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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Always rejoice in the Lord

Last  Saturday morning  the following reading was in the office of readings for the daily office of the church for feast of Saint Phillip Neri there is much within it to reflect upon about rejoicing in God..

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

The Apostle commands us to rejoice, but in the Lord, not in the world. For, you see, as Scripture says, whoever wishes to be a friend of this world will be counted as God’s enemy. Just as a man cannot serve two masters, so too no-one can rejoice both in the world and in the Lord.

Let joy in the Lord win and go on winning, until people take no more joy in the world. Let joy in the Lord always go on growing, and joy in the world always go on shrinking until it is reduced to nothing. I do not mean that we should not rejoice as long as we are in this world, but that even while we do find ourselves in this world, we should already be rejoicing in the Lord.

Someone may argue, “I am in the world; so obviously, if I rejoice, I rejoice where I am”. What of it? Because you are in the world, does it mean that you are not in the Lord? Listen to the same Apostle in the Acts of the Apostles, speaking to the Athenians, and saying about God and about the Lord, our Creator, In him we live, and move, and are. Since he is everywhere, there is nowhere that he is not. Is it not precisely this that he is emphasising to encourage us? The Lord is very near; do not be anxious about anything. This is something tremendous, that he ascended above all the heavens but is still very near to those who dwell on earth, wherever they may be. Who can this be that is both far away and close at hand, except the one who became our near neighbour out of mercy?

The whole of the human race, you see, is that man who was lying in the road, left there by robbers, half dead, who was ignored by the passing priest and Levite, while the passing Samaritan stopped by him to take care of him and help him; and when the Immortal, the Just, was far away from us mortals and sinners, he came down to us to become – that far distant being – our near neighbour. He has not treated us according to our sins. For we are his children. How do we prove this? The only Son died for us so that he would not remain the only child. He did not want to be alone, who died alone. The only Son of God made many children for God. He bought himself brothers and sisters with his blood; rejected, he accepted us; sold, he bought us back; dishonoured, he honoured us; killed, he brought us life. So then, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord, not in the world; that is, rejoice in faithfulness and not in iniquity; rejoice in the hope of eternity and not the brief flower of vanity. Rejoice thus, and wherever you are here, as long as you are here, the Lord is very near: do not be anxious about anything.

Saint Augustine

There is so much in our lives in these days of instant communications to make us anxious worried and afraid. Anxious and worried about the present times and afraid of the future but we have to remember in him that is in God in whom we live, and move and have our being and nothing is impossible to our heavenly Father. I know that there is a great spirit of rejoicing for many people for many reasons all over the place whilst there is also a spirit of fear and trepidation for many more in these uncertain times financially and otherwise. Let us pause and remember as we continue our daily lives that the Lord is very near to us as we journey along our pilgrim path and as a result we should not be anxious about anything because everything is in the hands of god. So then let us rejoice in the Lord, not in the world; that is, rejoice in faithfulness and not in iniquity; rejoice in the hope of eternity and not the brief flower of vanity that is our daily lives and living.

 Rejoice thus, and wherever you are here or there , remember that  the Lord is very near  do not be anxious about anything our hope and our salvation are at hand.

PENTECOST SUNDAY


Pentecost is here and This Sunday is what everything has been leading up to – Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Ascension: the coming of the Holy Spirit, the descent of the Paraclete, the pouring down of the fullness of love proceeding from the Father and the Son. New vitality for a weary people and we certainly need a new vitality in our present day and age with so many people searching for something lasting for their lives. The Holy Spirit is Like a bonfire that makes your heart leap up; like a heat wave in July(Heres Hoping)! after a cold and cloudy April May and June. Like a spring of clear water deliciously refreshing. Like a white dove that in­spires perfect gentleness; like a mighty March wind that invigorates the first green growth.

