17 March, 2017. St Patrick, Principal Patron of Ireland
1st Reading: Sirach 39:6-10
One who was filled with the spirit of understanding
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.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 115:12-19.
Response: How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?
1. How can I repay the Lord
for his goodness to me?
The cup of salvation I will raise;
I will call on the Lord’s name. R/.
2. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people.
O precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful. R/.
3. Your servant, Lord, your servant am I;
you have loosened my bonds.
A thanksgiving sacrifice I make;
I will call on the Lord’s name. R/.
4. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem. R/.
Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-8
I have fought the good fight
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
Growing side-by-side, until the harvest
Jesus 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.”
Sowing the good seed
Today we think of Saint Patrick who sowed the good seed of Christian faith throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. He came here at first most unwillingly, as an eighteen-year-old, captured by a raiding party from his home in Britain and sold as a slave. Then he had to work in all weathers, herding animals for an Irish farmer, maybe out on the bleak mountainside of Slemish, in County Antrim. Or maybe he spent his captivity near the Cliffs of Moher or somewhere beside the Lakes of Killarney. But wherever it was, young Patrick found a ray of hope to keep him going. Tending the animals all day, and looking at nature and having no church to attend even if he wanted to, Patrick reached out to God for help, for the first time in his life. And then he found God in a way that was personal and real. Whatever it is about the land and scenery of Ireland, it has produced over the centuries a people who were great mystics and who realized the vibrant presence of God in nature. In the Confessions that Patrick wrote many years later, he often echoes sayings from St Paul’s writings, for he clearly had a great love for great apostle from Tarsus. When describing his pastoral care for the people he met throughout Ireland Patrick mirrors the way St Paul worked among the Christians of Thessalonica. Patrick’s refusal to accept gifts of gold and silver from his converts was modelled on Paul’s reluctance to take any money for preaching the Gospel. Just as St Paul said: “We are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves,” so Patrick vowed to stay on in Ireland for the rest of his life, to serve his converts, who had become very dear to him.
Patrick’s Loricum or Breastplate has the famous Celtic prayer, centered on Christ:
“Christ be with me, Christ surround me,
Christ be in my speaking, Christ be in my thinking,
Christ be in my sleeping, Christ be in my waking,
Christ be in my watching, Christ be in my hoping,
Christ be in my life, Christ be on my lips,
Christ be in my soul, Christ be in my heart,
Christ be in my sufficing, Christ be in my slumber,
Christ be in my ever-living soul,
Christ be my eternity.
As Patrick prayed for the Irish people on the mountain in Mayo which bears his name (Cruach Padraig), we could compose some prayers for you on his feast-day…
May you recognize in your life the presence, power and light of Christ in your soul. May you realize that you are never alone, for He is always with you; that your soul, in its brightness, connects you with the Lord and with the rhythm of the universe. May you always realize that the shape of your personality is unique, that you have a special destiny behind the facade of your ordinary daily life. May you be able to see yourself with the same delight 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.
Saint Patrick’s Qualities
The homilist’s challenge today is to present Patrick as a person with a message for our own times; engaging in a mission and a journey still to be travelled, if the Christian flame is to stay alive, let alone thrive, in today’s Ireland. It might be good to weave passages from St. Patrick’s Confession into the homily. (A lovely translation of the Confession is available for download, courtesy of the Royal Irish Academy.) Among the qualities of our apostle to develope in the homily are these:
Prayerful man of the Spirit : “And again I saw Him praying in me, and I seemed to be within my body, and I heard Him above me, that is, over my inward self, and there He prayed with great emotion. And all the time I was astonished, and wondered, and thought with myself who it could be that prayed in me. But at the end of the prayer He spoke, saying that He was the Spirit; and so I woke up, and remembered the Apostle saying: The Spirit helps the infirmities of our prayer.”
Converted sinner, man of God : “I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many … But the Lord opened my unbelieving heart that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him… comforted me as would a father his son. So I cannot be silent, nor should I be, about the great benefits and the great grace which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity.” He was deeply grateful for the work of grace within him.
His loving familiarity with the Bible . He shows great awareness of the most recently available translation of the Bible (St Jerome’s Vulgate) and often quotes or alludes to the text of Scripture. This reverence for the Bible marked the Irish church in the following centuries, and resulted in important early Irish commentaries, lovely manuscript copies of the Gospel, like the Book of Kells, and the key biblical scenes carved into many Celtic Crosses.
Zealous pastor . “For I am much God’s debtor, who gave me such grace that many people were reborn in God through me and afterwards confirmed, and that clerics were ordained for them everywhere, for a people just coming to the faith, whom the Lord took from the utmost parts of the earth.” His resolve to remain with the Irish, until his death. “Even if I wished to leave them and go to Britain, and how I would have loved to go to my country and my parents, and also to Gaul in order to visit the brethren and to see the face of the saints of my Lord! God knows that I much desired it! But I am bound by the Spirit, who witnesses against me that if I do this, I shall be guilty. And I am afraid of losing the labour which I have begun, no, not I, but Christ the Lord who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life, if the Lord will, and will guard me from every evil way that I may not sin before Him.”
At considerable cost, Patrick left behind the comforts of Roman Britain to fulfil his mission as a wandering preacher in Ireland. He learned the Irish language and the local customs, respected their religious ideals and gave new meaning to their traditional high-places (like Croagh Patrick) and holy wells. In modern mission practice, radical inculturation is seen as essential to gaining a people’s heart for Christ.
