County Offaly | Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois

Ferbane Parish

Boora | Ferbane | High Street

Fr.Peter's Posts

The following are thoughts published by Parish Priest Fr.Peter Burke in the weekly parish bulletin.
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

‘He showed them His hands and feet’
 In World War II a doctor leaned over an horrific wound on the side of a young soldier. As the soldier came to, the doctor whispered gently to him: ‘I’m sorry son, you will live, but I have to tell you that you have lost your arm’. The soldier smiled and said, ‘I didn’t lose it, I gave it’. Some wounds can be scars of shame, but others are badges of honour, evidence of love and sacrifice and care. ‘Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us’ (David Richo). In today’s Gospel extract, the disciples recognised Jesus in His wounds. When He showed them His hands and feet, they remembered the love that was given and they believed. It called forth a similar love in them. It led them to the shedding of their blood too. On Holy Saturday night we inserted five grains of incense into the Paschal Candle to represent the five wounds He carried in His body on the Cross. They remind us of how much we are loved. May we always be aware of His wounds and the wounds of those closest to us who have made us who we are. By His wounds we are healed. By their wounds we were made. We connect at the point of our wounds.

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER

A quieter day, but Easter glory still fills the air. Behind closed doors, the disciples are dazed and dispirited. Then Jesus appears, but Thomas is not there. An annual reminder here of the power and importance of praying with the community. Eight days later Thomas is present with the community. He encounters the Lord, his questions are answered and his life is changed forever. The doubting disciple is moved to utter, in five short words, the most profound profession of faith in the entire Gospel: ‘My Lord and my God’. He will now become one of the foundation stones of the fledgling Church. The message is clear. We absent ourselves from the community gathering at a cost. At this time, our gathering is from a distance from necessity, but even from a distance we are nourished and strengthened. Thomas recognises Jesus in His hands. The story of our lives is etched in our hands. The fruits of caring, giving and loving are there for the world to see. Jesus’ love for us led Him to the Cross and when Thomas saw the hands, he remembered, he understood and he believed.

EASTER SUNDAY

"He is risen, Alleluia."
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, life is absurd, the grave is without hope and our faith is meaningless. The resurrection then, was the most significant event in human history. It elevates Christianity above all other world religions. It’s no wonder that it is mentioned more than one hundred times in the New Testament. We live in the shadow of Easter and we rejoice on this day, the greatest of all Sundays in the Christian calendar. The tomb is empty. Life has a destination. Hope dawns anew. Our God reigns. His victory is our victory. Good has triumphed over evil; light over darkness; peace over chaos. The fact that He rose at the darkest hour, just before the dawn is a striking reminder that, when all seems lost, resurrection is near. When we reach ‘rock bottom’ we discover that Christ is the rock at the bottom. The experience of the women who went to the tomb on that Easter morning speaks to us too. They were worried about the stone. Who would move it? Their worries were unfounded. In life, we fret endlessly, never more so than over the past twelve months, but God knows His plan and all shall be well. Because of the resurrection, there is a future for every human being. May we radiate the hope and joy of the Easter message in all we think, say and do.

Beannachtaí na Cásca daoibh.
PALM SUNDAY

‘Blessings on him who comes on the name of the Lord’

Today we turn our faces to Jerusalem once again and are transported back to the event that marked the beginning of the week we call ‘holy’. It’s a curious scene as the King of Peace comes to His city riding on a donkey. Contrary to popular opinion, the donkey was regarded as a noble animal in Palestine. When a king went to war, he rode on a horse. When he came offering peace, he rode on a donkey. Holy Week is a week of contrasts, a week of exaltation and humiliation, acclamation and condemnation, darkness and light, betrayal and loyalty, despair and hope, sadness and joy, fickleness and faithfulness, human suffering and divine triumph. During the days ahead, through word, music and especially through symbol, we remember and enter into the greatest story ever told. Our lives are determined more by what is done to us than by what we do and in His passion and death, Jesus shows us how to respond to what is done to us. In His final hours on earth He absorbs and transforms hatred and returns it as love. Holy Week is an academy of love.

HOLY THURSDAY: Eucharist and Priesthood were born on this night in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. The two gifts are inextricably linked. No priests; no Eucharist. In washing the feet of His friends, Jesus showed us that celebration of the Eucharist should lead to humble service.

