Sunday, April 18, 2010

God's love, always both a blessing and a responsibility (3rd Sunday of Easter, John 21:1-19)

When they had finished breakfast,
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John,
do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him,
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him,
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed
that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything;
you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
when you were younger, you used to dress yourself
and go where you wanted; but when you grow old,
you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you and lead you
where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death
he would glorify God. And when he had said this,
he said to him, “Follow me.”

* * * * * * * *

This is the last recorded conversation that Jesus had with Peter. It is found in the last chapter of the Gospel of John. In it, Jesus asks Peter three times: “Do you love me?” With each question, Peter answers him yes. And with each reply, Jesus gives Peter a task.

There was a reason for the threefold question Jesus asks Peter. It was three times that Peter denied him, and now it is three times that he gives Peter the chance to affirm his love, to erase his mistake and renew his commitment to his Master.

Jesus, in his gracious forgiveness, gave Peter the chance to wipe out the memory of his threefold denial by a threefold declaration of his love.

It is true that God is a forgiving God, that when we come to him with our mistakes and failures and seek his forgiveness, he isn’t only willing to forgive, he is also willing to wipe the slate clean in order that we may start over anew.

But it is also true that while God forgives our sins, he also expects us to make the most of his forgiveness by living lives of faithfulness and commitment so we can be witnesses to the forgives we have experienced.

This is why Jesus, after having received Peter’s affirmation of his love, gives him the task of feeding and tending his lambs and his sheep. He was in effect telling Peter: “I accept your love. I have forgiven your denials. Now be my witness to others”.

God’s love, forgiveness and acceptance is always both a blessing as well as a responsibility.

Friday, April 16, 2010

God leads us towards a greater and fuller understanding of ourselves, of life, faith, and our vocation (Friday, 2nd Week of Easter, John 6:1-15)


Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he as performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.

* * * * * * * *

Every gospel has an account of the multiplication of the loaves. Matthew and Mark have two in fact: one in which Jesus feeds four thousand, the other five. Luke and John only have one account, recording five thousand people fed.

Of all the accounts, though, John’s is unique. After having asked Philip where they could get food to feed all the people, John adds an editorial line in verse six:
“He said this to test Philip, because he already knew what he was going to do”.

In the three other gospels, Jesus is reported as having asked a real question: “Where are we going to get food?” In John he is made to ask something like a trick question that was meant to test Philip, because Jesus already knew beforehand that he was going to multiply the loaves and fish.

What does this difference in John tell us? The early Christian church’s understanding of Jesus wasn’t stagnant. Nor was it complete from the very beginning. Instead, it grew, evolved and matured, such that by the time John’s gospel was being written—towards the end of the first century—the early church had a far greater and deeper understanding of Jesus’ divinity and power.

In John, he is presented as being able to read people’s minds and predict their reactions. In John, unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there is far greater sense of the fact that Jesus is not simply human, but truly divine.

One of the things that has always moved and amazed me during year-end evaluations is the realization of the tremendous growth that takes place in the lives of seminarians. It’s a growth—in two, threee, or four years that’s a result of God’s grace and a young man’s openness, docility, and humility before God, and patience with himself.

For the past 12 years now, I’ve seen young men who came to seminary—excited, anxious, even nervous, some with goofy and strange ideas, or even not-so-pleasant attitudes—leave as mature, confident, humble, and hopeful persons who are ever-more willing to be led by God into a deeper awareness of themselves, of life, faith, and their calling.

The story of the church’s growth, and its gradual deepening of its understanding of Jesus, mirrors our own. God leads us, always towards a greater and fuller understanding of things.

To those of you here today who are looking forward to leaving us soon: be grateful, be confident. God will continue to guide you: whether as a priest or as a faithful layperson. To those who have yet to journey with us: continue being open, willing, docile, humble, and patient. Just as the Spirit led the early church to a fuller understanding of things, so will he lead you to a fuller understanding of yourself and your vocation.

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love him”, Paul tells us. Trust, have confidence, be patient, and believe. God has great things in store for you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The courage of the apostles (Thursday, 2nd Week of Easter, John 3:27-33)

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God
Has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

* * * * * * * *

The arrest of the apostles was inevitable. The Sanhedrin had strictly ordered them to abstain from teaching in the name of Jesus and they had publicly disregarded that injunction. That to the Sanhedrin was a doubly serious matter. These apostles were not only heretics, they were also potential disturbers of the peace.

Palestine was always an inflammable country; if this were not checked it might well result in some kind of popular rising; and that was the last thing the priests and Sadducees wanted, because then Rome would intervene.

In the narrative of confrontation between the Sanhedrin and the apostles, we see vividly displayed the great characteristics of these men of God.

(i) They were persons of courage. The command to go straight back and preach in the Temple sounds to a prudent mind almost incredible. To obey that command was an act of almost reckless audacity. And yet they went.

(ii) They were men of principle. And their ruling principle was that in all circumstances obedience to God must come first. They never asked, "Is this course of action safe?" They asked, "Is this what God wants me to do?"

