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Hosanna in the Highest!

ImageThoughts for Palm Sunday by Fr Charles.

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

Some two thousand or so years ago, two processions entered the city of Jerusalem – but from opposite directions.

In one procession, seated on his horse and accompanied by his legionaries was the Roman Governor, Pilate. It was his custom to be present in Jerusalem for all the major Jewish festivals, quite possibly so that he was able to be there with his soldiers to direct the keeping of order and to quell any potential rebellion.

The other procession was a complete contrast. The adopted son of a carpenter, a humble man, riding into the city on the back of a donkey. A donkey. Not a horse, a donkey, that lowliest member of the equine species, a symbol of poverty and simplicity.

And this man knew that the next time he left the city, it would be by an entirely different route, going to an ignominious and extremely painful death carrying the cross to which his hands and feet would be nailed.

One can only speculate that the Chief Priests and Elders of the Jewish Temple heard of the entry into the city of this man, heard of how the people chose to go to greet him, laying a carpet before him of olive branches and their own clothing, and began to get very worried about this man. A man from Nazareth – Jesus, Son of Joseph –  and maybe they asked themselves “given his age, how did he manage to avoid Herod’s massacre thirty-three years before?”

No doubt they had heard of the crowds who had been flocking to hear this man speak, and given that he was a direct challenge to their authority – and therefore to their privileged position with the Roman occupiers – had already determined that they were going to get rid of him, somehow.

Of course, Jesus knew all of this. He knew that within a few days the crowd, now welcoming him to Jerusalem would turn nasty, and, whipped to a frenzy by the High Priests and Elders of the Temple, would be baying for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be crucified, despite Pilate stating that he could find no case against Jesus.

But before anybody starts thinking that this was some sort of evil plan, it was far from that. It was all God’s work coming to fruition. It took centuries before the Roman Church finally acknowledged that the Jewish People bore no blame whatsoever for the death of Jesus. But Jesus Himself knew that at the time – even in the depths of His suffering. He knew exactly what was contained in His Father’s plan and he accepted what was to happen willingly and with humility.

Blessed John Henry Newman summed this up many centuries later when he wrote his meditation:

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.

Yes, Jesus came into this world to do His Father some definite service – to die on the cross in order that the sins of the world may be forgiven and that all people may be drawn closer His Father, our God of Love sitting on His Throne of Grace.

In the name of the Father, ✠ and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen


‘No ambition except to do good’ – thoughts on the Baptism of The Lord

Some thoughts on the Feast of the Baptism of The Lord.

By Mgr Alban FSDM

OXYGEN VOLUME 13When at school, most of us have been asked, ‘What’s your ambition? What do you want to be when you grow up?’ It’s a question that never really goes away. All through life, those around us, ask us it in various contexts, be it at the beginning of a new job, at a job interview, or even whilst studying a new subject at university.

This morning at Mass we heard read a simple thought from St Paul to St Titus,

‘[Jesus] sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.’

What a joy it would be if we could answer that we ‘have no ambition except to do good’. I don’t believe that St Paul was telling us not to aim to be the best that we can be, but that in all things we must act in order to do good.

Our blessed Lord, whose baptism we celebrate today, was baptised with water and then recognised by the Father in heaven coming down as the Holy Spirit. Like Him, we have been baptised by water and the Holy Spirit, and by this adopted by God as His children. Let us endeavour to show that inward adoption in an outward manner in our lives throughout the week ahead and on into the rest of our lives.

There are many in our society who appear to have no ambition, for whom ambition seems to have evaporated. In Belfast there are many young men who have little opportunity for work, and thus have plenty of time on their hands. We have seen on our television screens this week what can happen when a community lack ambition – especially the ambition to do good. Rioting, burning cars, attacking the police, and attacking people with whom you do not share political opinion, is not doing good. Let us pray that everyone involved in the political strife that is in Northern Ireland at this time seeks to do good.

O God, whose Only Begotten Son, has appeared in our very flesh, grant, we pray, that we may be inwardly transformed through him whom we recognise as outwardly like ourselves. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


  1. Readings at Mass: Isaiah 40.1–5, 9–11; Titus 2.11-14, 3.4-7; St Luke 3.14–16, 21–22. (Year C)
  2. My apologies that this is shorter than normal, but I have been unwell for some days and am still under the weather at present. Of your charity, please pray for my recovery.
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Feast of the Most Holy Name


The readings and propers for today’s Mass1 are as follows:

Entrance Antiphon

At the name of Jesus,
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth
and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2.10–11)


O God, who founded the salvation of the human race
on the Incarnation of your Word,
give your peoples the mercy they implore,
so that all may know there is no other name to be invoked
but the Name of your Only Begotten Son.
Who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (more…)

The foretelling of a many-splendoured thing

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Giovanni D Tiepolo Saint John the Baptist Preaching,

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Giovanni D Tiepolo Saint John the Baptist Preaching

Thoughts and Meditations on the Readings for the Second Sunday of Advent (Year C)1

By Mgr Alban FSDM

I was in the city centre during the week, there was a man obviously intoxicated, he appeared as though he were living on the street, and he was shouting, “Do you see me, do you think this is my choice? Is this a dream?” No one really noticed what he said, it was the ravings of a day time drunk, someone on the margins of society.

Francis Thompson, wrote beautiful poetry, which says plenty and is all worthwhile. We read that the word of God came to St John the Baptist in the wilderness of sand (Gospel), so too, did the word of God come to Francis Thompson in the wilderness of the streets. Thompson wrote:

The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.2

It couldn’t be put better. Advent is the foretelling of a ‘many-slendoured thing’. It tells of God’s splendour shining forth in simplicity. It announces that we are expecting the return of the King of kings. This King of kings was born into the margins of society, born in a stable, no room in the inn. His itinerant ministry, still in the future saw him hounded by the religious authorities, handed over to the civil power, and ultimately dying, but we know he rose again. Every Sunday of the year is a weekly celebration of the Resurrection.

But do we want to listen to this marginalised man, this Jesus? Do we want to celebrate His birth? Or do we prefer to listen to the “Ho, Ho, Ho” of the long-secularised Father Christmas and to decorate our homes by the somewhat tacky tinsel? Perhaps by making Christmas for the kids, we’ve answered those questions?

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

1. Readings: Baruch 5.1–9, Philippians 1.4–6, 8–11, Luke 3.1–6
2. The Kingdom of God, by Francis Thompson, 1859–1907.