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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

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In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we hear about the king sending his servants out to call all those who were invited to come to his son’s wedding but none of the invited guests would come. So the king told his servants to go out and invite everyone on the road to come to the wedding feast. Jesus tells the parable because his ways have been criticized by the “chief priests and elders of the people.” They have rejected him so now he turns to  everyone on the road and he welcomes the poor, sinners, and outsiders. Matthew emphasizes, not only the importance of the meal, but the urgent need we have to respond to God’s invitation to his feast. In the parable those who did respond to the invitation, “bad and good alike,” did so with enthusiasm. They knew a good thing when they heard it and so grasped it immediately, filling the banquet hall just as the king had wanted for his son. Today all of us who say we are Christians are also invited to the wedding feast and this is a pointer towards our participation in the life of the Church especially going to Mass and taking part in the sacramental life of the Church. We hold precious the image of God who calls the good and the bad to the banquet of life that leads to eternal life.

The expectation is that we will prepare ourselves now by being dressed appropriately for the occasion. Perhaps the best description of the proper wardrobe for a Christian is given to us by the apostle Paul. If we wear the clothes he describes the clothes of compassion, kindness humility, gentleness and patience we will never be thrown out of any banquet. In Colossians he tells us You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience… Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. (Colossians 3:12-15)

This weekend’s parable reminds us that God’s invitation is his gift to us, and it is given to us so that we can freely accept or ignore it. Those who were gathered in from the highways and byways had no claim on the king (God). We, too, have no claim on God, We do not merit God’s invitation on our own. It is a grace God lovingly offers to each and every one of us. Hopefully all of us will be able to accept the invitation to come to the feast.

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27TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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As we gather this weekend we pray for those who lost their lives or were injured in the atrocity that took place in Las Vegas last week. We also pray that their families and friends  will get the strength to continue their lives knowing that the world and its people are with them in thought and prayer.

This week our parish hosted the  World Meeting of Families Holy Family Icon on Monday – Wednesday. It was particularly significant that Holy Family Parish was chosen to be one of the host parishes as the icon came to Down and Connor. Over the 2 days people came from various parishes as well as the local schools to pray at the icon. The emphasis was on the family there were petitions for our families and they were written and placed in the petition box and will be forwarded to the contemplative communities throughout Ireland by the WMOF so that they can pray for our families in the days ahead. There was also time for prayer both in the quietness and as a community gathered  to hear the word of God and pray the rosary in the presence the Icon.

In our Gospel for this Sunday we hear the parable about the vineyard, it is the tenants who refuse to bring forth the fruits of the vineyard to the owner. They even kill the owner’s son in arrogant defiance. The owner is poised for understandable retribution against such violence. A vineyard was and is often associated with the people of Israel. That image of “vineyard” is tied in with one of the final sentences in this story. “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to those who will bear its’ fruit.” When we reflect on this parable of the vineyard, a question naturally arises. How could those tenants be so ungrateful? How could they react in such a selfish, unjust, and, eventually, murderous way? We tend to interpret the parable as primarily reflecting the refusal of Jewish leaders of that time to accept Jesus as the Messiah. But we need to look beyond that historical event. We need to ask ourselves what the parable means for us here and now as we reflect on the refusal of our own people to accept the things of God. The world we live in can also be seen as a vineyard entrusted to our care. How do we care for the faith we profess and how we show our faith as an example for others to see? What do we return to the vineyard owner who is god our father.

What are some of the obstacles that keep us from responding as we should? So today we are asked to reflect on our own faith and we are called to go out into the vineyard that is the world where we live and work  and have our being. Called  to be the humble workers rather than the land owners to nourish the vines of other people’s faith by what we do and say so that as a result of our efforts they may give glory to our father in heaven.

26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend in our local parish we begin our preparation for the world meeting of Families being held in Dublin in August 2018. We are unique in that we are the parish of the Holy Family and over the next 10 months or so we will have a short time of prayer and reflection for families on the first Sunday of the month at 5pm. As part of the preparation for the world meeting each diocese in Ireland will be hosting the icon of the Holy Family that was anointed in Knock recently. The Icon will be coming to Down and Connor Diocese on the 30th September for the annual diocesan convention. We will have the icon in our parish from the afternoon of the 2nd October to Wednesday 4th October.

In our Gospel reading for this weekend we hear the story of the two sons. The first son, who said no to his father but who went and did what his father wanted. And then the second  son, who says yes to the father but does not deliver . The first son “thought the better of it.” He was open to change. The second son was set in his ways and closed to the idea of change. The ability to change one’s mind is essential to all healthy relationships. A mind that is closed, whether from pride, stubbornness or stupidity, tends to destroy all relationships, e.g., when we refuse to admit a mistake, when we are unwilling to apologise and change our ways, when we persist in prejudice against a person or group, when we think we know it all when we don’t.

