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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

PALM SUNDAY

From the ashes on Ash Wednesday we have almost gone full circle through the six weeks of Lent and here we are at Palm Sunday with three more days to come as we head towards the last round up that is the Easter Triduum. In the 1960’s there was a TV programme called ‘That was the week that was’ and the week that we are beginning today (HOLY WEEK) certainly was the week that was but unlike the TV programme which ended within a few years over 2000 years later we are celebrating Palm Sunday and Holy Week which we celebrate year after year. There is a connection between the two days of Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday that I’m sure not many people know about, the ashes we use on Ash Wednesday are the burnt palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. If you look and listen carefully at the liturgy from time to time you might see and hear about connections that you may not be aware of. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday we have so many great events rolled into just seven days. In Holy Week we celebrate life death and resurrection, we celebrate happiness and sorrow and we see all that is good in human life as well as all that is bad. We begin our Holy Week journey in the Joy of Palm Sunday with Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph, with the people singing hosanna to the son of David. We read the passion gospel, in this reading we see betrayal but we also see hope.  Jesus has brought his disciples together as a group, then it all seems to fall apart with one of his apostles Judas betraying Jesus and then of course we all know what followed.

There are so many different aspects to this week it is so hard to flag up all of them on this particular day and I’m not going to do that, as they each have their own emphasis and there will be time to comment on them later on in the week.  Holy Week and the events within it give all of us an opportunity to look at our lives and to accept responsibility for all that is within our lives good bad or indifferent. It is important that we who say we are Christians accept the truth about ourselves and then in our acceptance of the truth we will be able to look at the Cross and recognise the love of God our Father for us and for everyone. This week and indeed the whole of our Lenten Journey give us the opportunity to look hard at ourselves and see exactly where we have come from and where we are going and perhaps were we should be going. We have always to remember that Jesus came to take away our sins and to point us in the right direction that is towards our father in heaven and all that is good.  During this week we remember that Christ came to give his life as a ransom for many and as a result of this he points us to faith in God. Christ took our sinful ways on himself because of his love for us. May the passion story inspire all of us to try to imitate in some small way the all loving all forgiving Jesus who went through betrayal to death and finally to resurrection for us so that we will have life and have it to the full.  Over the next few days let us prepare with greater intensity for the Easter Triduum and then we will really be able to enjoy Easter feast which we have been preparing for since Ash Wednesday.

THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

Here we are at the fifth Sunday of Lent with five weeks of our Lenten observances behind us with just two weeks to go to the day of Resurrection that is Easter doesn’t time fly by, for me life in general just seems to be flying past the eye of my mind.  I hope that you haven’t found the Lenten exercises you began on Ash Wednesday to hard to continue but everyone  of us one and all are getting there, keep on going.


As we approach Holy Week and the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection our Gospel story today tells us that anyone who loves his life will lose it and anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. This challenges us to recognise just how very different the vision of life we must have If we are to follow Jesus Christ. These 40 days of Lent help us to identify with Jesus, who spent 40 days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness of the dessert before beginning his public ministry. The number 40 is connected with other biblical events. It is no coincidence that Moses spent 40 days of fasting and prayer before receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. After escaping captivity in Egypt by crossing the Red Sea, the Hebrew tribes spent. 40 years wandering in the desert before reaching the promised land. Jesus calls us into a spiritual world that stands in sharp contrast to world of today where so many have little or nothing and so few have so much more than they need. Simply put Jesus, his life and example call us into the world of God in order for us to bring it out there to other people by the way we live our lives in our words, deeds and example.

The Lord calls us to rise above the selfish goals that many of us might have for many things in our daily lives. Selfish goals that mean that we want what we want and not what is good for all of us. Jesus sets before us his vision   a vision that is a new view and way of life, a life of meaningful faith in God and in one another. Unlike his fellow Jews, Jesus viewed glory not as the acquisition of power or the ability to control their own destiny after centuries of foreign rule, but he looked at glory as the ability to serve others for a greater purpose, Gods purpose.

