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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

19TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend as we look at the things going on around the world we see the brinkmanship between the president of the USA Donald Trump and the president of North Korea Kim Jong-un. As we look on the 2 sides are giving the rhetoric the full blast as each side tells the other we will do this or that as one side is threatening  to bomb the other but talk is cheap and the outcome of misguided words and deeds can have terrible consequences for all those involved. We can only wonder what will happen next as we continue to pray for the ongoing peace of the world especially in Korea and all the countries around the region as well as the USA and the world at large.

The gospel reading this weekend is all about  Jesus  walking on water but if you look beyond the walking on water this story is really about trust and faith in God and this is a good thing to talk about in the present climate in the world. We have no problem identifying with Peter he is so like ourselves .One moment He is confident and then, later when things get difficult he realizes that he has bitten off more than he can chew and falls apart.

By then it is too late and he needs help. Life is like that, we start at something like a new job, college, marriage, or a project to help others, but then it goes beyond what we are capable of. We didn’t realize it was going to require so much time and effort! We seem to be  sinking or drowning. This is a  common experience in so many situations of life and in the way we deal with them. God doesn’t always give us an immediate cure or a fast answer  when we bring ourselves in prayer for others as well as  the problems of the day to God. God is not a distant God aloof from our problems. Jesus shows us that when he reaches out a hand to Peter and he is with us as our companion through the storms of life. At times we may well be floundering, like Peter, but Jesus reaches out to help and rescue us. What better image of salvation could there be than Jesus reaching out to Peter to save him from drowning. What better analogy could there be of our own lives and relationship with Jesus.

Our lives  are messy with all kinds of ups and downs we often have doubts and lack faith but we are moving onwards towards the Lord.  Christ knew the storm was coming and the grave risk the Apostles would run when he sent them off across the lake. But that trial and the danger they went through  was for their own good, because they learned that Jesus came from God and they could always trust Him. Our trials and our earthly ailments are also foreseen by God and permitted by him so that they will draw us closer to Him and help us on the road to heaven. In the days ahead when we flounder and start to sink Jesus will be  there for us, reaching out with his saving hand ready to raise us up telling us that he is with us in all our ups and downs.

The feast of the transfiguration

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We are now into the month of August  and for many of us  the summer holidays are over and it is back to work. For others who have school going children the run up to school starting in September will shortly begin for this year we are on a never ending circle of everything being the same in so many ways but different as time never stays still.

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the transfiguration. In the Gospel story the disciples went to an out-of-the-way place, a mountaintop. The  Apostles are responding to the invitation of Jesus to come apart for a while and mountains were the best place to get away from it all. On that mountain the disciples heard A  loud voice from the heavens that told them, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The Transfiguration was a grace-filled moment of clarity for the disciples. But it was only a moment along the journey of their lives as today the transfiguration is just a moment in the journey of our lives. We don’t have such a spectacular revelation as the disciples had on the mountain side but like them we come apart each Sunday to our place of worship there we hear the voice of God the Father that asks  to   “Listen to him.”  We listen to Jesus In the scriptures proclaimed for us and they tell the story of  God’s forgiveness, compassion and unfaltering love for us.  The voice we hear on this mountain directs us to listen to Jesus, because in our world  there are many competing voices that might lure us to ways of living other than the one Jesus calls us to follow. Worshiping together gives us an opportunity to  listen again to the Word of God and what it is saying to us.  And the word of God  calls us to point out a number of things

The scriptures tell us that we need to point to the presence of God in our lives and recognize how good He has been to each of us. We need to let people know that just as His Love for us has no end   it will be the same for  them. We do not walk alone. He is with us always, until the end of time.  No one wants to join the First Church of the Perpetual Grouch. But people do want to be with people who are happy, We are Happy because we know that God is with us. So let us rejoice in the Lord as we hear the story of the transfiguration and remember that  Jesus the Son of God is with us  in our lives with all their ups and downs and we should listen to him as he guides us along the right paths.

17TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Well here we are at the last weekend of July and the summer holidays are now at the half way stage. I’m sure there are many parents out there wondering when will the long holidays end it will be no time until the beginning of the new school year in September. Last weekend in the parishes in all the dioceses throughout Ireland a special collection was taken up for Trocaire the Irish Catholic Churches international aid organization to help with their  work in East Africa. In my home parish over £15,000 was raised once again it seems to me that when people are given a chance to help others they take it and give much of the treasure they have.

In this Sundays Gospel we hear the story of the treasure hidden in the field . The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field or a pearl of great price. When its great value is recognized, one gladly does all that is necessary to obtain it. The kingdom of heaven is also like a net that collects all sorts of fish. Just as the useless fish are thrown away, at the end of the age the wicked will be rejected. To members of the Kingdom means to share our knowledge of it with others.