GOOD FRIDAY: The wood of the Cross is the throne of grace, a sign of His love, an invitation to love, a revelation about love. On this day, we tell the story of the last hours of Jesus; we pay our respects to His body; we are nourished with food for the journey. While the world changes, the Cross stands firm. It’s no wonder we call this Friday ‘Good’.

HOLY SATURDAY: The Scriptures don’t explain the Resurrection; the Resurrection explains the Scriptures. On this most holy night, we light the Paschal candle; we proclaim the Easter story; we bless the Easter water; we receive the Bread of Life. We allow the symbols to speak. He is risen Alleluia! 

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

‘Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single grain’.

By using the image of the wheat grain falling to the ground and dying Jesus teaches that life comes through death, greatness through service. The image captures in a striking way the story of His own mission and ministry. By dying, He destroyed our death. From the time of Jesus, the history of the Church has been adorned with examples of valiant souls who, through their blood, provided the seed of renewal and rebirth. ‘The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church’. Not only the Church but the world in general owes everything to people who give selflessly. We can recall the heroic sacrifices of our parents, who never counted the cost. The simple grain of wheat contains the wisdom of the ages. It is not what we take up but what we give up that makes us rich. Self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness are the master keys to true happiness. It is indeed in giving that we receive. It is in sharing that we retain. It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. If we choose to become wrapped up in ourselves, we become very small parcels. The great Spanish painter, Pablo Picasso expressed it better than most when he wrote that ‘the meaning of life is to find your gift, but the purpose of life is to give it away’.

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
‘God so loved the world that he sent His only Son to save it’ 
Nicodemus appears on three occasions in the Gospel of John. He was a man of substance, a renowned teacher of the Law, an influential leader within his community and yet he was searching for more. Having heard about Jesus he was curious. Drawn by the simplicity of His message and the power and authority of His preaching, he approaches the Master under cover of darkness. There in the quiet space he elicits from the Lord the wonderfully consoling teaching that summarises the entire Gospel and will change his life forever: ‘God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to save it’. In that tender moment of enlightenment a heart is touched, a thirst is quenched and a curious searcher becomes a devoted follower. The expert in the Law meets Love in person, is surprised by Love and is now impelled to spread that love because love changes the way we hear and speak and respond. The extent of the change in the life of Nicodemus becomes evident when we next meet him defending Jesus at His trial before the Sanhedrin and finally, and most movingly, walking up the Hill of Calvary on Good Friday, carrying precious spices in order to give the Saviour a decent burial. It is he, together with Joseph of Arimathea who take Jesus from the Cross and return Him to His mother. Because of his encounter with Jesus, Nicodemus gave up what he was to become what he was meant to be. Isn’t that the challenge and opportunity of the Lenten journey? 

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
'Stop turning my Father's house into a market'
When Jesus shows anger, we should take notice. What gave rise to His deep anger in this episode in the Temple? Firstly, ordinary people coming as pilgrims for the Feast of Passover were being exploited by the money changers. Secondly, the trading in the Court of the Gentiles was preventing these people from finding a space to worship in what should be a House of Prayer for all people. In all of this, the House of God was being disrespected greatly. In Old Testament times, God always had a designated place in which to meet His people from Abraham at Bethel to Moses at the burning bush to Solomon in his temple. The meeting place between God and His people was always holy ground. It still is. While it is true that God can be encountered in the 'book of creation' and in the faces of people, we should have a heightened sense of awareness, reverence, dignity and respect for His special presence in His house. Is beannaithe Tigh Dé. 'The House of God is not a place where people meet in a trivial spirit of festivity. There should be religious awe at being face to face with God'. (Cardinal Robert Sarah). When Jesus shows anger we need to take notice.
SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
‘He was transfigured’
Mountains in Scripture are places of revelation. We think of Nebo, Sinai, Tabor, Calvary. Mountains provide a different perspective. From the height, we see things in a new way. The Tabor event happened 1,800 feet above the plain, when Peter, James and John had withdrawn from the crowd, recalling the wilderness experience of Jesus, which was recounted in last Sunday’s Gospel. The disciples had been accompanying Jesus for a long time. They had walked with Him, talked with Him, listened to Him, but it was only in the quiet space that they saw Him in a different light. Jesus showed His disciples His glory, a glory that had been there all the time. We miss things that have been there all along. Most people spend their time ‘looking at’ life, but not actually ‘seeing into’ it. Children see magic, because they look for it. If only we opened ourselves to the world around us with the eyes of wonder we would notice the fingerprint of God in ordinary things from the spider’s web to the robin’s nest; from the rising of the sun to its’ setting; from the milky way to the ebb and flow of the tide. The glory of heaven is constantly breaking-in. Earth is the place where heaven unfolds. Heaven is very near. All we need is perception. ‘Nature is a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants to us a glimpse of His infinite beauty and goodness’. (St. Francis) (28th February 2021)

