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Listing January - 2013
'How rich are the depths of God - how deep is God's wisdom and knowledge and how impossible to penetrate God's motives or understand God's methods. Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?' ~St Paul's letter to the Romans 11:33-34

These lines are one of the most beautiful that Paul wrote. These lines were not just written for the sake of putting a few lines together. They were written by Paul over much reflection on how he felt God was present in his life. Like all of us Paul grappled with the great issues of life only to end up in admiration of God's boundless wisdom. Paul had a great appreciatiion of the richness and depths of God's blessings in his life. Sometimes we might not be as confident or as sure as Paul. But with careful reflection we know that we can point to God's influence and presence in our lives. Such an influence and presence has been a cornerstone of our lives. No event or person can ever take it away from us.
'The Psalms are those prayer poems that capture so many inner moods, ranging from despair to joy, from dark confusion to soaring trust.' ~Michael Paul Gallagher

The psalms may be thousands of years old and one might think that such writings are outdated and out of touch. But today they still hold a unique freshness and energy that speaks to every person who is searching for something deeper in life. Psalm 23 is the most recognised and popular of all the psalms. Lines such as: 'The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. Near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit', have brought much comfort to many. The great thing about the Psalms is how they pick up on every experience in life. They don't play it safe or stay within a safe comfort zone. Every feeling and experience of life is touched on. The constant link between them all is how God holds us, helps us, encourages and directs us through every experience life may throw at us. Is there a line from a Psalm you can remember and is special for you? Why not make it your little prayer today.
'Creativity is not ultimately about public recognition or outstanding achievement. It's about self expression, about nurturing something into life and about the satisfaction this brings with it.' ~Ronald Ronheiser

It's good and important to be creative and it is not limited by age. By being creative we are open to possibility and to God's gentle presence in our lives. When we choose not be creative we can become stale, negative, cynical and lacking energy to do anything. We tend to see people who are creative as the people who achieve much in life and who are always in the public limelight. We often call these people celebrities. But this is only a tiny fraction of the story.

Everyone can be creative and when we do we add something special to each day that God gives us. Creativity can be as simple as reading a book, gardening, baking bread, keeping a journal, going for a walk, texting a friend, coaching the local sports team, playing cards, keeping a diary, enjoying photography, praying, cycling, woodwork and so much more. It doesn't have to get recognition. If you enjoy doing it then you are creative and you add something special to each day that God gives to you.
Yesterday marked the ordination of William Crean as Bishop of Cloyne Diocese. The following is an extract from his homily giving plenty food for thought

Few doubt that there is an air of desolation across the land. So much and so many things combine to dampen if not indeed crush the spirits of many. The discipline and demands of the "Troika" weigh heavily on us. Jesus was critical of those who placed excessive burdens on peoples' shoulders. Is it not time that major financial institutions do more of the heavy lifting? - the people have done their share.

Beneath these economic woes there are issues of the spirit that need more of our attention. Our souls cry out for "calm from the storm". Anxiety and depression reign in the hearts of so many. Family relationships are strained to the limit as they try to cope. Despite these challenges we journey in hope and with resilience. This year we celebrate a Year of Faith to mark 50 years since Vatican II which gave us a renewed vision of the Church's mission in the world.

My friends when I speak of heart and the aspiration for a new vitality I speak not just of the Church but Society too. To nurture that spirit calls for a new positive engagement in public discourse. Cynicism serves no one and resolves nothing. There are those who believe that the mission of the Church belongs to history. I say it was never so relevant and contemporary in its wisdom and insight. The Church is duty bound to engage positively in the public discourse. I believe we can and will be a leaven in that dialogue. Change is a constant reality. The question for all is "Can we bring with us the vigour and truth of the Gospel as we together seek to rebuild the nation for a new generation?"
The following reflection is by Jane Mellett

