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Listing May - 2013
'Love is like tug of war. It's so hard to hold on, but for some odd reason, you just can't let go.' ~Author Unknown

It's a fascinating game watching two teams play tug of war particularly when both teams are very even and balanced. The rope is really tight and hardly moving. The tension if it could be measured in the rope is really high. Eventually something gives and once the other team sniff a weakness or a give, they usually pull on to win. It is a great team sport and not for the faint hearted! Life can be like tug of war as well. Sometimes we can be the middle point of the rope, stuck in between and caught between what to do and what not to do. Life can pull and drag us when we just want peace and quiet. If only life was just straightforward allowing for everyone to pull in the same direction. But life is not straightforward as we so well know.

Spiritually people can pull God in all directions too. Some seem to think its pull this way and no other way. Then others think it's best to pull God in whatever way they like. Jesus in our Gospel stories encouraged everyone to pull in the same direction and we'll be sure to find God pulling in our direction. Which way are you pulling God's rope today?
'When you're stressed, you eat ice cream, cake, chocolate and sweets. Why? Because stressed spelled backwards is desserts!' ~Author Unknown

Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you're constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. You can protect yourself by recognising the signs and symptoms of stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.

One solution that has never failed is to chat and talk. The old saying, "A problem shared is a problem halved", did not come from nowhere. A 50% reduction by just sharing a stressful worry or concern is hard to beat. We are sometimes slow to share. It seems to be out there somehow that if I talk I'm a failure. How untrue and sharing something is always a step forward we will never forget. Stress = upset, restlessness and not ourselves. Talking/sharing = carrying a much lighter load. Taking a walk, getting some fresh air, doing something we like doing = less stress. Praying = much less stress. Has stress become a way of life for you? Can you do anything about it?
The gardens at Ennismore Retreat House in Montenotte are very impressive, particularly at this time of year. The following reflection called 'In Your Garden' is written in front of the greenhouse in the main garden.

In your garden you forget about that unkind thing that someone said.
When you are busy pulling weeds out of the border bed, you forget the petty things that set your nerves on edge.
When you're turning up the soil or clipping the hedge, you forget the unfair way that someone treated you.
When you get out in the garden for an hour or two, it is strange how quickly you forget your wants and woes.
When you're planting seedlings out or tying up a rose, you forget the cares that make you feel like you're growing old.
When you see the green new shoots come pushing through, troubles that looked big indoors will suddenly seem small.
When you're working in the garden, you tend to forget them all.
'God is community, a community built on love in all its forms. As we bless ourselves today, remember that we are symbolising that great mystery of God, that community of persons, the relationships of love that we are invited into, relationships of giving and receiving, relationships of community and life.' ~Jane Mellett

Yesterday Trinity Sunday was celebrated. We so often make the sign of the cross without even thinking. But it is a lovely simple prayer surrounding ourselves in God's protection not once or twice but three times. One could get completely bogged down in trying to understand the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A much more practical understanding is that God is love and that God is a community built on love. There are many things in our world that we do not understand and there are darker forces out there that sometimes seem to dominate. But God's love will always be visible and wherever its presence or energy is, we have nothing to fear. We are not in isolation but part of a community built on love in all its forms. Trinity may be surrounded in mystery but there is no mystery about the difference God's love makes in our world and lives.
'Whoever wants milk should not sit on a stool in the middle of a field expecting the cow to back up to them' ~Author Unknown

In towns and cities we sometimes forget how milk and butter are made. Farmers put a lot of hard work into producing these products and as we know recently are so dependant on good weather. One thing is for certain a cow won't come to you in the middle of a field to give you milk! There are a lot of things in life that won't come to us by themselves either. We have to make the effort and make the opportunity happen. It is easy to complain, give out and criticise. Sometimes the best answer is to get up, be pro active, do what we might have been putting off and make the most of the good moments that will come our way today.
'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' ~Philippians 4:13

