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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

16th  SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

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This Sunday in our Gospel story we listen to Jesus as he tells the apostles ‘You must come away all by yourselves and rest for a while’. He first planned to give his Apostles a well-earned rest. They had evidently worked hard while out on their mission and a few days rest would restore their lost energy. He himself, too, must have been hard pressed, preaching and dealing with the crowds. In the absence of the Apostles he had no one to help him he too needed a rest. He, therefore, planned that he and they should go to a quiet corner of the Sea of Galilee where there was no village and where they would not be disturbed. As we all know sometimes the best laid plans go astray as the people got to the quiet spot first. He could have sent them away, but again his human compassion took over. Seeing these simple people of Galilee so anxious to hear about God and his mercy, he let them stay and began to preach the good news of forgiveness and hope to them.

Jesus cares for us and all those needing rest and spiritual nourishment as he did his apostles and crowd in our Gospel story for this Sunday! We have only to listen to Jesus speaking within our hearts to hear where we will find him. In addition to that blessing, we all know someone in our midst who mirrors the Lord’s unselfish care for others. Often we are the recipient of that care and attention. We might take those people for granted whether they be in our family, community, work place or parish. The widespread problems of so many are symptoms of deep unsatisfied longings to be loved and to love. Can we be a little more caring towards the lost and lonely people we know? And will we let Jesus say to us: ‘I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me? Jesus has clearly identified himself with people in physical, emotional and spiritual need. To meet them is to meet him especially these days where so many have little or almost nothing and the few have so much.

Jesus has the answers to our questions; and they all come down to living a life deeply in harmony with God. And he not only tells us but shows us the way. He talks the talk but he also walks the walk. And his walk takes him eventually to Jerusalem and up the hill to Golgotha where he gave his life for us. And he invites us to walk with him; to walk with him as we listen to his teaching and experience his healing ministry, and then to walk with him on that last journey to the Cross to suffer and die and rise to new life with him. No wonder they wanted to hear more.  So the call to us this weekend is that we should come apart and rest for a while and as we rest we should recharge our spiritual batteries as we look  for  and listen to Jesus.

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14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

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This Sundays  Gospel sees Jesus going back to his roots in Nazareth. This is not a social visit: like other towns in Galilee, Nazareth and its people have to hear the Good News of the kingdom. When Jesus teaches in the local synagogue, many of the townspeople are astonished at the performance. They wonder at the origin of Jesus’ teaching and the nature of his wisdom, as well as the miracles that are done through him. From the unanswered questions about Jesus’ wisdom, the neighbours move to more familiar territory and focus on what they do know about Jesus. Whatever their wonder, they are not going to allow the wisdom of Jesus  to interfere with their memories of him. Prior to this section in Mark’s gospel, Jesus has been doing some extraordinary things. His baptism by John in the river Jordan was accompanied by an affirming voice of the Father from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son. On you my favor rests.”

After his desert testing Jesus called his first disciples, cured the man in the synagogue with the unclean spirit and the paralytic in Capernaum; expelled the legion of devils from the Gerasene man, you may remember last week in our Gospel Reading Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, cured the woman with hemorrhage, Jesus is doing wonderful things as he proclaims, in word and deed, the coming of the reign of God. Though he did all the wonderful things the people still had little faith which also seems to be the case these days. The people wanted the powerful signs of God’s final coming with a strong right arm to rescue them. But when Jesus spoke about the signs of the kingdom’s presence, he spoke of scattered seeds and, to emphasize the kingdoms small beginnings, he compared it to a mustard seed, “the smallest of all of the seeds of the earth” Where was God’s show of power and mighty arm in a tiny mustard seed? Mark sums up their reaction, “And they took offence at him.”

And so it is today as many take offence at the values of Christianity and the good it makes for all of us in our world. A world which in many respects is so faithless with many  people taking offense at Jesus and his teaching. Jesus revealed God’s presence to the people of Nazareth as a different kind of power: the power used only to help others, not ourselves; a gentle power that does not force or coerce people to do our will; the power of compassion and gentleness, when others are expecting force. All of us know from our own experience that when we admit our failures and limitations, that exercise in honesty can mark the beginning of a new understanding. If our Lord and God can take failure in his stride, we might even end up boasting about God’s fantastic message! What is the message of the wisdom of Jesus? Jesus message is really about using whatever power that we might have in a positive way to help others and the greater our weakness the more powerful we will be that is powerful with the power of compassion and gentleness.

