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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This Sunday we read in the Gospel Reading about Bartimaeus the blind man. There are so many  forms of blindness  apart from the physical blindness which is an awful thing  in itself. There is also another blindness that so many seeing people have and that spiritual  blindness . Blindness is terrifying. Darkness brings all our terrors before the minds eye. Not being able to see where we are going is the stuff of most human fears. The poverty and blindness of Bartimaeus speak to any human being of feeling  and, indeed, if there is someone to whom it does not speak, then that person probably would have no time for religion or things of the spirit as she/he would be insensitive to promptings in our imagination that lead us to faith.

We live in a world of blindness. There is the blindness of world leaders who press forward policies that are so short-term that we have whole regions that simmer with unrest such as the Middle East. We have blindness that prevents us seeing how policies create injustice and stop development. We have the blindness that sees global warming yet refuses to take action in time. In  our own  localities we have blind-spots.  blind spots about what is really of value in a society that has so much. In our own lives we can find blindness to those around us, blindness to the community, blindness to the needs of those who need us young and old. Blindness can be a great help in avoiding awkward questions of conscience. We are called to be seeing people, people who look at the world with eyes of faith and are not afraid to help others with their blindness. Seeing, however, isn’t limited to seeing the blue of the sky or the road to home. It is also a matter of seeing the truth about ourselves which we dont often want to know about.

And so in the Gospel Jesus gives Bartimaeus all that he asks for. Bartimaeus sees not only the world around him but also his Lord. And in seeing Jesus, Bartimaeus accepts the Giver with the gift of sight that is eyesight and more especially spiritual sight. As Jesus healed this blind man because he wanted so desperately to see, He will heal all of us who long to be cured of our spiritual blindness. When we ask in faith, Jesus will give us His  vision for ourselves and for our world. 

Mission Sunday

This Sunday we celebrate Mission Sunday It is very appropriate that we celebrate Mission Sunday this the first Sunday on the Year of Faith. Over the years many people have taken up the call of the Lord to be workers in his vineyard and set out all over the world to open the door of  faith in the far corners of the world. In our own parish here there have been so many people who have joined the various missionary congregations. The orders that come to mind are the Columban Fathers, Holy Ghost Fathers, St. Patricks Kilteegan. There are so many other missionary congregations throughout the world and we pay tribute to all of them on this day

The idea of going as a missionary to people who might have a religious faith is not too fashionable in our world of today. But that’s what Saint Augustine did, that’s what Saint Patrick did for us here in Ireland and the reason we are here today is that ultimately someone took the trouble to bring the Gospel with all its richness to us. The challenge for us is to afford the same opportunity to others.

To take up the Lord’s command to make disciples of all the nations and bring the truth of the Gospel to the far ends of the earth.

Blessed Pope John Paul II said ‘The Church proposes; she imposes nothing. It respects individuals and cultures, and she honours the sanctuary of conscience’ (Redemptoris Missio 39). Faith in God is first and foremost a mystery and a gift. We can witness to the Gospel through charitable works, and that is mostly what missionaries do. ‘Faith without witness bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity require each other’ (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei). Missionaries provide education and healthcare, run hospitals and provide aid. These good works are motivated solely by their faith in God. Faith truly changes everything and the way we look at our world.

In today Gospel reading  James and John ask that when Jesus enters his glory he would grant them positions of honour and power. Jesus responds that they do not understand the cost of what they are asking. When the ten hear about the ambitious request, they become indignant. Jesus then summons the twelve and reveals the meaning of the divine mission for the kingdom that he has come to fulfil. Those who are rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them and make their authority felt. Among his disciples, however, whoever wishes to be great will become a servant, and whoever wishes to be first will be the slave of all. Then follows perhaps the most radical and most revealing saying of Jesus about himself and about discipleship in the entire gospel: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Today we celebrate the missionary work of the church in our world  and we thank God for all those missionaries  men and women religious and Lay  who took up the Lord’s command to make disciples of all the nations and bring the truth of the Gospel to one and all in past generations.  We also pray that many more will take up the vocation to be missionaries bringing the gospel to those who have never heard it opening the door of faith for those who want to hear the  Gospel with all its riches.

28TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

Today in our readings we hear all about riches that is the riches that we get when we follow the way of God. Not the riches that we may find as a result of our human endeavours. When I think of the various things in my life  I often think that to have a bit more money or whatever would be great the truth is that if we have food  on the table and enough money to pay our way that is enough . But then I also have family, friends and faith and these are treasure indeed. Why does Jesus call his disciples to “sell all” for the treasure of his kingdom? Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. There is a lovely saying that where your heart is your treasure should be. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can have.  Selling all that we have could mean many different things – letting go of attachments, friendships, influences, jobs, entertainments, styles of life – really anything that might stand in the way of our loving God first and foremost in our lives and giving him the best we can with our time, resources, gifts, and service. Those who are generous towards God and towards their neighbour find that they cannot out give God in his generosity towards us.

God blesses us with the priceless treasures of his kingdom – freedom from fear and the griping power of sin, selfishness and pride which block his love and grace in our lives; freedom from loneliness, isolation and rejection which keep his children from living together in love, peace, and unity; and freedom from hopelessness, despair, and disillusionment which blind our vision of God’s power to heal every hurt, bind every wound, and remove every blemish which mar the image of God within us.

God offers us treasure which money cannot buy. He alone can truly satisfy the deepest longing and desires of our hearts.  In this the Year of Faith which began last Thursday we are called to renewal 50 years after the second Vatican council. The council, which began in October 1962, was under the guidance of Pope John 23rd and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The council spoke of letting the light into the Church. As a result of this council many things were renewed within the Church and its structures and today we thank God for being where we are. But the renewal that was begun 50 years ago continues in this present age as the Church is called to renew herself in each and every generation, as she reminds the generations that the faith that we have is handed down to us from Jesus through the apostles is ever old but always new. 

 So then  let us continue on our pilgrim journey of faith  as we seek the priceless treasures of his kingdom of god in the months ahead as the year of faith as its opportunities for renewal unfold before us.

 

 

A REFLECTION AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR OF FAITH

On Thursday 11th October we begin the Year of Faith. This year was called by Pope Benedict to remember the second Vatican council during this the 50th anniversary year. The council, which began in October 1962, was under the guidance of Pope John and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The council spoke of letting the light into the Church. As a result of this council many things were renewed within the Church and its structures and today we thank God for being where we are. But the renewal that was begun 50 years ago continues in this present age as the Church is called to renew herself in each and every generation, as she reminds the generations that the faith that we have is handed down to us from Jesus through the apostles is ever old but always new.  We remember that Jesus did not make anyone follow him. He simply invited his followers ‘follow me’. He then left the way open for them to follow him. So it is for us today, he asks us to follow him in   faith and he leaves the choice up to us, to make up our own minds.

Faith is something that is within each and every one of us from the beginning of our lives but that wee mustard seed needs nourishment to help it grow and mature. I remember always the family going together to Mass on Sundays and then the daily family rosary. Throughout our lives we need to come back many times to the fountain for that spiritual water that we receive when we attend Mass and the Sacraments

” Faith is the assurance of things hope for born from the conviction of things not seen”.(Hebrews: 11,1). We must be prepared to witness to things unseen, things of faith as an important part of life but of course it is difficult to be such a witness, precisely because they are things unseen, And how can they believe in him if they have never heard of him? And how will they hear of him unless there is a preacher for them? and how will there be a preacher for them if one is not sent? So faith comes from hearing and what is  heard comes from the preaching of Christ. (Romans:10,14-17.17)>

Our duty as Christians in today’s world is to be like the preachers mentioned in that text. But what does this mean in practice?  In the 1930s there was an association in England called the Catholic Evidence Guild. Its members were well trained in apologetics and public peaking, but the difficulty was to find them an audience.