 Jesus surprises the people around him by responding favorably to the actions of the tax collectors and prostitutes who may have gotten it wrong at first but have since repented and come back.   Too many of us are down on ourselves for our past lives. Many of us can truthfully say, “I have made mistakes.” But we are here now. We are doing our best to follow the Lord. We try our best to receive the strength of Christ, the power of the Gospel, and integrate this into our daily lives. This Gospel passage points out something very important about faith and religion. Sometimes the terms faith and religion are taken to be the same. But they are not at all the same. The difference between them be seen more clearly if we speak of religious practices rather than religion. There is of a close relationship between religious practice and faith. Religious practices have to be based on and animated by faith.  The Lord calls us to a living faith whereby we enter into a living relationship with God. That involves something more than adherence to a system of ideas or obedience to a collection of rules or the practice of certain rites. It requires an authentic desire to follow Christ, whatever the costs to us material or otherwise.

 

25TH SUNDAY OR ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend life just seems to continue as normal with the usual rhetoric coming from the usual people we need to redouble our efforts in prayer for peace in the world. We also remember all those people out there who were affected by the recent hurricanes and the efforts to help them get back to normal.

In our Gospel reading this weekend Matthew recounts the parable of the laborer’s in the vineyard who don’t see the generosity of their Master  because they are blinded by their own envy and selfishness.  Those who first heard this parable would have voiced their bewilderment. How could God not treat the hard, long-suffering workers in the vineyard better than those who had just arrived and didn’t seem to have done as much to gain their reward? The Day laborers in the vineyard objected to the amount of pay the owner gave them as the first was paid exactly the same as the last one denarius.

This tense image rode against the popular view of the Kingdom as a peaceful plentiful feast for the faithful in paradise. Jesus told this story to emphasize how the Kingdom differed from what people expected. What kind of God do we have? The parable tells us that our God is a generous and a just Father who doesn’t have any favourites, but continually invites us into the vineyard of faith and treats us  all equally.  God rewards us all “the same daily wage.” this is really a pointer  towards the “daily bread” God is constantly giving us to feed and strengthen us every day, as we strive to be God’s faithful people. In the pages of the gospels we meet many people who start out as losers but end up as winners. The parable of the  workers in the vineyard is the Lord’s call to all of us   to share generously with all people  what we  have received and that means sharing our resources and our time. Sharing with those who are physically emotionally, spiritually or economically crippled.

It means sharing with the prodigal sons and daughters, the outcasts, the overlooked, and the ones whom the powerful and respectable simply ignore or shun. The losers end up winners because Jesus makes a clear choice in their favour. Why does he do so? Simply because Jesus knows and teaches that God’s ways are not our ways, that God does not work from the mathematics of a calculator but from the fullness of a full and loving heart the heart of the Father. All of us share equally in the task, whether called early in the morning or late in the day, we are called  to build up the kingdom of God in this  unjust and often times hard world. When we focus upon the needs of others, even if they encroach upon our rights, we give  ourselves for the Kingdom. Our work  becomes more honest and our leadership when we are called to lead will bring others to Christ for they see Christ working through us for everyone’s good. Ultimately, service means sacrifice. What are we willing to give up for the Kingdom of God as we proclaim the good news in word and deed

 

24th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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On Friday we saw terrorism rearing its ugly head again with another incident in London. Thankfully no one was killed and we pray for all those who were affected. We also continue to pray for all those who have been affected by the Hurricane in the Caribbean that they will be able to get their lives back to normal as soon as possible in some places its reported that this could take up to two years.

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is all about forgiveness. The parable of the unforgiving official is told in order to underline our need for forgiveness. When the king calls his court officials to audit the accounts, one shows a deficiency of ten thousand talents, a colossal sum of money. The sum is deliberately extravagant, running into millions of pounds, to heighten the contrast with the few pounds owed to the official.  When the king orders the sale of the debtor and his family into slavery, the official pleads for time.

