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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “August, 2013”

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

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It is hard to believe that it is now 50 years from Martin Luther King’s great and inspirational I HAVE A DREAM SPEECH in Washington. While celebrating this anniversary I think we all should be mindful of the situation in Syria and the middle East in General. We also need to continue our prayers for peaceful outcomes in all the various places where there are wars or violence of whatever sort throughout the world.

 The  readings  for this Sunday are all about humility, a virtue that doesn’t seem to be valued that much in our world. These days, it’s about how many “friends” we have on Facebook, how many followers we have on Twitter. But we can still immediately pick up on someone whose humility is done for show, whose humbleness is not the real thing and there are so many people like this around and about. Humility is about: being real, being grounded. Accepting and sharing our gifts without fanfare; acknowledging and accepting our faults without undue self-recrimination. Knowing we are no better or worse than any other of God’s children.   If we live a virtually unrecognized life of goodness and quiet service, sooner or later someone will praise us in some way.  Once again, it is fitting that we be thankful to God for all the things that come to us and humbly acknowledge that we  were using God’s gift to us for the good of all.  

It is his grace that has produced the right attitude within us to live in such a humble way. To me, generosity involves the giving of one’s time, talent, or treasure for the common good without thought of personal recompense and without thought of scrutinizing the recipients.  Many people do this quite effectively and seem to match Jesus’s expectation perfectly.  Some people, however, widen their giving to include the less fortunate but maintain a slight level of superiority to the recipients which is not right.   Jesus’s message in this Gospel Reading was unconditional giving of oneself and one’s resources and it needs to be done willingly and even lavishly according to Jesus’s direction rather than to further one’s own motives as those who were seeking the best seats were doing.  Being humble is not something we do, instead It is something we are, something we learn through living fully with our successes and our failures, and never forgetting our dependence on God.  Humility is a cornerstone of Pope Francis, along with compassion and mercy. And as St. Augustine once said, “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues; hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” Without humility, our compassion is meager; our mercy, condescending.

Real humility takes awareness and acceptance of our real selves which is why it is so hard for us to achieve. May we be the Humble people that we are called to be in the Gospel of this Sunday accepting our real selves so that that we may use our  God given gifts wisely and during the time that we have them.

 

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21st SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Our first reading this Sunday is taken from Sirach, a book of practical advice for living. In this passage, we are reminded that everyone loves a humble person, especially God. The humble person keeps a balanced outlook on people and events. This reading advises us to listen to wiser minds than our own. By listening, we ourselves become wise. There is so much terribly wrong about what we see and hear in the world: terrorism and war, violence and shock on TV, family members who go off the deep end, religious persecution, civil strife ripping countries apart, etc. So much is out of focus. Where is God in all this and what is our future, if we are believers? We shake our heads and wonder if the world isn’t “going to hell in a hand basket?”  In the pagan world  of the this Gospel Story Jesus lived, surrounded by Romans, a devout person could think that they, and not the pagans, were on the right path, entitled to a well-deserved place in the kingdom of God. After all, they took time in a busy schedule to come out to hear Jesus. In addition, the person in this Sundays Gospel Reading reveals some devotion by calling Jesus, “Lord.” Since that title is a post-resurrection one, Luke might be voicing a concern of his own Christian community. Jesus’ response should make us church folk, a bit uncomfortable.

He would always appreciate a compassionate disciple; but his response to the question “Lord will only a few be saved?” doesn’t indicate he is speaking to such a disciple. Most likely it was someone who felt part of Jesus’ inner circle; feeling they had made it, but others would not. You just know that Jesus is going to shake the person back on their heels. In The gospel stories Jesus has a habit of telling religious people not to get smug; in fact, the so-called “devout and religious” were the ones who rejected Jesus the most. He was most critical of the judgmental religious leaders who were the very ones to condemn him in Jerusalem – where he is determined to go… and where he asks us to follow and that includes the cross that Jesus carried to Calvary.

Pope Paul VI said in his famous encyclical, “Evangelii Nuntiandi” that people listen more to witnesses than to teachers. Pope Paul was also right when he said that the most convincing messengers of our faith are those who speak from their personal experience of God and faith they are true witnesses. Perhaps, they were sick and God healed them, or gave them strength and endurance. Their marriage was in a rut and a Marriage Encounter weekend revived it. They had lost their way and were too consumed by their jobs and then they refocused on family and all the pleasures and ups and downs that this brings.

 we are called to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel message as Gods people, and the message of hope  that we have and hold dear is for everyone in these times where so few have so much and so many have little or nothing  at all let us not be afraid as we go forward in our daily lives and faith Journeys to be humble people of faith. Having Faith in God and in eachother.