The local group of the Catholic Evidence Guild decided to take Scripture literally and to send a preacher to the nearby town of Bury St Edmunds. On market day, a kitchen table was placed in the square; Fr Gilbey stood on it and spoke eloquently, but no one stopped to listen to him. People just looked at him in an awkward  way and went past to buy their meat and veg from the market  as usual.  The preacher was speaking to nobody apart from himself. Perhaps in certain cultures and at certain periods in time such a method might have been successful but it was not successful in the 1930’s and I do not think it would be successful  for us in the world of today where so few have so much and so many have very little especially in the present world..

 A better starting point for proclaiming the faith for me is found in the comment in St Peter’s first letter: ‘Always have your answer ready for people who ask you for the reason for the hope that is in you, but give it with courtesy and respect. (Peter: 3, 15).   “Have your answer ready” is good starting point because it means if someone asks you about the faith you have your answer to hand and this is an opportunity that must not be missed to give that answer in sincerity and respect. The spiritual life of faith cannot be lived only in a pew, in church because the hard bench will sooner or later become a soft bed.  It takes imagination to get out and do something and  to come in to that pew for solace and spiritual rejuvenation.

Every Sunday and on   many other occasions that arise there are opportunities for us to come together in prayer. The life of St. Therese of Lisieux on the surface seems serene and tranquil, but it took hard work of imagination to live the little way. It took imagination to see a daily chore as a new challenge, a new way of transforming an ordinary event into an act of love in God. All practice of life in God, requires some imagination.

When I think about faith I also have to stop for a moment and think about the scandals within our faith community, It would be so very easy to ignore the scandalous events that have happened but we if we are true to the faith we must face the scandals head on remembering that Jesus said. “Scandal will come, but woe to those by whom it comes,”. Christians scandalize others by claiming to be Christian while, for example, profaning the Lord’s Day, a grave obligation, by omitting to attend Mass for a less than grave reason. “Scandal is an attitude or behaviour which leads to evil. The person who gives scandal   damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offence ” (CCC 2284) “Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it I think in particular of the abuse of minors by   the Clergy and members of religious orders In Ireland and so many other countries throughout the world.

Scandal is grave when given by those who by the nature of their office are obliged to teach and educate others in matters of faith and morals.  With faith all of us can move forward and so many people who were injured by the actions of a small minority of clergy and religious have been inspirational in their determination to move forward.

Our lives in this world take on the character of a journey in very many ways, but none more so than the way of salvation. In our pilgrimage of faith to our heavenly destination we sometimes fall or turn away in discouragement and sin. At times the steps necessary for our walk back to the Father may seem too many and too arduous for us and we hesitate even to make the first move. Perhaps it is only when we see, like the Prodigal Son, the misery that our sins have wrought, that we are then willing to rouse ourselves to sorrow and to take the path of conversion that leads to the merciful embrace of our heavenly Father, so rich in mercy. When we make even the slightest effort in sorrow, with God’s grace, it is then we see the Father waiting with love to embrace us and welcome us home. Rejection of the love and presence of his father, in the communion of live and love as a family, was a terrible choice for the prodigal son.  He desired things over people, his share of the inheritance in preference to a life in communion with the father who gave him life and loved him. He wanted the father to be as if dead to him.

“Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God’s family, to live in conformity with His way of life: For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother. Parents should welcome and respect with joy and thanksgiving the Lord’s call to one of their children to follow him for the sake of the Kingdom. Many are quick to praise Christ.  Few possess the generosity and self-sacrifice to follow him closely by giving up mother, father, wife and children for his sake. It is a higher calling to anticipate the kingdom of heaven by embracing the will of Christ through the priesthood and religious life. From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming. (Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 25:6.)  Proper celebration of the faith and life of the Church should unfailingly lead to serenity and hope despite the vicissitudes of life.

Faith must have as its foundation an ongoing investigation and acceptance of the truths the Church teaches. When sacramental celebration and prayer flow from this firm foundation, the faithful are able to reap the benefits of our Catholic Faith.

