Year B – 4th Sunday of Easter

To Be a Good Shepherd

(Acts 4:8-12; 1Jn.3:1-2; Jn.10:11-18)

Today, on Good Shepherd Sunday, we’re reminded that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who truly cares for his flock.

He knows each of His sheep by name, and He loves them so much that He’s even prepared to sacrifice His life for them.

In one way or another, we are all called be good shepherds, caring for others as best we can – in our families, at work, at school and in our communities. Many of us do this in the ordinary course of our lives, but sometimes it can be a confronting challenge.

Someone who discovered this for himself was Martin Luther King, who led the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. To give hope to millions of downtrodden black Americans, he organised peaceful protests, including the March on Washington in 1963.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and today he’s recognised as a man of extraordinary strength and courage. But it was not always so.

He once wrote, “One night… I settled into bed late… and just as I was about to doze off, the telephone rang. An angry voice on the other end of the line said, ‘Listen nigger, we’ve taken all we want from you; before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.’

“I hung up…and sleep would not come. It was as if all my fears coalesced into one giant terror. I got out of bed and began to walk the floor.

“Finally I went to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, I decided to take my problem to God.

“With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. ‘Lord, I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I’m afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I do not stand before them with strength and courage, they will also falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I can’t face it alone.’

“At that moment, I experienced the presence of God as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed I heard the quiet assurance of God’s voice saying: ‘Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth; and I will be at your side.’

“My fears evaporated and my uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to follow God and face anything.” [i]

To be a truly good shepherd, you must love your flock and be prepared to sacrifice yourself for them. And as Martin Luther King tells us, you must pray. You must ask God to help you, because this work is ultimately God’s project, and the original Good Shepherd knows exactly what’s required.

Let’s close with a story from the great storyteller, Fr Arthur Tonne.

A bus driver had just finished his rounds, taking the children home from school. As he parked the bus in the schoolyard, Fr Arthur came along.

‘Father,’ the bus driver said, ‘I’d like you to do something. Come on, sit in this driver’s seat.’

When Fr Arthur sat down, the driver said, ‘Look in that mirror. What do you see?’

‘I see a bunch of seats,’ Fr Arthur replied.

Then with a serious look the bus driver said, ‘I see those seats, fifty of them every day. But I see them filled with kids. I am responsible for every one of them. We’ve had some close calls, but, thank God, we have not had any serious accidents.’

The bus driver saw himself as the shepherd of his flock of schoolchildren.

Reflecting on this, Fr Arthur said later that the bus driver had given him a new slant on his own responsibility as a pastor.

‘I look out over our congregation,’ he said, ‘and I realise that I am responsible for every one of them. The bishop must do that with his entire diocese. The Pope must do it with the entire world. And on a smaller scale, but just as truly, a teacher looks out over her class, a coach looks over his team, and a father and mother look at their family.’ [ii]

We’re all meant to be good shepherds to others.

If you find it a challenge, then pray. Ask Jesus for His help.

[i] Gerard Fuller, Stories for All Seasons, Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic CT, 1997:63-64.

[ii] Arthur Tonne, Stories for Sermons, Vol 15. St John Church – Pilsen, Marion, Kansas, 1978.

Year B – 3rd Sunday of Easter

This Mysterious Limp

(Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1Jn.2:1-5; Lk.24:35-48)

What is the spiritual life?

It’s recognising that there’s more to life than what we can see, hear and touch. It’s knowing that we are far more than our physical selves.

It’s realising that we’re all part of something much bigger than ourselves; that we’re all part of God’s story, and not just our own. For we all come from God, and one day we’ll return to God. And we need to prepare for that.

The Ancient Greeks recognised two different kinds of life: biological life (called ‘bios’) and a deeper spiritual life (‘zoe’). Both words were used when the New Testament was first written in Greek. [i]

But translated into English, these two words simply became ‘life,’ and their differences were lost.

So, when we hear Jesus say, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it to the full,’ (Jn.10:10), most people aren’t aware that Jesus originally said, ‘I came that they may have zoe, and have it to the full.’

There’s a big difference between bios and zoe. We’re all born with bios, but physical life doesn’t last. It naturally degrades over time, and eventually dies.

The spiritual life of zoe, however, is eternal, but we aren’t born with it. Why not? It’s because of the original sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

You know the story (Gen.3): God gave Adam and Eve everything they needed in the Garden of Eden: a life of perfect harmony between themselves and God; a life of perfect balance between their physical and spiritual selves; as long as they didn’t touch the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

But they chose to eat that fruit and everything went pear-shaped. They lost their zoe, and so did we.