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As I was sitting at my computer a thought came into my mind about the last line from the second reading from the Feast of St. John the Baptist. The message of the second reading is that the message of salvation is meant for us when Paul said ‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you.’ Well in our world these days it seems to me that many people know about the message of salvation and have made the choice to ignore it. But many others myself included  have stopped to listen to the message of salvation and ask what does it mean for us in our daily lives and living and how do we make that message real for all those we know? Many people here in Ireland have been left with a feeling of hopelessness after the vote on Abortion and all the other things that challenge us as people of faith as we look forward to the visit of Pope Francis.

But that said I also think of Pope John Paul when he said in his homily  during the inauguration  Mass at the start of his ministry as pope at St Peters  in October 1978  Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. This wee paragraph taken directly  from the Homily of the late Pope have stuck in my mind for over 40 years and for many of my generation these few words do not be afraid were and continue to be a guiding light. There are many things that I certainly do not understand in relation to all that is going on around and about me at this time but I know that the hand of God is in most of the comings and goings. Now to get back to the message of salvation being for us.

If we are true heralds of the message of salvation we wont let our own self seeking attitudes and cares crowd in and blot out the message of God with all its richness that we as Christians are supposed to show.Are we prepared to open the doors of our hearts to let the guiding light of Christ shine from us and be the heralds of the message of salvation that Saint Paul talks about. As we go forward we shouldn’t  be afraid as we  Open wide the doors of our hearts and minds for Christ as we let the light of salvation shine in our own lives so that those around us will see that Christ lives in us and be inspired by our example to live the faith that the message of salvation brings. Ireland has been changing over a long period of time but with the Abortion referendum result it has been confirmed that Ireland  has completely changed with its people taking a view on abortion that would have been unheard of 30 years ago. But when we stop and think about it we realise that God is still here and is saying to us I haven’t gone away you know and the message of salvation is still there as well. So as we think about the message of salvation we shouldn’t get too disheartened with all that is going on for those who love God nothing is impossible.

A Prayer

Loving God, you shared your Word with us as a light in our darkness. May we be open to the mystery of life that surround us in so many ways. Help us to recognise Jesus the Light of the world  in our own inner poverty and reach out courageously to share our light the light of faith with others. We make our prayer in the wonder of your love.

13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

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This weekend we celebrate the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time after the celebration of the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Though nothing about our lives in the present time is really ordinary especially as we in Ireland are preparing for the visit of Pope Francis in about 7 week’s time.

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we hear about the woman who had the hemorrhage and we also hear about the official’s daughter. Whilst the stories are about the faith of the people involved they are also about the mercy of Jesus towards them both. Jairus, the synagogue official and loving father of a ‘desperately sick’ twelve-year old daughter, is convinced that if only Jesus would place his hands on her ‘to make her better and save her life’ she will surely recover. The unnamed woman, suffering for twelve years from a condition for which she has spent her life-savings on one doctor after another, has one last hope. She is convinced that ‘if she can touch even his clothes’, surely she will ‘be well again’ and then she was able to get near to Jesus and touched his garments.

The poor woman and Jesus know that healing power has gone forth. Jesus turns around, inquiring who is the one who had touched him. Fearfully, the woman admits that she is the one. Jesus immediately calms her fear, telling her to go home in peace, for she is healed. Then, He proceeds to the house of Jairus, where He learns that the little girl has died. Quieting all the commotion, He goes in with the child’s parents and Peter, James, and John. Taking the hand of the girl, He brings her from death to life, ordering that some food be brought to her.

