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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

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.”

Pentecost Sunday

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This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, the day when 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 Easter!! With the feast of Pentecost the seven weeks of Easter have come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance. (Cf. Acts 2:33-36) (CCC 731)In the Gospel reading, Jesus, gives the apostles the power to forgive and reconcile those who sin. This is God’s mercy in action working through the Apostles and the priests down through the ages to ourselves in our time and place!

By the time John wrote his gospel, Jewish Christians had been excommunicated for their belief in Jesus. Ostracized and socially persecuted, some Christians reacted in fear, while others boldly proclaimed the gospel. The First Christians needed a sense of stability, a sense of serenity and peace. Through the words of Jesus, “Peace” was John’s prayer for his readers as it is for us 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 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 for ourselves and those around us.

Most of the time, the problems just don’t go away by themselves very often we need to stop and pray through the problems as well as thinking them through.  Simply put Prayer Moves Mountains but we shouldn’t stop climbing. Gathered at the Eucharist week in week out we bring our prayers to God. We each have our own needs. Family and friends may be sick.  Kids need work. The person who has been in 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 produces fruitfulness, satisfies our longings, and brings us serenity and 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

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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.

 

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