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Listing January - 2012
'How often do I get so hung up on little things that I miss the big things? I can see that clearly in my parenting when I try so hard to get it all done that I forget the love behind why I'm doing it.' ~Kristin Armstrong

It is sometimes easy to forget the bigger picture. Our days are full of things to do, essential jobs to get done, deal with the unexpected and often trying to get several things done at the same time. It's not easy at times, it can often be tiring and sometimes what we do is not always appreciated. But when we think of the bigger picture there is often a good enough reason to keep us motivated. Love is often the reason why. When there is no love, it is simply a cold duty and just done simply for the sake of doing it. Spiritually the love behind everything we do is a link with God, it's a living prayer and something we so often take for granted. All the little things we do are all intertwined and connected in some way. The meeting point between them all is God.
THe following reflection is called 'Jesus the teacher' and is written by Jane Mellett

Have you ever had a teacher who had that something you just couldn't quite put your finger on - that air of authority that made you instantly respect them; that charisma and enthusiasm that inspired you to listen and to think? Maybe you were lucky enough to have a teacher who left a lasting impression or even propelled you towards your chosen career or way of life? Remember how you felt in their presence? What kind of teacher was Jesus? When Jesus taught for the first time in the synagogue, he took the people by surprise. They were 'astonished'. What stands out from the description, and what marks Jesus' teaching apart from everyone else, is that he taught with authority: 'Here is a teaching that is new and with authority behind it.'

His audience had surely been to the synagogue before. Travelling teachers would often preach in the synagogue. Yet, whatever the people were used to hearing, they had encountered no one like Jesus before. Mark points out that 'unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority'. He had something their regular teachers lacked. Those who hear him can see that this is something new and exciting. Even the unclean spirits recognise his authority. We meet Jesus here at the beginning of his ministry; earlier in the Gospel of Mark he has been proclaiming the good news: 'The kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news'. Jesus is not simply teaching the Scriptures as the scribes did. He is proclaiming the coming of God's kingdom.
'Secular freedom is having to do what you want to do. Religious freedom is wanting to do what you have to do.' ~Richard Rohr

There is a world of a difference between having and wanting to do something. Having to do something implies some sort of pressure to do it and that it's almost expected of you. Wanting to do something is much more positive, there is a sense of freedom, enjoyment, fulfilment, energy and that it has a good feel factor to it. This is exactly what Jesus brought with him. He gave people options and invitations. He invited them to move away from what was negative, restrictive, repetitive and burdensome. In place of all that he offered unlimited freedom to be yourself. He got people to throw away the masks they were hiding behind, to throw away unnecessary burdens and instead to enjoy everything that God had given to them. Religion though is often perceived as the exact opposite, restrictive and set in its ways. But it should never be that way and it has so much more to offer than what it is often given credit for.
'The problem we have living in this hurly-burly world is that there seems to be no quiet place where we can listen to God speaking softly inside the depths of our soul. Day after day we are grasping at this or that so that we might be secure and always failing because everything we grasp is as transient as we are.' ~Donald Burt

It's well known about the hectic pace of life. We read about it, hear about it, talk about and yet the hectic pace remains the same. But it's not going to change just for you or me. We must make such a change happen for ourselves. First and foremost we have to make it a priority to create some quiet time for ourselves. Any quiet time is healthy, important, relaxing and also sacred. It is sacred because God can be an important part of any quiet time if we so choose. If we are open to God in our lives, then God will always choose the quietest moment to make the biggest impact. Can I make any quiet moment in my life today or this weekend?
Jesus told them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. ~John 2:7