Pentecost is the fruitfulness of the Church as Mother in the midst of the Apostolic Community, overshadowed and filled as once before with the Power from God, bringing forth again – but in a different form – the body of Christ, the Church. It is a dazzling spectacle of sound and light, of wind and fire, tongues and voices, a joyful cacophony of ecstasy and praise, of preaching and proclamation. In this upper room the local Church and the Universal Church are perfectly united one in heart and mind. This is not just a revelation of the Church’s beginnings. It is an apocalyptic vision of the end, of how things will be when Christ comes again in his glory at the consummation of the ages.

But the vision is momentary. The Church of the Holy Spirit must bear in its body all the wounds that were borne in the body of its Saviour on the cross and in our present situation here in Ireland we certainly see the wounds of the Church being borne by Jesus on the Cross. Not until the eschaton would the Christian community experience in its’ outward appearance, the inner perfection of what it really is. Instead it would be racked by division, scarred by sin, torn apart by heresy and schism, humiliated by the world, betrayed from within, judged from without – and yet would endure as a sign of salvation on earth when all other societies, systems and ideologies had passed into the history books.

What is it about the Church that causes it to continue from the first Pentecost right up until 2012? Impoverished in its sinful members, often without influence; its authority frequently ignored and still it goes on, proclaiming the gospel, celebrating a crucified Christ, dragging itself along the way of the cross, looking towards the future with a hope that never deserts it. It has no earthly reason for doing so. Only a divine Spirit accounts for its touching courage. The indwelling Paraclete is a restless Spirit; it will not let you rest and that is why our hearts are restless until they rest in God.

For us as the Church we are on a pilgrimage which I often refer to the pilgrimage of life and it is the Spirit’s mission to bring the pilgrim Church home. Pentecost is a reminder of how this all began, who it is that leads us. It is also a foretaste of the future, of what has already been accomplished and lies in store at the journey’s end. In the tension between the `already here and now’ and the `not yet but to come’, we live by the Spirit who once led Jesus to the desert and the cross and who leads us still in the certain conviction that he who began this good work in us will indeed bring it to completion.

 

Ascension of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus to the Father in Heaven. There is an air of finality about today’s festival but as we know it was end and a beginning. Our focus is on the retelling of a story declaring that Christ has returned to the Father, and so we think of it as the ‘end’ of the Christ event or the ‘end of Easter’ – in times past there was a custom of extinguishing the Paschal Candle after the gospel to signify: ‘he is gone’. That said he is gone but at the same time we believe that he is truly here with us. The ascension was an end As well as a beginning. While it was the end of Jesus’ physical presence with his beloved disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus’ presence with them in a new way. Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time (Matthew 28:20)  and he is with us too in the Eucharist, that is also called the real presence of Jesus in the blessed Sacrament.  Now as the glorified and risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, and he promised to send the Apostles the Holy Spirit who would give them his power on the Feast of Pentecost.

 

Why did Jesus leave his disciples forty days after his resurrection? Forty is a significant number in the scriptures. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God.

For forty days after his resurrection Jesus appeared numerous times to his disciples to assure them that he had risen indeed and to prepare them for the task of carrying on the work which he began during his earthy ministry.  When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left in sorrow or grief. Instead, they were filled with joy and with great anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ last words to his apostles point to his saving mission and to their mission to be witnesses of his saving death and his glorious resurrection and to proclaim the good news.  As I have said before I wonder what those same apostles would say if they realised that 2012 years later we in our own time would be writing and talking about the ascension of Jesus their friend and ours .Their task  in their time was to proclaim the gospel – the good news of salvation – not only to the people of Israel, but to all the nations. This is also our task to proclaim the good news of salvation to those around us by what we say, and how we live as Christian and Catholic people.

We remember that God’s love and gift of salvation is not reserved for a few or for one nation or one particular person alone instead gods salvation is for the whole world – for all who will accept it. Today as we celebrate the Ascension let us pray that we proclaim the good news of that Jesus is with us in our lives and daily living to those around us by what we say, and how we live as Christian and Catholic people.  The gospel is the power of God, the power to release people from their burden of guilt, sin, and oppression, and the power to heal, restore, and make us whole. Do we believe in the power of the gospel in our lives in 2012? All believers are given a share in this task – to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Next Sunday we celebrate the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, and sing Come Holy Spirit creator come  we remember that We have not been left alone in this task, for the risen Lord works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit.

THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

In our gospel reading for this Sunday Jesus tells his disciples, this is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. The language of commandment is deliberate; the author of John’s gospel is making an explicit reference to God as law-giver to accomplish at least two purposes: to affirm Jesus’ divine mandate, and to help readers to understand the weight given to loving one another. As Peter discovered when he went to the home of Cornelius, we do not have anything like exclusive access to God’s truth, God’s Spirit or God’s love. We have a piece of the puzzle, and others – people who in all likelihood don’t look or talk like us – have other pieces. God is bigger than we are, and by definition, not comprehensible in full by humans. It takes all of our puzzle pieces – and more – to begin to comprehend the reality of the Holy among us. There is a humility required of us if we are going to manage to love one another as we are commanded to do in this gospel reading. If a person believes that he or she has all the answers and there are many people in the Church, the country and the world at large who think in this way, those people have no need of community, except perhaps to make them feel superior as they lord it over other people.

If, however, we understand ourselves to be limited beings, loving an unlimited all loving God, we might choose to seek God wherever God might be found – in the least and the greatest, in the communities of which we are a part, and outside their borders.  We might find ourselves stretching our boundaries of mind and heart, to bother personally and in community, to include the multiple voices of so many harmonizing on the same theme: love of God and things of the spirit, and love of one another united body and soul in the church. It might be helpful to remember that Jesus loves us all and gave up his life for the love of his father and all of us. Jesus loved Peter, a Galilean fisherman with a tendency to speak first and ask questions later. Jesus loved Cornelius, a devout Roman soldier. Jesus loves you, and Jesus loves me with all our lumps and bumps and all the things that we don’t want other people to see and hear about us. Jesus doesn’t love me any more than you, or vice versa. By grace, we are all beloved, sons and daughters of the father and all have the opportunity to exercise that love in how we treat others. In the world of today and in our own country we see the Church getting such a hammering as a result of a number of clergy and religious doing so much damage from within. There are so many who have been hurt by the misdeeds of the few and we have a duty to remember them in prayer and in our care for their needs. Showing the love of God to all those who feel the hurt of betrayal, by our prayer and our action and reaction to all of them they will see the love of god given to all through us.

It is human nature to want to draw a circle around ourselves and maintain borders that define who is part of us, and who is not. It is the Holy Spirit’s nature to push us past our borders, and ask us to grow. If there’s a sure-fire test for whether the Spirit is prompting us or not, it’s this:

if we think we are called to shrink our borders, include fewer people, be more selective in our society, we can be absolutely sure that those feelings don’t come from God.

God’s desire for us is that we expand our understanding, make the effort to love people who are not like us and to accept with grace the fact that our vision of God and God’s kingdom is limited. We need to hear about the vision of others to broaden our perspective and perhaps eve broaden their outlook on the world. We need to stop and listen to the stories of those who were hurt in times that are long past in order to help them to heal their brokenness and in their brokenness we one and all will see the Church that we are meant to be an all caring place where everyone will be valued as a son or daughter of God. The film ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ has a particularly good line spoken by one of the main characters several times during the film when things had not worked out quite as people hoped: ‘Everything will be all right in the end, so if is not all right then it is not yet the end.’ For us it is not the end for at this time we certainly are in a Mess but for us as people of faith all things will work out for the good of this we can be sure.

Being a person of faith is not easy at the present time but this is our calling as members of the Church, which is the body of Christ.  In June Ireland will host the 50th Eucharistic Congress, 80 years after the Eucharistic congress was held here in 1932.