Humble prayer to God and humble service for and with his people should be what we are about and this is what our Lenten journey is all about. Lent is a time to refocus our spiritual selves to be what god asks us and wants us to be humble servants of one another empowered by a life lived in faith. Lent is the journey into the gentle and humble heart of our faith which began in the upper room on the first Holy Thursday all those years ago. A few days ago at the early mass in our local parish a sense of wonder filled my mind at what we were celebrating at that time and have been celebrating as Christians for two thousand and twelve years after the event actually happened. Two thousand plus years of celebrating the love of god present with us day and daily in all our ups and downs which are our everyday lives. The treasure we have in the sacramental life of the Church is beyond doubt and we need to value the sacraments especially our Eucharistic sharing in our Masses on Sundays and on a daily basis more and more.

It is often said that our treasure is where our heart is and we store up true treasure when we carve out time for prayer, for reading scripture celebration of the Eucharist and confession as well as all the other spiritual things that we are asked to do during this time of renewal and throughout our lives. If we do these things or at least some of them then we will be able to celebrate Holy week and Easter with renewed hearts minds and souls.

Glory to you, O Lord our God.

Your love calls us to be your people.

By sharing our many and diverse gifts

we share in your mission.

We ask you, Lord,

to shape us into a community of faith.

Nourish us by your word and sacraments that we may grow into the image of Jesus.

Through the power of your Holy Spirit, heal us that we,

in turn, may heal the wounded.

Form us to be instruments of love, justice, and peace in our land , and send us to proclaim your saving work.

renew us, Lord, that we may renew the face of the earth. Amen

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

We gather together at our Sunday or in some cases at our daily mass  as God’s holy people. As you know this Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Lent it is also Mothers Day and we thank all our mothers for their goodness to us over the last year and we pray for all those who have lost their mothers since this time last year. Also for all those who are Irish or of Irish decent I wish you all a Happy St. Patricks Day.

We pause at this  point of our Lenten Journey to reflect on the journey of spiritual renewal we are undertaking. Lent is the penitential journey of reflection and renewal a journey that will bring us to the celebration of the death of Jesus at holy Week and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. The threefold practice of fasting, alms giving and prayer are more visible during Lent than at any other time of the year. Fasting and penitential acts clarify the mind and they reveal to us the limitations on our liberty which self-indulgence imposes. In the Catholic tradition, I am a Catholic, there are now only 2 days of fast & abstinence Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Having said that I would encourage those who are able to try and undertake these 2 fast days. Apart from these two particular days we are asked to make every Friday a day when we undertake some sort of fasting.

Almsgiving through the many Christian organizations of which Trocaire is our primary one with their annual Lenten campaign makes us more available to others in a brotherly sharing of our resources unhampered by the divisions and artificialness  of social life. Praye­r at all times and in a special way in Lent makes us more open to God and more aware of that fundamental dependence of all creation on his word.  What images and memories does the word “Lent” bring to your mind? Are they mostly positive, negative, or somewhere in between? I always remember liking the Holy Week ceremonies more than the 40 days leading up to them.  I liked them because of the actual ceremony and I really like them now because I understand their spiritual meaning more. The season of Lent is not a time for rejoicing, in its starkness it is more of a time for Spiritual preparation for the events of Holy Week & Easter. Lent offers all of us the opportunity to seriously examine and enrich our commitment to Christ and his church. But this does not mean we have to walk around with sad expressions on our faces it was once said by A saint “May Heaven deliver us from sour-faced people!”

There are so many means available to us to realize the purpose of Lent, the celebration of the sacraments, especially Sunday and daily Mass, prayer and the sharing of our goods with others, fasting and abstaining from various things are examples of some of  the things that we might do to have a good Lent. So then during Holy Week we rededicate ourselves as members of the church as we recall our Lord’s death on Good Friday and victory over death in the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. On Ash Wednesday we began by placing the  ashes on our foreheads and by undertaking our Lenten observances .we made a commitment to become more credible witnesses to God’s love for humanity in this season of renewal and beyond it into our daily lives and living right through this year.