(iii) They had a clear idea of their task. They knew that they were witnesses for Christ. A witness is essentially one who speaks from first-hand knowledge. He knows from personal experience that what he says is true; it is impossible to stop someone like that because it is impossible to stop the truth.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love." - St. Augustine (Wednesday, 2nd Week of Easter, John 3:16-21)

God so loved the world that he gave
his only-begotten Son,so that everyone
who believes in him might not perish

but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son
into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world
might be saved through him.
whoever believes in him
will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe
has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name
of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things
hates the light and does not
come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth
comes to the light,
so that his works
may be clearly seen as done in God.


* * * * * * * *

Today’s gospel is the deepest expression of a Christian’s faith, not only in God, but also in himself or herself.

There are times when the gospel challenges us. There are occasions when it admonishes and warns us. But there are also moments when it comforts, strengthens, and encourages us.

The passage today, from the gospel of John is one of the most beloved passages in the whole of the New Testament. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life”.At the heart of this passage is the message of the vastness of God’s love. It’s the whole world that God so loves.

It ‘s not just a nation; it’s not just good people; it ‘s not only people who loved him. It’s the whole world. And this includes the unlovable and the unlovely, the lonely who have no one else to love them; it includes the saintly among us, but also the sinners among us. All are included in this vast and inclusive love of God.

As Augustine said: "God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love." There are times when the gospel we hear at mass reminds us of our shortcomings and makes us ask God for strength in living our faith commitment. There’s none of that in today’s gospel, only a gentle reminder that whoever we are, whatever we have turned out to be, God’s acceptance and care for us will always remain constant.

It’s the deepest expression of the Christian’s faith, which says, God will always love me, no matter what.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Accepting Jesus' offer of change and rebirth is not always easy (Tuesday, 2nd Week of Easter, John 3:7-15)

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to him, ‘How can this happen?” Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?
Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know
and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things
and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you
about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

* * * * * * * *

There are two kinds of misunderstanding. There is the misunderstanding of a person who misunderstands because he has not yet reached a stage of knowledge and experience at which he is able to grasp the truth.

When someone is in that state, our duty is to do all that we can to explain things to him so that he will be able to grasp the knowledge being offered to him.

But there is also the misunderstanding of a person who is perhaps simply unwilling to understand. There is a failure to see that comes from the simple refusal to see. One can deliberately shut his mind to truth which he does not wish to accept.

Nicodemus, at least at this point of his encounter and journey with Jesus, was like the second type of person. The teaching about a new birth from God should not have been strange to him. The prophet Ezekiel, for instance, had spoken repeatedly about the new heart that must be created in a a person. "Cast away from you all the transgressions, which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why win you die, O house of Israel?" (Eze.18:31). "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I wig put within you" (Eze.36:26).

And since Nicodemus was an expert in scripture and since the prophets spoke over and over again of the very experience Jesus was talking about, he should have understood Jesus immediately.

If one does not wish to be reborn, he will deliberately misunderstand what rebirth means. If one does not wish to be changed, he will deliberately shut his eyes and his mind and his heart to the power which can change him.

Often enough, Nicodemus’ situation is very much like our own. When Jesus comes to us with an offer to change us and re-create us, we more or less say: “No thank you: I am quite satisfied with myself as I am, and I don't want to be changed.”

This, of course, was not the final chapter of Nicodemus’ story. He did eventually come to understand the words of Jesus, becoming one of his followers in fact. Sometimes, it takes a while for the grace of God to finally open the eyes of someone who refuses to see; but if there is enough trust and faith in one’s heart, even the initial stubbornness can be overcome. And as we know from the rest of the New Testament story, Nicodemus remained faithful to Jesus to the very end. He allowed Jesus to change him, and experienced the rebirth of which Jesus had spoken.

God works great things in those reborn in his Spirit (Monday, 2nd Week of Easter, John 3:1-8)

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus,
a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him,
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,
for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above,
he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him,
“How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb
and be born again, can he?”
Jesus answered,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
‘You must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from

or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”


* * * * * * *

John Paul II lost his mother before he was nine, his beloved older brother before he was nineteen. He and his father were so poor that they lived in a basement and scrimped in order for him to pursue his studies. And his father died alone while he was in school. At 22, he was a complete orphan. When the Nazi’s invaded his country, he saw his friends, both Jewish and Christian, disappear and die one by one. He had to study in an underground seminary for fear being killed himself. As bishop he was hounded by communists, as pope he was shot by a Muslim, and in old age, he became so frail he could barely speak.

When you think of the life of the late John Paul II, you can’t help but wonder how a man who went through so much suffering could have accomplished what he did. The more you hear about him, the more you realize the titanic strength of character this man possessed. How was a man like John Paul II possible? Perhaps we can find some answer in today’s gospel.

Human nature is weak and often given to frustration and despair. Those, however, who are born in the Spirit, live and act always in the Spirit. God works in and through them. That was what Jesus was telling Nichodemus. By ourselves—who are born of the flesh—we can accomplish precious little. Reborn in God’s Spirit as his sons and daughters, however, we can be the most powerful instruments of God in bringing his message to the world.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In touching Christ's wounds, we touch our own; we are healed, and our faith is restored (Sunday in the Octave of Easter, John 20:19-31)


On the evening of that first day of the week,when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,for fear of the Jews,Jesus came and stood in their midstand said to them, “Peace be with you.”When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,was not with them when Jesus came.So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”But he said to them,“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his handsand put my finger into the nailmarksand put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again insideand Thomas was with them.Jesus came, although the doors were locked,and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,and bring your hand and put it into my side,and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

* * * * * * * *

“There are some hurts that go too deep”. Towards the end of the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien put these words in the mouth of his character Frodo.