Because of their original sin, we were all born spiritually dead, and the world has been in constant trouble ever since. Why? It’s because we’re all out of balance and tend to do the wrong thing – we sin. Like a car with badly aligned wheels, we keep drifting to where we should not go.

In the original New Testament, the Greek word for ‘sin’ was ‘hamartia,’ which means ‘to miss the mark’ or ‘to veer off course.’

The French theologian Henri de Lubac called sin ‘this mysterious limp’ (cette claudication mysterieuse). It’s a corruption that stops us from walking straight.

And at the heart of that corruption is the lie that ‘I’ am the centre of the universe. That all my needs and fears are more important than anything else. [ii]

When we put ourselves at the centre of everything, the harmony between ourselves and everything else, including God, is lost, and what’s left is dishonesty, rivalry, selfishness, mistrust and sometimes even violence.

So, how do we regain our zoe? Through baptism. This is when we are welcomed into communion with God and we’re filled with the graces of the Holy Spirit. These graces are the seeds we need to develop our spiritual life, but like all seeds, they must be nourished if they are to grow strongly in our hearts.

In today’s second reading, John says, ‘I am writing this to stop you sinning.’ He knows that sin damages our relationship with God (1Jn.1:6), and he wants to help us fix it.

John basically says two things: firstly, that Jesus Christ can help us. In fact, He already has helped us, because by dying on the Cross He has paid the ultimate price for our sins. And not only for our sins, but also the sins of everyone else.

So, our debt has been paid. But this brings us to John’s second point: that we need to get close to God. How? By keeping His commandments.

As Jesus says, ‘They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father and I will love them and reveal myself to them’ (Jn.14:21).

So, which commandments? There are 613 in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.

The story is told of the great rabbi Hillel who claimed that he could recite all 613 commandments while standing on one leg. Someone challenged him, so he lifted one leg and said, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. The rest is commentary, go and learn.’ Then he put his leg down. [iii]

At the Last Supper, Jesus said: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you…’ (Jn.13:34).

If you want to fix your mysterious limp, this is a good place to start.

[i] CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Fontana Books, London. 1969:135.

[ii] Bishop Robert Barron, Daily Reflection, March 21, 2018.


Year B – 2nd Sunday of Easter

St Faustina and Divine Mercy

(Acts 4:32-35; 1Jn.5:1-6; Jn.20:19-31)

Today, on the Feast of Divine Mercy, let’s hear the story of St Faustina Kowalska.

She was born in Poland in 1905, the third of ten children. Her father was a carpenter; their family was poor.

Faustina always loved Jesus. When she was 7, she wanted to be a nun, but her parents discouraged her, even when she left school. At 19, she saw a vision of Jesus at a dance. She went straight to a church, where Jesus told her to join a convent. That night she packed her bags and left for Warsaw, telling no-one.

She approached several convents there, but they all said no, probably because she was so poor. However, one convent did agree to accept her if she paid for her own habit. So, she worked as a housemaid for a year, saved up and in 1925 joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.

For 13 years she lived a life of humble service, cooking, cleaning and gardening in Polish and Lithuanian convents. But Jesus had other plans for her. Over several years she had many visions of Jesus, and experienced ecstasies, hidden stigmata and even bilocation. [i]

Jesus wanted Faustina to become the Apostle of Divine Mercy, reminding the world of God’s merciful love and His hope that everyone would trust Him and love their neighbour.

In 1931, Jesus appeared to her as ‘the King of Divine Mercy,’ wearing a white garment with red and white rays streaming from his heart. The white ray, He explained, represents the water of Baptism and Penance which purifies souls. The red stands for the Blood of the Holy Eucharist which is the life of souls.

Year B - 2nd Sunday of Easter 1

He asked her to paint this image, with the words ‘Jesus I trust in you’ below. He wanted this image widely displayed, and promised that anyone venerating it would not perish (Diary, 47, 48). And He wanted the first Sunday after Easter to become the Feast of Divine Mercy.

In 1935, Jesus gave Faustina the words of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a powerful and deeply scriptural prayer that is at the very heart of the Gospels. ‘For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world,’ it implores (Diary, 475). [ii]

In 1937, He gave her the Hour of Mercy prayer. 3.00 pm is the hour of great mercy for the world, Jesus said, when He will allow the faithful to enter into His mortal sorrow. ‘Immerse yourself, even for a brief moment, in my Passion,’ He said. ‘In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of me in virtue of my Passion’ (Diary, 1320). [iii]

Jesus attached great promises to each of these new forms of worship, but only if we genuinely trust God and show mercy to our neighbours.