The story of the wedding at Cana is one of the better known Gospel stories and at times too well known. We are so familiar with the story that we simply switch off when we hear it. It has suffered overplay at weddings and most priests could recite it word for word without a script! Despite our familiarity with the story it still has something fresh to offer if we peel back the outer layers. It was the first miracle worked by Jesus. Over 100 litres of water were changed into superb quality wine. It was a mirror of his own story. Jesus brought in a whole new change, a plan, a vision and a new way of thinking. Like the new wine, it was something no one had anticipated or expected. He asked them to fill the jars with water. It is decision time. If they leave the jars empty, then nothing can happen because there is nothing to change. We too are invited each day to fill the jars with whatever is going on in our lives. We can fill them with our hopes, our struggles, our plans, our daily work, our hurts, our frustrations and our struggles. We are invited to fill them with everything. Jesus in turn will do the changing. The jars of life are often complex but the end result is always worth the wait.
'Change brings opportunity' ~Nido Qubein

Today (Jan 25th) is the feast of the conversion of St.Paul and a reminder that we can still get back on track with some positive change in our lives. Today is a reminder that impossible and unlikely events can and will happen. There have been many significant turnaround stories throughout history and Paul stands high in the list. He was a bully, a dictator and a persecutor. He was mean, hard, cruel and ruthless particularly to the early Christians. But significantly he put his past behind, did a massive u turn and became famous for his missionary work and the spreading of the Gospel. We may not do such a dramatic turnaround in our lives but we can certainly leave some of our past behind. The most important step in leaving negative stuff behind us is that first step forward. Once we've taken it we will know it was the right step and the next one will be much easier. When we constantly dwell on past wrongs we give way to bitterness. Nobody likes a bitter person. Their company is negative with little room for anything positive or wholesome. Like Paul, the call is to leave the past behind and look on today as new beginning. It is the only way forward.
'I have always been positive, fairly optimistic and I'm bloody well sure I'm not going to let this thing change me from that. I see no reason why I should grant it that power and that authority. So to hell with it, I'll deal with it in my own way. I'll process it and come to terms with it.' ~Colm Murray speaking on an RTE documentary last night on his battle with Motor Neuron Disease.

In Ireland a person is diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease every four days. It is a progressive, degenerative disorder that affects nerves in the upper or lower parts of the body. Symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, limb weakness, slurred speech, facial weakness, and muscle cramps. People with motor neurone disease need help with daily activities and have a life expectancy of three to five years after their diagnosis. RTE's well known sports broadcaster Colm Murray spoke movingly on his battle with the disease. He has been open, honest, willing to try new trials, tests and anything that will help the medical teams find a cure for the disease. The documentary last night was such a moving story in Colm's honesty, openness, bravery and willingness to keep going despite the endless obstacles he faces each day. The programme no doubt will give hope and inspiration, not just to other people who have Motor Neuron Disease but for so many who face constant daily challenges that go beyond words. Colm talked about how he had two choices, mourn in desperation by giving up or keep going to fight it and be stronger. His fight, his story, his strength of character and his bravery will be a source of light and hope for so many people.
Two Irish and Egyptian villages separated by 4000km have been united in grief and solidarity by the 'Tit Bonhomme' trawler tragedy. ~ Ralf Riegel

The loss of 5 fishermen off the west Cork coastline when their trawler sank after hitting rocks near Union Hall, has touched an entire nation and beyond. The huge search all week for the bodies has been touching and moving. Three bodies have been recovered so far and the search continues today for more news and hopefully closure for the waiting families. The community support, the number of people willing to search the shoreline for bodies, the offers of help from near and far, the food and refreshments that have been made available, are all signs of a community united in grief. Prayers have been said and words of comfort spoken to help heartbroken friends and families. Somehow and somewhere in the midst of this terribly sad story, the whispers of God's gentle presence can be found. It is normal to feel abandoned by God during tragic stories. But on so many occasions like the one unfolding in Union Hall, we do our best to pick up the bits and pieces and fall out from the tragedy. Somewhere in the middle of it we will find God helping us along too. We pray today for those who have died in this tragic fishing tragedy. We pray for their heartbroken families and for so many who have helped share the burden of pain, in a way that has touched and moved so many more.
Our reflectioin today is by Triona Doherty called 'Something fishy'

Our First Reading today doesn't tell us the whole story. In this, the tail-end of Jonah's story, we see him respond immediately to God's call and head off obediently to preach to the people of Nineveh. But that's only half the story. The earlier chapters of the Book of Jonah saw him stubbornly refuse to do as God asked him, fleeing instead in the opposite direction. It takes a mighty storm, a near shipwreck, and a very close encounter with a big fish to make him see sense and do as he's asked. And even then, as Jonah's story draws to a close, we see him sulking outside Nineveh because he feels God should not have awarded the very forgiveness he himself has preached!He has certainly earned his title of reluctant prophet.