Lord  Jesus,

you call us to bring your joy to the world.

You invite us to be your Body on earth the Church,

Your mission for us is to reach out to the fearful and weak! You empower us to reveal your presence to a weary world. You enthuse us to enter deeper into a life assured of resurrection. Be with us, as we continue our pilgrim journey Guide our footsteps with the light of faith, that we may walk in your ways during this Holy season of Renewal

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

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Here we are at the third Sunday of Lent, how have your Lenten observances been going I hope that the going has not been too hard, keep up the good work .

In the gospel for this Sunday John paints a picture of an angry Jesus, entering the symbol of Israel’s security the temple in Jerusalem, whip in hand, driving out those who had turned the Temple into the centre of a money-making racket. As you may know, the Temple was the only place of sacrifice for the Jews. Sacrifice meant the offering to God of that which God created, whether in the form of wheat or grapes, doves or lambs, depending on the purpose of the sacrifice. Sacrifice meant the offering of life on behalf of individuals and families and once a year, on the Day of Atonement, on behalf of the nation itself.

The racket Jesus encountered was rather clever. For example, when a family brought its sacrifice to the Temple. It had to be inspected to make sure that it was of high enough quality to be acceptable. If the object was rejected, there were substitutes available at a price. When the head of the family offered payment, his money was rejected because it was the usual Roman coinage. Yet, guess what? These coins could be exchanged for pure Temple currency, at a price. Those of us who have travelled abroad know how annoying it is to find our dollars exchanged for a foreign currency and having to pay the exchange rate. So something meant to be holy, special, unique, had been turned into a crooked commercial transaction. Jesus was furious. There’s no “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” in the gospel today. Jesus, whip in hand drives out these crooked merchants, many of whom were priests.

Catechism Theme: Jesus and the Temple (CCC 583-586)

Jesus had the deepest respect for the Temple and its traditions. According to John, Jesus went to the Temple to celebrate various holy day festivals (John 2:13-14; 5:1, 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 10:22-23). He even cleansed the Temple courtyard out of respect for what the Temple meant: God’s dwelling place on earth. However, Jesus saw beyond the Temple and the nation it represented. The parochial interests of the Jewish leadership would soon lead to the destruction of the Jerusalem and its Temple. But, the message of Judaism was too important to keep to the nation itself. The God of Israel was truly the God of all. There was, however, another reason to predict the destruction of the Temple (Matthew 24:1-2). The destruction of the Temple was another sign for the coming of the end time, which began with the death of Christ on the cross. His Risen Body replaced Temple and became a home for all believers, a safe haven for all who awaited the Day of Yahweh.

God gives us signs as anchors of faith.  But, at some point, we must trust the Lord enough to cut ourselves from the anchors we hold on to  and allow him to guide us through rough currents that we often have to swim against. In our lives we have many things and events which could overwhelm us but they don’t because of our trust is in god and in the  things of god.

Very often Faith will cause scandal and in recent times we have been reminded of this very forcefully indeed in Ireland and in many other countries throughout the world . Do we waver in the face of scandal? Or, do we redouble our efforts in faith? In the end, a faith that survives scandal is the toughest faith of all. We pray particularly for all those who have been hurt by the scandals and the scandalous actions  of individuals within in our church.  There are many good things and people within the church at large but as we know everything has not been good and more often than not the good has been tarnished by the bad.

Being a person of faith was never meant to be easy and is certainly not easy at the present time but this is our calling as members of the Church, which is the body of Christ, the calling is to try to remain Gods faithful people as best we can in what are very trying times for people who are trying to live out their faith in the circumstances of their daily lives.