There’s been a lot of “disbelief” this past week in the Gospel readings: Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, (yesterday) the entire group of was “rebuked” by Jesus for not believing Mary’s news to them. And today we hear the famous story of Thomas, doubting, proclaiming for everyone to hear: “Unless I touch his wounds, I will not believe”. Why all the doubting?

“There are some hurts that go too deep”. Some wounds are indeed so painful, deep, and hurtful that they seem to create a veil covering our eyes, preventing us from seeing anything past the wounds themselves.

Could this be the reason Mary Magdalene herself failed to recognize Jesus at the tomb, and thought instead that he was the gardener? Could this be the reason the two disciples on the road to Emmaus failed to recognize Jesus even as he walked and talked with them? Could this be the reason the apostles refused to believe Mary? Could this be the reason Thomas wanted to see the nailmarks on Jesus’ hands and put his hand on his wounds?

It is a known fact that when a person experiences a tremendous tragedy, it casts a dark cloud over him, and for a time, all he can see is pain and sorrow, and refuses to believe there can be anything beyond it. It is not uncommon to hear someone who has lost a loved one say or wonder:
“How can I go on?”

Life loses a lot of meaning when we’re in pain. Thomas’ doubt was not the result of a stubborn heart nor a questioning mind. It was the result of a pain too deep, the pain of having lost his friend, his Master who had been his life, and reason for living during the three years of Jesus’ ministry. The pain of loss was too intense that it prevented him, just like the other disciples, from believing that Jesus had risen, that Easter had come, that his friend came back to life.

Thomas himself was wounded, deeply broken. And yet, today, as Jesus allowed him to see the nailmarks on his hands, and put his finger and hand on his wounded side, Thomas received the healing of his wounds, and a lessening of his pain.

Often when we hear the story of Thomas, our attention is focused on his doubt. But the real focus of the gospel is not his doubting. It’s just the lead-on to the real point: the restoration of his faith, the fact that he was made whole—because Jesus allowed him to touch his own wounds, and in touching the wounds of Jesus, Thomas touched his very own woundedness, his very own brokenness.

In touching Christ, in holding onto Christ, Thomas was made whole. Thomas’ sorrow was healed. Thomas’ faith was restored. The words Jesus spoke to Thomas in today’s gospel are the same words he speaks to each one of us here today. None of us is spared the wounds, hurts, and brokenness of life. We’re all broken and wounded and pained, and sometimes, like my Thomas, we can feel that Easter has still not come.

And that’s why Jesus speaks those words, not only to his disciple, but to us: “Put your finger here and see my hands, bring your hand and put it into my side”. Let us bring our woundedness, our brokenness to Christ.

Touch his wounds, for in doing so, we will find healing, we will find our faith, our confidence, and our trust, restored. Just like Thomas, our Easter too shall come.

A Psychologist Steeped in the Treatment of Sexually Active Priests (by Mark Oppenheimer)

April 9, 2010
A Psychologist Steeped in Treatment of Sexually Active Priests

By MARK OPPENHEIMER

Leslie Lothstein has seen them all: priests sexually active with adult men, others with adult women, others with adolescents, others with children. By his own count, Dr. Lothstein, a psychologist at the Institute of Living, in Hartford, has treated about 300 Roman Catholic priests, not only those with sexual problems, but also those with alcoholism, depression and other mental illnesses.

He has written widely on the topics of pedophilia and ephebophilia, or sexual interest in adolescents. And, when interviewed in his office last month, he was not at all surprised by the continuing revelations about sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church.
“I had predicted 15 years ago that this would go up to the pope,” Dr. Lothstein said.

He unwittingly found himself in the news almost 10 years ago, when it was reported that the Catholic Church had sent priests to the Institute of Living for treatment without always telling the doctors the full details of the priests’ transgressions. (One of those priests was the superpredator John Geoghan, whom Dr. Lothstein treated.) What’s more, the Catholic hierarchy often ignored the institute’s recommendations about the priests’ fitness for service.
“I found that they rarely followed our recommendations,” Dr. Lothstein told The Hartford Courant in 2002. “They would put them back into work where they still had access to vulnerable populations.”

Although the institute no longer has a formal relationship with the Catholic Church — it had been the only secular hospital to serve as a regular treatment center for priests with psychological problems — Dr. Lothstein, who joined the institute in 1986, still treats priests. And given his vast experience, as well as his independence from the church, his insights are disturbing, but also helpful.

“It was a surprise for me to see how many psychopaths I met in the priesthood,” Dr. Lothstein said. “Glib, callous, could say anything to you and be charming.”