It is worth dwelling on the detail of the stories because they give us an insight into the mystery of Jesus. They tell us about a man who has a fierce kinship with those who suffer, who does not disappoint those who look to him for help. Like Jairus, there are many people who suffer on behalf of their loved ones and who feel powerless when they are confronted by the pain of those they love The Gospel story of Jairus’ daughter is given to all of us as Good News. It is offered to us today to nourish our faith in Jesus, to enliven our hope in his power over death itself. We know there are those who mock that belief, professional mourners who believe that death must have the last word in every human story. There is no place for that attitude in the community that gathers in the Lord’s name. In the Eucharist we support each other in our shared faith, we confront real loss with Jesus at our side. And when the loss is deeply felt, we too need to hear the words of Jesus:

“Do not be afraid; only have faith.”

The Feast of John the Baptist

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This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the birthday of St. John the Baptist also known as the forerunner who pointed the people of his time to the coming of Jesus. A desert prophet, he was outstanding for vigour, discipline and humility

The narrative of the Baptist’s birth revolved around the miraculous. An elderly couple could not have children, yet an angel told Zechariah, that his prayer had been answered. Zechariah was incredulous, so he was struck incapable of speech. But the couple did conceive a son. When Mary visited the boy’s mother, Elizabeth, the Spirit filled the boy when in the womb. Now, with the birth of the child, miracles would happen again. With the proclamation of the boy’s name, Zechariah regained his power of speech, only to praise God over and over. When speech was restored to Zechariah, he praised God to affirm his faith in the heavenly message he was given. In other words, Luke highlighted the movement of the Spirit over the parochial concerns of the immediate community. God, not humans, would guide events.

When John began final preparations for his mission, he withdrew into the harsh, rocky desert beyond the Jordan to fast and pray. When he came back to start preaching in the villages of Judaea, he was haggard and uncouth, but his eyes burned with zeal and his voice carried deep conviction. The Jews were accustomed to preachers and prophets who gave no thought to outward appearances, and they accepted John at once. So great was the power emanating from the holy man that after hearing him many believed he was indeed the long-awaited Messiah. John quickly put them right, saying he had come only to prepare the way, and that he was not worthy to unloose the Master’s sandals.  His humility remained incorruptible even when his fame spread to Jerusalem and members of the higher priesthood came to make inquiries and to hear him. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,”-this was John’s oft-repeated theme.  John the Baptist was the first of the New Testament Prophets, the very first of the witnesses to Christ. There is always a need for prophets in the Church and God has not been neglectful in providing them. There are people in our own day who speak up for Christ.

We may not consider ourselves saints but each of us can make a great impression on the world in our own way guided by the faith we profess.  The message of salvation that John the Baptist preached to his people is meant for us too. We receive the salvation Christ won for us but we are also called like John to be heralds of salvation as we live lives of faith. May we be the people who point towards Jesus and tell those around us there is the Son of God let us follow him for he is the way the truth and the life.

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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This week we had the formal announcement  of the timetable of Pope Francis visit to the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August. The world meeting should be a reaffirmation of what it means to be a Catholic family in today’s world. Of course many people will have their own interpretation of this and in todays world of equality and peoples rights the whole idea of the Christian family is constantly under attack by those who say family is something different to what it really is. If we look at the Holy Family of Nazareth we need look no further to see what we as Catholics mean when we talk about family. Also this Sunday in one of our neighbouring parishes we have an ordination to the priesthood and we pray for Deacon Tony McAleese as he begins his priestly ministry in our diocese.

In this weekend’s Gospel we hear the story of the mustard seed the faith that we have is represented by the mustard seed and that faith is something all of us need to nourish. The Kingdom of God is like a tiny seed planted within each of us. It’s a strong seed, like those seeds  that push their way through the clay in order to grow toward the light.

Gardeners  out there will know that as we nurture the small mustard seed  we have expectations for it and this is true for the seed of faith too. Sometimes our expectations are fulfilled, sometimes not. Other times, we don’t know how, but we find ourselves bearing the fruits of joy, compassion, peace, generosity, faith-fullness, gentleness, and thanksgiving for the wonder of it all. Then we know our growth in faith is a partnership with god and, while we can care for the seed, we can’t make it grow or flower or reproduce without nurturing it.   The parable of the seed shows us that there is an almighty power working for us through the smallest thing the mustard seed. Our part is to do a good job preparing the soil of our hearts and then when we plant the seed we let God take over. As we see the Church continues to grow; for the Lord, not people, gives the spiritual growth. The Church will adjust and flourish in the future just as it has in the past. And when we are confronted with all kinds of things that run against what we believe in  we should not despair, the Church not only lives on through the muddle and the mire of the world, it actually grows.