There is a lovely saying that says success comes in cans and failure comes in can'ts. The stories throughout scripture put the emphasis very much on what we can do. There are enough who will say you can't or you that you won't be able to. Thankfully there are still those who believe in us, believe in our ability, believe in our story, believe in our goodness and believe that we are indeed special. There are similar echoes throughout scripture. God believes in us constantly, with no interest in our can'ts and just total belief in everything we can do.
In many schools 6th Year Graduation Masses/Prayer services are taking place this week. The following reflection was read yesterday in Coláiste Choilm Ballincollig, by Brigid McAuliffe whose son Donnchadh was graduating

On behalf of the parents I offer you the light of love. This is a light we lit for you a long time ago. It is the light you depended on in those early days, the light you ran to when things went wrong, the light that was left on for you because you were too afraid of the dark. This is the light that waited up for you when you were late home and the light that was always there even though, just sometimes, you wished it wasn't! Carry this light of love into the world where real love is rare and precious. Use it to light the path in your search of love and to be loved. And when you find that the light is flickering, blown by the storms of pain and rejection, remember that there will always be a light burning for you in that place called home.
'Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lesson afterwards.' ~Author Unknown

We know that experience can get us through many aspects of life, through what is certain but also through the unknown. Experience is often hard earned. It might be a difficult job interview that didn't go well, the game we should have won but threw away, the decision we should have made but didn't. We spend our lives gathering experiences but they all do stand to us. What is our experience of God? For many people it is wide and varied. All our experiences of God are valid and important. The great lesson of life is to feel loved and cherished. This should be the goal of all our experiences especially that of God.
'People will try and tell you that all the great opportunities have been snapped up. In reality the world changes every second, blowing new opportunities in all directions, including yours.' ~Ken Hakuta

Confusion is part and parcel of life. Clarity is great but not everything in life has such clear defined boundaries. Much of faith and spiritual matters try to bring clarity to the confusion of life and also to our own lives. This weekend just gone we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. The Holy Spirit does many wonderful things but in particular helps us when we are confused and unsure. Rather than be gripped by such confusion and fear, we are invited to keep going and not give up. We pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction when we are confused and unsure. It should always be an opportunity and never a defeat.
'Donal Walsh you were an inspiration. Thank you for making me appreciate the beautiful world that we live in. I hope to continue on your amazing outlook on life.' ~Brian Murray (5th year student in Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig)

So many tributes have been paid to Donal Walsh throughout last week and in all the papers yesterday. Lots of news stories are quickly superseded by something else new and fall by the wayside. But the story of Donal Walsh is not going to go away in a hurry and his inspirational story will continue to inspire. In an open letter published earlier this year, Donal - who had fought cancer three times - said hearing of young people taking their own lives had made him angry. "I feel angry that these people choose to take their lives, to ruin their families and to leave behind a mess that no one can clean up," he had said. "Yet I am here with no choice, trying as best I can to prepare my family and friends for what's about to come."

We sometimes talk about the ripple effect when you throw a stone into still water and how the ripples go out and out. It is much the same with Donal. The ripple effect of what he believed in, his bravery, his courage, his determination and his love of life have touched so many. No politician, pop singer, celebrity or sports star could have got across a message in the way he did. Even his openness to God was touching. He received Communion each morning from his mum and again at night after he had said his prayers. Brendan O'Connor summed it up yesterday: "Donal embodied many values that we maybe feel are lost, values we had lost ourselves, values that he reawakened in many of us." May he rest in peace.
The Thought For Today is by Jane Mellett

We can probably recall times when we were afraid, bewildered, felt like everything was falling apart and the doors were firmly locked. Today's Gospel shows us that even in those difficult times, there is always hope. Jesus came and stood amongst the disciples even though the doors were firmly closed. The peace that he gives them (Shalom) has a much more significant meaning than we first think.