Still, it was only a small minority who were true pedophiles, he said, adding, “You have to distinguish pedophiles, who were interested in children under 13, from people interested in adolescents, 13 to 15 years old, or interested in later adolescents.” The ephebophiles had far more hope of successfully managing their preferences, Dr. Lothstein said. “The psychological tests show that if you’re heterosexual it’s normal to be interested in adult and teenage females,” he said, “or if you’re a gay man, then adult and teenage males.”

Liaisons with teenagers would still be criminal, of course, or socially unacceptable. And for priests, any sexual relations are a violation of their vows.

But those interested in young children seem to be wired differently. “There seemed to be a specific fingerprint,” Dr. Lothstein said. “They would like blue eyes, or a black child, or a white child, or Hispanic girls.” And their predilections were unchangeable. “You can’t treat heterosexuality,” he said. “You can’t treat homosexuality. You can’t treat pedophilia.”

“So what do you treat?” Dr. Lothstein asked, rhetorically. “You make them aware of the damage. And if they don’t have a conscience, you try to give them a mentalizing function” — to help them imagine other people’s feelings. The doctor must also, in some cases, help the pedophile understand that a child is not capable of the romantic interest the pedophile, in his or her fantasies, thinks is being reciprocated.

“Let’s say he’s saying, ‘This boy, he’s 5 years old, he’s seducing me, he’s coy, he’s making eyes at me.’ ” The pedophile must learn that the child “doesn’t have the libido that I have as a 67-year-old,” Dr. Lothstein said. With pedophiles, “it’s not just sex, it’s romance,” he said, adding, “They’re in love with the 5-year-old.”

Dr. Lothstein is, relative to some of his peers, a bit of an optimist. He believes that sexual offenders, even pedophiles, can sometimes learn the empathy that will help them control their urges. “But the treatment is slow,” he said. It draws on a range of techniques, from cognitive behavioral therapy to group work to intensive individual sessions.

The work of healing is no easier for priests. Catholic treatment centers, like Southdown in Aurora, Ontario, have a spiritual component to their residential life, but their psychologists and psychiatrists rely on the same psychodynamic treatments used by secular therapists like Dr. Lothstein.

Describing the treatment at Southdown, which she led from 1993 to 2003, Donna Markham, a psychologist and Dominican nun, said, “It’s excellent psychotherapy, but it’s not religiously based.”

And as the therapists continue to discover, no therapeutic technique can heal a church of all its pathology. “And I treated half a dozen priests who fathered children,” Dr. Lothstein said. “I treated priests who had two children. I treated priests who got women pregnant and got them abortions.

“I said to one of them, ‘Why didn’t you just use a condom?’ And he said, ‘Because birth control is against the law of the church.’ ”

Dr. Lothstein is not a Catholic; he is a Conservative Jew. But he said he felt for the priests he had treated, at least the ones he did not consider psychopaths and child rapists. The priests were his patients. And he felt for the Catholic Church. Of priests he knew who had affairs with married women, he said plaintively, “They destroyed the sacrament of marriage.” Could the pope, who is having a very busy month, have said it any better?

E-mail: Mark.Oppenheimer@nytimes.com, markopp1 on Twitter

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Should I stay or should I go?" Timothy Radcliffe, OP, former Master General of the Dominican Order, on the Abuse Scandal:

Feature Article-The Tablet
Should I stay or should I go?
Clerical-abuse scandal

By Timothy Radcliffe, OP

As the scandal of child sexual abuse and its cover-up swirls around the Church, some Catholics are considering their options as regards their very membership of the institution. Here a former Master of the Dominicans explains why the Church is stuck with him, whatever happens

Fresh revelations of sexual abuse by priests in Germany and Italy have provoked a tide of anger and disgust. I have received emails from people all around Europe asking how can they possibly remain in the Church? I was even sent a form with which to renounce my membership of the Church. Why stay?

First of all, why go? Some people feel that they can no longer remain associated with an institution that is so corrupt and dangerous for children. The suffering of so many children is indeed horrific. They must be our first concern. Nothing that I will write is intended in any way to lessen our horror at the evil of sexual abuse. But the statistics for the US, from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004, suggest that Catholic clergy do not offend more than the married clergy of other Churches.

Some surveys even give a lower level of offence for Catholic priests. They are less likely to offend than lay school teachers, and perhaps half as likely as the general population. Celibacy does not push people to abuse children. It is simply untrue to imagine that leaving the Church for another denomination would make one’s children safer. We must face the terrible fact that the abuse of children is widespread in every part of society. To make the Church the scapegoat would be a cover-up.

But what about the cover-up within the Church? Have not our bishops been shockingly irresponsible in moving offenders around, not reporting them to the police and so perpetuating the abuse? Yes, sometimes. But the great majority of these cases go back to the 1960s and 1970s, when bishops often regarded sexual abuse as a sin rather than also a pathological condition, and when lawyers and psychologists often reassured them that it was safe to reassign priests after treatment. It is unjust to project backwards an awareness of the nature and seriousness of sexual abuse which simply did not exist then. It was only the rise of feminism in the late 1970s which, by shedding light on the violence of some men against women, alerted us to the terrible damage done to vulnerable children.

But what about the Vatican? Pope Benedict has taken a strong line in tackling this issue as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and since becoming Pope. Now the finger is pointed at him. It appears that some cases reported to the CDF under his watch were not dealt with. Isn’t the Pope’s credibility undermined? There are demonstrators in front of St Peter’s calling for his resignation. I am morally certain that he bears no blame here.

