'Until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have.' ~Doris Mortman
Much of the unhappiness in our world today has its roots in how we see ourselves. Too often we put ourselves down and fall into the tempting trap of comparing ourselves to others. God never makes comparisons or compares us to someone else. We can never live up to be someone else but we can live up to who God created us to be. We can begin this by believing in what we have to offer. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering but our little is all that God wants. Others may demand much but never God. God always wants to extend peace to us. Can we make peace with ourselves first and in particular as we journey through these weeks of Lent? Can we let the negative and cloudy parts of our past behind and move on. It is the only way forward.
‘The human spirit is very important. It is seen as residing everywhere in each person. The heart is the home of the spirit. The spirit moves in the blood, sparkles in the eyes, shines in the hair, is felt in the touch, rings in the voice, dances in ones laughter and flows in one’s tear.’ ~Geraldine Flannery
Across Ireland Confirmation ceremonies begin around now and will continue for the coming few months. I'm sure it is a similar experience in other countries across the world. It is an occasion of great joy and celebration for all our young people being confirmed. The human spirit is an essential part of each person. It is the mirror of our soul. Like anything living it needs nourishment and care. The Holy Spirit in Confirmation connects with it in a truly special way. This is impossible to describe or put it into words. It’s called a sacred moment and that’s why every Confirmation ceremony is indeed a sacred moment. As we pray for all who are being confirmed we also ask the Holy Spirit to guide each of us as well and to continue nourishing our human spirit.
‘Much is sometimes made of the seeming lack of religious knowledge or adherence to Church teaching of the young. But you will often find them to be just as kind and thoughtful and if we’re truthful, perhaps also a little more honest, than some of us from earlier generations.’ ~Paul Clayton-Lea
It is sometimes easy to look at what is negative and forget the good and positive all around us. This is especially true of young people. Perhaps they don’t always get 10/10 when it comes to faith matters but they most certainly get many 10/10’s when it comes to openness, honesty, generosity, kindness and a willingness to embrace what’s new and challenging. Their energy and enthusiasm is better than any power station. Their sense of fun and friendship is touching. We’ve a lot to learn from them and maybe we need to give them more credit than we actually do. Today is a good day to pray for all our young people. We ask God to gently guide and direct them in all they do.
‘Life is like a cup of tea. It depends on how you make it.’ ~Author Unknown
When it comes to making the tea there are so many traditions. Some like it quick and instant, throwing the bag into the cup and hoping for a quick cup. The scalding of the tea pot is one that seems to guarantee a nicer cup. Some like it strong, some very weak and some middle of the road. Like tea, life depends on how we make it. Our attitude, our approach and our value system all make a difference. If we’re going to sit back and hope that everything might come lucky then we are going to be disappointed. If we don’t put in the effort we’re also going to be let down. Each day is God’s precious gift to us. Like making a cup of tea its up to us to make the most of it.
‘Two thirds of the poorest people in the world live in rural areas, relying for survival on rain fed agriculture. As a result of climatic change, rainfall has become far less predictable.’ ~Trocaire
Every year Trocaire picks some particular project for their Lenten campaign. This year they are focusing in on climate change. We are all to some degree affected by climate change but it is in developing countries where the most serious impact is already being felt. Drought is now the most catastrophic natural event affecting food production, particularly in Africa. It is estimated that 250 million people will face severe water shortages within the next 15 years. This could mean a 50% reduction in crop yield. By developing irrigation schemes that bring water into communities and into households, Trocaire is helping people to change their lives. Every time we use water this weekend we can remember just how lucky we are and if our Trocaire box is looking lean and light we know what needs to be done!
‘Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.’ ~Mary Ann Radmacher
The best of plans don’t always work out. There is always some twist or some unexpected turn in our everyday lives that can throw us off track. If it continues over time it can get us down. Complaining, giving out and blaming others can often fall on deaf ears. But just at the moment when we’re about to give up is the moment when we need courage. We need it to keep going. We need it to remind us that we most certainly can try again tomorrow. We need courage to keep us motivated and focussed. Many prayers have been put together asking for courage especially prayers to the Holy Spirit. We pray for courage and strength to face everything we have planned for today.
‘A prayer was found in a concentration camp where thousands of people had been starved and gassed to death. The prayer said, ‘Lord, may the fruits of our sufferings which made us support, care and encourage each other in pain, be collected together and accepted as a gift of forgiveness for those who tortured us. Look not on their evil deeds but on our blessings on their behalf.’
What a beautiful prayer but so challenging. How could anyone be so open, positive and forgiving in such awful circumstances. It really goes against the grain but then again throughout our scripture readings the call is to be open and forgiving even to those we don’t like. Is there any area of our lives that we need to let go of during these weeks of Lent and replace it with forgiveness? A humble, honest and forgiving attitude in life always goes a long way.
