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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

26TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

 

“Anyone who is not against us is for us”

‘Inclusiveness’ is a modern virtue! We are told of the importance of ‘inclusive language,’ sales people and politicians stress that all references to people must be ‘inclusive’: we are this, we are that, we are the other and we are supposed to be moving forward. As soon as any person or group is not ‘in the loop’ or consulted or mentioned, then there is trouble. Every decision must be inclusive because if someone or a particular group is excluded, then there will be BIG trouble.  ‘Exclusiveness’ seems at time to be virtue! A chic, expensive restaurant where people want to be seen is an ‘exclusive restaurant’ — ‘exclusive’ is an adjective of quality and approval. ‘An exclusive holiday destination’ is where only a few, ‘the so called better people’  go. In an exclusive resort there will be no riff-raff! An ‘exclusive offer’ for this or that comes with every postal delivery: it means we, just a few of us, are special. Unlike the great-unwashed mass of humanity, we appreciate such an exclusive opportunity and, indeed, being the special sort of people we are, we deserve this exclusive offer.

Exclusion as a tool within society is deeply programmed into us. The tribe is defined by the people who-do-not-belong. Then they become’ the others’ and because they are not’ with us,’ they are opposite us, and so they can easily be seen as opposed to us, and a threat. The others must be kept in place, they must be controlled, excluded from power, made subject to us and, if necessary, be destroyed. Exclusiveness is ideal as a means of making us united, but then can often destroy us in the conflicts and wars that it makes possible. We only have to look at the wars of the last century to see this.

In the Gospel reading for today the disciples were scandalized by an outsider curing in Jesus’ name. To the Jew of Jesus’ time, a name revealed the power and purpose of the particular person; to invoke the name of Jesus meant to tap into his healing power. But use of the name had a price; to use a name meant the one invoking it had a relationship to the person, the power, and the movement the name represented. On these grounds, John objects to the outsider healing in Jesus’ name. John’s question seems to say: “How dare he! This outsider should not be doing this it really should be one of us!”

Jesus turned the objection to the question of discipleship. No matter how small the kind act, no one who did good in the name of Jesus should be stopped. In fact, anyone who did not oppose Jesus and his movement were considered potential friends and benefactors. (This outward world view allowed Christianity to grow rapidly. Anyone was a potential Christian.) Friendship began with a simple kindness. A benefactor relationship began with a single act of charity. The good others did for Christ and his followers did matter then as it matters for us today! God’s choices are often surprising to us, and we might even be tempted to say: incomprehensible! For in today’s gospel we hear about someone who, no doubt having heard of the power of Jesus’ name, uses this strength and power to cast out demons, but without belonging to the group of disciples that the Lord had called to himself. This particular Gospel reading is a  precious  guide for our everyday life: “He who is not against us is for us.” When someone is NOT hostile toward Christ’s faithful, how could we judge his intention toward us? God alone knows the depths of our own hearts and all of the thoughts of our minds!

Who could say that the Lord had not given  such a person the gift of his grace in order that this same person might love him in his heart? God and his church are a free gift, at all times, in all places through so many people   given to all of us! If we look outside of our so called tribes and comfort zones with eyes of faith we will find that there will be many more people for us than there are against us. We remember the lines from the gospel for today;

Jesus said, “no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us”let us remember these words in the days ahead.

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25th Sunday Of Ordinary Time

THE CHILD FROM TODAY’S GOSPEL

This Sunday is the 25th Sunday Of Ordinary Time and we are now back into the daily routine of school or work with the various clubs etc restarting after the Summer. Almost four weeks have already gone by as we head towards the Autumn or the Fall as it is called in the USA. Time waits for no one and as I often say it certainly isn’t waiting on me and I certainly don’t want time to stand still for me permanently even though on some occasions is wish it would stop for a while to savour the particular things that I am doing that have brought me happiness.

Each week when we gather together as the family of god in the church and we renew our commitment to being disciples: followers of the Christ following the way of the Lord on our pilgrimage through life. As a pilgrim people we have been listening to Mark during this year as he reminds us of the demands of discipleship. Today Mark reminds us as disciples that the core of the mystery we celebrate is that Jesus, the Son of Man was arrested, put to death, and rose again. This is the mystery of faith. But we also hear him warning us about how we can be distracted in our discipleship: instead of seeing this community as the group which must model the way God’s people should live, it can all too easily degenerate into being a group where people argue and compete for honours and position. We as disciples have to be focused on the Lord and recognise how often we fail as disciples.

