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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

17TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

Jesus took the Loaves and the Fishes

 

Here we are at the 17th Sunday of ordinary time and our Gospel story tells us about the feeding of the 5,000. When we were growing up i’m sure it felt like the five thousand for my mother as we were a large family with 9 kids and mum and dad. With my  mum like so many others trying to make the food on the table go that wee bit further. I think that the apostles in the gospel were like that wondering how the five loaves and fishes would feed all those people and really knowing deep down that in this case it wouldn’t. A great multitude had gathered to hear Jesus, no doubt because they were hungry for the word of life. Jesus’ disciples wanted to send them away at the end of the day because they did not have the resources to feed them. They even complained how much money it would take to feed such a crowd ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’

 Jesus, the Bread of Life, took the little they had – five loaves and two fish – and giving thanks to his heavenly Father, distributed to all until they were satisfied of their hunger. The feeding of the five thousand shows the remarkable generosity of God and his great kindness towards us. When God gives, he gives abundantly and without question. about how or what or where or when. He simply gives more than we need for ourselves so that we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need. God takes the little we have and multiplies it for the good of others. We see this in so many ways especially through the likes of Trocaire and the Order of Malta and the many other Church agencies that bring the love of God into the world at large.  The implication of this gospel for each of us is a simple one: Jesus wants to work the miracle of feeding a huge number of people who are hungry; but the miracle will not happen without someone to provide five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus must have loved the boy who was willing to share what was really his to eat.

The miracle of the gospel is as much about the boy as it is about Jesus as well as being about you and me. The boy in this gospel is each of us you and I one and all who have something to offer the Lord. Jesus did  not spiritualize the hunger of the poor, or postpone his love for them to the next world. Today the Lord asks all sorts of people to make their contribution to the well being of those who have little or nothing at all. We shouldn’t be afraid of what we are asked to do in the Lord’s name. What we are asked to do is to  give food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless and give some of our resources to the poor. May we not be afraid to show gods love remembering that He  gives more than we need for ourselves so that we have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need to live their lives without Hunger with a roof over their heads and perhaps a few shillings in their pockets.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

I am the Good Shepherd

 

I always remember when on holiday in the country wondering how the shepherds knew their sheep. When we would go up to Donegal from Omagh where we stayed with granny We would sometimes go through the Barnes more Gap with the hills rising very steeply on both sides of the road, with the sheep dotted here and there all around those hills and sometimes the shepherds with them. The image of the shepherd is quite an ancient one with Jesus being portrayed as the Good Shepherd. Today’s Scripture is all about the Shepherd looking after his sheep. With the various violent events of recent times in the USA and in Syria and other places it is good to know that we have a good shepherd looking after us.

What does the image of a shepherd tell us about God’s care for us? Shepherding was one of the oldest of callings in Israel, even before farming, since the Chosen People had travelled from place to place, living in tents, and driving their flocks from one pasture to another. Looking after sheep was no easy calling. It required great skill and courage. Herds were often quite large, thousands or even ten thousands of sheep.  The flocks spent a good part of the year in the open country. Watching over them required a great deal of attention and care. Sheep who strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back by the shepherd. Since hyenas, jackals, wolves, and even bear were common and fed on sheep, the shepherds often had to do battle with these wild and dangerous beasts. A shepherd literally had to put his life on the line in defending his sheep.

Shepherds took turns watching the sheep at night to ward off any attackers. The sheep and their shepherds continually lived together. Their life was so intimately bound together that individual sheep, even when mixed with other flocks, could recognize the voice of their own shepherd and would come immediately when called by name.

The image of the shepherd tells us so much about Jesus the Good shepherd and about what he does for all of us who say we are Christians. Each of us is called to be a good shepherd to one another looking after the various needs that the people in the communities in which we live might have.  So too our Bishops and priests are also called to be good shepherds after the heart and mind of Jesus leading us along the  path that leads to the way the truth and the life.  Our own age also has many sheep without shepherds ‑ a great wandering crowd of gods people , seeking something, but not knowing what they are seeking. The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ the son of God.  It is a flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds; are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds, who gave His life for the sheep.

