Reflections from Fr Kieran

Temptation and Testing

In his reflection this week, Fr Kieran takes a deep look at the text from the Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent, the journey of Jesus into the desert for forty days, which marked the beginning of his public ministry, and which would lead, on Good Friday, to his death on a Cross as the overwhelming expression of His love for us.

The Gospel speaks of temptation, which can be defined as, “the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.” Well, no doubt Satan would have wanted Jesus to do just that. But was it temptation? Or was it ‘trial’ or, ‘testing?’ After all, Jesus was about to embark on the mission given to him by the Father, to begin a life of public ministry and He was to bring the word of God to all those around him, to make real, in the lives of the people, the Kingdom of God to which we are all called.

And so this time of testing, this time of getting ready.

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Touching and Being Touched

During Covid-19, we were all warned about the dangers of touch. Those many moments of touch that never needed words but which, nonetheless, said all that needed to be said, were impossible! It could be as simple as a handshake, that touch of hand to hand or an embrace that expressed a warmth without ever needing to be verbalised and yet, what was unsaid was understood. It could be to express sympathy, or pleasure at meeting, or congratulations, but whatever it was, touch conveyed so much.

And only when it was gone, did we realise how much touch was important in our lives.

In his reflection, Fr Kieran reflects more deeply on the significance of touch – in the story of the woman with a haemorrhage who wished only to touch to cloak of Jesus to be healed, of the intimacy of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples with his own hands, of Jesus touching the leper and making him clean. We have much to think about!

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What time is it?

In this part of the world, it is often the case that we can use terms or phrases in English which, to someone for whom English is not their native language, can be difficult to understand. Often, it is because they are difficult to translate and instead, we have to explain the concept behind the phrase and not just the words. There is many a non-English speaker who has looked perplexed when they put the phrase, “catching a bus” into Google translate!

Fr Kieran points to an example of this in his reflection when he explores the theme of time as recorded in the New Testament, especially in the Gospel reading and second reading for the Third Sunday in Ordinary time (there’s that word again!).

The Greek’s differentiated between ‘chronos’ time – that which is tracked by clocks and watches – and Kairos time, those moments when we are at a point of a critical decision, a make or break, on which so much that follows might depend.

Kieran links this Kairos time of the Gospel with the call to repent, a critical moment, not just to confess our sins but to quote from the final lines of Robert Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken,” to go in a different direction:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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The Service of Listening

Kieran’s reflection this week centres on the Ordinary Time reading from the first book of Samuel and the story of Hannah, Samuel her son, and Eli. And it is all about listening.

An encounter of being listened to, and being heard, can be transformative. We only have to look across the water at the scandal playing out about the grave injustice done to sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses by the Britain’s Post Office. Although an injustice that has continued for twenty years, the effect of the ITV dramatisation on the public conscience has led many to say that “for the first time ever, we are being heard.”

God listens to us; and we need to listen to God. Like Hannah, we need to pray to God as, how else can he hear us? And when we do this, and God is always listening, the result can be transformative!

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Speaking the truth

In his reflection for this week of Christmas, Fr Kieran takes the reading from the Acts of the Apostles on the feast of St Stephen, December 26, as his theme. In Acts, we read the account of the martyrdom of St Stephen. And what terrible thing did he do that led to his death? He spoke the truth, the truth given to him by the Holy Spirit. But some didn’t want to hear the truth!

In Kieran’s reflection, he points out that there are so many times and places where the truth of the Gospel is either not being heard, or perhaps, heard but not followed. St Stephen paid for this with his life and while the stakes might not be as high, we must always have the courage to be open to the truth, when we hear it spoken, and to speak the truth.

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“Mere” – “Just” – “Only” – watch your language!

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” These words, from “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll, might seem an unusual way to introduce a reflection by Fr Kieran. However, read on!

When we read the Gospels, it can be easy to look past some of the smaller words, those that seem less important and almost throwaway. However, in his exploration of the Gospel of Tuesday (Lk 10:21-24), Kieran asks us to stop and look more closely, this time at the expression concerning, “mere” children. How could so innocuous a word carry such a deep meaning and a deep message?

As Kieran shows us, words can indeed, as in Alice’s observation, “mean so many different things” and Kieran’s analysis of the words of Tuesday’s Gospel shows us how the words of St Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 4:4) should be taken very much to heart – “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

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Practising and preaching!

In his reflection on the Gospel reading for the thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) (Mt 23:1-12), Fr Kieran focuses on verse three of that Gospel: “You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say, but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach.”

The advice, to “practise what you preach” is one that is commonly and frequently given and heard. In his reflection, Kieran considers another sense, the positive sense, in which the word “practise” is used in everyday language and points to the musicians, artists, actors, and sportspeople who daily “practise” what they do, so as to improve.

Therefore to “practise” in this context, is to seek to remove the imperfections, to accept that one has work to do in order to get better.

Good advice for all of us!

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Beware of the Blame Game

Fr Kieran reflects on the Gospel of the 28th Sunday of the Year (Matt 22:1-14), about the invitation from the King to the Wedding Feast for his son. This is one of the passages from the Gospels that have been ‘used’ from time to time to target the Jewish people. However, Kieran challenges such an interpretation.

At the time of writing, the Israel – Hamas war is happening, taking place following the horrific attacks by Hamas on innocent Israeli citizens, enjoying themselves or just going about their business, and murdering over one thousand of them.

And Israel’s government and military are retaliating with massive force and in the process, killing thousands of civilians – men, women, and children. And so the blame game begins, in the media, on the streets, in parliaments.

Kieran challenges this instant blame game that emerges from equating the word, “some” with the word, “all.”

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“What do you do?”

What’s in a question? A chance encounter in the cark park at the friary and an unexpected question asked of Fr Kieran is the context for his sharing this week. In a place where there is so much history and so much beauty to be seen whether within the church building itself or in the grounds of the friary, most of the friers are well-versed enough to tell people about the ‘place’ when asked and indeed, they are asked this frequently. However, last Sunday, the question asked of Kieran was to enquire of what Franciscans in Multyfarnham ‘do’ – what is Franciscan life?

Buildings, gardens, decoration, surroundings – all of these are the canvas for the picture of life that is led in Multyfarnham but what is it that gives the picture its life? It is, of course, the friars and here in his reflection this week, Kieran opens the door, inviting us in as he answers the question put to him in the car park.

A thank you, perhaps, to the anonymous woman whose question lies at the source of Kieran’s words!

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Transfiguration – God’s divinity and its connection with His humanity

In his reflection this week, which was also his homily last Sunday, Fr Kieran invites us to think about the duality of Jesus, His humanity, and His divinity, and consider how the Transfiguration that we have just celebrated, fits in our understanding of Jesus as God and man.

For the Jewish people at the time of Jesus, the “scandal” was not the death of Jesus on the Cross – after all, the sight of criminals condemned to an horrific death on a cross was not an uncommon sight. However, to speak of resurrection, not at the end of time, (or for some, at all) was a concept for very many that might be considered scandalous.

Kieran weaves these two aspects of Jesus, His humanity and His divinity, and leads us to see this feast of the Transfiguration – Jesus in his divine state – as intrinsically linked with the human Jesus, whose death on the cross, a death that brought with it indescribable suffering and horror, as the divine expression of His love for us.

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