The Deep End
First Sunday of Lent
1 March 2020
Embrace the Wilderness
We journey into the desert as we begin Lent 2020, and we are encouraged to embrace the richness of this time and the possibilities that lie within. The desert can be unappealing, we may feel a resistance to the challenge, but the potential is enormous. Going inward, praying, fasting, taking on, giving – all of these practices offer us opportunities for genuine spiritual growth. It is through this journey that we can deepen our relationship with the One who urges us on. We should not be afraid of the desert for, as the Gospel today tells us, it is the Spirit who leads us on this path.
Let us bring to mind this season the fact that our global community stands at a crossroads, confronted with a frightening environmental crisis, another type of wilderness. We watched in horror this past year as wildfires destroyed vast ecosystems in the Amazon, Indonesia and Australia, killing an estimated one billion animals, destroying homes and taking lives. Ecologists in Ireland also tell us that to look out at the Irish countryside today is to look and see what is no longer there. Another wilderness.
Lent is an opportunity to examine our lifestyles and to think about our relationship with God’s creation. As Catholic faith communities, let us embrace the challenge to care for our common home in these weeks, making small changes. We can all do something: eliminate single-use plastics, fast from our cars, plant trees, bring a small group together to read Laudato Si, pray for our world leaders. Let this be a time of discerning our call to care more for this planet, our home.
‘Truly much can be done!’
(Laudato Si 180)
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Second Sunday of Lent
8 March 2020
‘Listen to him’
On this second Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of the Transfiguration. It is an account of a significant spiritual experience for the disciples. We can recall in our own lives times when we received a new spiritual insight, moments when we came to know Jesus in a more profound way. These moments change us, they are powerful and can sustain us in difficult times.
During Lent we are invited into a new way of seeing. As our world faces enormous environmental challenges, faith communities have a huge role to play in protecting God’s creation for generations to come. The roots of the environmental crisis are deeply spiritual, for we have become disconnected from nature and forgotten how deeply interconnected everything is. This calls for a deep conversion, a reconnection; to be filled again with a childlike sense of awe and wonder where our relationship with the natural world is concerned. This Lent, let us spend more time in nature, being aware of God’s presence in every created thing. Let us stand awestruck before the beauty of the world.
‘The entire material universe speaks of God’s love … Soil, water, mountains: everything is a caress of God … From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine. Alongside revelation in sacred Scripture, there is a divine manifestation in the blaze of the sun and the fall of night’.
(Laudato Si, 84-85)
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Third Sunday of Lent
15 March 2020
‘Give me a drink!’
In today’s Gospel, we hear the wonderful account of the woman at the well. We hear of physical thirst but also of a much deeper thirst, for connection and conversion.
During Lent, we are invited into the lives of Trocaire’s partners in the global south. We meet Madris in Kenya, who walks around the dusty brown patch of land beside her small home, where she lives with her six children. There are no crops visible, just a few scraggy bushes. Madris tells us, ‘I feel very bad when the rains don’t come because all my plants depend on rainfall.’ Water scarcity worldwide is being accelerated by the climate crisis. Scientists tells us that rain-fed agriculture will drop by 50% world-wide by 2030, due to global warming.
When we think of how we might help, we give, and that is good. But we must also be aware of a deeper conversion that is needed. Change is possible, solutions are there, and as faith communities we are invited into this journey of change. The woman in the Gospel today is so deeply affected by her encounter with Christ that she runs to tell the others. May we also be enthused and open to a real thirst for climate justice, aware that we are called to ‘an ecological conversion whereby the effects of our encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in our relationship with the world around us. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.’ (Laudato Si, 217)
A challenge: How much water do you use? Where water is concerned how can you serve God more fully? For water tips, see www.taptips.ie.
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St Patrick, Bishop, Principal Patron of Ireland
17 March 2020
St Patrick’s Day
Today, in many of the world’s major cities, St Patrick’s Day will be celebrated. In Ireland it has evolved into a weekend festival, celebrating Irish culture. For Christians in Ireland, this day takes on a deeper significance as church communities celebrate the feast of Ireland’s patron saint and the gift of faith. This is an opportunity to reflect on those who passed on this gift of faith to us: grandparents, parents, teachers, religious, friends, strangers. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the significance of the Christian message for our communities today. In a society where racism is increasing, thousands of families are homeless, and a ‘céad míle fáilte’ is not extended to all, Christ’s message of inclusion, justice and love is as relevant and as radical as ever.
Let us reflect on what our faith means to us, the strength and hope it gives us. Let us invite Christ more fully into our lives today and allow ourselves to embrace real transformation. What does it mean to be Christian in Ireland today and try to live as Jesus did? St Patrick endured hardship and persecution, risking a lot in order to bring the Gospel message to people. Let us celebrate this great saint today and also ask that we too may be carriers of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
‘I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to protect me.’
(St Patrick’s Breastplate)
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Fourth Sunday of Lent
22 March 2020 • Laetare Sunday
‘It was your eyes he opened!’
The Trócaire Lenten campaign this year invites us to Kenya, to hear the struggles and concerns of the people of Ishiara parish who are suffering the disastrous effects of climate change. Fr Barasa, the parish priest there, says: ‘Climate change is an important issue within our faith because whatever God created is good. Whatever God created is also related to us; we need the environment and it needs us. What I pray for is that everyone will come together, because one continent cannot do it on its own. I would liketo ask people to work together against climate change. Let us pray for rain and support each other so this planet may still be here for the next generations, so that we may not be the last ones to live here.’
The Gospel today tells the story of the healing of the man born blind who, like us, is being invited to see more clearly, until he finally worships Jesus. In contrast, the Pharisees in the story are becoming more blind. The more clearly the man can see, the more opposition he faces, as those who hold power object to him and his new-found vision. How can we as parish communities work for justice for our brothers and sisters who are in need? We need to see them, to see their struggle, to see the systems which contribute to the crisis. Through small actions we can live in solidarity and challenge those in power to work for transformation.
‘Transformation … begins with the people of God who start turning the things of death into things of life. And the kings and presidents and nations will follow.’
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Fifth Sunday of Lent
29 March 2020
Come forth Lazarus
In today’s Gospel Jesus is surrounded by a culture of death. The disciples are afraid to go back to Bethany, the Jews want to stone Jesus to death, Mary and Martha are distraught over the death of their brother Lazarus, and Lazarus himself lies bound in the darkness of the tomb. It appears as if there is no hope. Jesus weeps for his friend and for those around him.
Yet, surrounded by a culture of death and despair, Jesus gives compassion and new life to those in turmoil. It is easy to say that nothing can be done when we are faced with difficult situations in our own lives. Yet Jesus says ‘Lazarus, come forth’ and to the people he says ‘Unbind him, let him go.’ It is a message for all of us to come away from a culture of death; to help unbind one another and to allow ourselves to emerge from the tomb. We are called to take away the stone. Today’s Gospel is a story of liberation. Jesus gives a new insight into the power of faith over death. It is an active faith, one that urges us on to work for change and new life.
‘What did you do while the planet was plundered? What did you do as the earth was unravelling? Surely you did something as the seasons started failing? Surely you did something as the mammals, reptiles and birds were all dying? Did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen? What did you do once you knew?’
(From Hieroglyphic Stairway by Drew Dillinger)
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