In 1933, Faustina moved to Vilnius, in Lithuania, where she met Fr Sopocko, who became her confessor. When she revealed her visions to him, he sent her to a psychiatrist. She passed the tests, however, and thereafter Fr Sopocko encouraged her to keep a diary.

The result is the book Divine Mercy in My Soul – 600 pages about God’s love for us and how he wants us to live and pray. [iv]

She struggled to paint the picture Jesus wanted, so Fr Sopocko found another artist. Faustina was never fully satisfied with his work, but Jesus said, ‘the image is never going to be perfect; it’s good enough.’ So, this is the image we see today (Diary, 313).

Year B - 2nd Sunday of Easter 2

Interestingly, when the Divine Mercy image is laid atop the image of the Shroud of Turin, the faces match perfectly.

Sadly, Faustina caught tuberculosis and in 1936 went to a sanatorium in Kraków. Her last two years were filled with prayer, even more intense visions of Jesus, and keeping her diary. She died in October 1938.

Pope St John Paul II canonised her in April 2000, making her the first saint of the 3rd Millennium. He also established the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, and that’s what we celebrate today.

But why is divine mercy so important? It’s because without God’s mercy, we are all lost. We have all failed God in some way, and yet he wants us with Him in heaven. That really is remarkable.

So, let’s take to heart the words written on every Divine Mercy image: Jesus, I trust in you.




[iv] Sr Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Marian Press, Stockbridge MA, 2007.

Year B – Easter Sunday

Like Buttercups and Sunflowers

(Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col.3:1-4; Jn.20:1-9)

Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Happy Easter!

Where does the name easter come from? No-one’s quite sure. Some say it means ‘the feast of fresh flowers.’ Others say it comes from the old Norse word eostur, which means ‘the season of new birth.’

But from wherever it came, Easter is surely the most important day of the year.

Why? It’s because it’s the day when Jesus literally rose from the dead. That’s important because it proves that God is real, and powerful. It also confirms that everything Jesus has been saying to us is true.

And most importantly, Jesus’ resurrection proves that death is not the end of the road for any of us (1Cor.15:54-55), for Easter is the sign that Jesus always brings light and life wherever He goes.

This means that, as followers of Christ, we too can have our own personal Easter whenever we find ourselves facing physical death or a darkness of some kind, like an illness, a betrayal or a failed dream.

For Christianity is the promise of new life, whatever our circumstances.


Jesus’ resurrection confounded the first Christians. They struggled to understand it and didn’t know what to do about it. But gradually they adopted a new way of living.

One of the first things they did was to study the Scriptures, looking for what the prophets might have said about Jesus’ coming. They also looked for clues about what might happen next.

As well, they began teaching others about the Good News, at first orally, and then in writing, and some of this became our New Testament.

The early Christians also adopted Jesus’ lifestyle, by living modestly and meeting regularly in each other’s homes, to break bread and support each other by sharing what they had (Mt.25:31-36; Acts 6:1-6).

And they placed crosses and other sacred images on the eastern walls of their homes, to mark their Christian faith and help them face east whenever they prayed.

Why did they face east? It’s because Jesus entered Jerusalem from the east on Palm Sunday, and they expected that Jesus would one day return from the east (Mt.24:27), and wanted to be ready for Him.

Like the sun that always rises in the east, the early Christians saw Jesus as the ‘Bright Morning Star’ who makes all things new again (Rev.22:16; Jn.8:12).

In the 4th Century, when they started building churches, they made sure they always faced east, too, wherever possible. They designed the churches and the liturgy to help carry the faithful into the arms of God (Lk.1:78-79).

It took years for the early Christians to settle into a new pattern of life after the first Easter. The Roman persecution made this difficult, however their passion for Jesus was so strong that it shaped their lives.

But what of us today? Here we are celebrating Easter, but does Jesus’ resurrection make any difference to our own lives?

Many people believe in the resurrection, but don’t understand it. Others understand it but do nothing about it. What should we be doing?

One good thing to do is to learn from the first Christians.

They studied the Scriptures to learn about Jesus. They decorated their homes with Christian images and prayed intently. They tried to live like Jesus, living modestly and in community, and often meeting in each other’s homes to break bread and support each other, sharing what they had.

Just like buttercups and sunflowers that naturally turn to face the sun each day, the earliest Christians always turned towards the Son of God in everything they did.

May we do the same.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Year B – Palm Sunday

The Donkey’s Cross

(Is.50:4-7; Phil.2:6-11; Mk.14:1–15:47)

Today, Palm Sunday, marks the start of Holy Week, the most important week of the year.

Most people these days seem to associate Easter with rabbits and chocolate eggs, but these things are but childish distractions. In the Middle Ages, people always associated Jesus with the donkey.

