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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Ascension

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This weekend we celebrate the feast of the ascension, In many places throughout the world this feast was celebrated last Thursday. Throughout our lives we see the departure of so many people, Perhaps it is a son or daughter leaving for university or maybe it was someone leaving to go to another country or the hardest departure of all someone close to us dying. Our lives are made up of so many different times and places of departure or leave-taking and really that is what Ascension is really about Jesus taking leave of his beloved Apostles. In the Bible when people climbed a mountain they wanted to encounter God. On the mountain top, God would reveal himself to the person. So, the mountain symbolized the place of teaching, revelation, and mission Now, on a mountaintop, he would commission his followers to make disciples of all the nations before ascending to the Father.

The ascension is the completion of Jesus mission on earth. It was also the beginning of the church, however before the disciples begin their mission they must be clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus began his public ministry he was filled with the Holy Spirit. So in similar fashion the new church and its leaders needed to be clothed with the Holy Spirit before they began their mission to the world. The programme of redemption and salvation was to begin at Pentecost and continue in every generation until the end of time. So many things have changed in the Church and society since the time of Jesus and the church continues right up until this present moment. The Church continues because two things have not changed they are the person of Jesus and his message. The message of Jesus is ignored by many people inside and outside the Church for many reasons.

Again and again we as people of faith need to ask ourselves what are we doing to make disciples of all the nations remembering  that Jesus and his message are always new for each generation. May we be heralds of faith by the lives we lead as we place the message of Jesus before others by word and example.

6th Sunday of Easter

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This Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter it doesn’t seem that  long since Easter Sunday but it is 6 weeks as we  head towards Ascension and Pentecost. Please stop and say a prayer for all the young people who are doing exams during these days. Life for our youngsters is not easy in so many ways and we pray for them that they will get the courage and the strength to go forward.

In the Gospel for this Sunday Jesus promises us the “Paraclete,” or “Advocate.” The word “Paraclete” literally means “one called alongside” indicating one who accompanies another. This can refer to a Lawyer who intercedes for another in a lawsuit, a helper who encourages, or a companion who gives comfort. The Paraclete, or advocate, is the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his ascension, his going to the Father. When he finally leaves He doesn’t leave his followers a detailed plan. Instead, he promised them and us a person, the Holy Spirit, who will never leave our side. This is why he says “I will not leave you orphans.” The Spirit is with us to open our hearts and minds to the fullness of the truth of Jesus’ words, and the commandment he gives to “love one another as I have loved you.”Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure as well as the coming of the one who will replace him on earth, the Holy Spirit.

The second reading is one that I always love to hear as It speaks of us having reverence for God and that we should always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks about the reason for our hope, the reading goes on to tell us to give our answers with gentleness and reverence” What is the answer for our hope simply put the reason for our hope is Jesus Christ the Son of God the Father. If we live for Christ, we will be criticized and many people over the centuries lost their lives for their defence of the faith. Would we be able to stand up and tell those around us the reason that we have for the hope that is within us today? Would we be prepared to stand up for the faith that so many have turned their backs on and point towards Jesus Christ the reason for the hope that we have both these questions are hard  to answer for people of faith in the world we find ourselves these days. If we share our faith with courtesy and respect for others who might not hold our belief then we will find that they will show respect for the things we hold dear as we stand up for the faith we profess wherever we are.  

5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER

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The Gospel reading for this Sunday is a story about Jesus and the disciples. He is helping them get ready for his suffering and death. For the apostles this was a huge reversal from the adulation of the entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the despair of the Cross on Good Friday. Remember when he asked them whether they would leave him, along with the rest of the crowd? Now it is he who is leaving. They are stunned. Peter’s reply at that time might have been appropriate now. “Where will we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:67-8) Jesus helps them. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” The straightforward meaning of this directive is, you know how to trust, you do it with God. Use that same trust with me.

This fifth Sunday of Easter tells us that Jesus speaks to us not at us.  His presence is in the word proclaimed in the Assembly of the people of god gathered together in Church.  His word is proclaimed to us in the readings from scripture as well as in lived example of others in the community where we live.  We come to Church week in week out to hear the Word.  We come to share the joys and sufferings of all the community gathered together.  We receive the Body and the Blood of the anointed one, the Christ, risen from the Tomb.  We hear the word while we work in the world through those around us. We don’t stay in Church all the time as the hard pew might well become the soft bed.  We have duties and obligations to family, work and the communities where we live.  We take the Word and Work of the assembled people of God into that life with all its short comings.  The Word of God stays with us because through the death and resurrection of Jesus we receive the Spirit of God  Jesus breathed on the disciples. This breath of the Risen One imparted the Spirit to them and to us.  We are released from sin that harms our spirits and blocks our ears. The Word of God is available to us: we should  open our ears and listen. As the Good Shepherd puts it in the gospel, we will no longer be at risk of either being lost or stolen away by thieves and bandits. On the contrary!  He is both our Good Shepherd and the gate that swings open to bring us to green pastures and a magnificent banquet. So, in fact, the light of the Risen Christ, the one whom Peter today calls ‘the shepherd and guardian of your souls’ will be shining on us and on all whom we love.