Not so the disciples in today's Gospel. When Simon, Andrew, James, and John are called by Jesus, they leave their nets and their boats 'at once' to follow him. They even leave their families behind, such is their haste to follow Jesus. In the opening pages of the Gospel of Mark, everything happens 'at once' or immediately. Jesus' collecting of disciples is unstoppable and the work of the kingdom too immediate to wait. There's no time for dilly dallying.

It took some time and some convincing, and being swallowed whole by a fish, before Jonah was ready to fulfil God's plan. The disciples, by contrast, are ready and willing to respond to Jesus' call: 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.' The choice is ours.
'Awareness is noticing the blessings that often get overlooked in our busy lives. Gratitude for a special blessing can inspire us to look further and discover even more good in our lives. As we are inspired, let us also be inspiring to others.'~Author Unknown

If we tend to see today as the same as any other day then we have lost our sense of awareness. Yes there is a lot of repetition from day to day in many of the things we do, but the blessings that today will bring will never be the same as the ones you had yesterday and tomorrow is an entirely different story. Busy lives and heavy working schedules put on the blinkers and our awareness of these blessings. Can we pause when a special moment happens? Can we hold it? Can we allow it to inspire us? Every inspiring moment has its roots in God.
'It is always necessary to react strongly to what dehumanises society. It is necessary to join forces together to defeat all forms of marginalisation.' ~Pope Benedict

We are all a hugely significant part of society. Our contribution is important, valued and respected. Our presence in society makes a significant difference. But sadly it doesn't always work out this way. Many people feel they are just a number, that their role is limited, even futile and that no one really values them for who they are. What a shame and what a pity. Is this a new phenomenon? Not at all. Back in the time of Jesus, he constantly met people who were unhappy, disillusioned and marginalised. He did his best to include them but always started by getting each person to believe in their self worth, their uniqueness and the unique contribution each could make. Today the need is even greater to nurture, to encourage, to listen and to simply be there for each other.
There is a story about a beautiful tree that was tall, graceful and mature. Everyone who saw it could only admire it. During the spring it would burst into life, in the summer its leaves were a sight to behold, in the autumn it shone brighter than gold and in winter it stood solid and firm withstanding the cold and wind. One day its roots burst into conversation: "Although no one sees us we give you strength to be as tall as you are. Although we seem barren and hidden, we pull up water and nutrients. You as a tree are only as good as your roots."

At this the soil interrupted: "My dear tree and dear roots, do you not realise that it is the soil which is so often taken for granted and the least praised, which gives you all you have and makes you what you are. Without me, you would not exist. I give you nourishment, security and strength. I am the one who holds you firm. Without me the soil you are nothing."

And so the story goes on to say that all three of them argued it out. Eventually all of them realised that to find the balance, all three of them had to work together with each one as important as the next.
The same can be said of life. Are we sometimes like the tree forgetting about the soil and roots? Do we sometimes feel off balance, without depth or meaning? Or do we strive for balance drawing strength and nourishment from what we believe in, from our family and friends, from love filled moments, from accepting each day as God's precious gift to us, from enjoying the simple moments and treasuring the good news to be found in our daily lives?
'Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.' ~Shirley MacLaine