There have been many changes in Ireland in the intervening period of the last 80 years and a great number of these changes were not for the better. The contemporary context of modern Ireland is very different in so many ways. The style, purpose and outcome of Eucharistic Congresses have also altered considerably over the years. In recent times an International Eucharistic Congress is more like a festival of faith, consisting of seminars, concerts, workshops, exhibitions and most importantly and above all else  the daily celebration of the Mass..  From the 10th to the 17th June many people will come to Dublin from all over the world in celebration of their faith that is faith in God in communion with Christ and one another. As I said at the start of this and I repeat this again In our gospel reading for this Sunday Jesus tells his disciples, this is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. This is what Eucharist is all about loving one another as Jesus loves us no one has ever sent his or her son into the world to die for all of us and yet that is exactly what our father in heaven did he sent Jesus his son into our world to give his life as a ransom for many, and though we are many we are one. We cannot forget the great sacrament of the body of Christ, Corpus Christi the sacrament Par excellence instituted on that first Holy Thursday in the upper room what love and joy there are within this great sacrament. This Sacrament of the Body of Christ truly shows the love of the Father not as some far off thing or person away out there somewhere but as a person that we can see in the eucharistic bread who has a part to play in our daily life and living.

My hope is that we will listen to the voice of Jesus in the broken hearts, and in the victims of our society the people out there who are hungry or lost, lonely or frightened, helpless or sick; and then in the days, weeks months and years ahead we can truly say that we are In loving communion with Christ and one another

In our gospel reading for this Sunday Jesus tells his disciples, this is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. The language of commandment is deliberate; the author of John’s gospel is making an explicit reference to God as law-giver to accomplish at least two purposes: to affirm Jesus’ divine mandate, and to help readers to understand the weight given to loving one another. As Peter discovered when he went to the home of Cornelius, we do not have anything like exclusive access to God’s truth, God’s Spirit or God’s love. We have a piece of the puzzle, and others – people who in all likelihood don’t look or talk like us – have other pieces. God is bigger than we are, and by definition, not comprehensible in full by humans. It takes all of our puzzle pieces – and more – to begin to comprehend the reality of the Holy among us. There is a humility required of us if we are going to manage to love one another as we are commanded to do in this gospel reading. If a person believes that he or she has all the answers and there are many people in the Church, the country and the world at large who think in this way, those people have no need of community, except perhaps to make them feel superior as they lord it over other people.

If, however, we understand ourselves to be limited beings, loving an unlimited all loving God, we might choose to seek God wherever God might be found – in the least and the greatest, in the communities of which we are a part, and outside their borders.  We might find ourselves stretching our boundaries of mind and heart, to bother personally and in community, to include the multiple voices of so many harmonizing on the same theme: love of God and things of the spirit, and love of one another united body and soul in the church. It might be helpful to remember that Jesus loves us all and gave up his life for the love of his father and all of us. Jesus loved Peter, a Galilean fisherman with a tendency to speak first and ask questions later. Jesus loved Cornelius, a devout Roman soldier. Jesus loves you, and Jesus loves me with all our lumps and bumps and all the things that we don’t want other people to see and hear about us. Jesus doesn’t love me any more than you, or vice versa. By grace, we are all beloved, sons and daughters of the father and all have the opportunity to exercise that love in how we treat others. In the world of today and in our own country we see the Church getting such a hammering as a result of a number of clergy and religious doing so much damage from within. There are so many who have been hurt by the misdeeds of the few and we have a duty to remember them in prayer and in our care for their needs. Showing the love of God to all those who feel the hurt of betrayal, by our prayer and our action and reaction to all of them they will see the love of god given to all through us.

It is human nature to want to draw a circle around ourselves and maintain borders that define who is part of us, and who is not. It is the Holy Spirit’s nature to push us past our borders, and ask us to grow. If there’s a sure-fire test for whether the Spirit is prompting us or not, it’s this: if we think we are called to shrink our borders, include fewer people, be more selective in our society, we can be absolutely sure that those feelings don’t come from God.

God’s desire for us is that we expand our understanding, make the effort to love people who are not like us and to accept with grace the fact that our vision of God and God’s kingdom is limited. We need to hear about the vision of others to broaden our perspective and perhaps eve broaden their outlook on the world. We need to stop and listen to the stories of those who were hurt in times that are long past in order to help them to heal their brokenness and in their brokenness we one and all will see the Church that we are meant to be an all caring place where everyone will be valued as a son or daughter of God. The film ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ has a particularly good line spoken by one of the main characters several times during the film when things had not worked out quite as people hoped: ‘Everything will be all right in the end, so if is not all right then it is not yet the end.’ For us it is not the end for at this time we certainly are in a Mess but for us as people of faith all things will work out for the good of this we can be sure.