It is generally imagined that the Vatican is a vast and efficient organisation. In fact it is tiny. The CDF only employs 45 people, dealing with doctrinal and disciplinary issues for a Church which has 1.3 billion members, 17 per cent of the world’s population, and some 400,000 priests. When I dealt with the CDF as Master of the Dominican Order, it was obvious that they were struggling to cope. Documents slipped through the cracks. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lamented to me that the staff was simply too small for the job.

People are furious with the Vatican’s failure to open up its files and offer a clear explanation of what happened. Why is it so secretive? Angry and hurt Catholics feel a right to transparent government. I agree. But we must, in justice, understand why the Vatican is so self-protective. There were more martyrs in the twentieth century than in all the previous centuries combined. Bishops and priests, Religious and laity were assassinated in Western Europe, in Soviet countries, in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Many Catholics still suffer imprisonment and death for their faith. Of course, the Vatican tends to stress confidentiality; this has been necessary to protect the Church from people who wish to destroy her. So it is understandable that the Vatican reacts aggressively to demands for transparency and will read legitimate requests for openness as a form of persecution. And some people in the media do, without any doubt, wish to damage the credibility of the Church.

But we owe a debt of gratitude to the press for its insistence that the Church face its failures. If it had not been for the media, then this shameful abuse might have remained unaddressed.

Confidentiality is also a consequence of the Church’s insistence on the right of everyone accused to keep their good name until they are proved to be guilty. This is very hard for our society to understand, whose media destroy people’s reputations without a thought.

Why go? If it is to find a safer haven, a less corrupt Church, then I think that you will be disappointed. I too long for more transparent government, more open debate, but the Church’s secrecy is understandable, and sometimes necessary. To understand is not always to condone, but necessary if we are to act justly.

Why stay? I must lay my cards on the table; even if the Church were obviously worse than other Churches, I still would not go. I am not a Catholic because our Church is the best, or even because I like Catholicism. I do love much about my Church but there are aspects of it which I dislike. I am not a Catholic because of a consumer option for an ecclesiastical Waitrose rather than Tesco, but because I believe that it embodies something which is essential to the Christian witness to the Resurrection, visible unity.

When Jesus died, his community fell apart. He had been betrayed, denied, and most of his disciples fled. It was chiefly the women who accompanied him to the end. On Easter Day, he appeared to the disciples. This was more than the physical resuscitation of a dead corpse.

In him God triumphed over all that destroys community: sin, cowardice, lies, misunderstanding, suffering and death. The Resurrection was made visible to the world in the astonishing sight of a community reborn. These cowards and deniers were gathered together again. They were not a reputable bunch, and shamefaced at what they had done, but once again they were one. The unity of the Church is a sign that all the forces that fragment and scatter are defeated in Christ.

All Christians are one in the Body of Christ. I have deepest respect and affection for Christians from other Churches who nurture and inspire me. But this unity in Christ needs some visible embodiment. Christianity is not a vague spirituality but a religion of incarnation, in which the deepest truths take the physical and sometimes institutional form. Historically this unity has found its focus in Peter, the Rock in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and the shepherd of the flock in John’s gospel.

From the beginning and throughout history, Peter has often been a wobbly rock, a source of scandal, corrupt, and yet this is the one – and his successors – whose task is to hold us together so that we may witness to Christ’s defeat on Easter Day of sin’s power to divide. And so the Church is stuck with me whatever happens. We may be embarrassed to admit that we are Catholics, but Jesus kept shameful company from the beginning.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Faith not lived amidst the ordinary circumstances of daily life is no more than an illusion (Friday in the Octave of Easter, John 21:1-14)


Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

* * * * * * *

Today’s reading is the very last chapter of the Gospel of John. According to bible scholars it was added long after the Gospel had already been written. If we read the previous chapter, we will see that the Gospel’s story about the resurrection of Jesus is essentially complete. Why was there a need to add today’s story?

After the gospel of John had been written, there were still those who refused to believe that Jesus had risen. Two rumors were circulated by the church’s enemies. First, that Jesus’ body was really stolen by his disciples who then made up with the story that he was alive. And second, that what they were really seeing were visions or hallucinations. Jesus wasn’t alive. The Resurrection was an elaborate hoax.

And so the author of the Gospel decided to tell more stories about Jesus appearing to his disciples and doing things that ordinary people do. He was standing by the shore, he pointed a school of fish to them, he made a charcoal fire, and ate breakfast with them. Those aren’t things that an illusion or a figment of the imagination would do. Those are things that a living, flesh and blood human being does

The point of the story is simple: Jesus is really alive. He did rise from the dead, and so he does ordinary things with his disciples.

But the story also bears a very important point for us today. We are reminded that our faith in Christ is to be lived, not only in the religious practices of Lent and Easter, but in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives. If our faith is not to be a mere illusion or a mere figment of the imagination, we have to make it real. We have to live it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How "real" is our relationship with Christ? (Thursday in the Octave of Easter, Luke 24:35-48)

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

* * * * * * *

This particular story in the gospel of John was a later addition to the gospel. Why was written? And why was it added, when the previous chapter already spoke of the risen Jesus appearing to his disciples?