When we’re confused about decisions we should make, Jesus Himself will show us the Way. When we don’t know what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong, the Holy Spirit through the Church and its members will enlighten us. And when we are drawn into false pleasures that promise us life, Jesus will bring us back to real living and the joy of that life through the power of His love. As we walk along the roads of life let us take up the call of Jesus In the gospel to trust in him and he will not let us down.

4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This Sunday we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Easter and we hear the story of the Good Shepherd. The parable that Jesus tells us today seems to be easy to understand: it is the parable of the good shepherd who leads his sheep to pasture. The figure of the good shepherd is very well known. From the very first centuries of the Church, this image was used to represent the Lord when a sacred place was being adorned… However, according to Saint John, it seems that the listeners who were present at the time did not completely understand the exact sense of this parable: “This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” The flock that he is talking about is the Church and we also think about our priests and the role that they have as shepherds after the heart of Christ. We also remember the vocation of priesthood in a special way today.

The Gospel of the Good Shepherd teaches us how to embrace the gift of redemption by hearing and recognizing the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd. There are so many voices out there calling us to believe and to practice things that might seem nice, but are not truly of or from the Lord. We need to tune our ears and hearts into recognizing the voice of truth that comes from Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Just as Jesus is the Good Shepherd, we have the call to be Good Sheep. Men and women who are able to recognize the voice of the Lord and to faithfully follow him.

3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter. Our gospel reading for this Sunday recounts the apparition of Jesus on the evening of Easter to two disciples who were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  Their life with Jesus had come to an abrupt end. They were So disappointed and so disillusioned about Jesus and the way he died that they decided to leave the community of his followers.  Slowly but surely they are walking away from it all and then Jesus comes to them and walks with them along the road asking them about what had gone on in Jerusalem. Why did the Lord not tell the disciples straight away who He was? Indeed, in the dialogue that the Gospel Story presents to us today, it almost seems that Jesus did all He could to avoid revealing His true identity.  He pretended not to know what Cleopas and his companion were discussing and then He went on to ‘explain to them the passages throughout scriptures that were about Himself’ (Lk 24:27) but without making direct reference to who he was.

 Then at the end of the reading they recognised him in the breaking of the bread and went back to Jerusalem to tell the others that they had seen the Lord and Jesus had risen as he said he would. This passage has a different purpose from the other gospel accounts whose intent is to demonstrate that the Lord is truly real in a new spiritual way. This gospel of the encounter of the two disciples with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and in the breaking of the bread is a story of friendship. The Risen Lord is a friend who talks with them as they walk, a friend who shares a meal with them. Luke describes an intimate, personal encounter marked by tenderness and hospitality. He was walking with the disciples in their time of wondering what will happen next. He walks with us during times of great joy, as well as in our darkest moments. At times we become so caught up and distracted with what’s happening in our lives that we fail to recognize his presence with us remember that line from Christmas that Jesus the Son of God is Emmanuel that means God with us. Jesus doesn’t give up and leave us, he continues to walk with us if we  look around we see his presence in those around us. Sometimes we don’t realize his presence and how it is strengthening us, but it is certainly there.

Many people have left the Church, only to return again and find their spiritual home. Many feel distant from God, discouraged over an unresolved faith issue, or snubbed by someone in the Church or whatever. Then, something happened to turn them back. If we look closer, we will find it was not a personal crisis or children or maturity that made them return. It was God who travels the roads of life with us as Jesus travelled the road to Emmaus  with the apostles who were running away in the Gospel story for this Sunday.

 

DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

 

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This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy. This is a fairly recent feast in the liturgical calendar that was instituted by Pope St. John Paul and it comes hot on the heels of Easter Sunday. The Easter season has the most exciting Scripture readings of the year. They take us from the empty tomb of Easter Sunday all the way to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We know from experience that it isn’t easy to believe in someone we cannot see for ourselves. But we also know that many people who did see Jesus did not believe in him either. The apostles have a unique place in the Church because they saw Jesus and believed in him, and they were commissioned to share their faith with others. Without the apostles’ seeing and believing there would be no Christian faith as we have it today. That is why, in the creed, we affirm one of the marks of the Church is that it is “apostolic”.