 To truly believe in Christ means leading other people to the same knowledge by what we say and do; for secret faith is no faith at all. We should be happy to bring out of the house that is our life all kinds of treasures to share with our neighbours. But these treasures are not physical things but attitudes spiritual and otherwise that are virtues like love and justice and truth and hope and so on. What we bring out from our treasure store are the values of the Kingdom, the attitudes of Jesus and the knowledge of the one true God. God loves us just the way we are, but He refuses to leave us that way. He wants us to become treasure for other people so that they can discover the faith which is the pearl of great price the treasure hidden in the fields of our hearts.

16th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend the holiday season is in full swing and we are almost at the end of July!! Time is certainly passing by leaving all of us wondering where exactly it has gone.

This Sunday we hear the reading from Chapter 23 of St. Matthews gospel, the story is the parable of the darnel in the field the seed and the weeds. In the parable of the wheat and weeds, Jesus recognized good’s co-existence with evil. He also held out the hope that the Kingdom would right all wrongs. I think that there is the potential in each of us to be either wheat or darnel that is good and bad. We often say ‘wouldn’t life be easier if everything were black and white’ as if there are ‘totally good people’ and ‘totally evil people’. Of course life is never that simple. If we are really honest nothing is ever that straightforward to be black and white. We need to ask ourselves Who are we called to be in a world where weeds and seeds grow side by side and we often find it hard to distinguish the difference between them. As people of faith we have to constantly ask ourselves : Should we hide from the messiness and make religion a privatized personal relationship with God? Should we insulate ourselves – sharing with those we think are worthy of our love, deciding who is worthy? Where is God in all this concern, worry and judgment? If we pray about these three questions and our problems and those of others we will see god is there in the middle of everything and his hand will guide us and as a result we will be the seeds that flourish and not the weeds that die.

Jesus used parables to challenge his audience to think and he uses the parables in our world of today to challenge all of us to make us think as well. In truth and charity we must speak to others and teach them about the great responsibility they have to choose either Life or Death to be weeds or seeds .All of us have the power to freely choose Him or to reject Him. May we see the seeds of the Kingdom of Heaven grow and flourish in our midst .Our calling then is to participate as best we can in building up a world where God is King! God will decide on its membership, not us and he will guide us along the roads that lead to Salvation and he will help us to be the seeds that flourish

15th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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The parable of the sower and the seed that we hear this weekend shocked Jesus’ audience as it seemed to be wasteful planting. Ancient people saw waste as an abuse of the rich. When they discussed economics, most ancient people agreed on two points. First, there was only a limited amount of wealth in the world. Second, God willed the distribution of that wealth within a rigid social class system. The rich five percent of the population held ninety percent of the wealth and the poor battled for survival. The bulk of the details in this gospel reading are about wasted effort and lost seed at least wasted effort and lost seed is what seemed to be at first glance. Why wasn’t the sower more careful, after all farmers were poor and the seed was precious? Sometimes, we wonder if all our efforts and words are worth it when things are falling down around us with so many people going their own way and doing their own thing with little regard to things of god.

But if we stop for a moment and think about it anything done for God in faith is never lost. Very often the things that happen  in our lives don’t seem to make sense but when we look at the problems that arise with eyes of faith we see that things around us are the way they are meant to be for the good of everybody. Do good and poor soil both exist in the same person I think that it most probably does much in the same way that a person can be good or bad. Is there something we might say that will land on the interior good soil in a person and bear the “hundredfold, or sixty or thirtyfold” as Jesus promises only God knows but we have to try to be the sower on Gods behalf and he will do the rest. The message of Jesus may not always be welcome especially in our modern world were faith and religion are constantly under assault by those who oppose anyone with a faith based outlook on life. That said we still have to sow the seed of faith by what we do and say and then we leave the rest up to God our efforts are never wasted and we don’t always see the fruit of the seed that is sown.

There are seeds of faith which we have planted in the past  that have yielded abundant harvest and there are also seeds that we have planted that produced little or no harvest. In some cases, life affords us the opportunity to replant and at other times, the opportunity to plant only comes once. In my lifetime I have been surprised by so many people and their stories of faith. How they have come to God by the planting of that small seed and how they have stayed there when they found him. Our God is a God of surprises and our faith has many surprises as well. So let us look and see and let us listen as we hear the story of the sower and the abundant harvest that came from the seeds that he had sown and not be afraid to live our lives by faith and share the harvest of gods love with other people.

 

14TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

 

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Well here we are getting into the holiday mood with all the opportunities that this time of year provide. While many people will be taking the time to get away we spare a thought for all those who may not get away for a break this year. This weekend in our Parish community we thank God for the life of a pivotal member of our music ministry Mark Mooney who died suddenly last weekend we pray that god will give him eternal peace in heaven and give consolation to his relatives and friends who are left wondering why.