It was to demonstrate once and for all the reality of the Resurrection. There were many, at that time, who said that the appearances of the Risen Christ were nothing more than visions which the disciples had. Many would admit the reality of the visions but insist that they were still only visions. Some went further and said that they were not visions but hallucinations.

The gospels go far out of their way to insist that the Risen Christ was not a vision, not a hallucination, not even a spirit, but a real person. They insist that the tomb was empty and that the Risen Christ had a real body which still bore the marks of the nails and the spear thrust in his side.

But our story today goes a step further. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to point out a shoal of fish to a group of fishermen. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to kindle a charcoal fire on the seashore. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to cook a meal and to share it out. And yet, as this story has it, the Risen Christ did all these things.

The first and simplest aim of this story is to make quite clear the reality of the resurrection. The Risen Lord was not a vision, nor the figment of someone's excited imagination, nor the appearance of a spirit or a ghost; it was Jesus who had conquered death and come back.

But there’s a second aim of the story, and that is to ask us—we who believe in the risen Christ: How real is Jesus in our lives? How real and personal is our relationship with him?

In Christ alone does life find its fullest meaning (Wednesday in the Octave of Easter, Luke 24:13-35)


The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus tells of two men who were walking towards the sunset. It has been suggested that that is the very reason why they did not recognize Jesus. Emmaus was west of Jerusalem. The sun was sinking, and the setting sun so dazzled them that they did not know their Lord.

However that may be, it is true that the Christian is a person who walks not towards the sunset but towards the sunrise. When Israel was still wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt, they were told to journey not towards the sunset but towards the sunrise. (Num.21:11.) The Christian goes onwards in life, not to a night which falls, but to a dawn which breaks—and that is what, in their sorrow and their disappointment, the two disciples on the Emmaus road had not realized.

But the story also tells us of the ability of Jesus to make sense of things. The whole situation seemed to these two disciples to have no explanation. Their hopes and dreams were shattered. There is all the poignant, wistful, bewildered regret in the world in their sorrowing words, "We were hoping that he was the one who was going to rescue Israel."

They were the words of men whose hopes were dead and buried. Then Jesus came and talked with them, and the meaning of life became clear and the darkness became light. A story-teller makes one of his characters say about the one with whom he has fallen in love, "I never knew what life meant until I saw it in her eyes." It is only in Christ that, even in the bewildering times, we learn what life truly means.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Trusting in the Risen Christ and letting-go (Tuesday in the Octave of Easter, John 20:11-18)



Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her,
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around
and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.


* * * * * * * *

It seems rather odd that Mary shouldn’t be able to recognize the risen Jesus when she sees him as she visits his tomb. The simplest reason of course could very well be that she had been crying all this time and the tears in her eyes prevented her from recognizing him at once.

When a person loses a loved one, the sorrow he feels in his heart is often so overwhelming that one becomes unable for a period of time, to see or feel anything joyful or happy.

But Mary wasn’t able to recognize Jesus, not because physical tears were blinding her eyes. Rather it was the suffering and pain in her heart that prevented her from recognizing him.

And so, when Jesus tells her not to “hold on to him”, he was really asking her no longer to hold on to her sorrow and loss. He was asking her to let go of whatever was burdening her heart and her soul. He was asking her to let go of her inner pain.

This too is the message of every Easter for each one of us. We too, have had our share of the tough and painful experiences of life. And at times, we shall be like Mary Magdalene, unable to see beyond the grief and sorrow that we feel, unable to let go.

This Easter season, Jesus invites us to ask ourselves if there are not things we still hold on to like Mary Magdalene: past hurts or sorrows, past grudges or pains. And we are invited to put our trust in the Risen Christ, and to slowly let go.



Monday, April 5, 2010

Believe, share, and rejoice (Monday in the Octave of Easter, Matt. 28:8-15)

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly
from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel;
then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, “You are to say,
‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
And if this gets to the ears of the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.
And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.


* * * * * * *

As we read this story of the first two people in the world to be confronted with the fact of the empty tomb and the Risen Christ, three imperatives seem to spring out of it.

First, they are urged to believe. The thing is so staggering that it might seem beyond belief, too good to be true. The angel reminds them of the promise of Jesus, and confronts them with the empty tomb; his every word is a summons to believe. It is still a fact that there are many who feel that the promises of Christ are too good to be true. That hesitation can be dispelled only by taking him as his word.

Second, they are urged to share. When they themselves have discovered the fact of the Risen Christ, their first duty is to proclaim it to and to share it with others. "Go, tell!" is the first command which comes to the man who has himself discovered the wonder of Jesus Christ.

Finally, they are urged to rejoice. The word with which the Risen Christ meets them is “Chairete”; that is the normal word of greeting; but its literal meaning is "Rejoice!" One who has met the Risen Lord must live for ever in the joy of his presence from which nothing can part him anymore.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

"My life has meaning, because my Redeemer lives" (A brief reflection on Easter Sunday)



St. Paul asks a very interesting question in one of his Letters: What would it be like if Christ did not rise from the dead?
 
