Soul Food for Sundays

Soul Food for St. Patrick’s Day / Fifth Sunday of Lent, 17th March 2024

Reflections 17th March 2024
John 12:20-33

The Author: Seán O’Leary C.S.Sp.
calendar_today Date: February 26, 2024 - 3 minutes read

There’s a little piece of Cork in “St Patrick’s Church”, a parish in the central city of Taichong, Taiwan. 5 years ago, the parish priest asked me if I could get a statue of Ireland’s national saint for our church’s side altar; my parents donated a statue which is now a permanent feature of the church. Like many Irish missionaries, it travelled a long way before finding a new home in a far-off land.

Today we celebrate Ireland’s patron saint, a great missionary whose life and spirituality continue to inspire and encourage Irish missionaries and Irish Christians to be faithful to our Christian identity through striving to live out a Gospel life of love and compassion.

Most Irish people know the history/stories and legends associated with St. Patrick. On this St. Patrick’s Day, coinciding as it does with the fifth Sunday of Lent, I want to focus on his foundational experience ofresponding to the call of God and his subsequent dedication to this calling.

Patrick, while still a young man, heard the voice of the Irish people in a dream – a voice which was born out of suffering and distress, and which enticed him to return to the land of his captivity. He saw in this dream, a mission from God to bring the light of the Gospel to the Irish people. This echoes the voice of the Fatherheard in today’s Gospel, in which Jesus is confirmed in his identity and mission.

Like Jesus, Patrick will also become “the grain of wheat” which out of love for the Irish Christians will sacrifice his life. This sacrificial love will bear much fruit as the Irish community of faith grows and blossoms, not only in Ireland, but through the efforts and sacrifice of Irish missionaries, spread throughout the world.

The obedience of Jesus to the voice of the Father and the obedience of Patrick to the promptings of the “voice” of the Irish make present the New Covenant spoken about by the prophet Jeremiah in today’s First Reading, a Covenant of God’s life in us and our life in God. 

As a missionary in Taiwan for 20 years, sharing in “the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties” of Taiwanese brothers and sisters (Christians and non-Christians), I have experienced, like St. Patrick, the central truth of the Gospel: It is through self-sacrificial love that we find our life’s meaning.

In dying to self, there is a re-birth and in dedication to our mission to share God’s love and the light of the Gospel, God is glorified, and a ‘single grain’ produces a rich harvest of love, healing and joy. This land of Taiwan, which to me seemed so foreign 20 years ago has become another home.

The Spiritans Emblem

Seán O’Leary C.S.Sp.

From Cork city, Fr. Seán has served in Ireland as a member of the Provincial Leadership Team and in the West Dublin parish of St. Ronan’s, Deansrath. First appointed to Taiwan in 1997, his ordination year, he returned in 2015 and is its current provincial.