Why? It’s because all four Gospels tell us that Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He could have chosen a horse or a camel, but He picked a donkey because it says so much about who He is and the kind of kingdom He represents.

In ancient times, horses and chariots symbolised power and status, and great leaders always rode mighty warhorses into battle. Donkeys, however, represented service, suffering and humility, and leaders only rode them if they came in peace (1Kgs.1:33).

So, by choosing a donkey, Jesus is clearly saying something. And at the same time, He’s fulfilling the ancient prophecy of Zechariah, who said: ‘…rejoice, O daughter Zion! Lo, your king comes to you, humble and riding on a donkey’ (Zech.9:9).

In other words, Jesus is publicly declaring that He is the promised Messiah.

In 2006, Pope Benedict said that to understand the significance of Zechariah’s words and Jesus’ behaviour, we need to listen to the prophet’s other predictions about the Messiah, for he tells us three things about Jesus (cf. Zech.9:10).

Firstly, he says that He’ll be a king of the poor, a poor man among the poor and for the poor.

Secondly, he says that Jesus will be a king of peace.

And thirdly, he says that Jesus will be a king for the whole world, for His kingdom of peace will extend ‘from sea to sea… to the ends of the earth.’ [i]

All this is symbolised by the humble donkey.

Now, some people think that donkeys are stupid animals, and they like to make fun of them. In the Scriptures, however, donkeys are always considered noble creatures that do important work.

For example, the kings David and Solomon and all the prophets ride them, and so does Abraham (Gen.22:3). In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a donkey carries the wounded man to safety (Lk.10:34). Balaam’s donkey teaches his master a lesson (Num. 22), and another donkey carries bread and wine to Saul (1Sam.6:20).

All these animals are working for God. They’re carrying God’s messengers; they’re helping to spread God’s Word. They’re delivering help and wisdom to those who need it, and they’re carrying the bread and wine – the Body and Blood of Christ – to where they are needed.

Indeed, the donkey is the ultimate bearer of Salvation, for it carries Mary to Bethlehem at the start of Jesus’ life, and it carries Him to His end in Jerusalem.

In all this, the donkey serves as a wonderful symbol for Christian discipleship. It’s an ordinary creature doing extraordinary things for God, and all this animal has to do is co-operate. It doesn’t even need to understand what it’s doing; it only needs to be loyal and helpful.

Isn’t this an important lesson for us all?

Let’s close with a story. A poor farmer near Jerusalem had a donkey. It was too small to do much work, he couldn’t afford to keep it, and it was too small to sell. So, he decided to kill it.

His children loved that donkey, however. They begged him not to hurt it, and suggested that he tie the donkey to a tree on the way into town. Maybe someone would take it.

Well, the farmer did just that, and soon two men expressed interest. ‘It can carry almost nothing,’ the farmer warned.

‘Jesus of Nazareth needs it,’ one man replied.

The farmer couldn’t imagine what a great teacher would want with such a worthless animal, but he agreed.

The men took the animal to Jesus, who stroked the grateful donkey’s face and then rode it away. It was Palm Sunday, and riding that small, common donkey, Jesus led his followers into Jerusalem.

The donkey loved his gentle master so much that it later followed Him to Calvary. But seeing Jesus on the Cross broke its heart. The donkey turned away, but couldn’t leave. And just then the shadow of the Cross fell upon its back, and there it stayed.

Ever since, all donkeys have carried the sign of the Cross on their backs. [ii]

So, this Holy Week, forget about the Easter rabbits. It’s the donkey that has something to teach us about our lives.

[i] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for Palm Sunday, 2006.

[ii] Sue Weaver, The Donkey Companion (Storey Publishing, 2008). (Abridged).

Year B – 5th Sunday of Lent

When Life Follows Death

(Jer.31:31-34; Heb.5:7-9; Jn.12:20-33)

Years ago, a man played piano in a bar. One night, a patron asked him to sing. ‘I don’t sing,’ he replied.

The customer persisted, telling the barman, ‘I’m tired of listening to the piano. I want that man to sing!’ The barman shouted across the room, ‘Hey buddy! If you want to get paid, then sing a song!’

The piano player was reluctant. He’d never sung in public before, but he tried singing ‘Mona Lisa,’ and just then his life changed, forever. He was Nat King Cole, the jazz musician who became a famous crooner. [i]

Sometimes something in us must die before we can produce new fruit. That’s the Paschal Mystery.

Most people think there’s only one kind of death, and that it’s final. But in his book The Holy Longing, Ron Rolheiser says there are two kinds. There’s terminal death, which represents the end of life and end of all possibilities. And then there’s paschal death, which is real death because something precious dies. It ends one kind of life, but it’s followed by a new, deeper and richer experience of life.