The peace that Jesus offers is a peace that this world cannot offer. It is a peace that comes from a loving relationship with God. It is a peace of body, of mind and of spirit. In the Gospel of John the account of Pentecost is a lot less dramatic than Luke's version. The Holy Spirit comes gently, in a breath. John emphasises the importance of forgiveness in the mission to come. The disciples are being sent out to reconcile people to God, to restore relationships in the world. Forgiveness is costly but it has the power to transform people and heals destruction in the world, it offers that peace, that Shalom. It is through the Spirit that God is present to us in the world, doors are opened, fear turns to courage as we are sent out to work for a Kingdom of love and justice.

I put the following reflection up on April 19th a few weeks ago and I'm putting it up again today to mark Pentecost Sunday

'You do not have to bring the Holy Spirit to where you are. The Spirit is there already. Your task is to discover and recognise him/her.' ~Gerry Crotty

Confirmation ceremonies are taking part in many parishes during these weeks of spring. It is always a great occasion for the young people involved, their school, their teachers, their parents and friends. Anyone who has attended such a ceremony is impressed with the quality of preparation, the enthusiasm and energy of the young people and the excitement that goes with the day. We sometimes associate the Holy Spirit to making our Confirmation and that's it. We tick the box as having it done but never afterwards connect the Holy Spirit to our lives. This is such a pity because the loss is immense.

The Holy Spirit is the greatest energy or presence in our world. It is alive, active, creative and prompting us always to God's special presence in our world. As soon as a yacht lifts up its sails to catch a breeze it becomes alive and moves through water full with purpose, energy and delight. If the sail is taken down and put away the yacht is almost lifeless and just drifts along. With regard to the Holy Spirit we have sometimes forgotten to put up our sails to catch and harness a unique presence in our world today. It doesn't matter when you made your confirmation, put up the sails today!
'Meister Eckhart said that the spiritual life has more to do with subtraction than with addition. But in the capitalistic west, we keep climbing higher up the ladder of spiritual success, and we've turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. All we need to do is get ourselves out of the way!' ~Richard Rohr

All great spirituality, in any religion has at its heart some form of letting go. When we do this we are free to become the person we really want to be. When we don't let go, our lives get cluttered with all sorts of tasks, worries, things to do and stress. When we're in this place we're always planning the next minute, planning tomorrow, next week and seldom appreciate the beauty of this present moment. But when there's a lot of clutter in our lives, spirituality will always take second place. The emphasis has so often been on attending services, earning God's favour and clocking up spiritual points. But everything that God has given to us has been given freely and abundantly. We don't have to earn it. Everyday should be a celebration of God's blessings around us. Today is a great day to begin.
The author of the following story is unknown:

There was an old man who operated a rowboat for ferrying passengers between an island and the mainland. One day a passenger noticed that he had painted on one oar the word "Works," and on the other oar the word "Faith." Curiosity led him to ask the meaning of this. The old man replied, "I will show you," dropping one oar, rowing only with the oar named "Works." Of course, the boat just went around in circles. Then he switched oars, picking up "Faith" and dropping "Works." And the little rowboat went around in circles again, this time in the opposite direction. After this demonstration, the old man picked up both oars "Faith" and "Works," and rowing with both oars together swiftly coursed over the water. He looked at the passenger and said, "You see, that is the way it is in life as well as in rowing a boat. You got to keep both oars in the water, otherwise, you will just go in circles."
'God's love, though it is not limited to us as instruments, nevertheless uses us as instruments, so that those who are in need of it, find it in us. It is possible that some will never find it if they do not find it in us. And it is also possible that some will not believe in it, because they do not find it in us.' ~Alan Paton