‘If you don’t get everything you want, think of the things you don’t get that you don’t want.’ ~Oscar Wilde
Much has been written about prayer. The value and merits of it have been well documented. But it doesn’t always work for everyone and for some, prayer has left them disappointed. They asked for something and their prayer wasn’t heard or so it seems. But if you were to sum up all the great writings on prayer, all would say that every prayer is answered in some way. It may not be in the way we expected, it may not be straight away but every prayer has some benefit and is never wasted. That’s why prayer can be such a precious gift not just to you but to so many others as well. Every time we pray for someone, we extend our love, concern and support to them. We may not fully understand why or how but it’s enough to know that God is doing far more than we realise.
‘We are the wire, God is the current. Our only power is to let the current pass through us.’ ~Carlo Carretto
The image of the wire and current is an appropriate image. We sometimes forget that we are the instrument. Through us God can do so much. All we have to do is let God flow through us and in all we do. Our lives will be enriched and nourished. But unless we fist turn on the switch the current won't flow. Perhaps an appropriate prayer today might be, Lord, you are the current and lifeline of my life.
I ask you to give me enough power and energy
to get me through this day.
‘How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.’ ~Ann Frank
As we move into the second weekend of Lent, Ash Wednesday is becoming a distant memory. The initial burst of enthusiasm at the beginning of Lent is hard to maintain. Sometimes it even fizzles out after a few days. At least it’s comforting to know that we’re not on our own and it’s normal and human. It would be a pity though to throw the towel in. Why not use today and this weekend to do something good and positive. It could be a great starter in getting my Lenten journey back on track again. It’s not about changing the world but much more about improving my own personal journey through these weeks of Lent.
‘Loving is not just looking at each other, it’s looking in the same direction.’ ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
More fresh flowers are cut and sold today than any other time of the year. A recent survey says that 73% of people who will buy flowers today are men! Cards and chocolates will also do a bumper trade. For some it’s all a commercial extravagance, while for many it’s an opportunity to genuinely show someone we love and care. Like many things in life it is so easy to take much for granted. It’s good to have at least one day to make sure we move out of the rut of complacency. Maybe the best gift we can give our loved one today is a promise to show how much they mean to us more often. Someone put it well when they said to love someone is nothing, to be loved by someone is something but to be loved by the one you love is everything. We also celebrate today God’s unique love for us. We are valuable because God loves us and nothing or no person can ever take that from any of us.
‘Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world. ~Virgil Kraft
Lent translates as ‘springtime’. Everyone welcomes spring, warmer days, the arrival of flowers and new life bursting forth in nature. Lent can also be a time for spiritual growth and renewal. It is always great to be able to open windows on a fine fresh day. You can feel the breeze rushing in to sweep out the stale air. Lent is all about removing what is stale in our lives and allowing life and growth to replace it. Lent is a journey, not just a day or two put together in isolation. As we journey through Lent we invite God into our lives. We especially ask God to replace what’s stale and stagnant with life, energy and freshness.
'Take the first step in faith. You don't have to be able to see the whole staircase. Just take the fist step.' ~Martin Luther King Jnr
As we begin our journey through Lent this is great advice. Like any journey we have to begin by taking the first step. Lent is full of promsie and opportunity. Unfortunately it is sometimes seen in negative terms. Lent becomes an obstacle when we try to take too many steps. Trying to see the whole staircase or attempting to become a perfect Christian seldom works. A prayer starter today might be: 'Lord give me the courage to take the first step in coming closer to you. Help me to take one positive step forward in my life this Lent. Amen'
‘Do not find fault with the person who limps or stumbles along the road unless you have worn the shoes they wear or struggled beneath their load. There may be tacks in their shoes that hurt though hidden away from view. Or the burden they bear when place on your back might cause you to stumble too.’ ~Old Irish saying
Everyone has their own unique story. For some their story is particularly sad and painful. We are experts at hiding or masking what’s going on within. What is sad and painful may be hidden behind a brave face or sometimes it is quite evident. Either way we need to allow for the unexpected and the unknown in someone’s life. Something even as simple as a smile or a friendly word of support can ease a burden considerably. Instead of knocking or finding fault, I need to understand that there may be something of greater significance going on for that person. We pray for anyone who is stumbling along with some sad news in their life.