There is a story told about a man who joined a monastery in which the monks were allowed to speak only 2 words every seven years. After the first seven years had passed, the monk met the abbot, who asked him, "Well what are your 2 words?" "Food's bad", replied the man who then went back to his silence. Seven years later the abbot asked, "Well what are your 2 words this time?" "Bed's hard", came the response. Seven years later and 21 years after his initial entry into the monastery the man met the abbot yet again. "What are your 2 words now?" asked the abbot. "I quit" came the answer. "I'm not surprised" said the abbot with disgust. "All you have done since you got here is complain!" It is easy to fall into the rut of having a negative outlook and to be pessimistic on so many issues. We are saturated with so many negative stories, that at times it seems as if there is no other alternative. But there is so much good news out there. It is vital we mark good news, celebrate and nurture it and to make sure it is given time and space. What space will I give to some good news today even if it's only two words?
'In the quiet of prayer we learn how to keep God's love alive in the world.' ~Author Unknown
All we can hope is that by the witness of our lives as individuals and members of a community of faith, we help other people to catch 'whisperings of faith'.~Richard Sheehy

When it comes to faith matters it is sometimes asked how do you measure faith? How do you measure such results? It's not as simple as a thermometer or a weighing scales. It is much more subtle. All we can do when it comes to faith matters is to be ourselves, believe in who we are and to know that our whispers of faith make a big difference. In any community these whispers are genuine, honest and heartfelt. When you put them all together you really have something really special. They can be felt during moments of celebration, during ordinary and routine moments, during difficult and sad moments. Not to have them is a community without a soul.
The following reflection is written by Triona Doherty

You can tell a lot about a person from where they live. We like to see how people live and to try and work out what their living arrangements and style tells us about them. As children when we made friends, it was a big step to be invited to the home of someone from our class. No matter how close you were in the schoolyard, going to someone else's house was a way of cementing the friendship and getting to know the other person on another level. It is how friendships were forged. As I've got older, I've always enjoyed visiting the home of a friend for the first time after they've moved house. I love the way the same bits and pieces find their home so easily in another place, and how that person's character comes across in the new space. I love how a certain atmosphere and warmth can transfer from one home to another, just because the same person inhabits it.

'Come and see.' It's such an intimate invitation. These new disciples on today's Gospel ask their teacher a simple question - Where do you live? - and he responds with an invitation to 'come and see'. So the disciples tag along. They must have been made very welcome, as they end up staying with Jesus for the rest of the day. This precious early time with Jesus must have set them up for a lifetime of discipleship. We don't know where Jesus lived, or what his living arrangements were, as he set about the early days of his mission. But we know he wanted to invite his disciples to spend time in his presence and to really get to know him.
If you take a glass of water and pour a drop of ink into it, the water will quickly become discoloured all the way through. If you take a stone or pebble and drop it into the same glass of water, it will fall to the bottom and remain in that position. It will not cloud or discolour the water.

The above simple experiment could have been the start of any project at this years BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition. The same application can also be applied with a worry, problem, concern or something negative in our own lives. We have two choices. Like the ink we can let it cloud and taint the whole of our lives or like the stone we can contain it, deal with it and not allow it take over our lives. A lot of news items tend to be sensationalised. All the soap programmes tend to thrive on sensationalism. If it's not sensational or dramatic it is classed as boring and dull. So over time we have got used to dealing with issues and problems like ink. We allow and let them take over our lives. This need never happen. Today we ask God to help us deal with whatever problem or worries we may have. Like the image of the stone/ink, we ask God to help us keep everything in perspective and not allow what's negative to take over our lives.
'You are leaders in your own schools, you are leaders in your own community and in the next decade you will be leaders in business, society and in so many ways we can be proud of. You are great people, God bless you and the best of luck' ~Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking to a huge gathering of young people at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in the RDS

The RDS is the place to be this week where it bubbles with great energy, enthusiasm, hope and energy. So many young people from different parts of Ireland have come to share their projects, ideas and vision. Their enthusiasm is honest and genuine. They have a great openness and willingness to meet every challenge. Their creativity knows no bounds. We may be in a current world recession with many heads down but with the hundreds of exhibitions on display at the RDS there is a cause for great hope. The Taoiseach praised the huge turnout of young people present for their passion to do any job well, to effect change and to create their own future. Their work has given everyone a lift through the many inspiring projects on display. As we journey through these early days of the New Year, we ask God to continue to inspire young people and to encourage them to keep generating fresh ideas and possibilities into our lives each day.
'How did we get the idea that God was distant from us? I suppose it was because many people who spoke to us about God neglected to mention that "God is love" and because some of them had no love for us either.' ~Donagh O'Shea