We stop on this day to spare a thought and a prayer for all those who have been affected by the events in Denver in the USA. We pray for the 12 people who have died and their families and we pray for the injured and all those who are close  to them at this horrible time. May God through Jesus the Good shepherd give them strength to continue their lives in his love.

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

This weekend the Church celebrates the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Both the first reading and the gospel deal with the idea of being sent on a mission for the Lord. The reading from Amos makes clear that God picks whomever He wishes and the Gospel reading shows the sense of mission and the urgency that should be visible in the behavior of those sent. Paul gives us a beautiful picture of God’s love in the new status of Christians as adopted children of God. The readings ask us to reconsider the fullness of our own responses to the mission that God has given each of us by virtue of our baptism and confirmation. Do we respond with the openness of Paul and the faithfulness of the Apostles or do we just close everyone else out concentrating only on oneself? we are also asked how we respond to others who have been given a task by the Lord. Do we react like Amaziah in our first reading when we encounter someone sent by God to help us? What kind of authority and power does the Lord Jesus want us  to exercise on his behalf?

Jesus gave his apostles both the power and the authority to speak and to act in his name. This power comes down from St. Peter the first pope right down through the centuries to the present Holy Father and the bishops and priests of our own time and place.  Jesus commanded them to do the works which he did and they were to heal, to free people from the power of the evil one, and to speak the word of God – the good news of the gospel which they received from Jesus. When Jesus spoke of power and authority he did something unheard of, He wedded power and authority with love and humility. The world and those within it more often than not seek power for their own selfish gain. Jesus teaches us to use any power we might have  for the good of our neighbour and those around and about us who may be in any need. The Lord Jesus commissions all the members of his body the church including all of us to be his ambassadors and missionaries – to bring the good news of the gospel to all peoples, lands, and nations wherever we are. He freely pours out his Holy Spirit upon each one of us so that we may have the confidence and boldness to speak and act in his name wherever he places and sends us. Why does Jesus tell the apostles to “travel light” with little or no provision? “Poverty of spirit” frees us from greed and preoccupation with possessions and makes ample room for God’s provision.

The Lord wants his disciples to be dependent on him and not on themselves and he wants us to be dependent on him as well. He wants to work through and in each one of us for the  glory of God .

Are you and I ready to handle the power and authority which God wishes us to exercise on his behalf that is the power of humble service working with love and humility? The Lord entrusts us with gifts and talents. Are we eager to place ourselves at his service, to do whatever he asks of us, and to witness his truth and saving power to whoever he sends us? Last Sunday in a neighbouring parish here where I am there was an Ordination of a young man to the priesthood to serve in our Diocese. We pray today that many people of all ages and abilities will have the courage to do whatever Jesus asks them to do especially when he calls them to follow him into the priesthood or religious life. 

Down and Connor Lourdes 2012

Our Lady of Lourdes Pray for us

 

The annual Down & Connor diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage begins today with a great number of people (Around 700) travelling today and tomorrow to the great spiritual place that is Lourdes. Ever since a small spring sprang up where Bernadette scraped in the mud at Massabielle, the dump outsideLourdes, people have flocked to the spot on the side of River Gave. It has become one of the greatest places of prayer on the face of the earth with people of all ages and all colour coming for all sorts of reasons —the sick and the -healthy, the young and the old, the happy and the sad, people in despair and those with gratitude, people of faith and those looking for faith.

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, that is faith in action. Lourdes is run 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 whether working in the hospitals, hotels, shops or cafes along the streets. Personally I think that anyone who comes to Lourdes gives 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 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.

We are all called to come to Lourdes at Mary’s invitation for one kind of healing or another perhaps body mind spirit or soul. The burdens we carry and I believe we all have some kind of burden give us the opportunity to learn to be compassionate and  kind to each other and in doing so, we show kindness to our Lord. For me the Lourdes pilgrimage has brought me many graces friendship and faith are chief among those.