In the last chapter of his book, “The Myth of Sysiphus”, the atheist philosopher, Albert Camus tells of the legend of Sisyphus who defied the gods and put Death in chains so that no human ever needed to die again. But when Death was finally liberated and it came time for Sisyphus himself to die, he came up with a scheme that would enable him to escape from the underworld. 


He was captured by the gods, of course. For his punishment he was made to push a rock up a mountain; once on the top, however, the rock would roll down again and Sisyphus has to start over. 

Sisyphus, Camus says, is like an absurd hero who tries to live life to fullest, is in fear of death, and is thus condemned to an eternal but meaningless task

Perhaps Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus” can give us a possible way of answering Paul’s question. If Christ did not rise from the dead nothing that we do, whether big or small, nothing of our accomplishments, however important, will mean anything. 


And we shall live, be born, grow up, become someone important perhaps, and then die, just like everyone else, everything we lived for erased and ultimately meaningless. 

Like Sisyphus, the whole of our existence would be like pushing a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down, leaving us with no choice but to push it up again, and again, and again.

What would it be like if Christ did not rise from the dead?

St. Paul answers his own question: “If Christ did not rise from the dead, then we have lived in vain, and we have believed in vain”

But Christ did rise from the dead! He did leave the tomb. He did conquer death. And so our life is neither a staircase leading nowhere or a meaningless exercise like that of Sysiphus and his rock.

Because of Easter, because of our hope in the resurrection, our lives find their ultimate purpose and destiny in God, in life eternal.

But also because of Easter, nothing that we do in this life is ever meaningless, however big or small. Because of Easter, every good deed we make, even the smallest act of kindness, becomes something of tremendous value.

The road of life, the road which we all must travel, can often be up-hill; filled with pot-holes of suffering, sidetracked by failure and even detoured by defeat.

And yet we can endure the harshness of our journey because of the hope that we celebrate today: Christ Risen, endless glory, lasting peace, eternal happiness.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday


Jesus suffers and dies on the cross today, Good Friday. It represents the lowest point in the story of this man who did nothing but good. It’s a tragic ending to a life spent loving people. The world had pronounced its judgment on Jesus: he was a failure, and his mission was now doomed to die with him on his cross. The events leading to his crucifixion are heartrending, the circumstances surrounding his death, even more so. Abandoned by the people he had come to redeem, abandoned by closest friends, he now seemed abandoned by his Father as well.

Jesus the faithful Son, is left by his Father to die in ignominy. What more could the world want in showing itself right in judging Jesus a failure. Here was the final proof, even God did not want to vindicate him. Even his Father had forsaken him. Jesus was utterly alone.

The loneliness of Good Friday, when the beloved Son of God died hanging on the cross is the loneliness all of us experience when suffering and pain assail us, and when all the world seems to have abandoned us, when even our strength seems not to be there for us. It is the experience of every human heart that has come face to face with pain.

God does not pretend to take the pain away from us. As on Good Friday, he didn’t’ take his Son down from the cross, so does he not take our crosses away from us at times. But as on Good Friday when Jesus hung on the cross, God is unmistakably there, bearing our pain with us, joining us in our suffering, weeping with us, and with us, seeking to find a way to change our suffering into joy. Good Friday is not the end of our story, just was it wasn’t the end of Jesus’.

Holy Thursday Homily of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Primate of Ireland

This is a unique moment in the life of the diocese. It is a unique and important gathering from every corner of the Archdiocese of Dublin on Holy Thursday here in the Pro-Cathedral for the blessing of oils and in a special way to celebrate priesthood. I greet and welcome each one of you. Together we form the Church of Jesus Christ in this diocese.

I greet the priests of the Archdiocese and all the priests, diocesan and religious, who work minister in the diocese. It has not been an easy year for the diocese. It has not been an easy year for the priests of Dublin as we all grapple with a dark moment in the past history of our presbyterium. In his Letter to the Catholics of Ireland Pope Benedict reached out to priests who feel discouraged and even abandoned. “I am also aware”, he said, “that in some people’s eyes you are tainted by association, and viewed as if you were somehow responsible for the misdeeds of others”. I thank the priests of the diocese for the continued commitment to their calling. I thank the lay members of our parish communities for the support you have given to your priests at a moment which was trying for all of us. I thank the priests whose first thoughts in the midst of such a situation went out not to themselves, but to the victims and survivors and their families and also to the need for reparation and renewal in the life of the Church.

The Church in Ireland is not a large anonymous conglomerate structure. The Church in Ireland is built up in communities where the Word of God is proclaimed and the Eucharist is celebrated and where the Christian message is lived. Renewal must begin and take deep root in our parishes.

I greet the parish representatives present here this morning, priests and people. I wish to express my appreciation to Parish Pastoral Councils, finance committees, baptism and funeral teams, parish organizations and liturgy groups, child protection representatives, teachers and boards of management, parish sisters and parish secretaries; indeed I greet all those who have worked in communion to transform our parishes over the past years. Renewal is well underway.

Many have written to me in these months. I thank those who have been frank and even sharp in their criticism of the past and of the slowness of the present. I thank all those who are fostering fellowship among parishes in the common service to the mission of the Gospel. I thank parents in their challenging work to pass on the faith to their children.