 

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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In the gospel today Jesus says, “I have come to set the world on fire and how I wish it were already blazing.” He is ready and willing to face the hardships that lie ahead. Jesus’ words must have unsettled his hearers then, as they do now for us. It doesn’t sound like Jesus meant that the practice of our faith should make us comfortable, guarantee harmony or tranquility. Indeed, as he predicted, belief in him would cause the most severe conflict, even in the close-knit-family world of his Mediterranean followers.

Jesus is zealous about his mission; it consumes him. He has a task to complete and will follow it through, despite the threats to his personal safety. Jesus refers to his fate as “a baptism with which I must be baptized.” He sees his coming passion as a baptism which he will accept and which will set a fire upon the earth. Remember when John the Baptist spoke of Jesus he linked baptism and fire, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” When our lives get difficult, for any reason perhaps running low on the resources of spirit, mind and psyche at critical moments,

we are tempted to think that the Holy One is asleep behind a closed door. We feel very much on the outside. At these times it’s important to remember that Jesus is with us throughout the turmoil we may have as a result of the hurts and hardship that life throws out to all of us on many occasions.

The saying goes that life is forever changing and this is very true as this week we heard of changes in the priests in some of our local parishes in North Belfast. August is a time for change and a time of change for this and other Parishes and the Clergy within the  diocese of Down and Connor. It is also a time of change with our P7 school kids changing schools and going into secondary or grammar schools and our year 14s going on beyond that to begin university as they continue their education and the journey of life.

Making decisions in the journeys of life is the natural process for us; we make many of them each day. Our senses take in all kinds of information some of which we accept, some we discard and much, we are not aware of. Our minds move us to a yes or no that is what the will does. So our imaginations can present data to our minds for a choice as well. So a faith-decision to walk the ways of Jesus needs some information which Jesus gives his disciples, that is formally handed on down to us in the liturgy through our Priests. But we also learn from our fellow parishioners, our own times of prayer and those flashes of God-given inspiration – and these can come in places of pilgrimage or simply as we walk down the road. The Spirit of God blows where it wills.

 

19TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Today’s Gospel begins with some of the most beautiful of Jesus’ words: 
“Fear not, little flock… “What love, what tenderness in these few 
words! “Fear not…”. Further down in the gospel reading we are told ” “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

 If God is at our service, what could be better than for us to place  ourselves at his service? For if we do not, God might just accuse us of  being ungrateful to him? Some will say: Certainly that might be true, but why does God involve himself in our life? Why bother with God Couldn’t he just leave us alone do get on with doing our own thing? Indeed, many people live in our modern world without paying much attention to God or man and as a result of this particular way of going we see that the world is in a terrible state. The world and its riches are supposed to be enough to make people happy, or at least that is how it seems to the vast number of people who think and act in this way. In fact, the truth is far from this particular idea of utopia, a godless life gives the illusion of happiness, like Money, material goods, the pleasure of the senses, all these things lead the men and women of our time to the greatest unhappiness: that of the glorification of “me myself and nobody else” when truthfully we should be setting ourselves and our selfish ways of going aside and focusing on the other person!

To escape from this, there is one solution:  which is the life of service to others, the life of service to God for the salvation of the world remembering that our hearts will be restless until they rest in him. What will we have done with our life if we haven’t used it to serve God in some way or another? Where have we put our treasure is it really where our hearts are? Have we put it in the banknotes kept in our safe, the bricks that make up our house, or in our beautiful brand new car? Let us consider this! Have we truly decided to place ourselves at the service of God? Let us look at the Crucifix, and listen to Saint Paul: “And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8) It was reported recently that gold coins from a sunken Spanish ship were recently found in the waters off the coast of Florida using a simple metal detector. As you can imagine that this attracted quite a few more “gold diggers.” Should we be consumed in acquiring a vanishing kingdom here on earth when we have an eternal kingdom waiting for us? I would love to see a mad dash for the inexhaustible treasure that the Lord provides through the Church and all those who are within it especially our priests and religious and through so many other people and organizations associated to the Church.

We don’t know in advance what God may do with us and our own oftentimes selfish plans. To those who have faith, all things are possible the old saying that fait moves mountains is certainly true. Faith helps us to rely on the power God, not on our own. As the gospel points out, we are to live in this world as strangers who are on the way home. People who move from one place to another get rid of all they can from their old house and focus on furnishing the new house. They joyfully give away what they once cherished we have to be the same getting rid of the baggage that stop us from being the people we are called by our heavenly Father to be.

 “We cannot know when personal illness, bereavement or some other trying experience will put us to the test. But we do know that our life will be a success if we set our hearts and minds on values that go beyond all the transitory goods of this world. Our faith, is leading us onward, always pointing to something still to come, and at the end of our pilgrimage on this earth we will find where our true treasure is and we will simply discover that where our heart is there our treasure is as well.

 

 

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