We also grow like the mustard seed as long as we do everything possible to stay united in faith with the Church. For in the face of turmoil, outside and within us, God is with us.

10TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

 

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After the seasons of Lent and Easter along with the great feasts of Pentecost, Holy Trinity ,Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart we now go back to Ordinary Time and continue from the 10th Sunday.  The gospel Reading for this Weekend is all about the Family of Jesus and their attempt to take control of him.  When  Jesus asks the question who is my Mother and my brothers he puts everything in its place. In one move, Jesus replaced his personal family and friends  with the family of God the Church and that is the people who did the will of God, his Father. Jesus is not disowning his family; he is acknowledging the relationship between himself and the Father and that is greater than the physical bond of family and homeplace. Jesus establishes a new family , no doubt hoping that his own relatives, like everyone else, will come to accept him for who he is the son of God. Clearly his relatives like so many others have trouble accepting the change that Jesus has undergone from becoming a village carpenter to a mighty prophet who proclaims the kingdom of God his Father. As John says in his Gospel: “Not even his brothers… had faith in him” (7:5). Jesus has to face that misunderstanding and rejection. It is part of the cross he has to bear.

Allegiance to the Father and by implication to his Son transcended ties of the country you come from and the family you belonged to. The Kingdom of God was above social structure. Hence, social expectations over behaviour, even behaviour that challenged the status quo of the leaders, was also superseded. Family ties, social roles, and religious pecking order were meaningless. Our problem, of course, lies in our expectations. What do we expect others to do? What do we expect God to do? How do we react when God or others don’t meet our expectations? More important, how do we react when God or others CHALLENGE our expectations?  These days there are many different challenges to us as members of god’s family and for us here in Ireland there are many particular challenges. I believe that faith will prevail but the faith of the future will be different but in many ways will remain the same. Over the past few days I have been thinking about the abortion referendum result and what it means and I feel that the faith of so many has been challenged  and many people have been found wanting in what they have said and done. I think that its fair to say that all of us who are pro-life feel broken as a  result of the referendum vote but we know that as the brothers and sisters of Jesus he is  with us in this moment of sadness and hurt.

The gospels are always challenging and calling us to a better way of life as members of the body of Christ his family. We will become his brothers and sisters if we do the will of God. Doing the will of God may alienate us from our family and relatives, but the Jesus always points us towards a more important relationship with the Father.  As we go forward there will be many challenges to us in our personal lives and our lives of faith. If we are true to the faith we profess each time we say the creed then we can say that we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus doing the will of the father as we face the challenges of being people of faith wherever we live in our world.

Trinity Sunday

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This Sunday we celebrate Trinity Sunday, which is a celebration of the Father, Son and Holy spirit the three equal persons that make up the Holy Trinity. This is the Trinity, these are the three divine persons acting for themselves and for man: this is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, who is Love, a Love that is infinite, immense, mysterious, a Love that leads the Father and the Son to go toward man in order to save him! But this Love is, above all, that which leads man to go towards God and to respond to Love with love! When we make the sign of the cross we say In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit which is the invocation of the Holy Trinity. The feast of Holy 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. In the 14th century, the feast came to be observed by the universal Church. One week after the end of the Easter season, in which we gave thanks for the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday.

