22 September 2016

‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets . . .' Sunday Reflections, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Parable of Dives and Lazarus, Unknown Master, c.1420
Musée Cluny, Paris [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)


Jesus said to the disciples: “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—  for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’  Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’  He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”


Lazarus lives today in Aleppo, Syria

Missionaries of Charity [Wikipedia]

An Indian Missionary of Charity who was based in Hong Kong for some years told me of something that happened there shortly before Christmas 2009. Yang was what Sister called a ‘street-sleeper’, ie, someone living on the streets. Strictly speaking he wasn’t, as he had a little place where he lived with his mother. Both were Buddhists. Yang was in poor health and couldn’t get a job. He mixed mostly with those who were ‘street-sleepers’.

He first came across the Missionaries of Charity when they were distributing lunch-boxes to very poor people in the street. He began to come to their place regularly for a meal and made a point of coming to the annual Advent celebration when gifts would be distributed and a meal provided. Yang’s mother often wondered where he got his regular meals. ‘From Sister’ was his answer to her queries but she didn’t know who ‘Sister’ was.

Yang didn’t attend the Advent celebration in 2009 because he was in hospital but he asked his mother to go in his place. When she arrived the celebration was over but the Sisters had kept one meal in case someone would arrive late. So they gave it to her.

A day or two later, around 19 0r 20 December, Yang died. Some time after that his mother came to the Sisters to express her profound gratitude to them for their kindness and hospitality to her son and to herself.

Yang and his mother experienced the personal love of Jesus for them through the Missionaries of Charity who took care of the many Lazaruses outside their door. And Sister told me that food never ran out. It was constantly supplied by hotels and restaurants.

Syrian refugees and migrants, Slovenia, 2015 [Wikipedia]

Jesus gives a name to Lazarus but not to the rich man, though 'Dives', the Latin for 'rich', is often used as a name for him, such as in the ballad below. It is difficult to give a name to each person in a refugee camp where there may be tens of thousands, a sight we are all too familiar with. Yet people are extraordinarily generous when a calamity occurs, whether caused by nature or by man. And there are many who leave the comfort of their own home and homeland to take care of those in such places who have nothing.

Lazarus also lives today in Dublin, Ireland

Each person in a refugee camp has a name, a family, a history, hopes, God-given talents, an invitation to live with God for ever in heaven. And even in the relatively affluent West many are in need because of the economic situation. The Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin, for example, which initially helped individuals really down on their luck, as we say in Ireland, is now helping families that in the past didn't experience hardship. 

There is much to be done to bring the Gospel to change the lives of the many Lazaruses throughout the world - working for peace, working for justice at the level of legislation and so on. God calls some to serve Lazarus in this way. But while the slow work of peace-building and the rest goes on, Lazarus is outside our door each day in need of sustenance to help him survive till the following day.


'Dives' is the Latin word for 'rich'. Though Jesus gave a name only to the beggar in the parable, Lazarus, 'Dives' is often used as a name for the rich man. Above is an old English ballad based on the parable. Some of you may recognise the melody as the same one used for the Irish song The Star of the County Down. I found the lyrics of the song here but adjusted them in places. Ballads have variations'Divès' becomes 'Diverus' at times.

As it fell out upon a day,
Rich Divès made a feast,
And he invited all his friends,
And gentry of the best.

Then Lazarus laid him down and down
And down at Divès' door:
'Some meat, some drink, brother, Diverus,
To bestow upon the poor.'

'Thou art none of my brother, Lazarus,
Lie begging at my door;
No meat, no drink will I give to you,
Nor bestow upon the poor.'

Then Divès sent to his merry men,
To whip poor Lazarus away;
They had no power to strike one stroke,
But flung their whips away.

Then Lazarus laid him down and down
Even down at Divès' gate:
'Some meat, some drink, brother, Diverus,
For Jesus Christ’s sake."

"Thou art none of my brother, Lazarus,
Lies begging at my gate;
No meat, no drink will I give to you,
For Jesus Christ’s sake.'

Then Divès sent his hungry dogs,
To bite him as he lay;
They had no power to bite at all.
They licked his sores away.

As it fell out all on a day,
Poor Lazarus sickened and died;
There came an angel out of heaven,
His soul therein to guide.

'Rise up! rise up! brother Lazarus,
And go along with me;
For you've a place prepared in heaven,
To sit on an angel's knee.'

As it fell out all on a day,
Rich Divès sickened and died;
There came two serpents out of hell,
His soul therein to guide.

'Rise up! rise up! brother Diverus,
And go with us and see;
A dismal place prepared in hell
From which thou canst not flee.'

Then Divès looked up with his eyes
And saw poor Lazarus blest;
'Give me one drink, brother Lazarus,
To quench my flaming thirst.

'O, was I now but alive again
In the space of one half hour!
O, then my peace would be secure
The devil should have no power.'


15 September 2016

'Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.' Sunday Reflections, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer, c.1685
Mauritshuis, The Hague [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 16:1-13 (or 10-13)  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)

[Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’  Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’  Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.]

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary, Philippines, USA)

Woman Sewing, Van Gogh, Oct-Nov 1881, Etten
Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Netherlands [Web Gallery of Art]


Three years ago while on vacation in Ireland I dropped by the house of Brian, a childhood friend in Dublin. Over coffee we chatted about many things, ranging from the current situation of the Church in Ireland to the days when we were growing up.