It would be an interesting survey to find out how many still feel that God is distant from us. What age groups would the results fall into? Our history would suggest that in the past the focus was often in the wrong place. The focus was put on duty, obligation, obedience, consistency and rules. At times it was cold, clinical and just seemed to serve a general purpose. There was no heart or warmth. The idea that God is love, creative, full of surprises, energetic, forgiving, a friend, near us and in the midst of our everyday experiences was often forgotten. Thankfully a bridge has been built and continues to be built. The old story has become a new story full of life, meaning and hope. Never before has the need been greater to have meaning and fulfilment in our lives. When we say God is love we are saying that God is in the midst of everything we do in life, not just the good but also the challenging and difficult times too. If God is distant, aloof and cold why bother? But God as love, near and with us should be our inspiration every single day.

'Signposts are a blessing. Without them chaos reigns. But they are absolutely useless to those who do not have a destination.' ~Chris Hayden

We have all experienced the reassurance of a signpost. When we are in a new place, uncertain where to go, not sure of our bearings, a signpost can make all the difference. Even with modern satellite navigation systems nothing can replace the importance of a good signpost. But any signpost is useless without a destination. Unless we want to go somewhere and be somewhere they are of no use to us. This also has deeper spiritual significance as well. There have been many people in our lives who have also acted as a signpost in our lives. When we needed some encouragement, direction, advice or friendship they were there for us. Without these significant people, we would have struggled on the journey we were on. We are sometimes quietly there for others too and while we may not have thought it at the time we were a significant signpost in their lives. A signpost must also have a destination. Every destination is different but spiritually a common destination is to find a place where we feel we are ourselves, listened to, loved, respected, encouraged, given every chance to grow and maximise our potential. It is a place where we feel relaxed, at ease, energised and looking forward to what each day may bring. This place is where we will also find God much easier. What is your destination for 2012?
'We don't get much choice in many of the things that happen in our lives. But we do get a choice in the matter of whether or not we will find meaning through them.' ~Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

They tell us that during the second week of January our New Year's resolutions often crumble to nothing. It is hard to keep a new momentum going and difficult to keep the initial enthusiasm up. Prayer is often on the list of New Year's resolutions. We like the idea, we know it's important, we can be enthusiastic initially but prayer often slips by to one side. But prayer is always worth the effort especially when we struggle with it. Prayer gives meaning to life, the good moments and also the difficult ones too. Prayer can never make bad events good, it can't wipe away tears or sadness. There will be days when we are angry, upset and frustrated with the harshness of life. Rather than free fall in such a place, we need someone or something to hold onto. Any prayer no matter how short is like a stepping stone. A few stepping stones together and we may have a better view or a new meaning as to why something happened or how we can move on. Your prayer to your God, whoever that is for you, is time well spent today and a New Year resolution worth holding onto.
'Baptism is an outward expression of an inward faith.' ~Watchman Nee

For shopkeepers January must be their least favourite month. After December and Christmas people are slow and reluctant to spend in January. We are not willing to go for the extras only the essentials. Our baptism helps us also to deal with the essentials of life and remind us that God is to be found in the ordinary events of our everyday lives. Our baptism may be a distant memory. It may have been a once off event but its effects lasts a lifetime. It is the fuel of our spiritual lives and should give us the reason to be upbeat and optimistic. Yesterday was the feast of the baptism of Jesus and he was baptised to show us that there is a better way. He was baptised to show that there is light and hope to be found in darkness. His baptism was an outward sign that he will help us along every step of life's journey starting with today. What does our baptism mean for us? It means that God is not absent, distant or removed but with us very much in the essentials of life.


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