The feast of the Holy Trinity invites us to contemplate the mystery of God Father Son and Holy Spirit.  Paul in the Letter to the Romans reminds us that the Spirit of God makes us God’s children, destined to share in the life of God, as Christ does. The gospel reading speaks of the power of presence and the power of the name. Ancient people placed great weight in presence; the way someone dressed and acted spoke of social power. Ancient people also chose names carefully; they believed a person’s name defined their strength of character. Both outward presence and inward character are part of the disciples’ experience. When the followers of Jesus  saw the resurrected Lord and heard his command to evangelize the entire world, they saw for themselves the Trinity in action. When we live as followers of Christ, we invite others to join us not because they see nice people living good lives. No, they, too, see the Trinity in action as God works through us. Each Trinity Sunday, we only scratch the surface of this great mystery of our faith. In gratitude and faith, let us begin and end every prayer with greater faith and reverence “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

PENTECOST SUNDAY

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This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Last Sunday when we celebrated Ascension Jesus told us in the Gospel that he would send us the Holy Spirit to be our advocate  with the Father. Today we celebrate the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the beginning of the apostolic mission to bring the Church to the world. It is the birthday of the church so maybe we should sing happy birthday as well as Veni Creator Spiritus and blow out the candles on the birthday cake instead of blowing out the paschal candle because it’s the end of the Easter Season!!

By the time John wrote his gospel, Jewish Christians had been excommunicated for their belief in the Messiah. Ostracized and socially persecuted, some Christians reacted in fear, while others boldly proclaimed the gospel. Early Christians needed a sense of stability, a sense of divine peace. Through the words of Jesus, “Peace” was John’s prayer for his readers as we listen to this gospel reading. With the sight of Jesus, fear turned into great joy. Anxiety turned into relief. Desperation turned into vindication.

Most important, a lack of spiritual direction turned into a sense of deep spiritual grounding. The divine presence stood close to them and with the divine presence came divine peace. We too have the divine presence in the Blessed Sacrament and it brings Joy and spiritual grounding to all those who come and Jesus says to each and every one you are welcome.We can’t ignore the problems that are there and there are many in our own lives and the lives of those around us. Most of the time, the problems just don’t go away by themselves very often we need to stop and think things through.  If we pray through the problems as well as thinking them through we will find that they are much easier to get through.  Simply put Prayer Moves Mountains and we shouldn’t stop climbing. Gathered at Mass week in week out we bring our prayers to God. We each have our own needs. Family and friends may be sick.  People we know need work. The person who has been central to our lives for so long has died.  We bring these and all our concerns in prayer to church because they remind us of our need and they raise our hopes in the power of God made real to every generation through the Holy Spirit.  

Through the Holy Spirit our relationship with God is fruitful, satisfies our longings, and brings us peace. Because of God’s faithfulness, we give thanks, offer sacrifice, and once again present our needs this Pentecost Sunday as we remember the presence of God with us in all our lives.

 

ASCENSION SUNDAY

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This weekend we celebrate the feast of Ascension, in many place this feast was celebrated on Thursday of this week but here in Ireland it is celebrated on the 7th Sunday of Easter.  Over our lives we have seen 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 going back to heaven to be at the Fathers right hand. The words of the Gospel for Ascension day strike me in a particular way Jesus tells us ‘go therefore make disciples of all the nations and know that I am with you yes to the end of time.

Jesus is definite about what he has to say when he speaks and calls his disciples to be the first missionaries. This is in sharp contrast to the fact that, their feelings were varied. Some of them worshipped him, while some of them still doubted.  Jesus didn’t seem to have any great problem with that, because he knew that, when the Spirit came, all of those doubts would be ended. It would seem, indeed, that he was in a hurry to take his leave of them, so that the next  part of his salvation plan could get underway. The mission of the apostles was simple to understand; difficult to carry out. It was to teach others all that Jesus had taught them. Just as he asked his disciples to follow him, they were to ask that others should follow him and was so hard for them then and it is hard for us to do in the world of today. The programme of salvation was to begin at Pentecost and continue from generation to generation, until the end of time.

So many things have changed in the Church and society. However the two things that have not changed are Jesus himself and every word of his message as they are ever old and always new for each generation. The message of Jesus is ignored by many people inside and outside the Church for their own reasons. The essential message of God and his messenger Jesus his Son have never changed up and I don’t think that they will ever change. Again and again we need to ask ourselves what we are doing to make disciples of all the nations realizing that Jesus and his message are always new for each generation. May we be heralds of God as we place the message of Jesus before others by the way we live out the call of Jesus to follow him.

 

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