Today Jesus declares 'the year of God's favour'. This is one of the most powerful passages in the New Testament. If Jesus were running for president, this would be his campaign speech. The 'year of God's favour' refers to a Jewish concept of Jubilee where all debts are cancelled and there is a redistribution of wealth and property amongst the community. In the Old Testament this is said to have been declared every 50 years as God interrupts the human systems that create poverty. Imagine a community that lived in such a way. When things went wrong or when people got into trouble, we declared 'Jubilee' and started afresh. Jubilee is so called after the ram's horn that was used to declare it. Jubilee was meant to dismantle structures of inequality. It shows us God's unending compassion, mercy, generosity and justice. It was a year of restoration. Remember the year 2000 (Jubilee) 'Drop the Debt campaign'? Imagine a world where every few decades we declared the year of God's favour and all debts were cleared, slaves set free and wealth redistributed amongst the community. That is economics according to God. That is how the early Christians tried to live. And so we continue a reading of the Gospel of Luke - one that is concerned with justice, poverty and the rights of all.
The 10 commandments for a long and peaceful life

(1) Thou shalt not worry, for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.
(2) Thou shalt not be fearful, for most things we fear never come to pass.
(3) Thou shalt face each problem as it comes. You can handle only one at a time.
(4) Thou shalt not cross bridges until you get to them, for no one yet has succeeded in accomplishing this.
(5) Thou shalt not take problems to bed with you, for they make very poor pillows.
(6) Thou shalt not borrow other people's problems. They can take better care of them than you can.
(7) Thou shalt be a good listener, for only when you listen do you hear ideas different from your own. It's very hard to learn something new when you are talking.
(8) Thou shalt not re-live yesterday, for good or ill it is gone. Concentrate on what is happening in your life today.
(9) Thou shalt not become bogged down by frustration, for 50% of it is rooted in self pity and will only interfere with positive actions.
(10) Thou shalt count thy blessings, never overlooking the small ones for a lot of small blessings add up to a big one.
'The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.' ~H Norman Schwarzkopf

Philosophy says: Think your way out
Indulgence says: Drink your way out
Politics says: Spend your way out
Science says: Invent your way out
Industry says: Work your way out
Communism says: Strike your way out
Fascism says: Bluff your way out
Militarism says: Fight your way out
The Bible says: Pray your way out
Jesus Christ says: I am the way out
'Life may be tough, but I've got a God that's tougher.' ~Sashauni Aaeliyae

It would be great if there was a simple formula in our search for God. We are often unsure where to start and how to begin. Our searches are many, from our local church, attending Mass and saying prayers that vary from traditional to deeply personal. Some prefer to extend the search for meaning and fulfilment. These searches include finding God in the humdrum of daily life, music, reading, reflection, meditation, relaxation and so on. Whatever and wherever our search, it is good that we are searching. The one link in every search is that God is often closer to us than we can imagine.

But for many this can sometimes be simply a step too far. Circumstances in life and personal tragedies have led people to feel abandoned by God. Sometimes the feeling is a betrayal and a deep hurt. We need to respect and hold such feelings. God never abandons any of us but sometimes even those who are rock solid with their faith and beliefs can also struggle to explain why life can be sometimes so cruel. Sometimes we just can't answer the question: "where was God?". Even when we don't have the answers we still must hold onto the anchor that God is close to us, with us, near us and always with us even during the darkest of days.
'The word 'abide' is used repeatedly in John's Gospel. It is variously translated as 'live' and 'remain' and 'make your home'. It is a beautiful word' ~Donagh O'Shea

Many years ago a home was often referred to as an "abode". Sometimes today we might hear someone say "Welcome to our humble abode". But for the most part it's not a word we use today. The word "abode" is related to abide. You could call them first cousins. It is the use of the word in John's gospel that is interesting.