If I had been told in 1981 when I went for the first time that those who began the journey with me at Belfast Central Railway station would be my friends 31 years later I wouldn’t have thought that  was possible. But so many things that we feel are impossible in human reckoning are certainly different in the eyes of God and to the eyes of faith. I have been fortunate to return to the Shrine of Our Lady many times. Our Lady has a very special role in my life and I continue to experience this every day through many people and in many different situations. The faith that I have now was formed in many places and situations here at home and certainly  in Lourdes and other places of faith I have had the opportunity to go to. I hope that all those who take part in the Lourdes pilgrimage this year get all the spiritual benefits for themselves and all those who are dear to them both here at home and wherever they may be.

Fourteenth Sunday Of Ordinary Time

Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him?

 

When we assemble each week on Sunday, we are continuing an earlier tradition of God’s people who met on Saturday – the Sabbath. For the Jews, the Sabbath was, and is, the day to rejoice in the goodness of God in creating the universe, and our human family. The first Christians moved the celebration to Sunday as this day was seen as the day of resurrection: God’s great act of restoring and renewing the creation in Jesus.
But whether it is celebrating the creation of all by God, or the renewal of all in Christ, the celebrations have some common elements: the people are to recall God’s love in a meal and in reading the scriptures. For the Jews, the meal takes place in their homes on Friday evenings and they gather on Saturday to hear the Law and pray. We listen to the scriptures first, what we call the New Law, and then have our meal together here. Today we recall that Jesus entered the assembly on the Sabbath in his home town; we believe that he is here among us in this assembly today. Let us recall his presence, and pray that he may find us a community of faith.

The gospel passage for this Sunday is St Mark’s version of Jesus’ return to his home town of Nazareth, accompanied by his disciples. He began to teach in Nazareth, and many were astonished by what they saw in him. They wondered where all this wisdom had come from. What they saw was very different from what others had seen. This man was one of them, in the deepest sense; they knew him and his family. The people of the town would not accept him; even though they had heard of his outstanding accomplishments in other places, they could not see what made him so special. The story of what happened to Jesus when he decided to return to his town is a familiar story, one that happens to all of us:  we achieve wonderful things far away from home – in another city, or perhaps in some other part of the world, where we are not well known; then the time comes when we know we must return to our own country and  there we find that people at home do not see us in the same way.

The situation recorded in today’s gospel shows a reaction that must have been widespread: the local people have Jesus in one box in their imaginations: he is the guy from down the road —they know him, and his background. For anyone who comes from their town they have a box for what they expect for and from that person: fine to get him to do a job for you, fine to go to the well with his sisters, fine to engage with them socially. That’s all there is to them: another family, just like us, and they should not think of themselves as anything special. So if Jesus stands up and presents himself as a leader, that is just not on! across as one filled with wisdom, he is a teacher like they have heard, he speaks in a way they have always imagined a prophet would speak. They have another box marked ‘prophet’ and he seems to fit there too! But that box comes with a label: prophets are very distant from everyday life, they are exceptional in every way, they are ‘not like us’. So when these people find that Jesus ticking both the box marked ‘prophet’ and ticking the box marked ‘ordinary bloke’ ‘regular guy’ ‘one of our own,’ they cannot cope with this complexity. So, since they are more sure that he is the guy down the road, they reject him as a prophet .

I have seen many people give up the faith because they suffered some humiliation indeed on a number of times in the past I too have felt that way. Somebody says a word that hurts them; they start brooding and the devil is right there telling them to throw in the towel. That is not Jesus’ way. He keeps going. Jesus suffered rejection not only from so many people when he walked in person here on earth. The first thing that Jesus does is acknowledge it. Jesus is so deep in Scripture that he is able to put the attack into a biblical context. Okay, these people are taking offense at me. They are making some cutting remarks. But look what the prophets suffered. Why should I expect anything different?
Faith is the ability to imagine that God’s goodness is greater and closer than the bits-and-pieces around us and the ups-and downs of life. In this case, faith was the ability to imagine that God was so close that Jesus was both the guy from down the road and the great prophet and the wise teacher and more besides. But the group could not make that leap of imagination —and Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

Let us remember that in the bits-and-pieces around us and the ups-and downs of life that Jesus is there with us and he shows us that he is the way the truth and the life.

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