We so often leave it to someone else to be the instrument and in particular the instrument of God's love. Sometimes it comes down to us, not believing enough in ourselves. We think that as an instrument we are out of tune and not good enough. But it is we ourselves who put ourselves down. God is delighted with us, delighted with our gifts and talents and delighted with what we bring to each day. So we are an instrument in sharing God's love around the place. What a privilege and one we so often take for granted. The message is simple today, be proud of who you are, be proud of what you are doing as an instrument in sharing God's love and know that a lot of this love is flowing around thanks to you!
'My friend drew our conversation to a close by saying, "When I get to the end of my rope, I find it always grows a little longer." That's hope, constant hope, grounded in a superb faith in God' ~ Joyce Rupp

We can often be short of ideas, inspiration, motivation and not knowing what to do next. It can sometimes feel as if we are paralysed, out of control and we simply don't know what to do next. It is important to know that we are not on our own. Some are lucky to have support of a partner, friend or family. Others may feel more isolated. Whatever our circumstances we always have the support of God. For thousands of years people have written about this support and the hope it has given them. In Psalm 71 it says "you have constantly been my hope". This support is still extended to each of us today, keeping us grounded, balanced and heading in the right direction.
'Life is a song - sing it. Life is a game - play it. Life is a challenge - meet it. Life is a dream - realize it. Life is a sacrifice - offer it. Life is love - enjoy it' ~ Sai Baba

"Life is what we make it" is a saying that is often used and repeated. Every day is made up of so many possibilities, options, moments and decisions. The frequency and intensity of them make the pace of life hectic. It seems we are not in control and at times drifting helplessly along. But why is it that some people seem in control and seem to be totally connected to life, picking and choosing what and when they want it? Is it a life skill that some have naturally and for others one to learn? In our Gospels Jesus showed his disciples and friends how to prioritise and choose life giving moments. Instead of drifting aimlessly along he encouraged them to celebrate every bit of good news in their lives. He encouraged them to be creative, to have courage to say no when required and to always set time aside for personal reflection, prayer and time out. Small adjustments mean we will always be much more in control.
'Do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners.' ~Matthew 6:5

In our Gospels Jesus was quick to point out the difference between sincerity and hypocrisy. He saw much hypocrisy particularly with the Scribes and Pharisees. These were the people who loved to show off that they were important and special, who stood at street corners while they prayed and who took the best seats in their synagogues. There was no heart or sincerity in what they were doing but empty meaningless ritual and doing things just because it seemed the right thing to do. There are still hypocrites today and there are those who have no heart or sincerity in what they do. It is often false and shallow. Nothing can hide it and others quickly pick up on how false it actually is. But for many people and this is important to say, there is genuine warmth, openness and sincerity in what they do. Despite difficult economic times people are giving everything to do their best. Sacrifices are made and huge commitments given to keep going.

In terms of faith matters there is still a genuine openness in finding and connecting to what gives meaning and fulfilment in our lives. People still pray and thankfully much of it is open, honest and far from hypocritical. Young people certainly fall into this category. They have the added benefit of not carrying any negative baggage that so many have carried in recent decades. For many years people were told "You must", "You have to" and "If you don't". Today there is such freedom with young people and their outlook, "I can", "I'll try" and "I'll give it a go."
The following reflection is by Jane Mellett

Today we celebrate the feast of the ascension and we hear Luke's account of Jesus leaving the disciples, his final words and gestures to them. Jesus' departure does not cause the disciples to be anxious, instead we are told that they return to Jerusalem and praise God in the Temple. For Luke, this is a celebration of the mission to come. Luke's Gospel begins in the Temple and there it ends in anticipation of the Church's mission, a mission that was meant to be rooted in prayer and service. We might pray these words of St Teresa of Avila today: "Christ has no body now but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on the world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world."
'Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.' ~Blessed Mother Teresa

There is a story told about a boy who found a tortoise. He started to examine it but the tortoise pulled its head in and closed its shell like a vice. The boy was upset and picked up a sharp pointed stick to pry it open. The boy's uncle saw all this and remarked, "No, that's not the way. In fact you may kill the tortoise but you will not get it to open up with a stick." The uncle then took the tortoise into the house and put it down near the fireplace. Within a few minutes the tortoise got warm and then it pushed out its head, stretched out its legs and began to crawl. "People are like tortoises", said the uncle. "You can't force them into anything but if you first warm them up with some real kindness, it is more than likely that they will do what you want them to do."
'Don't give up. There are too many nay-sayers out there who will try to discourage you. Don't listen to them. The only one who can make you give up is yourself.' ~Sidney Sheldon