The spiritual writer Fr. Donagh O'Shea points out that it is a beautiful word and so it is. Whether we want to refer to it as live in me, remain in me or make your home in me, the invitation is always the same. It is a gentle welcome from God who loves us intimately and affectionately. God is always waiting for us. Nothing or no one can change this certainty. We may not use the word abide much these days but the meaning behind the word should remain fresh and always within our reach. Can we abide in God during any part of today?
'Our possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. We are made for this moment, and we will seize it - so long as we seize it together.' ~President Barack Obama speaking at his inaugral speech yesterday

Barack Obama has a massive following right across America and indeed across the world. He certainly has a difficult job to do in trying to keep the books balanced, striving to keep peace and leading people through every situation particularly uncertainty. He always strives to capture the enthusiasm, openness and energy of people. He is very much aware of people power, team work and how we are all made for this moment. Many of these moments cross our path each day and we have to seize them with confidence. It is the only way forward. May God bless and direct him during the next four years.
'Sometimes you have to forget about all the things that are upsetting you, and focus on things that make you happy.' ~Author Unknown

There is a story told about a school principal who asked his staff to write out their new year's resolutions about how they could be better teachers for the coming year and that they would be put on the staff bulletin board. The teachers agreed and when the resolutions were posted, they all gathered around the bulletin board to read them. One of the younger teachers suddenly started giving out: "He didn't put up my resolution. It was one of the first ones submitted. He doesn't care about me. That just shows what it's like around here." On and on the teacher ranted and raved. The principal, who overheard this from his office, was mortified. He hadn't meant to exclude the resolution or any of his staff. Quickly rummaging through the papers on his desk, he found it and immediately posted it on the bulletin board. The resolution read, "I resolve not to let little things upset me anymore."

We sometimes fall into the trap of allowing the small things of life upset and trip us over. Everyone has to deal with the small things not going right for us each day. But we simply have to deal with them and just get on with life. In the context of the bigger story and what other people and families have to go through, our little upsets just fade into insignificance.
The following reflection is by Jane Mellett called 'Wedding Feast at Cana'

As we leave behind the Christmas season, we move into the stories of Jesus' earthly ministry. In the Church calendar we have entered into what is called 'Ordinary Time'. However, there is nothing 'ordinary' about 'Ordinary Time' as it is during these weeks that we hear about all the extra-ordinary things that Jesus did during his earthly life. Today's Gospel of the Wedding at Cana is no exception. It follows on from the story of the Wise Men, and of Jesus' Baptism in revealing to us who Jesus is.

For Jews, a wedding was a great symbol of the Kingdom of God. John calls this account a sign, something that is pointing us to a deeper reality. We don't know whose wedding it is and no one is addressed by their name apart from Jesus. It is a strange story. We can focus on the generosity of the gift in this story. Each stone jar could hold between 20 and 30 gallons of water, six of those would be 120 gallons of water. So how much wine did Jesus provide for the wedding? Let's say about 120 gallons (500 litres!). This was no small amount of wine that Jesus gifts to the couple. It is showing huge generosity and quality (he saved the best wine until last). We can thank God today for the abundance of gifts that he has given us - family, friends, creation, food, health. What else are you thankful for today?
'Despite real differences and difficulties between churches, the ecumenical glass is half full and not half empty. The fact is that the words of the Gospel are unique, universal and for all times.' ~Brendan Leahy

This week we celebrate a week of prayer for Christian unity. It is an international Christian ecumenical observance kept annually between 18 January and 25 January. It is actually an octave, an observance lasting eight days. Down through the years so many divisions tarnished unity. Many of these divisions reflected the pettiness of human nature. In Northern Ireland great strides have been made in recent years to extend the hand of friendship across the religious and political divide. But recent rioting in Belfast shows just how fragile things can get between different communities.