I stated at the beginning of this reflection that Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to mankind. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to Timothy: ‘Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.  By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.’ (1 Tim 1:18-19.) To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;(Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5;22:32.) it must be ‘working through charity,’ abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.(Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.)” (CCC 162)

Following   Jesus Christ in faith is a serious business.  It is not just a matter of being a member of a particular faith community.  It is not just a matter of observing various rules and regulations though we need all of these to keep good order within our faith.   Christ is calling us to more than this 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 the betrayal of Judas, Good Friday and the Cross .

The pope put it very well when he stated that The Year of Faith 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, centuries across the world, 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 our time and place.

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 hearts to worthily receive this most great sacrament, mystery of faith and love!

Following Jesus is always going to have a cost 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 and the evil that is within the world will never win. May we not be afraid of being what we are and that is 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 all of this let us continue on our pilgrim journey of faith and in faith as we answer the call of Jesus to follow him in the months ahead as the year of faith and its opportunities unfold before us.

27th Sunday Of Ordinary Time

WEDDING RINGS

At the end of July this year I attended the wedding of friends daughter and I had great day and I enjoyed it so much especially as I knew so many of the people who were there. I know so many older people who are married for over 50 years. When my mother and Father were married for 50 years in 2009 my dad pointed out that he had done 2.5 life sentences (in Northern Ireland a life sentence in prison is around 20 years). He also said he wouldn’t have done anything else with all  the ups and downs of those 50 years which included the troubled times of Northern Ireland in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

This week the readings  are talking about the vexed question of DIVORCE. I’m sure there isn’t a family circle in our modern world that hasn’t been touched by the tragedy of a marriage that began with high hopes of unending love and then ended in a breakup with all kinds of people especially the children involved being hurt. Even in my own family circle we have had a marriage breakup with one of my brothers and his wife going their separate ways after a good many years together.

Instead of a lifelong union symbolizing God’s love for people, marriage is now seen merely in terms of human companionship; as friendships come and go, so do marriages.Because of the social and personal ramifications of divorce, the subject carries serious moral weight.Divorce may be an option that delivers a spouse from a personally and morally untenable situation, but it should only be seen and used as a last resort.

Despite his or her marital status, one should always seek the counsel of a good spiritual guide or confessor. In this way, the person can face the moral challenges that face him or her. Family is a core value to all societies, no matter their cultural form. Anything that challenges family should be rejected. Divorce may not challenge every family, but it should be a concern to everyone because it affects the stability of the parents and the welfare of the children.

In the gospel for today Jesus is asked an awkward question about the legality of divorce. He lays down very clearly that what God intends for marriage is what is found in Genesis where the “two become one” for all time rather than the dispensation granted through Moses (permitting a writ of divorce) which was an exception, not the rule. Jesus finishes His teaching in the presence of His disciples. Divorce, that is, the arbitrary dissolving of a true union in marriage, is against the order of things. The union continues being broken by divorce; marriage is the commitment to bringing that union closer. This wonderful and interesting discussion is broken up when mothers and fathers bring their children to Jesus. The disciples desire to continue this interesting conversation, but Jesus becomes upset and invites the children to come to him to be touched, blest and welcomed . These teachings on such hot topics as the importance of   community are difficult. The children  in this gospel represent the simplicity of heart and mind needed on the part of those who would be a part of the “kingdom” or new order which Jesus was initiating. 

Marriage and any true loving relationship between a woman and a man is a gift from God which keeps on giving, giving to each other and to those in the family . A loving relationship, and especially the relationship blest in Marriage, is a covenant of continuing God’s creation especially in these days when so many people are trying to redefine the proper meaning of marriage to suit certain lifestyles.

So then on this day we should remember those who have just been married during this year may they have a long and happy life together. we should also remember those who have been married 25 or 50 or even 60 years. Finally I also want to remember all those whose marriages didn’t last and ended up in the divorce courts, may they all find god there amongst all the hurt  and heartache that divorce causes to so manypeople.

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