There are many passages in scripture that share stories about people who grew weary and discouraged but somehow never gave up and kept going. The story of the Hebrew people is one of the finest examples. We are told they grew impatient as they made their way to the promised land. The journey they undertook was dangerous, time consuming and difficult. There were many times when they wanted to turn back but they didn't and they finally got their reward and the story recalls how it was God who their inspiration. There is another well known story about the stonecutter who works away on a large piece of rock with a hammer. Blow after blow the stonecutter works away and nothing seems to be happening. A hundred blows and still nothing but on the hundred and first try the stone would crack. With that crack the stonecutter knew it wasn't that blow that did it but the cumulutative effect of the hundred blows before it. When nothing seems to be happening for us it can be very discouraging. We are encouraged to keep going because every effort is never wasted.
'Behind every face there is a unique world that no one else can see. This is the mystery of individuality. The shape of each soul is different. No one else feels your life the way you do. No one else sees or hears the world as you do. The creation of the individual is a divine masterpiece.' ~John O'Donohue

It is nearly an impossible task to get across our own uniqueness, our individuality and what we have to give. God has given us a unique fingerprint, a unique DNA identity and has given us something special to do in this world. If someone else could do it they would be here and not us. But so often we run away, we hide and we say we're not ready, we're no good and let somebody else do what needs to be done. But only we can do it. Our contribution is hugely important. As we journey through these weeks of Easter the invitation is to begin to believe and especially in ourselves. God always believes in our potential, our progress, our contribution and our longing to be the best person we can be. No one can ever take that from us.
'Life is too short to be little. Often we allow ourselves to be upset by little things we should forget. We may lose many irreplaceable hours brooding over small grievances that in a year's time will be forgotten. So let us devote our lives to worthwhile actions and feelings, to great thoughts, real affection and enduring undertakings.' ~Andre Maurois

Life is a constant evolution of cycles. God is the heartbeat of every cycle. Night unfolds into day and darkness into light. Flowers unfold, open to sunshine and close as night approaches. Birds like the swallows are busy building nests, making the most of the opportunity to expand and survive. Honeybees are expanding in numbers to be ready for the summer flowers. One of the downsides of a modern world is how we have lost touch with the cycles of life. There doesn't seem to be enough time to sit and watch the rhythms of nature, wildlife and the natural world. It is our loss.

We then get caught up in the petty stuff, allowing ourselves to be upset by little things. If we compare our upsets with the reality of what others are genuinely going through, we would shrink in embarrassment at how out of touch we sometimes are. What one petty, silly and pointless upset can I let go of today? What blessing no matter how small, can I embrace and celebrate today?
Thought resumes as normal tomorrow Tuesday
Today's reflection is by Jane Mellett

We can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we don't proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong. We would become a compassionate NGO and not a Church which is the bride of Christ.' ~Pope Francis

Today's we hear from the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John. Jesus is replying to a question about why he does not show himself to the world. The disciples want fireworks, they want everyone to see who Jesus really is and are wondering why he does not put on some big performance for them. Jesus' response is clear. You can learn all of his teachings off by heart but if you do not have a personal relationship with him, the rest is pointless. Knowing Jesus is about a relationship based on love. Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples how they will experience him after his death. He is going away, but he is sending the Spirit to be with them and to teach them. He encourages them to not let their hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 'Peace' (Shalom) is more than a wish for a good evening or peaceful day. It expresses the desire that the person receiving the blessing might be whole in body, mind and spirit. It is not a peace that this world can give. It is a peace that comes only from a relationship with him. Jesus is calling us into a personal relationship, not some superficial learning of key teachings or rituals, but into a real relationship of love.
'Life is give and take. We gift our love and are gifted with goodness. If we don't give and take in our everyday lives then we have nothing to aspire or model to. Give and take it's the gift to life.' ~Jasmina Siderovski