Patrick’s distinctive, robust spirituality grew out of his personal experience of Christ, of his mission to Ireland of the needs of the newly evangelized. (One can link his Christ-centred “Loricum” with the spirituality of his great apostolic mentor, St. Paul, as expressed in today’s noble passage from Philippians. Like Paul, Patrick regarded faith as not just knowledge but as a life filled with Christ. Faith is not simply a matter of ‘knowing’ the teachings of Christ and of the Church. It is a ‘sensing of the presence of Christ and a response to that presence. This is an aspect of Patrick which we could do with retrieving in our hectic, electronic-dominated age. Patrick grew to realize that the faith into which he was baptized as a child was more than a belief system which filled the head. It was a relationship with God, an awareness of the presence of the person of Christ sharing his life at every moment.
Cad a dhéananaid le Faoistín Naoimh Pádraig
Is mór and difriocht idir cultúr na hÉireann inniú, 2017, agus an tslí bheatha agus creideamh agus moráltacht a lig Naomh Pádraig ina dhiadh lenár muintir, beagnach sédéag chéad blianta ó shoin.
Ach mar sin féin, ar féile áthasach seo d’ár nAspal náisiúnta, ba bhreá linn machtnamh ar cúpla smaointe as an Faoistín a scríobh sé ainseo in Eirinn, díreach roimh a bhás, sa bhlian 461. Tá an téacs go léir ar fáil ar an idirlín i nGaeilge, má’s mian libh. Níl romhaim anois ach cuid de na haltanna is súntasaí liomsa a lua, chun spioradáltach Naomh Pádraig a léiriú.
Tosnaíonn sé go húmhal, measartha, ag cur síos d’á bheatha féin mar óganach san san Bhreatain Bheag.
“Mise Pádraig, peacach ró-thuatach, an té is lú de na fíréin go léir…’ “B’é Calpornius, deochan, m’athair, eisean mac do Photitus, sagart, ó bhaile Bannavem Taburniae.
Bhí mé tuairim sé bliana déag d’aois agus níorbh aithnid dom an fíor-Dhia agus tugadh i mbraighdeanas go hÉirinn.”
(Is léar nach raibh sé sásta an dea-shampla a fhuair sé ina theaghlach féin a leanúint, rud a fheicimís fós inniú!)
Mar sclábha bocht, i measg ocras agus cruatan, bhí Padraig amuig ag faire ar na beithigh ar Sliabh Mis na hAontroma,
“Mar a bhínn ag aoireacht caorach gach lá, bhí grá agus eagla Dé ag teacht i dtreise chugam i ndiaidh a chéile, agus bhí mo chreideamh ag dul i méid agus bhí m’anam á ghríosadh.“
I measg an chruatan an easpa agus an ocras, fuair se ionspioráid spioradálta agus athnuachaint creidimh ina anam:
“Is ansin d’oscail an Tiarna mo intinn ionas go gcuimhnínn, má ba mhall féin, ar mo pheacaí agus go n-iompaínn le lán-chroí chuig mo Thiarna Dia, a rinne trócaire ar m’aineolas, mar a dhéanadh athar d’á mhac. “
Tar éis blianta cruaigh mar sclábhaí in Éirinn, d’eirigh le Pádraig a shaoirse a bhaint amach agus chúaigh sé do’n Fhrainc:
“Agus ansin chonaic mé i bhfís oíche fear agus é mar bheadh sé ag teacht ó Éirinn, agus chuala mé a nglór, ‘Iarraimid ort, teacht ar ais agus bheith ag siúl athuair inár measc.‘ “
Insíonn sé conas a ghlach d’ár sinsir leise an Soiscéal ina dhiadh sin:
“In Éirinn bhuail mé le daoine a bhí riamh gan eolas ar Dhia ach iad i gcónaí go dtí seo ag adhradh nithe neamhghlana,… ach tharla go ndearnadh pobal an Tiarna díobh agus go ngairtear clann Dé díobh“
Ag deire an chúntas, deireann Pádraig conas abhí sé lán sásta leis an méad daoine a bhaistigh sé in Éireann.
“Mar sin, tá cuntas simplí tugtha agam dom’ bhráithre agus chomh-oibrithe a chreid ionam mar gheall ar an teagasc a thugas le bhur gcreideamh a neartú agus a dhaingniú. Is é mo ghuí go mbéidh sampla níos fearr á leanúint agaibhse agus obair níos tábhachtaí á déanamh!
Roimh críochniú dó, dhéan naomh Pádraig urnaí óna chroí ar son muintir na nGael:
Nár líge mo Dhia dom go gcaillfinn choíche a phobal a cheannaigh Sé in imchéin an domhain. Guím Dia buan-seasmhacht a thabhairt dom agus a dheónadh go mbéidh mé im fhinné dílis dó go fágáil an tsaoil seo dom ar son mo Dhé.
Is é mo ghuí freisean go mbéadh eolas ag cibé duine a dheónas an scríbhinn seo a chum Pádraig, neamh-oilte is mar tá sé, go mba tabhartas Dé é go léir. Agus siúd i mo Fhaoistín roimh bhás dom.
Is mór an sásamh linn, a cháirde, an tAspal cróga sin a cheiliúriú inniú, and déanaimís ár ndícheall a dhea-shampla a leanúint agus traidisiún an chreidimh Críostaí a choimead suas lenár linn, anseo in Eirinn.