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
‘The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness’
The word Lent means springtime. It is the season of lengthening days, new life, new hope, new beginnings. The Latin root of the word is ‘lente’, which suggests the call to slow down, proceed slowly, gently, carefully. In the first three centuries of the Christian era, the followers of Christ prepared for Easter by praying and fasting for three days. In some places, this was extended to the entire week before Easter. By the fourth century Lent had developed to its’ current length of forty days to replicate the time Jesus spent in the wilderness in preparation for His public ministry. The Wilderness is a barren strip, thirty-five miles by fifteen between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. In that bleak place, He couldn’t have been more alone. He is confronted by Satan, but emerges victorious from the struggle. Nobody witnessed the dramatic event, so He must have reported it often to His friends. The episode raises the curtain on the Lenten drama and invites us once more to enter the quiet place where deepening and re-evaluation take place. ‘Solitude is the audience chamber of God’. (21st February 2021)
FIFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
‘Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him’
A recent television documentary on the heroic men and women who are working on the front line in our hospitals in the battle against Covid-19 revealed in a striking way that compassion costs. It always does. In today’s Gospel Jesus reaches out in tender compassion to touch a leper. In doing what He did, He was crossing a significant boundary and breaking every law, taboo and convention of His day. The leper was the most miserable outcast in Jewish society. He/she had to live away from the community, wear a bell and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean’. To touch a leper made oneself unclean. The judgement of Jesus does not follow society’s standards, however. He understood how it felt to be rejected, to feel unwanted, to find no room at the inn and so, an untouchable one is touched, an outsider is brought in, an excluded one is made to feel welcome, a suffering human being is healed in body and spirit. No life, however broken or rejected is beyond God’s reach. Today, as in every generation, there are ‘untouchables’ in our world, people on the edge, the least, the lost, the last. The leper represents those whom society considers to be flawed. Our challenge is to do as Jesus did; to notice and be courageous enough to step out to bring inclusion where there is exclusion so that no brother or sister has to carry the cross alone. Jesus’ ministry of compassion cost Him. It will cost us too.(14th February 2021)
FIFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Dag Hammarskjold, the second and youngest ever Secretary General of the United Nations once suggested that people should ‘speak only out of silence, act only out of stillness’. The recently deceased and legendary golf commentator, Peter Alliss, expressed the same sentiment when commenting on his own inimitable style: ‘I only speak when I feel I can improve on the silence’. These thought-provoking words are perfectly in tune with the life and ministry of Jesus. Prayer and reflection in the quiet space preceded all the significant moments of His journey. He prayed before embarking on His public ministry, as part of His daily routine, at His Baptism, before choosing the twelve apostles, before and after performing miracles, at the Transfiguration, during His agony on the cross. His entire mission was animated by prayer and reflection. In today’s Gospel extract, we find Him in that quiet space. He has just completed a hectic day of preaching and ministering to the sick and now as He faces a new day He retires to the solitude to get in tune with the Father. We find in Him that precious balance between action and reflection. That balance should be our goal too. The greatest malady in our world today is a loss of soul. We are not so much experiencing a clash between belief and non-belief, but rather between thinking and non-thinking! We should learn from the Master. The body is the child of the soul and when body and soul are in harmony happiness is the natural result. (7th February 2021)
FOURTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
‘There was a man possessed by an unclean spirit’

In the first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel we are given an insight into a day in the life of Jesus as He moves from prayer to active ministry. We find Him teaching in the synagogue, visiting the home of Peter, healing those who were sick and finally, praying in the wilderness. On entering the synagogue He is confronted by a man possessed by an unclean spirit. It is His first encounter with the Kingdom of Darkness and marks the beginning of a ferocious battle that will continue from Capernaum to Calvary. Good and evil are very hard to explain or understand. What we do know is that each of us is a mixture of both. ‘The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every person’ (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn). The struggle is essentially an internal one. Consequently, we should make it our constant care to nourish our hearts with all that is good, beautiful, noble and worthwhile so that the light may triumph over the darkness. The greatest threat to our efforts occurs when the lines become blurred, when the unacceptable is seen as acceptable, the indefensible as defensible, the inappropriate as appropriate. This blurring of lines is sadly, a hallmark of our increasingly secular world. To see evil and call it good, mocks God. To see the good and choose the good, gives Him glory. (31st January 2021)