We have no experience of the physical presence of Jesus, but our understanding of him is linked through time  through all the previous generations of Christians back to the apostles themselves. It is a great chain of faith which is linked to the person of Jesus himself. Thomas doubted the Resurrec­tion because he had suffered the crisis of the crucifixion. Like the other specially chosen disciples who would later be called apostles, like Peter, James, Andrew, Bartholomew, Simon and all the rest, Thomas ran and hid. He was too afraid to remember the promises of the Lord. But his faith was restored when he saw the Lord. At this point Jesus told Thomas about a greater faith, a faith that He has called you and me to follow. The Lord looked at Thomas and then looked down the ages at us and said, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe. “When a crisis hits us we all pray for deliverance from whatever is happening at the time it is a natural thing to do. If deliverance comes we feel that we have seen the Lord. But how much greater is our faith when we hold onto the Lord even when our prayers are not answered and most times the prayers won’t be answered .  

Our faith in the Resurrection is not based on experiencing the presence of the Risen Lord, but on an empty tomb. When we feel empty, when we feel that the Lord is no longer in our lives, if we open our eyes and look around us will see that more than ever He is alive, among us. When we look We will see the merci­ful love of God  who shares our trials and tribulations as well as our happy and sad moments throughout  our lives,  he is with us as he shows us his love and mercy in order that  we show the same love and mercy to other people. As we celebrate the divine mercy of God this weekend  may we pass that great mercy on to others.

 

EASTER 2017

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The Forty Days of Lent are over. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lamb of God have  been celebrated during Holy Week. The tomb is  now empty. The flowers symbolize the New Life that has come to the world. Jesus Christ lives! He has Risen as he said he would and his light lights up our world.  The Easter celebration is an invitation to come out out of darkness into the light of the risen Christ. In that light we see him and recognise each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is that light which summons us to leave the darkness of our lives behind and all of us have some of those. As a  result of Jesus conquering death on the cross nobody and nothing can be written off as a lost cause ever again. Year after year when we celebrate Easter we hold as holy the memory of God’s great act in raising Jesus from the dead. We believe that God’s graciousness will be extended to ourselves and that our own death will not be the final word.

Our faith educates our hope that we will participate in Jesus resurrection on the last day. But a question raises itself: is our faith in the resurrection limited to remembering Jesus’ resurrection and hoping for our own on the last day? What happens between times? What about today? The resurrection of Jesus is a proclamation that this outcast from Galilee is the beloved Son of God who cannot be held in the darkness of death because someone else takes action. Jesus did not raise himself; he was raised by God his father. The truth that God raised Jesus from the dead gives hope and help to all those who want that miracle repeated in the midst of life. All of us believe that God’s work continues not least because we believe Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Our celebration of the Easter Season begins with our celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday  and continues for 50 days until Pentecost  and then it 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 this Easter time.

 

Holy Saturday

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Today is Holy Saturday a day to pause and take stock , all is quiet as we wait watching by the tomb, after the great liturgies of the last few days and the fasting of the forty days of Lent we are Quiet in a reflective mood that is part of Holy Saturday. Today gives us  a chance to think about all that we are and what we should be as Christians while we wait and watch for the resurrection. While  we  wait we think about the  betrayal, suffering and death of Jesus as we look forward to the Easter Vigil and his resurrection. The Easter Vigil is the most distinctive liturgy of the Christian year, In several very special ways we celebrate our life in the risen Christ during the Vigil. In the expanded readings we recount the history of God’s saving actions in the lives of his people. We add new members to the Body of Christ in the sacrament of Baptism and we renew our own baptismal vows. Then in the Eucharist, we celebrate our membership of the Church, the Body of the Risen Christ. On Good Friday we celebrated Jesus life giving death on the Cross but today we stop and reflect on our own personal faith journeys in the light of the Cross of Christ as we await the great call that Christ the light in our darkness has Risen.

GOOD FRIDAY

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I never could understand why this day was called Good Friday because at first glance it seems that there was nothing good about it but here we are over two thousand years after the event talking about and celebrating the Passion and death of Jesus. The events of Good Friday celebrate the life giving death of Jesus who died upon the cross giving his life as a ransom for many. The main liturgy of this day is extremely simple. The focus is on the Cross. All other decorations have been removed from the church. The liturgy consists of readings, including the Passion from John’s Gospel, and solemn prayers of intercession for the church and the world. The central liturgical action is the veneration of the cross by all present. We venerate the one Cross in a variety of ways: by a genuflection or bow, by kissing or touching the cross, by a simple pause. The Eucharist is not celebrated on this day, but Communion is made through the Eucharist reserved from the Holy Thursday liturgy.

Spy Wednesday

Spy Wednesday

The Wednesday of Holy Week is often called Spy Wednesday because it was the day when Judas went to the authorities to betray Jesus. He told them that the one that I kiss he is the man  and they paid him 30 pieces of Silver . Tomorrow, Holy Thursday we begin the annual triduum or three days of prayer which conclude with the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening. May we follow Jesus journey over the next few days a journey of Betrayal, death and resurrection with renewed hearts and minds

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