Our world today is made up of many faiths. For too long the emphasis has always been on differences and dominance. What's the point of prayer for Christian unity? It is a reminder that the emphasis is now on common ground and the strength of working together. What unites us is far greater than what divides us. At the end of the day we believe in the same God and it's recognising that people do it in different ways. No one way can ever say it's the only way.
'All things have a home, the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without prayer is a soul without a home' ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

Much has been written and said about prayer. Few will argue on how important prayer is and few will argue on how difficult it is to do it. The great thing about prayer is the variety of prayers, how there are so many different ways of praying and how each one is as valid as the next. If something works for us great and to know that what works for someone else may not work for us. The benefits of nourishing our soul/spirit are important. There are many ways we can do it such as getting out for a walk, listening to relaxing music and working in the garden. Doing it through our own prayer time has been know to be of great benefit and has tested the time of all the generations who have gone before us. Whether it is a prayer of thanks, a prayer of praise, a prayer for help, a prayer of petition or a prayer of just being still, each one is of special value. It's not always about having words or it's not always about getting it right. It's not always about getting results but just doing our best and knowing that every prayer does make a difference.
'A grain of rice will tip the balance' ~Páidí O Sé speaking to his Westmeath team ahead of the Leinster Football final against Laois

There was a repeat programme last night on RTE about the late Páidí O Sé and his involvement with Westmeath in 2004. The programme and the cameras followed Páidí as manager of Westmeath that year. It was a lovely insight into a man who simply loved football, who was passionate about the game and whose direct choice of words simply inspired. People thought they had let the chance to win the Leinster football final slip by, when they allowed Laois to score a late point and take it to a replay. But Páidí regrouped the team and got them to believe again in their ability to win their first ever Leinster final which they did. His words "a grain of rice will tip the balance", is so true of many things in life. A grain of rice might seem totally insignificant, not worth much and hardly something to make a difference. Yet one grain could simply tip the balance. One kind word, one smile, one prayer, one word of encouragement, one word of thanks, one word of sympathy or one gesture of kindness will tip the balance. What will my grain of rice be today?
'Life is full of beginnings, some genuine and some only apparent. We all strive, at some stage in life, to make a new start, to move on, hoping somehow to improve the quality of our lives.' ~Brian Doyle

The start of a new year is always greeted with a sense of expectation. We hope things will work out for us, hoping to change something in our past and resolving to try something new. Today marks the half way point in January. How time flies. Our new years resolutions probably seem in the distant past now. Our initial enthusiasm may have drifted and faded. This is normal and few can maintain the energy needed to sustain new beginnings and fresh changes over a period of time.

But this should not stop us from shying away from beginnings. A fresh start and a new beginning is what sustains life. At the heart of the Gospel stories is how Jesus constantly encouraged people to seize a fresh start and to have the strength and courage to follow through with any change. Massive sweeping changes rarely work but one small positive change is the one that can make all the difference. Today is a fresh start and a new beginning. Nothing matters more than what happens today.
'Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but both look out at the same universe. Both are worthy of respect.' ~Physicist Freeman Dyson

It was great to attend the 2013 BT Young Scientist Exhibition during the week at the RDS in Dublin. There were 1,197 students displaying 550 projects. They hugely impressed teachers, parents, judges and the 45,000 people who viewed the projects. Cork did exceptionally well with Ciara Judge, Sophie Healy-Thow and Emer Hickey from Kinsale Community School winning the overall prize. I now it's a cliche but the 1,197 students who took part were the real winners. Each student started many months ago with an idea, pondered on it, thought about it, developed it, worked on it and in the end produced something really special.

This is the beauty of science. It gives us a unique window into our world, working together to generate new possibilities and beginnings. Science allows us to understand our world so much better based on evidence, which is then open to testing, scrutiny, peer review and assessment. Religion on the other hand is not in competition with science. It simply is a different window looking into this amazing world of ours, created by God and slowly evolving over millions of years. Religion allows us to look at it from a completely different angle, allowing us to reflect on deeper questions and knowing there is a deeper meaning to life. Having attended all four days of the 2013 BT Young Scientist, I can confidently say that our future is bright with the enthusiasm, energy and creativity of our 1197 Young Scientists!


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