The Gospel of last Sunday has a number of important messages for us. It is a continuation of the gospel from Sep. 24th, where we are told Jesus took a child and set him in the midst of the people. We all know that a child has no influence at all; a child cannot advance a man's career nor enhance his prestige; a child cannot give us things. It is the other way round. A child needs things; a child must have things done for him. The child is typical of the person who needs things done for him, and it is the society of the person who needs things that we must seek. It is easy to cultivate the friendship of the person who can do things for us and whose influence can be useful to us. It is equally easy to avoid the society of the person who inconveniently needs our help. It is easy to curry favor with the influential and the great, and to neglect the simple, humble ordinary folk. Jesus is telling, and asking us: "As you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me". (Matt. 25:40)
What follows next is a message in tolerance from Jesus. In the time of Jesus everyone believed in demons. Both mental and physical illness was believed to be caused by these evil spirits. There was one common way to exorcise them If one could get to know the name of a still more powerful spirit and command the evil demon in that name to come out of a person, the demon was supposed to be powerless to resist. John had seen a man using the all-powerful name of Jesus to defeat the demons and he had tried to stop him because he was not one of the close bands of Jesus' disciples. Jesus answered that no man could do a mighty work in his name and be altogether his enemy. Jesus is saying: "He who is not against us is for us". Here is a lesson in tolerance for all of us.
Every person has a right to his own thoughts. Every person has a right to think things out, to think them through until he comes to his own conclusions and his own beliefs. We have to respect these rights. As Catholics we have the teachings of the Church and catechesis and prayer to help guide us in our thinking. But ultimately it is my personal convictions which guide me. The problem of so many people is that different religions point out different ways to seek God and His message. As regards religious beliefs a lot of tolerance is often required in trying to understand peoples. What I am really saying is that each of us has to respect the beliefs of other peoples' religions, even if I totally reject these beliefs and of course they should also respect my beliefs also.
The Gospel continues with an important message about rewards and punishments. It declares that any kindness shown, any help given to the people of Christ will not lose its reward. Every person in need belongs to Jesus, because he is dear to him. A cup of water to a thirsty person can be simple but vital. We are asked to give the simple things that any person can give.
There is a great missionary story I heard recently. A Sister had been telling a class of Kenyan children about giving a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus. She was sitting out on her veranda when into the village came a company of African native bearers. They were tired and thirsty and they sat down to rest. These were from another tribe and had they asked the ordinary non-Christian local for water they would have been told to go and find it for themselves. But as the men sat wearily there and as the Sister watched, from the school emerged a little line of tiny African girls. On their heads they had pitchers of water. Shyly and fearfully they approached the tired bearers, knelt and offered them pitchers of water. In surprise the bearers took them and drank and handed them back, and the girls took to their heels and ran to the Sister. "We have given a thirsty man a drink," they said, "in the name of Jesus". The little children took the story and the duty literally. Would that more people would do so! It is the simple kindnesses that are needed.
However the converse is also true. To help is to win the eternal reward. To cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble or sin is to win eternal punishment. To scandalize or cause a little one to sin will be punished severely. So we score many points with God by our good deeds of kindness, but we will be punished for our bad deeds.
The Cill Cais Palers
I have been asked by my good friends Jim and Brigid O'Brien to tell you a little about a wonderful Irish Play Group called "The Cill Cais Players". This is a small group which each year performs some great Irish theater in different New York venues. This year's performances will be at Our lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Bayside on November 25, at 3pm, The Irish American Center Mineola on Friday November 30 at 8.00pm, St. Gregory's Bellerose on Saturday December 1 at 8pm, and at The Kerry Hall in Yonkers, NY on Sunday December 2 at 4pm.
For information please contact Patrick Browne, President at 917-846-3779, Sibby Platania at 718-347-5914 or Jim O'Brien at 718 -347-0879.
Last Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of being present at the Irish Consulate Lobby at 345 Park Avenue, NYC at the launching of "The Gathering 2013 in Ireland", by Tourism Ireland. Present at the launching were Mr. Eamon Gilmore T.D., Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Leo Varadkar T.D., Minister for Tourism, Transport and Sport, Mr. Noel Kilkenny, Consul General of Ireland, and Mr. Joe Byrne, EVP. It is interesting that Tourism Ireland is now a body which represents all of Ireland both North and South. So I heartily endorse this great endeavor which should be supported by all Irish Americans. Ireland needs a lot of support at the present time when the economy is struggling. I am sure if any of you wish to hold an event in Ireland you will get every support and a great welcome.