THIRD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Casting and mending
Jesus’ new team takes shape. Four men, Peter, Andrew, James and John are selected. Ordinary people doing their everyday chores are now called to do extraordinary things. Fishermen casting and mending nets are summoned to become fishers of men and women. From a life bringing fish to shore they are now asked to bring people to God. I wonder why Jesus chose fishermen to be His first disciples? Could it have been something to do with the qualities of patience and persistence that are essential to the work of the fisherman? The good fisherman never gives up. The persistent fisherman tends to catch more and bigger fish. The patient fisherman will always find an imaginative way. As with the fishermen so it is with disciples of every age. Today as ever the disciple must find ways of casting out to those who have never heard the Good News and, increasingly, to those who have slipped from the net. The disciple must mend too. The more progress we make in our world the more brokenness lies all around. The casting and mending of the nets represent the Church’s unchanging twofold task of maintenance and mission, a task that demands today as never before the qualities of the fisherman - patience and persistence. (24th January 2021)
SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
‘What are you looking for’?
‘What are you looking for’? These are the first recorded words of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel as He addresses His new disciples. It is the most fundamental question in life. One could say that the rest of the Gospel contains a series of responses to that question. For those seeking nourishment for the soul Jesus says ‘I am the bread of life’. For the many longing for hope in the darkness that surrounds us, Jesus says ‘I am the light of the world’. For those searching for a meaningful authentic way to live Jesus says ‘I am the Way’. For all who crave truth in a world of ‘fake news’ Jesus says ‘I am the Truth’. For the young and old of every nation who need reassurance in the face of death Jesus says ‘I am the resurrection and the life’. Having posed the question, Jesus invites the disciples to ‘come and see’. By spending time with Him, they not only came to see who He was, but they came to see who they could be. Having begun as seekers they moved to being followers and ended as disciples. If we want to go beneath the surface of our lives and find the answers to our deepest questions, we must spend time in His presence. He alone is the answer. If He is not the answer, there is no answer, but we must ‘come and see’. (17th January 2021)
FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
Jesus was baptised in the Jordan by John
On Christmas night we greeted a baby. In the Epiphany we learned of His mission to all nations. At His Baptism His ministry begins. He plunges into the waters of the Jordan to signify His total commitment to His task. Water is where life begins. It is the difference between life and death. In Genesis God parts the waters. In the Flood saga the waters bring death. In the Exodus event the chosen people pass from slavery to freedom by crossing the Red Sea. In Baptism we passed from slavery to freedom, from death to life. It conferred on us a dignity beyond measure. It marked the beginning of a walk with the Lord that will last forever. On this significant feast, let us remember and re-echo the profound words spoken by Pope St. John Paul II near the end of his long pontificate: ‘The day of my Baptism was the most important day of my life’. (10th January 2021)

FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY
"They followed the star"
Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior must have been very single minded. We are told that they only saw the star at the beginning of their journey and near the end. It follows that most of their searching was done in darkness. They must have had to ask for directions and trust the guidance of others. In the end, their reward was great. Like the Wise Men we have hitched our wagon to the star of Bethlehem. It is not always visible, but it is always there. We too must be humble enough to seek the support, advice and direction of fellow travellers as we move towards the light (6th January 2021)

SECOND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
‘The Word was made flesh, he lived among us’
It’s no wonder that we strike our breasts when, during the recitation of the Angelus we utter the statement ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’. Because He pitched His tent in our midst and became one of us the human family has been dignified, graced beyond measure and raised to a new level. It means that He understands us ‘from the inside’. It is altogether appropriate that we should celebrate, rejoice and be glad. It is as though the Church were appealing to us before we leave the Christmas season to remember the central message of these days. It is interesting to recall that in the years before the Second Vatican Council this extract from the beginning of St. John’s Gospel was proclaimed before the Final Blessing at the end of every Mass. Known as the Last Gospel it reminded the faithful before their dismissal of the Good News at the centre of their faith. May we hear it anew today. (3rd January 2021)