One of the most wonderful things about the person of Jesus has been and continues to be, his special love for ordinary people ­ for people like us with all our faults and failings. It comes out in a particular way within the two statements that he makes in this Sundays Gospel reading. The first is in his prayer to God: ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.’ The second is in his Invitation to all of us: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.’  Why did he say this? The answer comes across very clearly so many times in the gospels, and may be summed up in just one word – COMPASSION. For example: – The plight and tears of the widow of Nain touches his heart to the core: ‘Don’t cry,’ he says to her, before bringing her son back to life.  He is moved with compassion at the plight of a leper begging for help (Mk 4:41), for two blind men sitting at the side of a road and pleading for mercy (Mt 20:29-34), and for a crowd of people with nothing to eat (Mk 8:2). In each case he responds to their sufferings with the power, love, compassion and care of God. To be a Christian and to have the light of faith to guide our steps in the neo-pagan darkness of today’s world, is a gift, and a blessing from God, for which we can never thank Him enough.  So, in the here And now of our daily lives  the big question for each of us has to be whose side are we on? Are we  on the side of Jesus, that is the side of compassion, kindness, help, healing, and mercy? Or on the side of the scribes and Pharisees who are  amongst us even today  and they are – fierce, fault-finding, heartless, critical, and merciless people without much compassion. Will we take our cue from their cruel, harsh, and insensitive judgements and actions? Or will we take our inspiration from what we see in Jesus, and from his touching  compassionate outreach to the poor and the broken:  ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest’?

13TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Here we are at the start of July and the beginning of the summer holidays. Here in Northern Ireland the schools will be closed for the next 2 months and by the end of that time the parents will be ready for the asylum. So these days spare a thought for all those parents out there who are wondering what they will do with the youngsters over the next few weeks. We were lucky as we had our granny to go to down the country and the cousins etc. were there so times were great during the summertime for us but for many the summer holidays can be a difficult time.

In our Gospel story for this Sunday we are reminded that  The priority of faith demanded radical consequences for early Christians. At that time extended closely-knit families formed the basis of society, a choice for a follower of Christ could mean a rejection of the family’s faith and values. Jesus reminded his followers that the Christian life involved many risks and one could not compromise or hide these risks away a believer could not placate his or her family if the cost threatened faith. The people of the day thought that No, faith could involve such an extreme choice.

Either the relationship with family took priority or the relationship with Jesus took the number one slot it seemed that both could not go together.  Even though they had only a very vague idea then of what he meant, when the time came, they remembered Jesus  words and gladly suffered imprisonment, hardships, and finally martyrdom for Christ.  This shows how the resurrection of Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit on them, changed them from worldly weaklings into fearless heroes. They had become convinced that Christ was the Son of God their saviour who had come on earth to bring all men to heaven. Through time they came to realize how unimportant, the few years of the earthly life that we have were compared to the eternal life of bliss to follow.  Today, too, there are still those who are suffering a lingering martyrdom, worse than quick death on the scaffold, because they obey God rather than man. We can help them to persevere, by our prayers. We ourselves, who are free from any overt persecution, must show our gratitude to God for being allowed to practice our religion openly and without fear. As well as carrying out our own personal duties, we must remember the spiritual needs of our fellowmen. They, too, need to get to heaven and anything less will be eternal disaster for them.

We may not be able to preach, or teach them the truth of the Christian faith, but we can and must help all those who are doing so by our prayers and how we lead our lives when we try to live according to our Catholic faith. We are here in this world for a few short years, our real and lasting home is in heaven. We must keep this thought uppermost in our minds, in all our dealings with others and then by our example we will lead others whose faith may not be as strong to their eternal homeland as well.

12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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This Sunday the message of the Gospel is quite simple Jesus tells us not to be afraid  He does not disguise the truth that his disciples will be confronted by those who threaten, bully and intimidate others into submissive agreement.  In the first reading Jeremiah refuses to be intimidated by terror from every side. That doesn’t mean that the terror doesn’t get to him it means that he has no intention of allowing the terror to write his script and dictate who he is. Jeremiah has been abandoned by all his friends who now try to discredit him. He is thrown into prison for his preaching, and the army council threatens him with death if he doesn’t change his tune. But Jeremiah refuses to be bullied into agreement because he believes that “the Lord is at his side, a mighty hero”. What keeps Jeremiah sane amidst all this persecution is the profound belief that God cares for him. And, less spiritually, the frank hope that God will clobber all his enemies in good time!