Wheat bag image

It’s this paschal death that Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel. He’s in Jerusalem for the Passover festival, talking to some Greek pilgrims. ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest,’ He says.

This is the Paschal Mystery, where something dies so that something new can be born. We see it in our seasons, where spring always follows winter, and in controlled burns, where new growth always rises from the ashes. It also happens when we lose a job, a friend or a dream, and find that something new has taken its place.

This is the rhythm of life, but many people struggle to accept it.

Ron Rolheiser says that this is where we can learn from Jesus Christ, because the ultimate Paschal Mystery is His death and Resurrection, where Jesus experienced five key events: His death on Good Friday, His Resurrection on Easter Sunday, the 40 days after Easter, His Ascension and finally, Pentecost.

Together, these five events form a pattern which can help us understand what so often happens in our own lives.

Firstly, Good Friday represents the real death of something important to us, like losing our youth, our dreams or our wholeness. And Easter Sunday marks the beginning of new life.

But sometimes we’re so fixated on our old life that we don’t recognise the new one that follows. We are like the disciples who couldn’t recognise Jesus that Easter morning. ‘Don’t cling to me,’ Jesus says to Mary Magdalene. In other words, don’t cling to what I was. ‘See I am doing a new thing. Can you not see it?’ (Is.43:19).

Rolheiser says that’s why Easter is followed by 40 days. This is the time for us to grieve what we’ve lost and to adjust to the new. But we need to grieve well, and not bypass this experience with pious platitudes or allow alcohol or other distractions to smother the pain of our loss.

As Jesus says, ‘It’s better for you that I go away. Yes, you’ll be sad, but your sadness will turn to joy. But if I don’t go away, you won’t be able to receive my spirit. So, don’t cling; I must ascend’ (cf. Jn.16:7; 20:17).

Good grieving, Rolheiser says, means not just coming to terms with what we’ve lost, but allowing it to bless us. It means letting ourselves experience the sorrow of our losses, but also the pleasure of what we still have.

This is the moment of our Ascension, he says, when we let go of the old and allow it to bless us. It marks a refusal to cling to the old.

And finally, there’s Pentecost, where we receive a new spirit that will sustain us through our new life. We all need this new spirit as life changes, including the spirit of patience, courage and gratitude for all we have.

As Christians we know new life always follows death, but change can be hard.

If you’re struggling, remember Jesus’ Paschal Mystery and His 5-step process, where death and resurrection is followed by 40 days of grieving, then a glorious Ascension, followed by the spirit-filled joy of Pentecost. [ii]

The Paschal Mystery is an extraordinary gift. Through it, Jesus wants to heal our brokenness, just as He healed the brokenness of weeping Mary Magdalene and the two depressed disciples walking to Emmaus.

Jesus always offers us new life.


[ii] Ron Rolheiser OMI. The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, Crown Publishing, N.Y., 1999

Year B – 4th Sunday of Lent

Second Chances

(2Chron.36:14-16, 19-23; Eph.2:4-10; Jn.3:14-21)

What would you do if you were offered a second chance?

In Victor Hugo’s famous story Les Misérables, Jean Valjean is caught stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving family. He’s sent to gaol and when he’s released years later, he’s totally destitute. No-one wants him. A bishop offers him food, shelter and hope, but Jean responds by stealing his silverware.

Again he is caught, but this time the bishop tells the police the silverware was a gift. Jean is stunned. Later, the bishop says to him: ‘You no longer belong to evil, but to good. It’s your soul I am buying for you… and I give it to God!’

Jean is given another chance. He accepts it and his life is transformed.

This is a great story, but what makes it stand out is the fact that our world today is so cruelly unforgiving. If someone makes a mistake, they’re more likely to receive a cold shoulder than a second chance. And yet, it’s natural for us to make mistakes.

Learning and growing can take us a lifetime.

If you need a second chance right now, it’s worth noting that that’s exactly what God is offering us. From the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the Heavenly Garden in Revelation, the Bible is packed full of stories about God giving people another go.

There are so many examples. Adam and Eve disobey God; Jonah escapes from God; David commits adultery and has someone murdered; Rahab is a prostitute and Peter denies Jesus three times. But God doesn’t reject any of these people. He gives them all a chance to redeem themselves, and they do.

Then there’s Moses. He murders a man, but God still asks him to lead His people. Then after receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses gets angry with his people’s golden calf worship and he smashes those tablets. He regrets it, though, and expects to be punished, but he finds himself with two new tablets instead (Deut.9-10).