Being a person of faith is not easy at the present time but this is our calling as members of the Church, which is the body of Christ.  In June Ireland will host the 50th Eucharistic Congress, 80 years after the Eucharistic congress was held here in 1932.

There have been many changes in Ireland in the intervening period of the last 80 years and a great number of these changes were not for the better. The contemporary context of modern Ireland is very different in so many ways. The style, purpose and outcome of Eucharistic Congresses have also altered considerably over the years. In recent times an International Eucharistic Congress is more like a festival of faith, consisting of seminars, concerts, workshops, exhibitions and most importantly and above all else  the daily celebration of the Mass..  From the 10th to the 17th June many people will come to Dublin from all over the world in celebration of their faith that is faith in God in communion with Christ and one another. As I said at the start of this and I repeat this again In our gospel reading for this Sunday Jesus tells his disciples, this is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. This is what Eucharist is all about loving one another as Jesus loves us no one has ever sent his or her son into the world to die for all of us and yet that is exactly what our father in heaven did he sent Jesus his son into our world to give his life as a ransom for many, and though we are many we are one. We cannot forget the great sacrament of the body of Christ, Corpus Christi the sacrament Par excellence instituted on that first Holy Thursday in the upper room what love and joy there are within this great sacrament. This Sacrament of the Body of Christ truly shows the love of the Father not as some far off thing or person away out there somewhere but as a person that we can see in the eucharistic bread who has a part to play in our daily life and living.My hope is that we will listen to the voice of Jesus in the broken hearts, and in the victims of our society the people out there who are hungry or lost, lonely or frightened, helpless or sick; and then in the days, weeks months and years ahead we can truly say that we are In loving communion with Christ and one another

 

MALTA LOURDES 2012

Since the earliest times people have had special places to which they traveled where they have withdrawn in search of the sacred.Ireland is rich in holy places, going back to prehistoric times. The Jewish tradition had many holy places where they worshipped the one who had appeared to Moses in the burning bush, revealing Himself as Yahweh, I Am — not the one who was or who will be, but the God of Now. The medieval pilgrims of Christianity traveled to Jerusalem until the expansion of Islam made that impossible and, later, to the great shrine of St. James at Compostella. Their tortuous and dangerous routes into Spain took them across the mighty Pyrenees through high narrow passes. On their way up into the mountains, many of them would have passed a hamlet clustered round a rocky outcrop at the bottom of a valley, where the mighty mountains subsided into the great gentle plains of France, Centuries later, and this inauspicious and forgotten little place was to become a centre of pilgrimage for all the corners of the world. In 1858, a sickly illiterate 14-year old from an impoverished family, Bernadette Soubirous, had eighteen visions of a beautiful lady in a niche in a rock at the old dump of Massabielle, there was a light, and in the light a smile.’

To that place, the lady called people to come in pilgrimage, to go and wash at the spring which appeared on the spot where Bernadette dug with her hands in the ground. And like the gushing waters that sprang up there, people have streamed unceasingly, seeking to come through Mary to Jesus, to wash at the fountain as they pray for renewal and healing. It is a holy place where the rough mountains of suffering lose their pride before the fertile plains of faith, in the presence of the of the God who Is.

On Sunday 6th May many members of the Order of Malta and ambulance corps members from Ireland and all over the world will descend on the holy city of Lourdes with our sick and infirm brothers and sisters for the 2012 International Lourdes Pilgrimage. I know that the members from the American associations are already there and we hope all will go well for all the pilgrims but especially for the Malades who are simply the royalty of Lourdes. There in Lourdes we see generous service given to our brothers and sisters who through their illness give all of us such a great example to all of us.

