Let me contrast this week’s gospel message with a few popular news items reflecting modern Irish society. One leading feature in the Irish Times last week proposed that IVF should be free for all with surrogacy on demand. It profiled a single mother who had rejected marriage in favour of having a child on her own through artificial insemination. Three days later the Irish News led with a profile of a gay couple using two surrogates to provide children whom they call their own. It looks very like substituting faith in themselves for faith in God. Science provides them the methodology and they choose for themselves what their children will be like.
In contrast the Sunday first reading teaches the ten commandments as guidelines for good life. No adultery, no killing of embryos, no obscuring of the truth by appeal to sentimentality; the good life is not only for the rich and sophisticated from wealthy countries but also for the needy who make do with less. The Catholic Church lead story is from Trocaire profiling two widows from South Sudan who ask for help to recover from war damage, displacement, total lack of resources. They are confident of help because the Church has always responded to the cry of the poor. It’s inspiring to see their enthusiasm, energy and concern for others. Our constant challenge is to seek to understand the views of those who are not church people while using the scripture for our guide to speaking the truth in love.
In our second Sunday text St Paul tells us that Jesus carries our weakness and disappointment on the Cross. Jesus points us beyond sorrow to new life even if circumstances are against us. Popular songs can direct attention to the same truth: Linda Ronstadt sings in Tracks of my Tears. ‘People say I’m the life of the party because I tell a joke or two; though I might be laughing loud and hearty, deep inside I’m blue.’
The singer is heartbroken but does not allow sad events to stop her smiling. She accepts sorrow, restriction, failure but goes forward bravely in the mess of this world. Possibly the song writer was inspired by St Paul?
In the gospel we are told to take a firm stance for the faith. Jesus clears the Temple because nominal believers have got it badly wrong. He invites us also to make a statement, to get in the News when the world needs to hear the truth. What truth do you need to tell? Are you ready to take the risk of speaking out? Are you ready to challenge reporters and journalists who follow the crowd and belittle church teaching? Here’s advice from a hymn about St Patrick. It goes like this:
Dochas linn Naomh Padraig, aspal mor na h’Eireann
Ainm oiric gleigheal, solas mor an tsaoil e.
Se a chloigh na draiothe, croithe dur’ gan aon mhaith.
D’isligh dream an diomais, tri neart De ar dtrean-fhlaith.
From the hymn we are told Patrick hammered the druids, ‘the hard-hearted good for nothings’. The former archbishop of Armagh suggests a new translation which tells how Patrick returned to Ireland with a gospel of love despite years of captivity. He wants us to be less aggressive against evil and more forgiving in what we say. But perhaps both approaches are necessary; oppose evil like the New Age nonsense and the breaking up of marriage and at the same time seek to understand those different points of view even if they are not based on scripture or church tradition.
Jesus in today’s gospel is more of a Sé a chloigh na draoithe, croithe dur gan aon mhaith. He’s against useless opinions. He wants to guard poor people from bad influences and help them grow like Trocaire does. Where do you stand? Do you follow the serenity prayer?
God grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.