A. Reflection & Dialogue: The Liturgical Readings and St Patrick’s Lasting Heritage

Each of today’s readings helps us to reflect on St Patrick and his last heritage. In his Confession he introduces himself as a rustic, unlearned, a simple country person, yet much of what the learned scribe Ben Sira has to say in praise of the learned and pious scribe applies to him. Like Paul’s second letter to Timothy, his Confession is his testament to the people of Ireland, and like Paul he would solemnly urge all concerned among those he has won for Christ to proclaim the full Gospel message whether the time is favourable or unfavourable, and to convince, rebuke and encourage with the utmost patience in teaching, and to be on guard about false teachers and teaching to come. The Gospel reading brings us two aspects of St Patrick’s heritage. That of the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds that grows to become the greatest of shrubs and a tree, is a reason to give thanks for the growth and spread at home and abroad of Irish Catholicism. However, that the national Patron’s Feast-day is not all about the what is positive in our tradition. Paul warned Timothy to be on his guard about false teaching. Jesus’ parable on the weed among the wheat should remind us of scandals and weaknesses in recent Irish Church history, the weed sown not so much by an enemy or Satan but from within, yet not altogether a cause of despair or dismay. We have been warned by Jesus himself on such issues.

B. Reflection & Dialogue: We preach the Gospel not to please mortals, but to please God. Eternal voices: Christ, Peter, Patrick. Messages for St Patrick’s Day

On this feast of our national apostle there are many voices inviting us to listen. It is Christ himself who speaks when Holy Scripture is read in the church, and this voice is addressing Church authorities and all of us through the prophet Amos: “Go and preach to my people”, preaching to all to be faithful to the covenant, to the teaching of Christ and his Church. The voice of Paul reminds us that there will always be accusations (not all of them true), difficulties and obstacles to the preaching of the Gospel message. The voice of Paul also reminds us of the need of honesty and transparency for all involved in teaching the Christian message. Then we are reminded of the “voice of the Irish” to Patrick to return to Ireland and walk again among its people. His voice and his prayer for our fidelity are still with us. Then we have the voice of Jesus concerning Peter to have confidence, since his Saviour has prayed for him that his faith may not fail, but that he might confirm his brothers and sisters in this faith.

And now as we have a call for a new evangelization we have the successor of Peter gently, but firmly, calling on the Church to return to her true self. Shortly before he retired, Pope Benedict XVI reminded the Church that while she was in this world she was not of this world. In his very first days is office Pope Francis has called on the Church to be faithful to her true self, and called on believers help facilitate a spiritual renewal or face the possibility of the Church being considered a compassionate, pitiful, NGO. Not of course that the Church is not concerned about such work; it is central to her mission. But her fundamental call is her relation to Christ her founder, and participation in his sufferings and resurrection.

            It is hoped that reflections such as these may help on this feast of our national patron, to revive the fervour of the faith he preached and lived. Let us pray with Patrick himself that God may grant that he may never loose the Irish people which he possessed for himself at the ends of the earth.

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