The king feels sorry for him and decides to remit the whole of the vast debt.  The official, however, learns nothing from his experience, for he refuses to give a colleague time to pay a trifling debt; instead, he has him thrown into prison. When this heartless behaviour is reported to the king, the grant of full forgiveness is withdrawn and the unforgiving official is thrown to the torturers. What do we learn from this parable about showing mercy the saying goes that the mercy we show to others will also be the mercy that  will be shown to us in our turn. We often forget that God showed us mercy In the same way that the king showed mercy to  the official!  If we think we do not need the mercy of God we need to stop and think about it  for all of  us need gods mercy in one way or another. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it was difficult to forgive someone who offended you all of us have been in that situation at some time in our lives. Forgiveness can be very hard in many situations, and for this reason it takes a long time before we bring ourselves to forgive those who sin against us  especially when they might be  people we trusted a lot.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus seems to tell us that God’s forgiveness has necessary limits, but perhaps these are just the limits we set. The unforgiving slave brings judgement on himself by treating his own forgiveness as a license to bring judgement on others. He thus transforms a merciful king into a vengeful judge. The problem lies not with the king, or even by analogy with God, but with the world the slave insists on constructing for himself, under which terms his fate is now set. With whom, and to what systems, do we bind ourselves each day? Each day let us ask the Lord for forgiveness for all our sins Let us forgive all those who have sinned against us because that is what our father in heaven asks us to do. Remember our Father in heaven sent us Jesus his son to point the way and he encourages us to follow him.

23RD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we remember in a special way all those who are affected by Harvey and Irma the Hurricanes in the Caribbean. I have a nephew who is presently in Cuba wondering what he is going to do and he tells me though they are well prepared they are still expecting the worst!

In our Gospel passage for this Sunday St Matthew recounts Jesus’ instructions to the disciples about how they should deal with a brother who does something wrong. This same instruction applies to us and our dealings with other people in the here and now of today. This passage is very different from those of the two previous Sundays. They were dramatic stories, marked by deep emotions and with deep implications for the characters involved. This is a little gem of a passage but with little drama, a very practical, common-sense teaching on that most common and most prosaic of community problems conflict. It is a great wisdom teaching which continues to be valid for us in our own time.

Today management of time and people  has become a science, and Jesus’ teaching stands up well as a model of how to “manage” conflict in any situation.  It is the duty of the disciple we are told  to point out the error and even if our correction might not be well received. St Matthew wants to let the Christians in his community know how to deal with those who drift away from the teaching of Christ or blatantly contravene the commandments. Matthew chooses those words of Jesus which most stress the authority and the competence of the Christian community, the Church, to deal with these cases: Whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.  However, there are some safeguards built into this teaching on reproving those who go astray. Jesus says that first of all you must have it out with him alone. This might lead to a speedy solution and the person’s good name is preserved. Yet it seems  from the gospel reading that the only sanction is that the person be excluded from the community of the Church.

All the practical advice in the Gospel centers on Christians taking responsibility for each other and even now that is what we are asked to do take responsibility for each other. Belonging to a community implies that we are involved in the life of its members. This is not a charter for the legion of the curious, but a procedure for a caring community to follow. It is a way of handling wrongdoing and hurt. For many people have done wrong and many are hurting for so many reasons and this Gospel reading calls us to be there for all those who have done wrong and for all those who are hurting. It is a call for us to show the people who are around us that the way of Jesus is the right road to follow.

22ND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Last Thursday and Friday the local kids went back to school at the end of the summer holidays, I’m sure that the mums and dads out there were pleased about that. As we also know the hurricane in the USA as well as the North Korean missile test have been in the news there is much to think about and much to pray for this week especially the peace of the world.

In our Gospel Reading this weekend we see Jesus starting to prepare his Apostles for the journey he must make to Jerusalem which ends up with Jesus crucified on the Cross. In foretelling his sufferings and death, which took place some months later, Christ intended to prepare his disciples and other followers for  the severe crisis of faith that would hit them after the crucifixion. He also took the occasion to remind his disciples, and all the others of what their attitude to suffering and death should be. He told them, and us too, that we must be ever ready to accept sufferings in this life, and even an untimely death if that should be demanded of us, rather than deny our Christian faith.

Peter is appalled at this prospect and tries to deflect Jesus from the path that lies ahead and yet it was peter who was crucified as well. After having declared Jesus to be the Christ, a title associated with victory and glory, Peter now denies that Jesus must suffer. Peter wants to banish suffering from the agenda; Jesus brings the subject to the forefront of the conversation. Jesus faced suffering which could only be conquered if it was accepted If the suffering was to pass, it had to be endured. He faced rejection which could be transformed only if he assented to it. He told them “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. The way of the cross which Jesus followed in Jerusalem was one which passed through streets and markets, by houses and palaces, by windows and doors. While it happened people went about their business not giving the procession to Calvary a second thought. Suffering must run the course of the familiar as it does for us. As Christians we live in the assurance that our way of the cross does not go unnoticed.

We are asked like Jesus to carry our crosses through streets and markets, by houses and palaces, by windows and open doors. Jesus notices what we are going through and he is our companion along the way he is our strength and our shield; his power is mighty in our weakness. If the cross we carry is the price to be paid for love, then carrying it is love in action. For Jesus, that was enough it is also enough for us to know that our sufferings large or small were nailed to the Cross on that first Good Friday through the love that God the Father had to send us his Son to be with us for all time.

 

21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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Last Monday marked the beginning of the year of preparation for the World Meeting of Families to be held in August 2018. The Icon of the Holy Family was anointed and blessed during the Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady in Knock with all the dioceses of Ireland represented. Over the next few months the icon will tour the dioceses of Ireland as a focus for our prayerful preparation for the meeting in Dublin.

This weekend in our gospel reading Jesus asks the apostles “who do you say the Son of Man is?” Jesus was in Caesarea Philippi in the north eastern corner of Palestine. There no one would not look for Him. He had much to teach the twelve before He could leave them this was quality teaching time. So, He put the question to them that went to the heart of the matter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter acting as spokesman for the others told Him He was “the Son of the living God” Peter confesses the deep mystery of Jesus, who is the Christ and the Son of God. In the light of this inspired confession, Peter is chosen to be the rock on which the Church is built.When Jesus told him “ you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” Peter received the gift of being the leader of the Church.

Peter was first among the apostles, first among those who were called to proclaim the Kingdom of God on earth. Peter took leadership in the Church at Pentecost. After he, the apostles and Mary, received the Holy Spirit, Peter led everyone out to the Temple and began preaching the good news to the people. After Saul became Paul, after the persecutor of the primitive Church accepted Jesus Christ, Paul spent three years in the desert reflecting on his experience of the Lord on the Road to Damascus. He then went to Jerusalem to receive Peter’s blessing and commission to bring the Good News of the Gospel to the world.  We do not know how Peter got to Rome. We know that he was there, though. We know that Peter died in Rome, crucified head down. The excavations under the Basilica of St. Peter revealed a tomb with the words, Here Lies Peter. We also know that when Peter died, the charism he was given to lead the Church remained active in Rome. The ones who took his place, St. Linus, and those who followed him, St. Cletus, St. Clement in the Apostolic succession right through the centuries up until Pope Francis in our present time .All of them are all recognized as having received the  same charism that the Lord gave to Peter to lead the Church and this has passed down through the centuries. As time went on, these bishops of Rome would be given the title, Pope, Papa, Father of the Family, leader of the Church. Through our baptism, all Christians have received a share in the power of the keys to heaven. With that power goes responsibility to witness to the Gospel. So who do you and I say Jesus is in light of this Sundays Gospel reading.

20th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

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Well after all the threatening words coming from the US and North Korea last week we haven’t seen anyone annihilating anyone else as a result of a nuclear strike and we thank God for that but we must continue to pray for peace in the world.  As I am writing these words the news is coming in about the loss of 14 lives in Barcelona may all of those who have been touched by this awful event know that our prayers are with them. Closer to home we remember all those who have got or  will be getting their public exam results during these days exams are not everything it is the people involved who are important.

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is all about the faith of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was being tormented by a devil, but when you read the story we realize it is really about  the great faith that she has and it was that faith in Jesus that cured her daughter even though she had to be persistent in dealing with the Lord.

The woman in today’s Gospel story is not satisfied with just tears as  her daughter “is tormented by a demon.”  Any mother or father out there knows how fiercely they  would spring into action if a “cure” was before them for their own sick child.  The Canaanite woman is an example for us of that deep-seated faith and trust in Christ’s power and Christ’s goodness. Even though He ignored her she continued to beseech Him, and when He answered with what seemed a direct refusal, her faith and trust did not waver. She answered His reason for refusal with another statement which showed that the granting of her petition would not in any way interfere with or impede His primary task, His mission to His father’s chosen people. This was the proof of great faith which He required. He granted her request. There is a great deal about ourselves and our own faith in this gospel passage.  Over a number of years I have been involved with many people who have been praying for this or that or for or a member of their families and they have said to me that the prayers have not been heard let alone answered.

I have always told them to persist and not give up with the prayers because they are always heard and this has been the case with so many people throughout history. In the same way as the Canaanite woman  pestered Jesus  we should never give up though we mightn’t have our requests granted when WE want them they will be granted when we really need the things that we are praying for. The message of this Sundays readings is about FAITH life can be a bit of a pickle with good and bad things within it, but a life lived with faith in God and the people around us will see all the various obstacles being removed.  Would our faith be as persistent as the faith of the woman in this Sundays Gospel only you can answer that one. A friend of mine is constantly praying for her son and thankfully her prayers are being answered but sometimes the road can be a bit rocky along the way but we have to keep on going because faith moves mountains but we need to keep on climbing and we will find that god is there among the pickle of our lives!!

19TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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

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

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

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

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