17th March (Monday). St Patrick, Principal Patron of Ireland
17th March (Monday). St Patrick, Principal Patron of Ireland
First Reading: Sirach 39:6-10
If the great Lord is willing, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; he will pour forth words of wisdom of his own and give thanks to the Lord in prayer. The Lord will direct his counsel and knowledge, as he meditates on his mysteries.
He will show the wisdom of what he has learned, and will glory in the law of the Lord’s covenant. Many will praise his understanding; it will never be blotted out.His memory will not disappear, and his name will live through all generations.
Nations will speak of his wisdom, and the congregation will proclaim his praise.
First Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-8
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-32
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
Patrick, sowing the good seed
Think of Saint Patrick out there, a slave boy, looking at nature and having no church, and yet, meeting his God. Maybe it’s the Cliffs of Moher. Maybe it’s the great Dun Angus in the Aran Islands. Maybe it’s the Lakes of Killarney. But whatever it was about the land and scenery of Ireland, it produced a people who were great mystics and realized the number one sacrament of the presence of God was nature. And also, the sacredness of the individual. Maybe it was the barren land, or the awesome beauty, or the famine, or the persecution. But they learned to treasure each and every individual, and realize that, both in solitude, which they treasured, and community, which they built, that God was near.
They celebrated with prayers that we still have today like the Celtic prayer: God to enfold me, God to surround me, God in my speaking, God in my thinking, God in my sleeping, God in my waking, God in my watching, God in my hoping, God in my life, God in my lips, God in my soul, God in my heart, God in my sufficing, God in my slumber, God in my ever-living soul, God in my eternity.
May you recognize in your life the presence, power and light of your soul. May you realize that you are never alone,That your soul, in its brightness and belonging,Connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe. May you have respect for your own individuality and difference. May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that, behind the facade of your life, there is something beautiful, good and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment. And may the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, And the rain fall soft upon your fields. And, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Patrick, Pastoral Theologian
Perhaps we are wrong to take Patrick’s statement about his ignorance at face value. To describe himself as a mere illiterate sinner was just a foil to highlight the glorious workings of God’s grace. His Confessio clearly reveals that Patrick was no ignorant man. He was a skilled writer in the traditions of the Church Fathers and of late Roman literature. Patrick’s work should be read alongside the larger Confession of his near-contemporary, Augustine. Both were pastoral theologians of great insight, deeply aware of the presence of Christ in their lives.
Patrick’s theology grew out of his personal experience of Christ, of his mission to Ireland of the needs of the newly evangelized. Faith is not a knowledge but a life with Christ. Faith is not simply a matter of ‘knowing’ Christ and his teachings; it is a sensing of the presence of Christ and a response to that presence. Patrick grew to realize that the faith is more than statements about God, a belief system of the head but an awareness of the presence of God sharing his life at every moment. Starved of reliance on family and friends, the boy Patrick on Slemish discovered he was not alone. This sensing of the presence and love of God shaped his life and became the foundation of all that he did. Faith is this awareness of the presence of Christ and of his own worth as loved by God which runs through the writings of Patrick.
In Patrick’s writings we meet the Christian vision of human worth. His task of making the Good News known met opposition from those who considered the Irish as barbarian and so not quite human. He opposed such discrimination in the name of the Gospel. His task is still an urgent one. . Even in our liberal society, the excuse of limited resources is used to hide the unequal provision of health care, education and employment. Our society has been coarsened by the frequent murder of ‘our own’ by ‘them’. It is not yet too late to revive Patrick’s vision of the individual worth of each person, even those who hate and attack us.