And Zacchaeus, the pint-sized tax collector in Jericho, feels guilty for his greed. The people hate him, but Jesus doesn’t. Jesus invites him to a meal and offers him a fresh start.

The Woman at the Well, too, has lived a life of sin. She’s shunned by her community and filled with shame. But when she goes looking for water, she finds Jesus instead and He offers her hope. Her life is also transformed (Jn.4).

Then there’s that famous fruitless fig tree. Its owner wants to chop it down, but the vinedresser says ‘Give it another chance!’ The owner agrees, and gives it another year (Lk.13:6-9).

But perhaps the most famous second chance story of all is the Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the son insults his father by leaving home and taking his inheritance with him. After getting into trouble, the boy returns home, but the father doesn’t punish him. Instead, he celebrates his return with a feast of love.

Year B - 4th Sunday of Lent 3

All through the Scriptures there’s this constant thread of stories about people being given another chance in life. And underpinning it all is today’s Gospel, with perhaps the most famous Biblical verse of all time: ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life,’ (Jn.3:16).

This one sentence summarises not only the Gospel, but also the whole Bible, and it explains God’s plan from the beginning of time.

It points out how much God loves us, because He gave us His only Son, and it promises that if we truly believe in Jesus, then we will live forever with him in heaven.

Now, it’s worth noting here that Jesus says ‘everyone’ – not ‘some people’ but everyone, regardless of who we are, where we come from and what we might have done. We’re all being offered a second chance at life, regardless of our circumstances (Prov.28:13; 2Pet.3:9).

All we have to do is take Jesus into our hearts and trust Him. 

Right now we are in Lent, and Lent is the perfect time for us to reflect on this message, because it’s central to Jesus’ Passion, death and resurrection.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are all about second chances – and new life.

By his Cross and resurrection, Jesus shows us that it’s always possible to break free from our past, to begin a new life in the light of God’s grace. 

This is the paschal mystery, and the heart of our Christian story.

There’s new life waiting for us all.

Year B – 3rd Sunday of Lent

The Long Nose of God

(Ex.20:1-17; 1Cor.1:22-25; Jn.2:13-25)

One of the most famous descriptions of God in the Bible comes from the Book of Exodus, where He is described as ‘… the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and truth…’ (Ex.34:6-7).

In the original Hebrew, the phrase ‘slow to anger’ reads: אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם (pronounced: erech apayyim), which means ‘He has a long nose.’ What does that mean?

When we get angry, our nostrils tend to flare, especially when we express our indignation. So, saying that God has a long nose is an ancient Hebrew expression, meaning that God is very slow to anger. [i]

We can be grateful for that, because many people today seem to have very short noses; they are often angry. Consider the story of the young woman who was engaged to be married. Her fiancé had saved $360 to buy her a Valentine’s Day gift. But she was tempestuous, so he decided to deduct $1 whenever she yelled at him.

By Valentine’s Day, all he had left was $40.

Benjamin Franklin once said that whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. But is that always the case?

In the Old Testament, the first person who gets angry is Cain. He is so jealous of his brother Abel that he kills him (Gen.4:1-8). And in the New Testament, the first person to get angry is Herod. He gets so angry that he decides to kill all the male infants in and near Bethlehem (Mt.2:16).

These acts are shameful, but Jesus demonstrates that anger can also be a normal, healthy emotion that leads to positive change.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in Jerusalem celebrating the feast of Passover. Every year, thousands of people went there to thank God for freeing the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.

Now, the Jerusalem Temple is meant to be a sacred place of worship. But Jesus finds that it’s become a noisy bazaar, with merchants selling animals for sacrifice. He’s furious and cracks a whip, telling them to get out. ‘Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’ he roars, and the place clears.

In one sense, Jesus’ action is not surprising because the prophet Zechariah predicts it in the Old Testament; ‘There will be no more traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day’ (Zech.14:21).

But at the same time, Jesus shocks everyone because He’s condemning the whole system of Jewish worship. He’s declaring that Temple worship, with its ritual and animal sacrifices, has become irrelevant and is no longer effective in bringing people to God.

Jesus is protesting that religion has become too narrow, nationalistic and exclusive, for Israel has failed to fulfil her mission. God had wanted the Temple to become a house of prayer ‘for all nations.’ But instead, the Temple has been kept exclusively for the people of Israel.

The area where the Jews had set up this marketplace was called the Court of the Gentiles. It was the only part of the Temple where non-Jews were allowed to pray. But the hustle, bustle and noise of the traders made that impossible. [ii]

The people are shocked by Jesus’ anger; however, it isn’t uncontrolled rage. Rather, He’s demonstrating his authority. He makes it clear that everyone is important to God: both Gentiles and Jews.