This ceremony of the blessing of oils speaks to us about the life of the Church. The oils are symbols of the centrality of the sacraments in our Christian lives. The oils we bless are symbols of the way the Church accompanies us on the journey of our lives, beginning with baptism and confirmation, or even beforehand as catechumens, until finally the Church comforts us in the sacrament of the sick at the last moments of our lives. The Church should be a place where we all feel accompanied, welcomed, understood, instructed and comforted and where we pray together and receive the support of a praying community.

All ministry is linked to the Eucharist. The priesthood which Jesus instituted on Holy Thursday is something new: Jesus replaced all the sacrifices and practices of the Old Covenant by the gift of his body and blood, the gift of himself. Priesthood, and indeed any ministry in the Church, is no longer a question of lineage or title or privilege, as in the Old Covenant, but of identifying oneself with Jesus Christ as the one who emptied himself and became humble even unto death. We must know Jesus. We must shape our lives to be like Jesus. We too must empty ourselves so that we too can make our lives available to witness to the Jesus who came to serve.

Today at this Mass we celebrate the special call to the ministerial priesthood. The ministerial priesthood is a special calling, but it is a calling, as the Preface of this Mass recalls, which comes to us within the priestly community established by our common baptism. When we speak today about working together for mission we must always do so in the awareness that that mission belongs to each of the baptised and takes place within that communion which is shaped by baptism and the Eucharist.

I might add that we should never overlook the fact that we share the same baptism with Christians of other confessions. In a more and more secularised world we must remember that our common baptism requires common witness of all Christians to what we share in common. We need to develop new and more practical forms of common ecumenical witness. In that sense I was so pleased that I could launch our project of the Gospel of Saint Luke together with the Church of Ireland Archbishop, John Neill. It is good that we have been able to witness together on various occasions during this year and I thank him for his unfailing kindness.

As Christians we share the one baptism. We also share our one call to holiness. One of the central teachings of Vatican II is that all Christians, in whatever state or walk of life, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of love. The call to holiness is common to all ministry in the Church and once again sets ecclesial ministry aside from any other form of service within a community. Holiness is the most original contribution of the believing community and its members to social endeavour. Holiness, which involves a coherent practice of goodness and integrity of life, inspired by the Jesus of the Gospel, is a vital contribution that we as Christian should be bringing to our society and to all who are seeking authenticity in their lives.

This has been a difficult year. We see how damaging failure of integrity and authenticity are to the Body of Christ. Shameful abuse took place within the Church of Christ. The response was hopelessly inadequate. I do not wish to give the impression that I want to go on forever hammering home a message of grief about the past, that I am obsessed with the past. Some ask me: “can we not leave all that aside now, proclaim closure and move on?”

I cannot agree. There can be no overlooking the past. There is no short-cut in addressing the past. The credibility of the Church in this diocese of Dublin will only be regained when we honestly recognise the failures of the past, whatever our share of responsibility for them. There can be no rewriting history. There is no way we should impose fast-track healing on those whose vulnerability was abused.

We have to address the past but we cannot become imprisoned in the past. We cannot allow the freshness and newness of the Gospel message to be anaesthetized; we cannot allow the enthusiasm of our desire to share that message with others to be smothered. We do not seek to impose a message or a way of life on others. We must, however, witness to what the message of Jesus means to us and what it can bring to society and our world. In that sense we must move forward, but we can only do so bearing within us the wounds of what has happened. Yet recognising our woundedness may indeed be our strength, if we witness more authentically to the Jesus who renounced all arrogance of power.

Where do we go from here? We can work on strategies and programmes, but in the first place we must turn to Jesus. He alone has words of eternal life. He alone is the way the truth and the life. Renewal must begin with knowing Jesus and deepening our relationship with Jesus; he alone will give us the strength and the confidence to renew the Church.

Many say to me – especially young people - that they have lost confidence in and even reject what they call “the Church as an institution”, but that they still hold and cherish the message of Jesus. But where do they turn to find that message? They will not find it in popular culture. They will not keep it hoping that their knowledge of Jesus acquired as a child or in school will keep their faith alive as they face the challenges of adult life.

This is where I believe that our project around Saint Luke’s Gospel is so important. If we do not know the scriptures then we will not know Jesus. If we do not know the Jesus of the scriptures then we may end up with a Jesus of our own construction, which will entrap us within our own outlook and never free us. Read the scriptures with an open heart!
Faith in Jesus is not an ideology or a personal view on life. Jesus established a people, not a collection of individuals. Jesus established his Church as communion. The Church is not a group of individuals each with their own faith, but the Body of Christ of which we are all part.

I know that everyone here this morning is here because of their love of the Church and their commitment to the Church. I know that everyone here hurts because of the hurt caused to the body of Christ. May the Church of Christ, built on the Word of God and on the Eucharist, once again appear in our world as a community which reflects the love and the care and the mercy of Jesus.

Let us follow Jesus on the path of his emptying himself of all attachment to false values and allow him to bear and heal the wounds which our own sinfulness and that of others have placed on us. Lord, by your Cross and Resurrection, set us free, Saviour of the World.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)