Reflections On Today’s Gospel Reading

9th June, Feast of St Columcille or Columba

Columcille was born in Gartan, Co. Donegal in 521 and was of royal lineage, belonging to a branch of the O’Neill dynasty. He studied under Saint Mobhi, in the monastery of Glasnevin. He went on to establish monasteries himself in Derry, Durrow, and possibly Kells. In 563 he left Ireland with twelve companions and founded a monastery on the island of Iona off SW Scotland, which was given to him by the ruler of the Irish Dalriada for the purpose of establishing a monastery. The monastery became a place of learning with the copying and illumination of manuscripts. Columcille remained the rest of his life in Scotland, mainly Iona, returning to Ireland only for occasional visits. He died on June 9, 597. Columcille and his companions preached the gospel in the Western part of Scotland. After his death, monks from Iona went to evangelize Northumbria, where they established monasteries at Lindisfarne and Whitby. Columcille and his companions made the word of God fully known wherever they went. During their ministry, they went through many a stormy time, like the disciples in today’s gospel reading. Yet, just as Jesus was with the disciples in the storm at sea and brought them through it, he was with Columcille and his companions through all their difficult moments, and they came to discover, like those disciples, that the Lord was stronger than the storm. Our own following of the Lord, as a community and as individuals, won’t always be easy; the storms and trials of life will often put our faith to the test. Just as Jesus was asleep in the boat, it can seem to us at such times that the Lord is asleep on our watch. Yet, the Lord is always attentive to us. One of the psalms expresses that conviction very well, ‘He who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep’. The Lord is ever watchful and faithful. It is we who can become faithless or, in the rebuke of Jesus to the disciples in the boat, people of ‘little faith’, somewhere between no faith and full faith. We fail to keep the Lord in view. It is because we are all prone to ‘little faith’ that, in the words of Paul in today’s first reading, we need to ‘persevere in prayer’. Perhaps we could keep making our own the prayer of one of the minor characters of the gospel story, the father of a seriously ill boy who prayed to Jesus, ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief’.

Friday, Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

There is a great deal of the praise of God in today’s first reading. When Tobias healed the blindness of his father Tobit, his father, fell on his son’s neck and exclaimed, ‘Blessed be God! Blessed be his great name! Blessed be all his holy angels! Blessed be his great name for evermore!’ When Tobias went into his father’s house, he joyfully blessed God, telling his father everything about the journey he had just completed. Then Tobit set off to the gates of Nineveh to meet his daughter-in-law for the first time, ‘giving joyful praise to God as he went’. When he met, Sarah, his daughter in law, he blessed her with the words, ‘Blessed by your God for sending you to us, my daughter’. Tobit and Tobias recognized the presence of God in all that was happening around them and they gave praise and thanks to God for it. We are all probably much more familiar with the prayer of petition. When we are in difficulty to ask God to help us. We pray to God out of the depths. That is as it should be. Sometimes, we forget to praise and thank God for the blessings that come our way in life. We don’t think of God as easily in good times as in bad times. According to the gospel reading, the majority of the people heard Jesus with delight. The presence of Jesus, his deeds and his words, brought them joy, and led them to praise God. Jesus is God’s gift to us all. We can all hear him with delight. God’s gift of his Son to us gives us very good reason to praise and thank God. We say formal prayers of praise and thanks to God in the Mass. Yet, Tobit and Tobias, and the people in the gospel reading, encourage us to be spontaneous in our prayer of praise and thanks to God. It is a prayer that can arise in our hearts at any time of the day, in any place, in response to the Lord’s many, daily, blessings. In the words of today’s psalm, ‘I will praise the Lord all my days’.