Not only does Jesus want his disciples to refuse to submit to the merchants of death, he tells them not to be afraid of them: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” What our Lord said to His Apostles applies to all Christians including you and me in the practice of our faith. By the very fact of living our faith day and daily openly and fully we are apostles. So today we think of all of those who have given us an example by living their lives in faith. These may be parents family members or people we have known we all have people who have shown us the way of faith. So as faith filled people Jesus teaches us that our only source of freedom and strength is the goodness of our heavenly Father a goodness that is mediated through Jesus himself as well as through good people and beautiful flowers. Furthermore, the discovery of this goodness carries with it the solemn obligation to pass on one’s blessings through concern for others.

Our world is full of hype and glitter, but the only truth that will prevail is the truth taught by Jesus. The elements of this teaching are not mysterious or obscure. First, one must be honest enough to acknowledge one’s need for help in seeking liberation and fulfilment. This same honesty will enable one to see the goodness in life, both that which is visible to everyone and that which is subtle but very real. We must look for the goodness in life and learn to count our blessings as we pass them on to other people.

CORPUS CHRISTI

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This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ also known as Corpus Christi. As we celebrate this great feast we pray in a particular way for all those effected by the fire in Grenfell tower in London that god may console them.

When we gather at the Eucharist we bring ourselves and our needs in prayer to God. We bring our prayers to God because God is with us and continues to be with us in good and bad times through the sacramental life of the Church and through the Eucharist in particular. When we see the Eucharistic Bread, we believe that it is Jesus who is there before us:  such is the faith we have in the Eucharist the bread of life.  this means that, because Christ is really, truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, we recognize that all the graces we enjoy as Catholic Christians come from this great Sacrament, and all we aspire to, the fullness of the life of God, is contained in this Sacrament.

In the Gospel for this feast John picks up the theme of the manna from heaven and contrasts the bread the Jews ate in the desert with the new bread of life given by Jesus. Now the Word of God has become flesh, and the bread of heaven is Jesus himself. To eat this bread is to have a share in the life of God himself. In celebrating the Eucharist we celebrate the memory of Jesus passion, death and resurrection. We recall the radical values that put Jesus’ in opposition to so many of his own people: his talk about God and the kingdom; his insistence on forgiveness; his opposition to religious sham; his commitment to peace; his willingness to die in order to overcome sin these values should be our own values as well. In receiving the body and blood of Christ we become his body living in the world. Called to bring the values of Jesus into the world where we are.

The celebration of Corpus Christi is there to remind us that the great gift of the Eucharist is a both a gift and a mystery. Jesus is present with us in a way that is really beyond our understanding. We take Him into ourselves when we receive communion. We are united to his sacrifice on the Cross for all of us when we pray the Mass in its fullness and eat the Sacred Meal. We come before His Presence whenever we are in Church where the Eucharist is reposed in a tabernacle or exposed on the Altar. Jesus was present with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the universe. He is present with the angels and saints in heaven now. He is present in the Blessed Sacrament and he is with us in all of the ups and downs that are part of our daily lives. So in the words of  a great eucharistic hymn “Come let us adore this wondrous presence”.

Trinity Sunday

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This Sunday we celebrate Trinity Sunday which is a celebration in honour of  the Father Son and Holy Spirit.  The three persons in the trinity reveal the fullness of the unity of God’s love. How do we understand the Trinity? We don’t! God, by definition, is beyond imagination, beyond language. The Christian belief that God is a trinity helps underscore how rich the mystery of God is and how our experience of God is always richer than our thoughts  and language about God. The feast of the Trinity goes back to 12th century England and St Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Historians say the great Thomas celebrated a Liturgy in honor of the Trinity in his cathedral. So was born the observance. In the 14th century, the feast came to be observed by the universal Church.   

The belief in the Trinity goes back to the New Testament. There it is mentioned about forty times. We open each Liturgy especially the Mass invoking the Trinity . We also close Mass and so many other liturgies by calling upon those same 3 Persons (Father Son and Spirit)  in blessing us as we go out into the world. Trinity Sunday is the day when we stand back from the extraordinary sequence of events that we’ve been celebrating for the previous five months—Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension and  Pentecost  it is the day when we  are asked to rub the sleep from our eyes and discover what the word ‘god’ that is Father Son and Spirit might actually mean for us. This is a feast which should speak to us of this simple fact of faith: the Father loves us, has revealed that love in his Son, and has called into a relationship sustained by the Spirit. It is our joy that, as baptized members of the Church, we can somehow share in that divine life and love which is the Trinity becoming children of God.

God has chosen us, and we are his own people, just as he chose the people of Israel long ago. Each Trinity Sunday, we only scratch the surface of this great mystery of our faith. In gratitude let us begin and end every prayer with greater reverence when we say “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

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