Last Sunday we had the first prediction of the passion in the Gospel and today we come to the second time in Mark when Jesus speaks about what awaits him in Jerusalem. However, we are invited to see in these readings   an attempt by Jesus to persuade his disciples that they need to change their attitude towards him and his ministry, and I would hope that in these reading we would be persuaded to change our way as well. It is clear that the disciples are happy to be with Jesus as their long awaited and triumphant Messiah but they are failing completely in that Jesus is not interested such discipleship. He wants them and by association he wants us  to learn the way of the kingdom which is the way of the cross. This is not the path to glory as human beings understand it but the path of humble service and love.

To emphasize Jesus’ vision of leadership, he gives us the example of serving a  child, children were the least important people in ancient cultures; children had the status of slaves. People had children to serve them and provide financial security in their elderly years. And they had many children, because the morality rate for children under 16 years of age was 50 percent. Childhood was precarious time in the ancient world. Reflecting this outlook, St. Thomas Aquinas once answered the question, “If there was a fire, whom should I rescue first?” Thomas listed in the order of importance: one’s parents first, one’s spouse second; one’s children last of all. Children were the least important. Serving one such as a child really showed true leadership for they served the ignored and the helpless.

To serve someone as lowly as a child took an act of extreme humility.  But who was the “child” of which Jesus spoke? Who was the Christian to serve? In one respect, the Christian was to show hospitality those who had the social status of the child: the outcast, the sinner, the sick and feeble. In another respect, the Christian was to show hospitality to all of God’s children, regardless if they were friend or foe. In a third respect, the Christian was to show hospitality to those who had become the “children” of the community, the Christian missionary who risked life and limb to spread the Good News. Obviously it took wisdom to discern how one would serve these different groups. But Jesus made one thing clear. Leadership meant serving all. It meant esteeming the least important.

We all have the opportunity and the responsibility to exercise leadership in our lives. But, as the gospel points out, leadership means service. It means setting aside our selfish desires to care for others’ needs and to show them respect. 

24th Sunday IN Ordinary Time

This Sunday we are asked to reflect on the question that Jesus asked his apostles “who do you say I am?” And this is a question that Jesus also asks you and me today who do you say I am? We need to stop and think about exactly who Jesus is . Put in a simple way Jesus is the Son of God our saviour who came into the world so that we could have life and have it to the full.

Jesus explained to all who would listen what it would personally cost them to follow him as their Lord and Messiah – it would cost them everything, even their very lives! How can anyone make such a demand? God the Father freely gave us his Son, to save us from sin and death – not just physical death but spiritual death as well. When we exchange our life for his we receive far more that we give up. We receive pardon, peace, and the abundant life of God’s kingdom now, and the promise of the resurrection and unending life with God in the age to come.  When we discover the treasure of God’s kingdom – God himself – we gladly give up all that we have in exchange for the life of joy and happiness God offers us in our faith. The joy he offers no sadness or loss can diminish God gives without measure. The cross of Christ leads to victory and freedom from sin and death.

Following   Jesus Christ   is a serious business.  It is not just a matter of being a member of a faith community.  It is not just a matter of observing various rules and regulations.  Christ is calling us to more than this.  He is calling us to be completely sold on His Kingdom.  He is calling us to put our faith in God our father in heaven.  That means being mocked because we take our faith seriously.  That means being hurt because we refuse to join a crowd that is more pagan than Christian.  That means being spat on, and hit in the face, and even dying for the sake of Jesus Christ let us remember Good Friday and the Cross.

Following Jesus is always going to have a cost to it no matter what way you look at it.  That is because good is always going to be opposed by evil and good always triumphs over evil.  May we not be afraid of being what we are people who are called by Jesus to follow him in faith. There will always be people who will decide not to follow Christ and it is their free choice. Having said that let all of us who are people of faith continue on our faith journeys as we answer the call of Jesus to follow him.

 

23RD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

Well here we are at the beginning of the new school year. I can just imagine the frustration of the parents trying to get their children out of bed last Monday morning. I always hated going back to school at the beginning of September as the long summer holidays were at an end. But then of course the next holiday would be Halloween and then of course Christmas and i’m sure there are already whispers of what the youngsters around and about are hoping to get for CHRISTMAS. The less said about that the better, I had a friend who wouldn’t let you talk about Christmas until after Halloween which in today’s climate is a very good policy for all of us .