Lenten reflection for the order of malta

Reading from Mark  Ch1: Vs 14 –  20

14 After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the gospel from Godsaying15 ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.’16 As he was walking along by the Lake of Galilee he saw Simon and Simon’s brother Andrew casting a net in the lake — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you into fishers of people.’18 And at once they left their nets and followed him. 19 Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending the nets. 20 At once he called them and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

It was, I think, Origen, who said that it was not just the death that Jesus died but the life that he lived which was pleasing to God. If we think of Our Lord’s life, we see how he used his senses for others. He saw Zacchaeus up his tree, he heard Bartimaeus at the back of the crowd, he felt the touch of the woman with an issue of blood, he smelt the decaying body of Lazarus and spoke to the man with demons. He touched the untouchables; he ate and drank with publicans, tax collectors and sinners.

Or, to put it in the words of scripture from the First Letter of John, chapter 1, verse 1: “We declare to you what was from the beginning what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands.” This speaks of the sheer and impact of Jesus, given for us. So we must never underestimate how, in whatever we are called to do as members of the Order of Malta, our physical presence is a sign of God’s blessing and a sign of the Good News of Jesus Christ in our present day. It is also a sign of God’s abiding love for all and everyone whoever they are and wherever they are.

We are living in an age of information overload – driven by means of communication which have profoundly changed the nature of our relationships with one another and our lives and the way we live them. You can even have a “best friend” you have never met  through the internet and other computerised ways of communication– and before you scoff, we need to hit the “pause” button to reflect on how we relate to God?

But however we look at it, this is the age of vicarious living – and of vicarious religion. Many people want other people to do religion for them, no longer belonging to or believing in god. This results in a sense of the irrelevance of the church with many using the recent difficulties within the church as an excuse for not being there. There is much spiritual hunger out there and how are we doing when it comes to witnessing to the Christian and more especially the catholic message in our modern world?

Answering the call of Jesus Christ is based on listening and being ready to respond. Listening is an art in itself. It requires us to do more than just hear things that sound good to us. Listening requires us to filter out all the noise that is around us and begin listening for the still, small voice of God that usually comes to us quietly, often through odd connections with people, sometimes strangers, who see something unique in us and call it forth.

Recently someone who was and still is having difficulties with her only son voiced her concern about unburdening herself to me, expressing her fears and worries and even crying to me. I told her that it was a privilege for me to be there for her as it is for all of us to be a presence in so many ways for other people as members of the Order.

Being able  to respond is quite another thing. There is a musical play frequently performed around the Christmas season, called “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” which was composed by Gian Carlo Menotti.

In this story, Amahl is a young boy who must use a crutch to walk, and he has a bad habit of telling fibs.One night as he is sitting outside, his mother calls for him to come inside, and when he tells her that he sees an enormous star “as big as a window” over their house, she does not believe him. Later that night there is a knock at their door, and three kings, the Magi, stand before them, asking if they could rest overnight in the house, explaining that they are on a long journey to give gifts to a wondrous child. After the kings fail asleep, Amahl’s mother, who is worried that her son will become a beggar, tries to steal gold from one of the kings. When she is caught, Amahl tries to attack the king’s guard who is holding her. The king is filled with mercy when he sees Amahl’s pitiful defense of his mother, and the king tells her to keep the gold, explaining that the Holy Child, for whom the gold was intended, will not need it, because his kingdom will not be built on earthly wealth. Amahl’s mother, filled with shame and remorse, begs the kings to take back the gold, and wishes she had a gift to send the Holy Child. Amahl gives the kings his crutch, his only possession, to give to the child. And miraculously,

Amahl’s leg is healed, and he sets off with the kings to see the child and give thanks. In this marvelous tale, both music and story work together as we witness an intervention by God into the life of a poor family, an intervention that results in profound change. There are many such interventions in our lives and and as a result of these interventions we are able to do the work that god calls us to As members of the Order.

