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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

21 ST SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME.

Here we are at the end of August with the final roundup of getting back from the holidays and the beginning of the manically busy days of getting ready for the beginning of the new school year on the horizon. We always came back from the country for the last week in August in order to get ready for the beginning of September and the opening of the various schools and colleges we all attended. There always that certainty of going home and getting back to the normal daily routine after the summer, when everyone was going around and about doing their own thing and enjoying the break from the monotony of the same old thing school, college or work day in and day out.

 In the Gospel readings of the past weeks, Jesus has been distressing the disciples by his words. Last week he said we have to consume his flesh and blood in order to have eternal life. His followers could not possibly have understood this. They whispered, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” In the Gospel, we have finally reached  the great conclusion of the discussion about Jesus’ being the “Bread of Life”, and his being the one ”sent”. Some of His disciples find these words offensive to their senses and so their minds boggle. They have to leave and return to their former ways of seeing, thinking and believing.

They saw the miraculous distribution of bread and fish and ate their fill. Their senses told them something they could grasp. Jesus stretches their minds and asks them as he asks all of us to be as open to something even more miraculous, but which goes beyond the information provided by the senses. They choose the path of the “flesh” while Jesus is inviting them to walk the way of the Spirit. They stumble over what they cannot see or imagine. It takes faith and trust to believe in Jesus and to accept his words. Real faith, however, is neither blind trust nor ignorant belief. Augustine of Hippo once said: “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.” Faith and reason go together, because faith seeks understanding of God’s truth and revelation. That is why God gives us the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who is our instructor and daily tutor in the wisdom and knowledge of God. Paul the Apostle teaches us to pray for understanding that God “may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened” (Ephesians 1:17-18). Faith or lack of faith is our personal response to God’s revelation of himself to us. Jesus reveals who God is and offers us a personal relationship with God as our heavenly Father. Peter’s profession of faith was based on the personal relationship he had with Jesus. Peter grasped, through the eyes of faith, that Jesus truly was the Messiah, the Holy One of God.  Through the gift of faith Peter came to understand that Jesus was both God and man, sent into the world by the Father who loved the world so much that he gave us his only Son (John 3:16).

Peter believed in the words which Jesus spoke, because he accepted Jesus as the Son of God and saviour of the world. Faith is an entirely free gift of God which enables us to respond to God’s word with trust because God is true and utterly reliable. Faith is the key to understanding and experiencing God at work in our daily personal lives. Do you believe, as Peter did, that Jesus can change your life because he has the words of everlasting life?

Many leave, but some stay including Peter. So Jesus puts the big question to them and him, “Do you also want to leave?” He also puts that question to us here and now, will we remain faithful or will we go our own way by travelling down the road of life on our own without the certainty of a spiritual life.  I think that the quotation above from Augustine of Hippo is a good starting point for us as people of faith. We believe in order to understand and we understand better to believe. Faith is an entirely free gift of God which enables us to respond to God’s word with trust because God is true and utterly reliable so let us trust in God to help us in every difficulty there may be in the future as he has done in the past .

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20th Sunday in ordinary Time

Here we are at the 20th Sunday in ordinary Time and we have just past the middle of August as we head onwards towards the end of the Holiday season. Then  we get into September and the beginning of the time of return with so many  going back to work, school, college or whatever.  For some it may be a time of change and for others it will be a time for renewing old acquaintances and work, school or college friendships. Our Gospel reading today speaks again of Jesus as the bread of life and once again he is misunderstood. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.’ We who share this meal share in the life of Jesus. Within our sharing we are brought into the life of God. We are caught up in the life of the Father, who has sent his Son among us as our source of life and wisdom, and who has sent his Spirit into our hearts.

The Second Vatican Council speaks about the centrality of the Eucharist. “The Eucharistic Sacrifice,” the Council says is  “the fount and apex of the whole Christian life.” The Latin words are “fontem” and “culmen.” Even if you don’t know Latin, you can recognize their meaning. Culmen” provides the root for our English word, “culminate” – to reach the highest point. Fontem” refers to a “fount,” or a source. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives and all we have and do as Catholics and as Christians. The meaning of the Eucharist should be reflected in the lives of all who receive the sacrament.