‘Jesus taught us to love people and to use things. But in our society we use people and love things.’ ~Richard Rohr
What a wise reflection and so true. We have placed great importance on things such as cars, clothes, gadgets and houses. It’s easy to try and be ‘one up’ on others. We’ve got so used to it that we do it automatically. That’s why we love things and sadly we have projected our sense of worth on what we have and what we own. Happiness comes from within, so it’s going to be much harder to find it if we expect it outside of ourselves. Jesus in our Gospels encourages us to use things and not love them. There is a world of a difference between the two. Most importantly we are encouraged to love each other, to respect difference and to nurture every bit of good news. The only time ‘one up’ is allowed on someone is if it’s a word of praise, encouragement or thanks.
‘Lent is above all a time of prayer, for withdrawing a little from the hustle and bustle of daily life to be alone with God.’ ~Vincent Twomey
It seems like yesterday that we put away the Christmas decorations and here we are today celebrating Ash Wednesday. The last time it was this early was back in 1913 and it won’t start as early again until 2160. Why do we put dirty ashes on our foreheads today? It’s not a good luck charm but an outward sign that we’re mortal, fragile and merely pilgrims passing through this world. We take them to remind us that we are part of the creation of God and that we’re also equal in God’s eyes. They are also ashes of hope reminding others that we’re willing to do something positive in our spiritual lives. Lent may be early, we may not be quite ready for it but it has the promise and potential to be a worthwhile journey.
Today is pancake Tuesday and there are different reasons why it falls on the day preceding Lent. The forty days of Lent have traditionally been associated with fasting during which plain foods are eaten. Therefore rich ingredients such as eggs, milk and sugar are disposed of before the fast begins which is why pancakes are an efficient way of using up these perishable goods.
There is nothing quite like the taste of a pancake when it comes straight off the frying pan. The idea of making the pancakes the day before Ash Wednesday makes a lot of sense. It was a handy way of preparing for leaner times ahead. We live in a world today where there is so much excess, waste and greed. There are many examples but food is probably the best. As many people starve across the world there are so many others dumping and throwing away food. Sometimes we forget that our food is indeed a gift from God. Pancake Tuesday reminds us to be grateful for the food we have and to be mindful that others are not as fortunate as we are. We give thanks to God for the food we eat today.
‘If someone lives a cautious, fearful and risk free life in order to ensure that they will get to heaven, it seems to me to be a negation of Christianity.’ ~Tony Flannery
The option of playing safe is an attractive one. Why bother if someone else can do it? Why take a risk if it’s going to end in disappointment? Why try something new and different if what’s old has worked before? Why be open to possibility when it demands time and effort? It’s also easier to play safe in relation to spiritual matters. Playing it safe equates to not upsetting God. But playing it safe is actually an insult to God. God wants us to be free and open. We’re encouraged to be positive and creative, to be open and honest and to love even if a risk is involved.
It’s about living our lives to the full, seizing every opportunity to love and to do our best. Playing safe is certainly at the bottom of God’s list of priorities.
Virtually nothing is known with certainty about the life of St.Blaise but as long as people suffer from sore throats, devotion to him will live on. We're told he came from a wealthy background who became a bishop at an early age. In order to escape persecution he took refuge in a cave where his only companions were wild animals. He cured them of various ailments and many came to to receive his blessing.
His association with sore throats perhaps originates in the fact that at least in Europe his feast day comes at the time of year when people are most likely to be suffering from a sore throat. It is said that while in prison he cured a boy who had a fish bone stuck in his throat. He healed many people and was hugely popular in his time. His popularity is as strong as ever today and many get their throats blessed during this day.
Today is his feast day and we ask his many blessing on us. Amen
‘There is not enough darkness in the entire world to put out the light of even one small candle.’ ~Robert Alden
Today is Candlemass day and in many Churches candles are blessed. These candles will then be used throughout the year for many different occasions. Candles are also used in homes to create ambiance and atmosphere. They come in all shapes, colours, sizes and scents.
From a faith perspective candles have always represented the light of Christ. We live in a world that is often darkened by evil and darker forces. We believe that the light of Christ is powerful and strong enough to wipe out all forms of darkness. We have to choose the light, we need to share it with others and we need to be proud of our own light. Today we invite God’s light into our lives, into our darker corners and wherever such light is most needed at the moment.
"Reflect upon your present blessings of which everyone has many; not on your past misfortunes of which all have some." ~Charles Dickens
It"s always good to reflect. We often though reflect only on our own misfortunes, our mistakes and all the regrets of the past. Sometimes we even crucify ourselves on all that"s gone wrong in our lives, blaming ourselves and others for what has happened. We do it so much that it often clouds all the good around us. Today the feast of St.Brigid is a day to reflect on all our present blessings and all the good around us. She had time for everyone including the poor but above all she inspired people to greater things. Using rushes she wove them all into a cross, to remind us that all the different strands of our lives are connected. They are connected not by chance but by the gentle presence of God in our lives. We ask her many blessings on us today.