Lourdes and places like it are important because I feel that they offer the thing most needed by every human being: spiritual assurance, real solid spiritual ground to stand on.  And certainly in Lourdes we see the rock of faith and also that faith in action. Lourdes is run for and  by people who believe in the love of god for his people and they as a result of this belief are prepared to go that extra mile in service of those who need them. The people who are involved there also believe in the dignity of every individual no matter whether they are disabled in any way in mind, body or spirit. They also have a passion for life and for living and for loving, living their daily lives in the spirit and the love of God. Lourdes helps us to believe in God despite the mess we see around us. The advert for Red Bull says that it gives you wings  and makes the world go round but really its love that makes the world go round, and that love is present in those who serve the sick or disabled whether working in the hospitals, hotels, shops or the cafes along the streets.

Personally I often think that anyone who comes to Lourdes should think of their pilgrimage in terms  of giving themselves  away, in that giving yourself away to all those who need you get so much more than I can ever tell you about back from those you care for especially from those who have any type of disability. We are all called to make a pilgrimage to those special places where god dwells that means we make a prayerful journey, with no rewards or results guaranteed. The true pilgrim may seek to have specific needs met, but is open to whatever God chooses to grant, knowing that there will be graces and gifts, but trusting,  trusting that the giving is in the hands of God. This is certainly my experience of Lourdes 32 years after my first pilgrimage those friends I made are still very much part of my life.

I said above Lourdes is run for and  by people who believe in the love of god for his people and they as a result of this belief are prepared to go that extra mile in service of those who need them that too is our vocation as members of the Order of Malta to serve those who need us whether in Lourdes or wherever we are called to be and not be afraid of going that extra mile in service of our Lords the Sick and the poor and defense of our Faith.


Fifth Sunday of Easter

Here we are at the 5th Sunday of Easter soon we will come to Ascension(Jesus returning to the Father) and then the end of the 50 days of the Easter season at  Pentecost(The coming of the Holy Spirit sometimes called the Holy Ghost). The Gospel reading for  this Sunday speaks of Jesus as the Vine Dresser. The image of “vine”, “vine grower”, and “branch” is a tactile as well as visual aid. We are the receivers of life and the producers of “fruit” that is spiritual fruit.  This image of the people of God as “God’s vineyard” is a very old one, going back to the Jewish psalms, as well as other places in the Old Testament. Listen to part of Psalm 80: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.” Again, notice that it is God who is doing all the planting here, not us. And think of all the other I AM statements found in the Gospel of John: “I AM the light of the world,” “I AM the gate,” “I AM the resurrection and the life.” The “Grower” is pictured as the One Who trims away those who have refused their identity as branches that is members of the church; perhaps they want to be the “vine” themselves. By the choices that they might make they are lost to the process of bringing life and nourishment through Christ, into this world. The Trimmer is seen to prune the branches so that even more fruit may grow. I do not like hearing this, because I do not like being shaped up. Many of us have many things that we do not want others to really know about, there are many lumps and bumps in our lives but we all need to remember that god loves us just as we are with all the things good and bad that are part and parcel of us and our lives.

Any Movements Religious or otherwise that have new ideas and identities that challenge the status quo can be found frightening by those who fear what is new or rather those who fear a challenge to their authority and are closed to where God is leading them and in our own time many are closed to the idea of  a new way of life hat is our Christian Faith .  It was the same in the first days of the church The followers of the way was the name that the first Christians were known by and feeling  was that they were a threatening group because of the newness of their idea.  They believed that their leader, Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, was risen from the dead. All these years later we believe in Jesus who has risen from the dead and  we believe in the message of Jesus passed down to us right from the very time of the resurrection to ourselves through every generation right down to us in the here and now of 2012. The promise of Jesus, the Vine, the Gate, the Light, is abundant life here and now, and in eternity. Our heavenly Father is doing more in our lives than any of us are aware, but the trick is to let God do what God needs to do and for us to try our best to be part of it and everything else will fall into place. We pray in the days ahead that we won’t be afraid of being pruned back by Jesus the Vinedresser in order to move forward with the confidence that comes from knowing that we have faith in one another and more importantly faith in God.

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