The Eucharist helps us to be more thoughtful, compassionate and forgiving but this cannot happen without our own commitment to love and service of others as well as our commitment to our faith and that includes the parts of it that we particularly like as well as the parts of faith that are a challenge and I think that these days faith and being a person of faith is a big challenge. The Christian faith is an all in package and many people want what they want from their faith picking and choosing what they like and as a result they don’t realise or see that the great goodness of the faith taken as a whole is what god wants for all of us. The people who heard Jesus’ preaching at the beginning could not mistake his meaning. He meant in no uncertain terms, that if they were to receive his life eternally in the kingdom, then they must begin now to receive the Body and Blood which he poured out unto death at Calvary in the Eucharist, first instituted on Holy Thursday in the upper room and faithfully handed down in the Church in every generation right to ourselves in the present day. when some of his own beloved people rejected him, as many of his beloved people do today Christ did not change his teaching or water it down, he watched them leave with sadness, and i’m sure Jesus is looking down on us with that same sadness when he sees so many leaving his church in our time. Today   as the Body of Christ that is the Church we remember Jesus because he shared human life with us and enjoyed all that we enjoy, including a good meal, good friends and good conversation. We remember him when in the Eucharist we break bread and pour wine, because he poured out his life for us, allowing his body to be broken by death on the cross.  

We remember Jesus because He placed himself at the service of his Father and at the service of the people he loved . We too are called all these years later to that same service of others, being people who are called to be more thoughtful for others, compassionate and forgiving .By receiving the Eucharist, we are nourished, and enabled to nourish others through the example of our lives and the way we live them.

19th Sunday of the year

 

I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE

Today we hear all about Jesus as the Bread of Life. I live near a bakery in Belfast and up until a few months ago you always woke up in the early morning to the smell of the baking bread and cakes and it was so good. Also I remember the same smell when we had the soda bread baking in the oven here at home or wherever we might have been on holiday or whatever. There is nothing quite like getting the first bit of fresh crusty bread or the end of the soda loaf just out of the oven with LOADS of butter melting into it and maybe a bit of strawberry jam as well. The two staple parts of anyone’s diet in the western world always have been bread and milk. But the bread that the Gospel of today tells us about is so much more than the bread that we get from our local bakery , it is as Jesus puts it the bread of life which in reality is our spiritual nourishment.

How would you and I tell someone that we do not live by bread alone? What would we give or say to make them understand the idea of the bread of life in the sense of today’s readings? Our first thoughts would probably be to give them a lecture, or to try to arrange a spiritual experience. Or maybe to offer a really spiffy education class, with professional videos and worksheets and breaking into small groups to go over some discussion questions – maybe that would do it. How about it I know that I don’t do lectures and I certainly am not Spiffy.

In simple terms the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, stands as the greatest sign of contradiction against the culture of death and destruction that are so much the norm in today’s world. I think that I would tell them that Jesus is The “Bread of Life”, and he calls all of us to recognize our own dignity and the dignity of others as Sons and daughters of God. As Jesus continues his discourse on the Bread of Life in our Gospel reading today, he faces the complaints and criticism of the crowd, who take a very short-sighted view of what he says, and he affirms for them that true life, a life the will never end, is found in him, he is the one who has come from the Father, and so he simply is the living bread which gives life. There is an  explicit link between “belief” and “eating the bread of life”: the two lead to each other, and they both bring about that which man most desires ‑ to live forever in God. In our world today it is easy to be negative instead of being positive and for many faith filled people there is such negativity towards faith and people of faith. Negativity is an infectious disease, and the two old men who were on at the end of the Muppet  show set the bar high for holding a negative position, boy were those two a pair of old grumps. One negative thought leads to another. One negative person easily infects another.

We shouldn’t forget that above and beyond  all the negativity about many aspects of religion life and living we have been gifted with the antidote that is the Positive joy of Eternal Life which the Bread of life really is about. The eternal Word has become one of us. He who for all eternity is in intimate union with divinity, shares His life with us.

