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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend here in my home diocese of Down and Connor in Northern Ireland we have just launched our diocesan pastoral Plan. The plan which has been in the making for around two years through the Living Church imitative has a number of headings which include Passing on the faith, faith and worship, lay participation, clergy and religious and being an open and welcoming community. The hope is that from the launch of this plan to its completion we will become a community that will be co responsible. Being co responsible means that all of us the people of God should play our part along with our priests deacons and religious working together to promote a common vision where all are valued With everyone working together to further the kingdom of God in the Parishes and organizations that make up the diocese.

 

lazarus

Lazarus

In Our readings Last Sunday we were introduced to the idea of dishonest wealth. Dishonest wealth is riches perceived as more important than human life and dignity.  It consumes and enslaves those who believe in it.  Honest wealth is riches of mind, of spirit and even material assets used with justice and compassion. The followers of Jesus including you and me  imagine a world that is just, caring and sensitive to all.  We want to correct what is wrong and bring all people into harmony and peace with everything that they need to keep body and soul together.  Many of us struggle to do something about those things that beat down our fellow man.  The parable of “Mr. Rich and Mr. Poor” which we hear this Sunday is a warning for prosperous people in our prosperous countries. Indifference to the needs of the poor is against the gospel.

 The gospel for this Sunday contrasts the two attitudes of rich and poor, that of Lazarus, the image of the poor, the downtrodden, those left penniless by the greed of the wealthy and the tax-collectors, and whose only hope was in the mercy of God, and on the other hand that of the rich man, clothed extravagantly, and feasting magnificently every day, self-sufficient, not seeing any need whatsoever to ask  for God’s mercy. In many ways we can are often like the man who seemed to be self-sufficient, not seeing any need whatsoever to beg for God’s mercy and there are so many in the world today who see no need for god and his merciful fatherly love in their lives. When our lives radiate Christ, people desire to know him and the Church, like a moth is drawn to a light. If we say we love Jesus, yet do not act on his commands or the teachings of his Church, then we extinguish that light and repel people. We have been given a mission to shine the light of Christ to the nations; we accomplish this through deeds and words. This is the call for all of us at this time in history. Catholicism does not hedge on the truth, even when the truth is not popular or politically correct as we all know the truth is not always welcomed.  We do not hedge on our faith because it has been handed down to us through every generation and we in our turn will pass on the faith to the next. As we move forward may be like Lazarus trusting in the mercy and love of God.

 

 

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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

TRIN

This week has been a bit different, the Anglican Church of Ireland has just elected its first woman Bishop and also our Holy Father Pope Francis has asked the Church to refocus our lives as Christians in order to get away from the narrow mindedness that we see from focusing on some issues such as Abortion and sexuality  instead of looking at the whole picture. As far as I am concerned the teachings of the Church relating to these issues need to be upheld but the constant talking about them and the attached commentary in the media about these issues makes the world at large think that as Catholics we think about these particular issues and not much else. This is so far from the truth as so many other equally important issues are ongoing in church circles and they don’t get the coverage and promotion that they also deserve. Issues such as faith, Justice, Vocations and how to reconnect the people of God with the Church. These are a few issues that come to mind whilst writing this but there are many more issues than there may be solutions but we must move beyond the negativity of being seen as a one or two issue church to being a Church where our principles are upheld and people are valued as we move forward as Gods faithful; people.

The readings for this weekend  show two sides of witnessing to the faith. On the one hand Amos is trenchant in his public criticism of the scandalous behavior of his fellow citizens. His stand will get him into serious difficulties with the authorities and, according to some traditions, his death.Paul, on the other hand, wants believers to witness to their faith by the good, quiet lives they lead. As a new movement he understands that more people will be attracted to it by the good example of its members. The same tension can and does exist for believers today. There is a great need for the fearless prophetic witness which calls attention to the oppressive injustices of our time. Equally, Christians must also show by their lives that they are not simply political agitators but people committed to the values of the kingdom of God. Oscar Wilde  described a cynic as “one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” A Christian should be the reverse: one who has less interest in the price of a thing than in its true value. Let us remember then that we should treasure our faith and its true value.When money becomes our master then God takes a poor second place and the consequences of that choice are everywhere to be seen in our world where so few have so much and so many have little or nothing at all and that includes faith.

24TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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In our reading from the Gospel of Luke on this Sunday we hear the story of the Prodigal Son. This story is all about the mercy of God for all of us. It is also about us seeking the mercy of the father while not being afraid to say that we were wrong in a certain situation. 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, that we are then willing to rouse ourselves to say sorry  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 life 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. Having said that let us remember that God celebrates every time  that we return to him.  Jesus said, “I tell you that there will be more celebration in heaven over one sinner who repents then over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” The tax collectors and sinners did not come to hear the  Pharisees and scribes, because they knew that they would find only judgment. They came to hear Jesus, because he was happy that they wanted to change their lives.  God does not give up.  He will not give up on us, calling us to him personally.  Seeking us out individually.Nor does He give up on anyone, even those who have been far from the faith,  from morality.  He calls us all to join Him in the joy of His Presence, the Joy of the Banquet of  the Lord. The return of those who have had been away is a time for celebration.  Maybe greed, lust, anger, pride, some sin or other, convinced them to leave the warmth of the family. The cause of their leaving no longer matters.  They have returned. The family is back together.  We need to celebrate. We need to remember that no matter who we are that all of us need the loving mercy of our God.

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

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At this time of year  all the various things that stopped at the end of June for  the summer are  beginning to happen again. Schools and colleges return after the summer holidays and all the clubs societies etc that closed for the summer months now reopen and everything gets back into the normal swing of things. There is much change as many people who were around and about with us before he summer are not here with in my own case  a friend that I had known for over 42 years passed on to her heavenly home and the clergy in our local parish have been reassigned to other places. Change is all around as all those who remain are left are thinking about the future.

 In our Gospel reading for this Sunday taken from Luke’s Gospel we are told that Jesus was speaking to the crowds. This time he is not addressing those he personally called to follow him, his disciples. Instead, he is speaking to those who might be thinking about following him. Earlier when someone had such a notion he said to Jesus, “I will be your follower wherever you go” (9:57). Jesus responded to this person with a stark reminder, “the foxes have lairs, the birds of the sky have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. A sobering reminder of what it will mean to follow the one who has “nowhere to lay his head.” The costs of discipleship might mean detachment from one’s previous world and way of living. Jesus is asking total loyalty to him. Anything within ourselves, or with those we love, which might create a split in loyalties, must be put aside in favor of Christ.

 Jesus used examples from his time and place; a farmer’s lookout tower, a king and his army marching into battle. We would use different examples for life’s challenges – but we get his point. Have we considered what Christ’s invitation to follow him involves? Are we realistic about the personal costs investing our whole selves will require? Are we willing to use our strength and resources to fulfill the promises we have made to Christ? Even more to the point: have we heard his most direct challenge, “Whoever does not carry his/her own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” How costly is that! To be willing to carry a cross, an instrument of sacrifice and death; willing to accept pain and loss of our own lives to respond to Jesus’ invitation to discipleship.

 Who among us hasn’t stumbled, or even failed miserably, in our calling as disciples? We have existed on the edge of our church community, rather than given time and resources to help build it up.  Today  Jesus places three demands before us. We must be willing to risk family ties, practice self-denial and have a readiness to give up possessions. Being a follower of Christ is not something we can take casually. It’s not easy to follow Christ it always has a price, we cannot forget Good Friday and the Cross of Calvary. But we also remember that we are not on our own despite whatever happens to us. When we fail, Christ is by our side ready to respond to our plea, “Lord have mercy.”Nor are we on our own as we attempt to make big sacrifices in Jesus’ name. Rather, Jesus has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit who is ever ready to guide us more and more into a fuller response to the invitation each of us has heard through our baptism, “Come follow me.” As we try to follow Jesus the way the truth and the life we also remember Syria and all the various places where people are at WAR for whatever reason. