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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

3rd Sunday of Easter

peace be with you 3rd sunday of easter (2) – St. Mary – St. Paul Parish

This weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter. We continue our journey through the Easter Season as well as our journey out of the COVID19 restrictions as we remain mindful of all those who need our prayers at this time.

Our gospel reading for this Sunday tell us about the two disciples who were on the road. They were leaving Jerusalem, their hopes shattered after Jesus’ death or at least that’s what they felt. Then they met the risen Lord. They didn’t recognize him at first, but they did after he opened the Scriptures and broke bread with them. After their encounter they returned to the community in Jerusalem with the news of what had happened. While they were still speaking to the community, Jesus stood in their midst and said to them peace be with you. He is encouraging them and not to be afraid. It’s still not enough. Then he invites them to touch him. Still more, he asks for food and eats in their presence. The resurrected Christ is present, in the same way he was when they traveled and ate together. He is not just someone who somehow survived what was done to him and escaped. He didn’t experience a near death on the cross – he died and rose again as he said.

Jesus reminds all of us that he is the same, yet there is something very different about him. They knew that he was with them; Yet, the disciples need more in order to accept his new presence with them. What he did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus he does again and again for us in the person of our priests. He expounds what the Scriptures had said about him in the same way our priests do for us today. Do we see that? Can we understand what God can do and has done  for us – bring new life after death? Jesus doesn’t choose just certain Scriptures as proof texts. He tells us as he told the disciples “everything written about me in the law of Moses, and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” What would we be like if Jesus came and stood among us in real flesh and blood, I think that our reaction would be exactly the same as the apostles disbelief. But if we stop and think for a moment Jesus does come amongst us each time  we go to the Eucharistic liturgy, Jesus is there with us on the Altar in the elements of Bread and wine and in the person of the Priest offering these gifts to the Father on our behalf. We remember the last supper when Jesus gave us himself as an everlasting memorial and we remember that each time we hear the prayers of consecration at Mass that we do this in memory of him. 

let us place ourselves in the company of those who evangelize others by word and deed. Let us walk with those who serve the poor and needy in the name of Christ. Let us walk with the outsiders who seek Christ. In the process of being A witness, the context comes alive. For Christ walks with us  the Easter people may we not be afraid to get up and bring the light of Jesus into the world were we are .

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

This Sunday  we celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy and the mercy of God is very much alive in our world today over this past year we have certainly seen that as we have gone through the COVID19 pandemic. Now that we are beginning to come out the other side it might be a good time to reflect on the mercy of god in our lives during the Pandemic. The mercy and love of god has been shown through so many people especially through the doctors, nurses and caring staff in our health services where ever we are. Through our families and friends, through those who have journeyed with us in our time of need and there are many unsung heroes out there who quietly got on with what needed to be done. We remember the mercy of god shown to us through our clergy and our spiritual guides especially in our times of loss helping us to cope and generally get through what has been a tough time. There are so many people who have shown the mercy and love of god to others over this year and any list that I would make would not do justice to them as there are so many. We thank God this weekend for all of them and the mercy and love they have shown to people around them where they are.

Over the 40 days of Lent we prepared for the Holy Week celebration, now after Lent and Holy Week we celebrate the season of Easter for 50 days.  The Easter season takes us from the empty tomb of Easter Sunday all the way to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The gospel tells us that Apostles are huddled together in fear in the empty room. They weren’t so sure that the women’s report that Jesus had risen was believable. They weren’t singing for joy! Now, a whole week has gone by. They still felt “rocky” about their future as many feel rocky about their futures today as we face up to life after COVID. Thomas wasn’t the only one who had doubts about Jesus, I think so many were doubtful then as so many are doubtful right here and now. The Apostles were pondering the shocking experience of the week before when all seemed to be lost as Jesus hung on the Cross. But that was only the beginning here we are in 2021 talking about how they felt after the events of that first Holy Week and they must have been gutted. Jesus came to assure them that he was alive and then his message must have troubled them: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  The disciples  were supposed  to go out to  teach, to preach, to heal by announcing the gospel. They were going  to open the eyes of those blind, those whose ears were closed, those whose hearts are hardened like concrete.

They were sent to bring the message of Jesus to others and in the same way we are sent out to bring his message to other people wherever we are by what we say and do. Our world is hurting so much because of the many things that are happening within it particularly the covid19 pandemic. The Apostles felt rocky about their future as many of us do today but god is with us as we go out into the world as his messengers. May all of us be witnesses to the Gospel bringing the mercy of God to the people of our time and place as we go forward into a rocky future where god is with us to help and guide us.

EASTER

Having  completed our Lenten observance and after the liturgies of Holy Thursday and  Good Friday we  are now celebrating the Easter Vigil Easter Sunday and the Easter Season. Holy Saturday is the day when we experience watching and waiting at the tomb as we await the celebration of the Resurrection which we celebrate in the Easter Vigil and Easter Masses  we remember that the season of Easter that lasts for 40 days until Pentecost. The Psalm for Easter Sunday says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Above all days, Easter Sunday is a day of joy . But what is joy? The answer St. Francis gave to this question is famous. St. Francis said to his Brother Leo, “When we come to St. Mary of the Angels [our house], soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of the place and the brother porter comes and says angrily: ‘Who are you?’ And we say: ‘We are two of your brothers.’ And … he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, until night falls—then if we endure all those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, … oh, Brother Leo, … perfect joy is there!”

Whatever we may think of St. Francis’s explanation of perfect joy, Easter reminds us that Francis’s kind of joy is not the end of the story. At Easter, we celebrate the other kind of joy, the kind each of us longs for, when every tear is wiped away, and there is no sorrow any more no more suffering from weather or hunger or hurtful human beings. As we sing in the much-loved hymn by Fr. John Foley, S. J., at Easter, “the cross and passion past, dark night is done, bright morning come at last!” When we ourselves rise to meet our risen Lord, in that bright morning we will hear him say, “Come away, beloved. The winter is past; the rain is gone, and the flowers return to the earth” (Song of Songs 2:10-12). In the loving union of that encounter, all the heart brokenness of our lives will be redeemed. That will be perfect  joy. So in that same vein of perfect joy we say “this is the ‘day which the Lord has made.’ Alleluia!  let us take fresh hope,  with Christ our Passover everything is possible! Christ goes forward with us in our future!” Our celebration of Easter resonates throughout the rest of the year: full of gratitude for Christ’s passion, with joy in his resurrection and, strengthened by the Spirit, we continue our Christian journey. Let us go forward together as Easter people rejoicing in the Resurrection .

HOLY SATURDAY

Today is Holy Saturday and everything is quiet and still as we await the Easter Call that Christ has Rises. As we wait we contemplate what happened during that first holy week. Yesterday I had an opportunity to spend a few quiet moments in our local Church before getting things ready for the Good Friday Passion celebration. The tabernacle was empty and the altar stripped bare of cloths and candles and everything was quiet it was a time to quietly reflect on the events of Holy Week as well as all that has happened over the las 12 months  as we have journeyed with COVID 19.

Today the cross is empty now Jesus lies in the tomb and everything around us is still.’ The heavens and the earth cry out with longing for the sinless one who is not to be found, if we stop to think for a moment we remember that Jesus died and rose again on the third day. We wait, as mourners beside a grave, unsettled, ill at ease, almost not knowing what to do with ourselves. The Church has only one thing to do today: to pray through the emptiness of Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday then is the day when we experience watching and waiting at the tomb as we await the celebration of the Resurrection which we celebrate in the Easter Vigil and the season of Easter. The Jewish people have been celebrating Passover annually for thousands of years, commemorating the night in which God brought them out of slavery in Egypt to begin the journey to the promised land.

At the Last Supper, Jesus also celebrated the Passover but gave it a new meaning. No longer a remembrance of passing from slavery to freedom, but through his own passion, death and resurrection we too pass from death to life with him. Until the fourth century, Easter was the only feast of the Church’s year, and to this day it remains the most important. As the Catechism says: “Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts’, the ‘Solemnity of solemnities’ Our celebration of Easter resonates throughout the rest of the year: full of gratitude for Christ’s passion, joy in his resurrection and, strengthened by the Spirit, we continue our Christian journey.

HOLY THURSDAY

Lent has ended and now we begin the Holy Week Triduum. The word Triduum is the Latin for three days that is the three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the great Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. The Church celebrates one liturgy each day. We should not think of the liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil as three separate events, all three form part of one single extended liturgy. In fact at the end of the Mass on Holy Thursday there is no dismissal and blessing instead we accompany Jesus to the Altar of repose. In the same way there is no formal beginning and end to the Good Friday liturgy.  This three-day liturgy concludes with the solemn blessing at the end of the Easter Vigil or at the morning Mass on Easter Sunday.

Holy Thursday is all about the priesthood and the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper. On the Morning of Holy Thursday, there is only one mass celebrated in a Diocese . All the priests gather around the Bishop and the people of God to renew their commitment to priesthood. Also at this Mass the oils of Chrism, Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick are blessed by the bishop, these holy oils will be used in the Baptisms, Confirmations and anointing of the sick in the local parishes over the next 12 months. The theme running throughout this day is one of humble service that is service of God and his people.The Passover feast, celebrated year after year, was a celebration of God intervening to liberate his people from slavery. The blood of the lamb protected them, and the lamb was both a sacrifice and food for them as they began their journey. Now Christ offers himself in the bread and wine and in the washing of his disciples’ feet. His sacrifice liberates us from the slavery of sin.

The Evening Mass commemorates the Last Supper again the theme is service and sacrifice both of these are aspects of the same mystery.  We see Jesus as one who serves, who gives himself. Just as he freely gives himself in washing the feet of his disciples, so too he gives himself  in the bread and wine he takes, blesses and hands to the disciples.  In the same way we receive Jesus in the form of Bread and wine from the hands of our priests. All these acts of self-giving are the same act – that of the Son of Man who came ‘not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ May we take up the mantle of humble service giving a helping hand to others and not counting the cost to ourselves. Many people over the years have given much at great personal cost and have not failed in their example of humble service and that for me  is what  Holy Thursday is all about  Humble service for others and not being afraid of being the presence of Christ for others no matter what the cost is.

PALM SUNDAY

The Palm Sunday and Good Friday Gospel of the Passion - St Mary Magdalene,  Enfield

This Sunday we celebrate Palm Sunday, and we will gather in our Churches for the Blessing of the Palms. As we gather we remember that last year we had begun the first COVID 19 lockdown and no one was able to be in Church for Palm Sunday and the Holy Week celebrations it was different to say the least. But as we know a year later we are slowly beginning to emerge from the pandemic but as we begin to get back to normal we must take our time and  be cautious as we go forward. So for us this year things will be different but they will also be the same and that is reassuring. Last Tuesday we marked the 1st anniversary of the lockdown and we paid  tribute to all those who work  in the NHS and we prayed for all those who sadly lost their lives. may we continue to remember and hold in our prayers all those who have helped during the pandemic as well as all those families who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic.

Palm Sunday is just the start as we begin our annual Holy Week journey, from the Hosannas of today we go to the Upper room on Holy Thursday and then on to the denials of peter and the Cross of Good Friday. Then we come to Easter when all that seemed to be lost on Good Friday was redeemed and is redeemed every Easter. So now we stop and think for a moment about how we began our journey on Ash Wednesday and where we are now as we approach the life changing and life giving events of Holy Week. The entrance into Jerusalem is one of the very few events in Jesus’ life which is mentioned in all four gospels.  It is the only time that Jesus accepts and encourages public acclaim as Messiah.  He even goes as far as organising his entrance by telling the disciples to go and fetch the donkey. The key moment in God’s great plan of salvation is about to begin and Jesus knows exactly how it will unfold as he knew and understood what the will of the father would mean for him.The events of Palm Sunday were foretold thousands of years ago.

The first reading from Isaiah, speaks of a courageous and obedient messiah-figure, who says, “I have set my face like flint” against the beatings and scourging that lie ahead, “knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” The second reading from Philippians reminds us of Jesus’ total emptying of His divinity in order that He might identify Himself with the lowest criminal being led to His execution, “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And the reading continues but God raised him high and gave him the name above all other names. We move towards the heavenly Jerusalem because Christ himself made the journey to the Cross for us and now he offers to make it with us.  The full drama of the Gospel  begins with the crowd’s fickle acclamation of Jesus as King at the beginning of the reading. On Palm Sunday we feel embarrassed to cry out “Crucify Him” but we do. It reminds us of our own fickle response and our lack of courage in responding to His love and truth.

Yet we know that it was the sins of us all which brought Jesus to Calvary. Palm Sunday and Holy Week are all about Jesus suffering for our inadequacies and our own very real sins. Holy Week is a time for us to realize what we’re really like, and to find that the only remedy for our pains and our fears is love. That is Love of God, love of others and oneself. Are we ready to join our own pains and fears to the Master’s? Are we ready to add as much love as we can possibly muster to His boundless love? As God’s family, we are called to look out for one another. It’s not just about “me myself and nobody else.” It’s about “us and everyone else altogether and the covid 19 pandemic response  has really proved this over the last 12 months. Our journey during Holy Week is all about god’s love for all of us that is his great love that has no end

let us not be afraid to set out and go through the week we are beginning today so that we will be able to celebrate the bright light of Jesus present in our lives  at Easter having travelled the journey of Lent and Holy Week.

5th Sunday of Lent

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B | CJM MUSIC

we are now at the fifth Sunday of Lent,  with Holy Week and Easter on the horizon it is hard to think that we are going through lent at such a fast pace.  It will be good to celebrate the Liturgy of holy week with people in the Church as last year the ceremonies were online with no one present in the churches. It has taken us exactly one year from the beginning of the COVID restrictions in Northern Ireland on the 18th March 2020 to where we are today and time has flown by. It has been a year in which all of us young and old have suffered in so many ways. We have been travelling along a long dark road but now the light is beginning to appear at the end of that road. We thank God that we have got through the various restrictions that COVID has brought and we pray for all those who have lost family members as a result of the pandemic.

We are an Easter People and this means that no matter how dark the darkness  may be the light of Christ will light up our lives and show us the road to take as we go forward with hope and joy in our hearts as we emerge slowly from this pandemic.

In the Gospel for this weekend some Greeks ask to see Jesus. Jesus responds by saying that anyone who loves his life will lose it; to gain your life, you have to be like a grain of wheat which brings forth much fruit only by falling into the earth and dying. The seed which must die to produce a harvest is a powerful image of Jesus death. The Greeks must have been baffled. They were baffled in much the same way that we are when we listen to the stories from scripture about Jesus and all the things that he had done. The gospel goes on to tell us that a voice is heard from the cloud, as at the Transfiguration in the other gospels, but here it speaks of the ‘glory’ that will come to Jesus for giving up his life. It is in his death and resurrection that he draws all people to himself, both Jew and Greek slave and free man.

Many Learned men and women have tried to put their interpretation on the Scriptures but if we listen with open hearts and minds to the scripture readings what the word of God means to us in our lives will become apparent. For many people including me God’s presence is not often thought of  at the time we say or do something but afterwards, when you look back at what has happened or what you have said you often see that the hand of God was with you at that point. I have often said things to people about situations that they were  in and thought to myself where did I get that from? Then on reflection I know that what I said was right and I was inspired to say and do the right thing in the right place.  As we come to the last few days of Lent as we begin to get back to normal living after coming through COVID 19  let us prepare with great intensity for Palm Sunday and the Easter Triduum and then we will really be able to enjoy the Easter feast when it arrives and don’t forget the Easter celebration lasts 40 days until Pentecost Sunday !!!

4th Sunday of Lent

4th Sunday of Lent, Year B | CJM MUSIC

This weekend we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Lent that is also known as Laetare Sunday and this mirrors Gaudete Sunday in Advent because the mood and theme of both days is one of hope and rejoicing. So what is the cause for rejoicing this Sunday? The cause for our rejoicing is that we are getting close to the great events of Holy Week and Easter that have brought us salvation. But on a more secular  note we are rejoicing because we are beginning to slowly emerge from the restrictions that COVID19 has imposed on us for the last year or so. We thank God that we are at this stage but as we are thankful r we pray for all those effected by the pandemic especially the families of all those who have died.

The Gospel reading from John tells us that a person is condemned because that  person did not  believe in the Son of God. God the Father has no desire to condemn, but people condemn themselves by putting God and the ideals of faith out of their lives.

Over many centuries so many people have said there is no  god or in situations that seemed hopeless  they have asked where is God and all of us have done this especially since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic and we know in faith the God is with us. There are so many people out there in our so called modern world  who have turned out the light of faith in their lives permanently for many reasons.  I know people of all ages who have been brought up in the Faith and then have left it all behind and yet we as people of faith know that there is a  god and he is there among us in the people who are in our daily lives though sometimes we do not realize it . He is there in the good and bad times that we have in our lives and helps us to get through whatever happens. At the Easter Vigil we proclaim the risen Lord as Christ our Light and we celebrate with joy.  Jesus is God’s own Son given to us and for us, the one who wants to restore the people who are  in exile. He wants to bring light to those who live in darkness. He wants to bring life to those who are perishing.

This is the good news, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This is the reason that we are trying to be faith filled people even though it is hard going. This past year has been hard going for everyone but we try to keep the faith knowing that God is with us in all our troubles. This Sunday is a cause for rejoicing in the midst of our Lenten efforts to renew ourselves so that we may bask in the light of Christ at Easter.