In the process, Jesus changes the way people worship: from sacrificial to spiritual worship. And He teaches us that anger can be a natural and important way to express emotion.

The American theologian Brian McLaren describes anger as a source of creativity; a vaccination against apathy and complacency; a gift that can be abused – or wisely used; and part of the gift of being human and alive.

He compares it to the physical pain reflex. He writes: ‘What pain is to my body, anger is to my soul, psyche, or inner self. When I put my hand on a hot stove, physical pain reflexes make me react quickly, to urgently address whatever is damaging my fragile tissues. Physical pain must be strong enough to prompt me to action, immediate action, or I will be harmed, even killed.  

‘Similarly, when I or someone I love is in the company of insult, injustice, injury, degradation, or threat, anger awakens. It tells me to change my posture or position; it demands that I address the threat.’ [iii]

We can be thankful that God has a ‘long nose,’ for it means that he’s patient with us. But anger isn’t always such a bad thing.

Jesus shows us that anger can be a gift from God, especially when it prompts us to say ‘Enough is enough!’


[ii] Flor McCarthy, New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies, Year B, Dominican Publications, Dublin, 2017:82.

[iii] Brian McLaren, quoted in Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations: Anger Does Its Work, January 18, 2023.

Year B – 2nd Sunday of Lent

The Holy Face of Jesus

(Gen.22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18; Rom.8:31-34; Mk.9:2-10)

What did Jesus really look like? Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t tell us, and we have no 1st Century pictures of Him.

One guess is that Jesus looked ordinary (Is.53:2), and much like other Palestinian men of the time. That might explain why Judas had to point Him out in the Garden of Gethsemane (Jn.18:4-9).

Whatever Jesus’ appearance, though, we know from today’s Gospel that it changes there on Mt Tabor. For but a moment, Jesus is transfigured. His clothes become dazzlingly white, His ‘face shines like the sun’ (Mt.17:2), and the disciples briefly see Jesus as He truly is: the Son of God.

Year B - 2nd Sunday of Lent 1

Ever since then, people have been fascinated by Jesus’ Holy Face. Today there are so many icons, paintings and statues of Jesus; most depict Him as tall, lean and handsome, with long hair and a beard. This image was heavily influenced by the Shroud of Turin, which was discovered in France in the fourteenth century. [i]

At about that time, a Eucharistic miracle occurred in Walldurn, Germany. A priest accidentally spilled the Precious Blood during Mass, and an image of the Crucified Christ mysteriously appeared on the corporal, surrounded by eleven identical faces of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns. Pope Eugene confirmed this miracle in 1445, and it spurred great devotion to Jesus’ Holy Face. [ii]

This devotion spread further in the 1840s, when a young Carmelite nun, Sr Marie of St. Peter, in Tours, France, reported receiving messages from Jesus. Jesus encouraged her to spread devotion to His Holy Face, and said to her: ‘Those who contemplate the wounds on my face here on earth will contemplate it radiant in heaven.’

Jesus also described to Sr Marie the pain he feels when people blaspheme against His Holy Name. He called it ‘a poison arrow’ that pierces His heart. Then He gave her a prayer called The Golden Arrow, and said that anyone saying these words would pierce Him delightfully, and would help to heal the wounds that have been inflicted on Him:

Year B - 2nd Sunday of Lent 2
      May the most Holy, most Sacred, most Adorable,
      Most Incomprehensible and Ineffable Name of God
      Be always Praised, Blessed, Loved, Adored and Glorified,
      In Heaven, on Earth and in Hell,
      By all the Creatures of God,
      And by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
      In the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. 

In those days, Leon Dupont was a wealthy man living in Tours. He knew Sr Marie well and took great interest in her revelations. He dedicated his life to encouraging devotion to Jesus’ Holy Face, and when he died in 1876, his home was turned into the Oratory of the Holy Face. [iii]

Sometime later, St. Louis Martin, the father of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, visited that Oratory and enrolled his family as members. It had quite an effect, because when Thérèse joined the Carmelites, she formally adopted the name ‘Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face.’

Jesus’ image was everything to her. It inspired her to look for his hidden face everywhere, and she wrote many prayers expressing her love for him. In her Canticle to the Holy Face (1895), Thérèse wrote, ‘Jesus, your… image is the star which guides my steps… Your sweet face is for me heaven on earth.’

She also wrote, ‘Make me resemble you, Jesus!’ on a small card and put a stamp of the Holy Face on it. She kept it in a little box pinned near her heart.

In the 1890s, photos of the Holy Shroud of Turin were first published and interest in the Holy Face of Jesus grew even more.

