of four Columban Missionary Priests to work in the Diocese of Hyderabad Pakistan. I was to be the new Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s in the town of Matli.
Matli is in the province of Sindh, the southern part of Pakistan, some 60klm south of the City of Hyderabad. The Parish as I was soon to realise covered a vast area, 90klm North to South and about 150klm East to West. The Parish included several large towns and hundreds of small villages.
The people of Sindh Province were made up of many different ethnic groups and languages and various sects of the Islamic faith.
The majority of the Catholics in the parish were of the Parkari Kholi tribe an aboriginal people of this land, who lived in small groups scattered across the countryside. There was also a minority of Punjabi people who had migrated from the North living for the most part in the towns.

Many of the Parkari people had converted to the Catholic Faith in the late 1940s and early 1950s through the pioneering work of the Dutch Franciscans. But most of the tribe still practised a version of the Hindu faith.
My life in those days was filled with adventures and challenges that stretched my abilities and faith.
Having spent many months studying Urdu in the Punjab, I then found myself struggling to cope with learning the Parkari and Sindhi languages through the medium of Urdu, but had a good teacher.
My days would be spent with the administration of Parish work, liturgy, trying to improve the condition of our people in the area with simple things such as purification of water and basic hygiene. The highlight of the day would be our evening visits to a Parkari village.
Most afternoons my Co-Paster Fr. Pat McCaffrey, would head off with his team in one direction and I would go with my team in another. My team would be two catechists, a sister from the local convent and or a lay Missionary.
One evening I set off as usual to a little village that I had not visited before. A two hour drive across a barren plain following the directions of Master Jagsi we arrived at a substantial wall of thorn-branches and a narrow opening. I parked the Jeep and stood in the entrance to the village, it opened out to a neat scene of several houses, mud walls thatched roofs, and an open space of white sun-baked mud surface and an animal pen to my right.
I called out in my best Parkari ‘Anyone Home?’
after a moment or two an old lady peered out of the shade of a lean-to. She scowled and shook her head, No! Who are you?
Master Jagsi stepped forward and explained to her who I was and a smile of recognition spread across her face. They are all in the fields working she said, and then called a small child out of the shade to go and tell everyone that we had arrived.
Very soon the place was filled with people greeting us with a warm welcome. And exchange of news and and bits of gossip, water was brought to wash off the sweat and dust, drinks were offered and we were invited to rest after our long journey.
The adults and older children started to prepare for a celebration. The girls dashed off to the canal to bring back water in large earthenware jars, the boys collected firewood and dried dung, the men and women started to prepare a couple of chickens and the little food that was there in the village.
While all this preparation was going on Master Jagsi and sister Anastasia collected the smaller children and started to teach through song and pictures the basics of our faith.
Shortly I noticed that many more people started to arrive carrying a little bundle of food to mix into the pot. As the sun set the meal was ready and everyone sat down on the ground to eat, quickly and quietly. The meal over and getting quite dark the men started to shake out the rugs we had been sitting on and lit all the lanterns and hung them up on whatever was available. More rugs and quilts appeared and one that was declared the best was put down for me.
The preparations for Mass were made I dressed in my Saffron Vestments and sat on the quilt and laid out the Mass kit before me.
Masters Jagsi and Vhera arranged the crowd to sit around me, the children in front, the men behind keeping the little ones close and the women behind them telling the men what to do.
Village Mass 2I knew that only a couple of families were Christian the rest were Hindu but as this was an event, it was for everyone.
As usual on such an evening someone called out to remind me to take my time No quickie Mass, at least 2 hours.
The Gospel was eventually read and I had to preach, realising that most of the people before me were not Christians and probably never heard nor understood what our faith is about.

My fluency in Parkari was not very good at that time, but slowly and using the most simple words I knew started.

‘I have come here tonight to tell you something wonderful.’
Pointing at them and making eye contact, I continued.
‘God Loves You!…He Loves you and cares for You!’
‘It does not matter who you are or what you have done, or what your cast is, He Loves You!’
‘All of you! … And He wants you, All of You, to live in His heart of Love!’
‘When you live in the loving Heart of God, you will become a Mirror of His Love. A reflection of that love for others.’
‘And that will draw other people into His Loving Heart.
And when that happens God will come and live in your Hearts and make His home there. ‘
‘And that Means you will be His Children, Brothers and Sisters of Jesus and you will find eternal Life.’

I stopped there and asked Master Jagsi to continue.
He asked the people, did you understand Father? What did he mean? Can you believe him?
The people answered and in turn asked questions of us to explain more, and we asked more and so on for quite some time. Eventually I was allowed to continue the Mass, some children and a couple of young adults were baptised. At Communion only the Christians received, but at the end of the Mass just before the final prayer, I blessed a tray of Bhav, a white disc of a sugary substance which was passed round to everyone to share to remember the sweetness of God’s word.

After the Mass people moved away in groups and chatted together while tea was made. Some stayed close to me and talked long into the night sharing their life and stories. When at last sleep overtook us we settled down on the quilts and slept under the bright starlit sky.

The Next morning my team and I returned to Matli, visiting some other small communities on the way to make arrangements for other events.

Some two months later, one of the parish workers called me out of the office to meet some women. Which was a surprise since women were not usually allowed to go out alone. I was introduce to two Parkari women carrying bundles and with small children in tow. They greeted me in the Hindu way and grinning radiantly. Puzzled I returned the greeting and invited them to sit. They told me that months ago they had been at the same village where I had celebrated.
They said that they had understood my message and was very impressed with what I had said and had thought about it for days. Finally they said we had to do something to remember my words.
They had a skill in making beautiful cloth collages, table clothes and quilt covers.
They went on to explain that in their culture they had symbols denoting love, life and god. And so they made a special collage to try and capture my message. My Stole croppedUnrolling a bundle, out came a brilliantly coloured strip of cloth. Red, Blue Yellow covered in sequins and tiny mirrors and intricate threads of different colour. On closer inspection I could see the centre section of blue cloth was one long strip cut into delicate shapes of harts and another shape I was not sure about.
One of the ladies held it first one way then the other and explained. This she said is your message of that night.
First the colour blue is divine and symbol of God. In Hindu art God is always blue.
Then she turned the cloth to show me the hearts and in the centre of each heart was a little mirror. This she said is the heart of God. What do you see when you look into the heart of God? I said the mirror. And what do you see in the mirror? Myself, I said. Beginning to feel a lump in my throat. Yes, she said you are in the heart of God.My stole detail
Then turning the cloth upside down she showed me the other design which she said represented the peacock, which also had a little mirror in the centre.

 

My Stole detail 2

For us the peacock is a sign of eternal life. So you said that if we live in the heart of God we will find eternal life. The heart of God and eternal life is one piece of the same cloth, our hearts and God’s heart and eternal life all one.
She insisted that I take the cloth as a memory of that night. I wanted to pay her for her work which must have taken many hours. She refused but asked me to buy other samples she had brought to sell in the town. Which I did.
When they had gone I rushed over to the convent to see the sisters and show it to them. I had an idea of making it into something that I could use and remember that night. I asked Sister Anastasia to make a Mass Stole out of it. Some days later she gave it to me during a Sunday Mass and told the story to the congregation.Matli cover 86
This stole is still a prized possession and after more than 30 years of carrying it around the world it still looks wonderful but some of the mirrors and sequins have tarnished or dropped off, so only on special occasions I wear my very special stole.