THIRD SUNDA OF LENT

This weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of Lent and we are almost at the 12 month point since the restrictions around COVID19 began here in NI. I get the feeling that we are coming out the other side with the slow return of all the things we value. When all this started we really did not know what was going on and all of  had to make the best of what has happened. Now as we begin our slow return to normal we are asked to hold firm and stay with the changes that have taken place as we do that we are also asked to be a friend to those around us who might be in any difficulty especially when life is not so good  during and after the pandemic.

This Sunday’s gospel shows us that Jesus was really tuned in to our human nature: He knew what was going on in the hearts of those around him. He knew what they thought. He saw what they did to the Temple. The Temple was supposed to be a place of celebration celebrating the spiritual presence of God in the world. The reading tells us that  the people changed the Temple into a marketplace when it should have been a place of spiritual encounter.

For many in our modern world the day of the Lord Sunday has been replaced with so many secular things taking the place of God religion and faith.  Jesus knew that people would see the signs that he worked, the miracles he performed, but the same  people would refuse to see the messages behind the signs and the miracles that were there if front of them in plain sight. Instead they would see him as a wonder worker, a superman, a good show and Jesus wasn’t about any of that. Many people have left the faith behind but in similar fashion many are returning again. It is often said that in order to really appreciate something we have to leave it behind and then go back to it again later on when we understand the thing we have left behind was a better deal than the place we went to.The portrait of Jesus in today’s Gospel is a world away from the storybook caricature of Jesus, the meek and mild figure. An equal caricature is to use this passage to make Jesus into a godfather of violence, a revolutionary willing to support annihilation for the sake of the cause and that was not the case. Jesus did use force in the Temple; he was certainly aggressive. But he did not use force because he was not a political leader. Nor did he use aggression to gain power for himself because his kingdom could not be established by violence.

Our faith is not about a good show instead it is about our relationship with God and how we bring the love of God to those around us. Jesus shows us  what real love is as he went on to die on the cross for us on Good Friday.  Our dying to ourselves during Lent is an identification with the power of Christ crucified. Our calling, then, is to be strong in faith, not weak. God gives us signs both people and places as anchors of faith even during this time of pandemic. We must trust the Lord to cut us free from everything that stops us going to him and allow him to guide us through the rough currents of life especially the ones we are going through these days. So we go forward with hope and certainty towards Easter as we do that we remember that our god is a god who is with us in good and bad times and he won’t let us down.

Second Sunday of Lent

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B | CJM MUSIC

Here we are at the second Sunday of Lent. It is hard to believe it but time is marching on and yes its nearly a year since all the COVID19 restrictions began. In the Gospel reading for this weekend we hear about Jesus going up the mountain taking Peter James and John, with him and we hear the voice of the father identifying  Jesus as “my beloved Son.”  the God who speaks to the disciples on the mountain directs all of us to “Listen to him”. Our journey during lent is a journey of listening to scripture and listening to one another as we tell our own stories of faith.  Mountains were  always seen places of retreat and encounter with god.  Moses and Elijah were no strangers to mountain encounters with God. They met God on the mountain, but struggled to make God’s plan a reality back down among the people on the ground. Moses, the lawgiver and Elijah, the prophet, symbolized the rich religious tradition of the Jewish people.

Through them, that tradition is in dialogue with Jesus.  The voice of god from the heavens identifies Jesus as “my beloved Son.”  Jesus invites us to an exciting journey our lives lived in faith should be an exciting journey from birth right until we get to the pearly gates when we die. “The kingdom of God is at hand, Repent, and believe the Good News are all about Lent and in a particular way it is our call to take up the spiritual journey.  We’re not invited to go on  a trip to Disneyland or any other holiday place we might want to go to especially during the Pandemic when a great number of us are in lockdown. Instead we are called to explore the great depths of God’s love for us as we try to move and live in God’s Love as we climb the mountain of the Lord which is represented by our annua observance of Lent. Every year we hope to rise again from the ashes of our sins and failures “to recreate ourselves anew.” Every year we take a six week journey, a pilgrimage of faith that takes us through the penance, self-discipline, prayer, and  good works of Lent that lead us  to the refreshing waters of Easter.

As Jesus taught a lesson in patience and hope to Peter, James, and John, so He teaches us to listen and wait, as we wait we are encouraged to listen to his message. In our Lenten journey we remember Jesus transfigured on the mountain and listen to what he is telling us! May we keep in mind that God and the community around us provide us with encouragement and strength to continue in faith through all the adversities that have been thrown at us especially in this past year with the COVID19 pandemic with all the hassle it has brought to us .

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