In the course of our conversation the small Jewish community in Dublin came up. It has never quite reached 4,000 in Ireland and the majority of the now fewer than 2,000 live in Dublin. I told Brian that my father, who spent all his working life as a carpenter on building/construction sites, most of those years as a highly respected general foreman, had built a house for a wealthy Jewish couple in the late 1950s. 

Our house was the one on the right, 44 Finn St, Dublin

Shortly after the house was finished a very expensive car stopped outside our house, in a street of terraced houses, exactly like those in the photo above, where nobody had a telephone and very few had cars. The driver knocked on our door and turned out to be the owner of the new house my father had built. He came to invite our family to dinner the following week in his new home. My father had helped build many new homes over the 54 years of his working life but this was the only occasion when he had been thanked in such a way.

We enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the family and it was the only time I ever visited a Jewish home in Ireland.

Brian then told me a story about his father Jimmy, whom I had known well, a house painter and decorator. He had painted and decorated the houses of many Jewish families in Dublin over the years. This was mainly due to an incident the first time he was asked to work in a Jewish home. While scraping the old paint from the stairs he found a diamond ring stuck in a corner. He immediately brought it to the owner and said 'I found this on the stairs'. 'I know', said the owner, 'I put it there!' 

The word spread through the Jewish community that Jimmy was trustworthy. Over the years he had many Jewish clients. 

Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.


Jewish Museum, Dublin [Wikipedia]

When I told the story of Jimmy and the diamond ring to my sister-in-law Gladys she told me that her engagement ring had been stolen while she and my brother Paddy were having renovations done to their home a few years ago.

I remember too how upset my father was when he was renovating a Georgian house in Dublin. He discovered that the knocker on the front door had disappeared and it could only have been one of his workmates who took it. He was unable to trace the knocker or find out who the thief was.

Whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.

Georgian doors, Dublin [Wikipedia]

When I wrote these reflections three years ago the major story in the Philippines was the 'pork barrel scam'. PHP10 billion - roughly US$200,000,000 or €200,000,000 - of taxes paid by the people had disappeared. Some senators and members of Congress were alleged to have been beneficiaries of this along with others.

Today's gospel speaks to situations like this. Corruption on such a vast scale begins in the classroom when a child learns that though cheating isn't right the main thing is not to be caught. The man who stole my sister-in-law's engagement ring and my father's workmate who walked away with the valuable knocker from the front door of the Georgian house were earning salaries. What values were they passing on to their families?

One thing that both my parents instilled in me was that I must not keep anything that isn't mine. When I was a toddler I came home from a park up the road from where we lived at the time with a leather football. This was in the mid-1940s, around the time World War II ended when such things would have been very scarce and expensive. They asked around the neighbourhood and it was only when nobody claimed the ball that our family kept it.

Honesty and trustworthiness at such basic levels are  a foundation for justice. I've known of individuals 'working for justice' who weren't paying their own workers a proper wage. I've known many others such as my father, such as Jimmy, who didn't talk much about justice. They simply behaved in a just and honest manner and treated others with respect.

God invites every single one of us to share for ever in the riches of eternal life. Eternal life begins in the here and now. We make our choices in the here and now.

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Antiphona ad Communionem / Communion Antiphon (John 10:14)

Ego sum pastor bonus, dicit Dóminus;
et cognósco oves meas, et cognóscunt me meae.

I am the Good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.

Engagement and wedding rings [Wikipedia]

I mentioned two diamond rings above. I couldn't find a painting with a diamond ring but Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is a work of such extraordinary beauty that I used it instead.






14 September 2016

Feast of the Holy Cross: Christ being crucified daily in the Philippine 'war against drugs'

Art Museum, Cincinnati [Web Gallery of Art]

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17, NABRE).

From today’s Gospel for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Crime against humanity? In the first place, I’d like to be frank with you: are they (drug addicts) humans? What is your definition of a human being? (The President of the Philippines, 26 August 2016).

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (Jesus Christ, John 3:17).


The President was sworn in on 30 June. 

(UPDATED) As of the 2nd week of September 2016, there have been over 3,500 deaths, both from legitimate police operations and extrajudicial or unexplained killings.

Here are the latest numbers based on data from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

3,526 total number of persons killed in #WarOnDrugs since July 1

1,491 drug personalities killed in police operations, as of September 13

2,035 victims of extrajudicial or vigilante killings, as of September 14

Data below is as of August 22.

10 police personnel killed during operations

18 police personnel wounded during police operations.

'This campaign (of) shoot-to-kill will remain until the last day of my term if I'm still alive by then,' the 71-year-old (President) said, adding: 'I don't care about human rights, believe me.' He also announced that he was offering his soldiers and police personnel 'official and personal guarantee' of immunity from these prosecutions. In his crack down on drug peddlers, the president has even authorised citizens to shoot culprits to punish them for their crime. (The President of the Philippines, 6 August 2016).

A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly (Jesus Christ, John 10:10).

Pietá, Our Lady of Remedies Church, Malate, Manila
This commemorates the 100,000 or so, mostly civilians and including five Columban priests, who died in the Battle of Manila, February 1945.