Year B - 2nd Sunday of Lent 3

At about this time, another child was born in Milan, and in time she, too, became very devoted to Jesus’ Holy Face. In 1913, she joined a convent and took the name Sr Maria Pierina de Micheli.

In 1926, she started getting visions of Christ in which He asked her to spread devotion to His Holy Face. He wanted reparation for all the insults He had suffered during His Passion, when He was slapped, spat upon and kissed by Judas, and for all the ways He is dishonoured today through neglect, sacrilege and profanity.

‘Whoever meditates upon Me, consoles Me,’ Jesus said, and He asked Sr Maria to have medals of His Holy Face made. She achieved that, and today these medals include an image from the Shroud of Turin.[iv] [v]

Year B - 2nd Sunday of Lent 4

The transfiguration of Jesus is not just a historical event. It’s an invitation to each of us to get to know Jesus much better, by adoring His Holy Face.

And as we do that, remember that our adoration and prayers will help to heal His terrible wounds.

[i] Edward Lucie-Smith. The Face of Jesus. Abrams, New York. 2011:14-18.





Year B – 1st Sunday of Lent

Busy, Busy

(Lev.13:1-2, 44-46; 1Cor.10:31-11:1; Mk.1:40-45)

In 1930, the British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that we’d all be living in a ‘leisure society’ in the 21st Century.

He thought that because of growing populations, rising incomes and modern technology, we’d all be enjoying a 15-hour working week by 2030.[i]

He was wrong, wasn’t he? Today the standard working week in many countries is 40 hours, but many of us work much longer than that. The social researcher Hugh MacKay says we’ve all become obsessed with the idea of appearing busy, and ‘busy, busy’ has become a kind of mantra in our lives. [ii]  Why?

One answer is that our society thinks it’s important that we ‘have it all’ and that we look successful. So, we work long hours to pay for everything, and working hard has become a sign of success. But some people are now so successful that they don’t even have time for their families.

Year B - 1st Sunday of Lent 1

There’s another reason why we’re so busy. Geoffrey Plant, in his book Releasing the Captive, says we often keep ourselves busy to avoid listening, for frantic busyness can be a wonderful hiding place. He says that if you stay busy for long enough, you might never have time to listen and you might never have time to look at the things and the people you’d rather not see. You also might never have to face the situations or questions you’d rather avoid. [iii]

In his book Christian Reflections, C.S. Lewis tells us how to dodge these awkward things. All we have to do, he says, is ‘…avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads us off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or snobbish appeal.’ [iv]

So, keeping ourselves distracted is a good way to side-step the truth of our lives. However, the Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche says this is a form of laziness. In his Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, he contrasts Eastern and Western types of laziness and says they’re quite different.

Western laziness, he says, ‘consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there’s no time at all to confront the real issues.’ [v]

Is that you? Are you constantly filling time and killing time?

Year B - 1st Sunday of Lent 2

Many people today are so fed up with their frenzied lives that they dream of a sea-change or a tree-change. I expect, however, that what most of us really need is a ‘me-change.’

In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Galilee after 40 days in the desert, and he tells his followers to ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel’.

Now, repentance doesn’t mean being sad and miserable and feeling guilty for our sins. Repentance means changing the way we think, changing the way we feel, and changing the way we do things.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent, and in Lent we’re all called to follow Jesus into the desert. Not a physical desert, but a spiritual desert, a quiet place where we’re alone with Jesus in our hearts.

But why a desert?

Well, the desert is many things. It’s a holy place. It’s where the Jewish people found their way to God. It’s where they first discovered that God loved them, and it’s where they learnt to become faithful and loving.

The desert is also a place of silence and solitude. It’s a place of blue skies, bold colours and sharp contrasts. It’s where there are few distractions and the truth is plain to see. And importantly, it’s a place where everything slows down.

We don’t need a sea-change or a tree-change to find inner peace. Instead, let’s try a ‘me-change,’ by withdrawing with Jesus into our spiritual hearts.

Jesus wants us to step off our ‘busy, busy’ treadmills, and start spending quiet time with Him, listening to Him and learning from Him.

We don’t have to fear what we might find. Jesus was tempted in the desert, but He was also comforted by God’s angels. And when He left the desert, He was crystal clear about what he had to do.

Let’s do the same this Lent.

Let’s spend some quiet time with Jesus in the desert.

[i] John Maynard Keynes, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren. 1930.   


[iii] Geoffrey Plant. Releasing the Captive. Garratt Publishing, Melbourne, 2011.

[iv] C.S. Lewis, The Seeing Eye, from Christian Reflections, Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 1995:167-169, 171. 

[v] Sogyal Rinpoche. Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Ebury Publishing, London. 1992:19