A tough Sunday Gospel

We hear a difficult teaching in the Gospel today. Here Fr Tommy Lane asks whether there is anything that can help us to forgive those who have hurt us.
These are some suggestions that I offer to people from time to time:

  • Forgiveness is a decision not an emotion. Hopefully our emotions will follow our decision to forgive but firstly we must decide to forgive.
* Forgiveness does not mean blotting out painful memories but it means not acting out of them. That is why when the hurt is deep therapy may be necessary to free us from acting out of past negative experiences.
  • When people have difficulty forgiving a hurt I sometimes say to people to repeat to themselves, “I will not allow that person to control my life. I take control of my life back from that person. From now on I will control my life.”
* Another thought that can help us to forgive is to remember that Jesus died to save the other person just as he died to save you. Try to visualize the person beneath Jesus on the cross. Can you see Jesus dying for that person?
  • Sometimes people say they will forgive if the other person makes an apology. I think that is in some way connected with wanting to control the other person. Forgiving somebody involves giving up the need for an apology and the need to control or dominate the person who hurt us. Surrendering the need to expect them to ask forgiveness frees us to forgive them.

From a homily by Fr Tommy Lane www.frtommylane.com

Looking for our shadows

Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?
– William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Ask a lot of people which is their most un-favourite month and they will say February. It’s a short month but it seems like the long drawn out tail-end of winter. It’s either sunny-but-cold or slightly- warmer-but-grey-and-depressing. Basically, at the end of the month we are glad to see the end of poor old February, aren’t we?

But, of course, February does give us the opportunity to long for spring, a season we don’t really appreciate enough in this country. When I studied in Canada the transition from winter to summer seemed to be over in a few days. Fr James and Fr Tomy would often say how in Kerala there are no real seasons except the monsoons. Here we all look out for the first signs of the coming spring. The snowdrops peep out, the daffs start to push up, the mornings start to get a little lighter. It’s good sometimes to have to wait, to be forced to long… There’s something very spiritual about the emergence from winter into spring. No wonder St John in particular often talks of dark and light in his Gospel. So Advent made us wait for the Coming. Lent will make us wait for the Dying and Rising. Here are a few lines I found about February.

“Away in a meadow all covered with snow
The little old groundhog looks for his shadow
The clouds in the sky determine our fate
If winter will leave us all early of late.” – Don Halley

I love the idea of waiting for our shadow to return with the sun. Where has it gone for the last few months? Will it ever come back? Yes… it will be back, the sun will shine again, February will soon give way to spring…

Fr Matthew

Remembering Christopher

February 11  Our Lady of Lourdes

I’ll never forget Christopher. He was a young lad with physical and learning difficulties and was part of our group on my first visit to Lourdes back in 1979. I was just one year ordained, wet behind the priestly ears you might say. There was a HCPT Group in the parish to which I was appointed, St Therese in Port Talbot. As curate I was automatically the chaplain to the group. Each HCPT group has about 10 young people, 10 helpers, a nurse and a priest. I was anxious to help as much as I could and to do the full priesty bit.
But I hadn’t reckoned on one of the children in our group, Christopher, attaching himself to me and in doing that, to teach me so much. I wasn’t ready for his acceptance of his circumstances, the trust he put in me, the laughs we would have together, the simple Christian love he would draw out of me.
I learned a huge amount that week about ministry. Many people, helpers especially, have gone to Lourdes, like I did, ready to give – give of our time, our care, our work – and it is, indeed, hard work. What I didn’t expect was that I would be the one to receive more than I gave. In seminary we tended to get the impression that it would be all about what we could do for others. In fact it is about what we all can do for each other, no matter our age, health or position in life. We Christians are to be a family, a network of love in action.
This is really one of the miracles of places like Lourdes. There, through the gentle presence of Our Lady, we are given a glimpse of how it should be. A good convert of mine had been struggling with RCIA and the whole business of becoming Catholic. It was visiting Lourdes that did the trick. He said “If this is how Catholics want to be, that’s how I want to be too”.
I only stayed in Port Talbot for nine months. I never saw Christopher again after I left. But in those early years of priesthood his laughter, his hugs and a few tears too, made as much impression as anything I experienced.

Fr Matthew