There is an old fable in which the mighty oak tree which stood for over one hundred years finally was blown over by a storm. The tree fell into a river that floated it downstream until it came to rest among the reeds growing along the riverbank. The fallen giant asked the reeds in amazement, "How is it that you were able to weather the storm that was too powerful for me, an oak tree, to withstand?" The reeds replied, "All these years you stubbornly resisted the winds that swept your way. You took such pride in your strength that you refused to yield, even a little bit. We, on the other hand, have not resisted the winds, but have always bent with them. We recognized the superior power of the wind and so, the harder the wind blew the more we humbled ourselves before it."

Are we like the oak tree at times, stubborn, strong willed with little flexibility? Like the reeds can we be more flexible with the mistakes and shortcomings of family and friends? With the Gospel message in one hand can we be as strong as an oak tree but also have the flexibility of the reed in respecting different viewpoints? In Ireland at the moment, with so many wanting to express different viewpoints on the draft legislation to the 'Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill', the above fable is one to keep in mind. Hopefully everyone on both sides will get a fair chance to express an opinion, a concern or a difference be they right or wrong.
'Does prayer change things? No! Prayer changes people and people change things' ~St Martin Magazine

It is sometimes said that prayer is a waste of time? Comments like "It's talking to nothing" or "My Prayers are never answered" or "There are no instant results". But we can say with certainty that prayer brings so many blessings that often go beyond words. Any survey today that asks do people pray and the response is overwhelmingly yes. When it comes to young people the response is also an overwhelming yes. Many who say yes are not committed to formal religion or attend church on a regular basis. But to ignore their yes is a big mistake and a much better plan is to welcome and embrace their willingness to pray. Such is the variety and extent of the way people pray, would suggest that the spirit of God is indeed alive, evolving, connecting and making a big difference in our world today. Prayer always changes people and people of course change things. Through prayer we can be the difference, not next month or next week or tomorrow bot today!
'It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.' ~Author Unknown

There is a lovely part of the Old Testament in the book of Ecclesiastes, when it talks about having a time and a place for everything in life. It is a reading that is used on different occasions particularly at funerals. It suggests that in life there is a time and a place for everything, including life and death. It also includes a time to do the right thing. Sometimes we're not sure what the right thing to do is and at other times it is very clear and obvious. But even when we know what the right thing to do is, we're sometimes slow and stubborn to do it. Sometimes we are simply afraid of the consequences and the unknown. This is where prayer can be a great catalyst. A simple prayer today might be to ask God for the strength and courage to do the right thing or make the right decision. It could be even be for the strength and courage to take one step forward. There is never a wrong time to begin such a prayer.
'God lit a candle of hope for each of us. It's not waiting in a window somewhere or around a bend. God lit it right inside us so that we need not ever live one moment without it.' ~Vickie Girard

Today is 'Lá Bealtaine' which translates as May Day and today is also the feast of St Joseph the worker. It's a day that goes way back many generations in Irish culture and history and has always been a day of hope and a celebration of the beginning of summer. Hope is a word we sometimes throw around a lot. We often say that we live in hope or that we hope for the best. When the word hope is used to mean everything and anything, it can loose some of its impact. It never looses impact when used in a faith context.

Hope is the voice that God uses to speak to our hearts. Hope is God's parachute in life and it is always God's smile. It is not a product, you can't buy it and it is always a part of a journey. In many ways hope is prayer. Without it you have nothing and with it you have so many possibilities. During these difficult economic times we must have hope. We put our trust and hope in God to guide us through the unknown, to help us learn from mistakes and to use wisely the wisdom of those who have been there before.


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