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday focuses on the deaf man regaining his hearing or rather Jesus healing the deaf man. What is the significance of Jesus putting his fingers into the man’s ears? Gregory the Great (540-604 AD) comments on this miracle: “The Spirit is called the finger of God. When the Lord puts his fingers into the ears of the deaf mute, he was opening the soul of man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”The people’s response to this miracle testifies to Jesus’ great care for others: He has done all things well. No problem or burden was too much for Jesus’ careful consideration. Jesus freed the man from more than a physical ailment. He restored the man’s moral character and social contacts.

Jews in the time of Jesus assumed physical ailments (like the one the man suffered from) were the result of sin, either personal or ancestral. Such an ailment reflected moral deficiencies. It also placed barriers between the man and a normal social life. (Indeed, some of his family members might have been ashamed of his condition and sought to hide him.)

There are many people out there who are deaf, that is deaf and maybe even blind to the treasures of the faith. Many have never had anyone to show them the faith, Saint Paul pointed out in his time and what he said is more relevant today when he said was How are men to call on him (Jesus) if have not come to believe in him?  And how can they believe in him if they havenever  heardof him? Of course there are so many others who are blind and deaf to the faith by choice and the big question for us to ask ourselves  is how do we help the non practising to see and hear again and how do we inspire those who are seeking the faith in ways that will bring them to the faith .

The Year of Faith beginning in October is a summons and a call for all of us to come to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called. By faith, we too live: by the living recognition of the Lord Jesus, present in our lives and in our history. In faith all of us are challenged, to understand that God’s love is for everyone, and that we are agents of that love. To be agents of God’s love does not mean that we develop halos and a saintly patience; it means to remember the Faith that we profess and act accordingly. So let us also receive, with faith, Jesus in the Eucharist! Let us ask Mary to help us to believe and have faith as she has always believed in God! May she prepare our heart to worthily receive this most great sacrament, mystery of faith and love!

22nd Sunday Of Ordinary Time

WASH YOUR HANDS 

Here we are at the twenty-second Sunday in ordinary time at the beginning of September, doesn’t time fly! Some of our local schools here in Belfast have returned and began the new school year during the past week and the rest restart tomorrow. The old saying that time waits for no man rings true for me as I simply don’t know where the past two months have gone, perhaps I am getting old. That said of course I am getting older but the great consolation is that each of us one and all are getting older. I am reminded by the commentaries that I have about on this Gospel reading of my mother telling all of when we were growing up us to go up to the bathroom and wash our hands before we had our dinner. Indeed I see my brother and his  partner telling their children the  same thing when they are here in our house and of course it is the right thing to do.

In this Sundays Gospel We hear about the Pharisees and the  scribes who know both the original laws of Moses and those laws added to by the “elders” or rabbis down through  the centuries, they question Jesus about His disciples’ not observing exactly the traditions especially in their preparation for the feast.  The Pharisees have the evidence of the non-conformity of the disciples and so there is a certain amount of tension and there is also a teaching moment. The issue is far more important than a detail of ritual observance. Those who were leaders in Israel should have been helping the people to live according to the ways of God – so that they would be ‘a light to the nations’, as the prophets had taught. Instead they had lost sight of Israel’s great destiny, and worked against it, in fact, by elaborating a system of self-serving regulations. Jesus shows himself a true interpreter of Israel’s faith as he urges his followers to find integrity through the motives of the heart rather than in the observance of external rituals of purification. No wonder the people followed him so eagerly. Our Response to the Psalm for today expresses the message of the liturgy’s readings: ‘The just will live in the presence of the Lord’.

As the Sermon on the Mount (Mt chapters 5 and 6) teaches us, we are truly the People of God if our life together gives expression to the ways of our Father in heaven. We have to be open to God and the road he is asking us to take which in these present days is a rocky road with loads of pot holes. Many people ask themselves what road is God asking them to take and the simple answer is that all of us are asked to keep on  the road of the faith and that road will never be an easy one especially if our life of faith gives expression to the ways of our Father in heaven.

Let us offer ourselves and our prayers to the Lord in order to manifest his Glory in all of our lives and living in body, mind and Spirit. Let us cast our eyes towards Mary, the Mother of Jesus! Let us ask her to help us keep the faith as we travel along the roads of life which often times are rocky with many distractions. Let us remember that nothing is impossible for God and he does not let us down! Nothing is impossible with prayer and in particular the help of Mary’s prayer!

 

 

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