When we see only what is right in front of us in black and white and nothing else we are impoverished, we are living on the cold outside surface of our lives. To live by bread alone, that is food that will not last means to see no farther than the particular things themselves, and as a result we miss the presence the love and the call of God that are really a part of every piece of the spiritual bread we have. The bread that God gives us is seen in all we have for life and living – so that we may be drawn beyond all the passing things of life. Jesus says that he is the Bread that came down from heaven. He came to give his life for us. No one takes it from him. He freely gives it. The good news of the gospel is that the Father gives us this bread that draws us to our Father and teaches us all about him. This is the gift of faith that enables us to see that it is Jesus, given by the Father, who will satisfy our deepest hunger for eternal life.

 We believe God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that the hunger of every human being may be satisfied and that means you and me along with everyone else. May we not be afraid to partake of the bread of life.

EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

 

“I am the Bread of Life.”

 

 

On this the eighteenth Sunday of the year we think about Jesus as the Bread of Life. Today’s Gospel takes place the day after the feeding of the five thousand. The people who had been fed search for Jesus. They really don’t want Him. They want the free food. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to speak about the food that really matters, the Bread of Life that God provides. He tells them about a gift of food that they knew very well, the gift that was the manna in the desert during the time of Moses. This was seen as the greatest gift of God. It was His daily testimony of His love and care for His People until they arrived at the Holy Place he would give them. Jesus mentions that they ate the manna, but they were still hungry. Jesus would provide food that would not leave them hungry, the Bread of Life. What do you and I most hunger and thirst for in life? Jesus addressed this issue with those who sought him after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Where they simply hungry for things which satisfy the body or for that which satisfies the heart and soul? Jesus echoes the question posed by the prophet Isaiah:”Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy” (Isaiah 55:2)? Only God can satisfy the spiritual hunger in our heart and soul – the hunger for truth, for life, for companionship and love. So we come before the Lord seeking the bread of life this and hopefully on every Sunday, or perhaps for some of us, every day, and we say to the Lord, “Feed me.” But do we really want to be fed? The food that God gives demands a commitment to Him and what he calls us to be that is faithful and faith filled people. Let us compare spiritual nourishment to food for a moment. Eating out once a week in a restaurant is not unusual. But what if that was the only meal the person ate. Someone who goes back to their familiar seat in a restaurant week after week to enjoy their one meal of the week could never be nourished enough to make it through the remaining six days. In the same way, our worship in church on Sunday going back to the same pew or seat week in week out is meant to be an important part of one’s spiritual food and drink, if this is your whole game plan for feeding your spirit you will never get rid of our spiritual hunger. A good example of Spiritual nourishment for us when we were growing up was the nightly ritual of kneeling down as a family to say the rosary. The saying was that the family that prayed together stayed together and that was true for us as youngsters in Northern Ireland during the 70’s and 80’s. Much of this has now gone as well as family life and living as a family unit with a mother and father with the children but that’s for another time. So much of our lives are spent working for the food that perishes we only have to look at the state of the world and its peoples to realise this. Of Course we must work to earn money to buy the food we eat and pay for the roof over our heads and all the extras that make life enjoyable. But we need to realise that as well as the externals there is much more to life than the daily grind of life and living. For a fulfilled life, one should try to make time during the day for prayer and that is the food that endures for eternal life the gift of Jesus who came so that you and I might have life and have it to the full. In the Eucharist, we don’t merely listen to the words, “Take eat,” but we actually get up, come to the altar to take and eat the bread. It’s not just the bread that we take, bless, break and give. God took Jesus’ whole life, blessed, broke it and gave it to us. Jesus wanted those who followed him after having their fill of fish and bread to discover real spiritual nourishment so that they would never hunger again. “Our daily bread” contains many grains of nourishment.   It is about doing God’s will by receiving what God is giving us at any one moment and sometimes it can seem like crumbs, or crust, or  even quite stale. That Holy Bread, containing in Him all “sweetness” is God’s pledge that we will not be abandoned or left to go our own way grumbling that we did not get enough when in truth we have more than enough in material goods and if we stop we also have so much nourishment for our spiritual lives in the Eucharist, the Bread of Life and in our prayer life. Together, at the invitation of the Lord, let us go to him! For he says to us: “He who comes to me shall not hunger!” let us remember that we go to the Lord in order to fill our hunger and to satisfy the real desires of our soul the hunger for truth, for life, for companionship and love.

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