The call of Christ should  be seen as an intervention because that is what it is. “Follow me and you will fish for people,” says Jesus to the disciples. The call is not always a loud command; it is often a quiet suggestion, but it is always an intervention that challenges us to change direction, move to a new way of thought and life. How do we as members of the Order of Malta reflect the life that Jesus led in our dealings with other people, family friends and those whom we serve in our commitment to the Order our lords the sick and our lords the poor.  A calling that calls us to serve the faith and our Lord’s the sick and Our Lords the Poor in the here and now of today in the spirit of those who founded the Order over 900 years ago.

Most of us have moments when we wish we were other than ourselves. Stripped of our masks and pretence and all that we have accumulated to clothe us, standing naked before God we fear that we are not a pretty sight :  But God loves us and has called us, and remains faithful to us with all our masks and pretences lumps and bumps. Only when we return to this fact – and this fact alone, can we be agents of transformation. We can always be forgiven, re-shaped, re-molded and transformed so that we are made  and remade         as beautiful as God intended. After this remolding we are truly what god wants us to be, faithful and faith filled individuals not afraid of the message of the gospels and not afraid to pass the message on to others.

The summons in this gospel reading calls us as it called those who heard  to a radically new way of life that  he contradicted the old way, and offered happi­ness not in the material things of the world, but in the riches of the spirit that was given to all people  alike. Each person was to learn his need of God, be of a gentle spirit, Along the way, we shall have astounded both others and ourselves, converted them—and ourselves, with a new kind of merciful love. “I am the Way,” said Jesus. It is a way of ever new and deep discovery, advanced in humble love, sign-posted in the clear direction of an everlasting joy.

Let us not be afraid to follow the road that Jesus points us towards that is the road of loving mercy the mercy of the beatitudes which we hold dear in the order.

Let us go back to Origen, who said that it was not just the death that Jesus died but the life that he lived which was pleasing to God. If we think of Our Lord’s life, we see how he used his senses for others. He touched the untouchables; he ate and drank with publicans, tax collectors and sinners. Jesus was not afraid to be at one with all those who were the outcasts and so called sinners of his time as he is one with us in our time in the modern world of today. let us remember that The words of Jesus were there in his time and continue to be here today to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. May we who have ears listen and not be afraid to act, act to love the unloved, care for the those who have no one to care for them and show that we are not afraid to do so. My hope is that we will continue to listen to the voice of Jesus in the broken hearts, and in the victims of our society; and then we will be known for the love we show to one another as a caring and sharing community.

Attend to the pleas of your people with heavenly care,

O Lord, we pray,

that we may see what must be done

and gain strength to do what we have seen.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Adapted fromOpening prayer 1st week ordinary time

SECOND SUNDAY LENT

Our gospel reading from our today’s  Mass told us about the transfiguration of  Jesus who went up the mountain with Peter and James John. What must they have thought when Jesus was transfigured and his clothes became whiter than white, and then the appearance of Elijah and Moses;

I think that it must have been a wonderful experience for the three apostles who witnessed the transfiguration even though they did not fully understand what it meant. This glimpse of Jesus glory was meant to sustain their faith in him during his passion and death. There is no shortcut to the goal which god intends for us. But often when things are difficult, and the long haul feels so very long we too need a vision, a glimpse of the glory that will be ours as faithful sons and daughters of our heavenly Father to keep us going along the road. If we reflect on our lives, we will come across these glimpses and we will be amazed by them as the apostles were on the mountain side of mount tabor. When we realise the glory that awaits us in God than all our struggles in this life will be given meaning and a value.

We also remember all those people who have begun their preparation for baptism on Holy Saturday evening at the Easter Vigil as part of the RICA (More About this Later)

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT 2012

Well here we are hurtling through the first week of lent.

what does lent mean to most people I suppose not a lot but for all of us who are Christians it is a time of spiritual warfare in order to build us up in the ways of God who leads us along the right paths.

The message of lent is clear. we need to to open our minds and hearts to the possibility of God’s voice speaking to us in our lenten observances . let us  Open our mind and hearts to his presence in our lives and our daily living. In order to experience Gods loving care for us we need to  shake off rote and routine of our lives. And he will be there in the good times and the bad showinf us that he us the way the truth and the life.

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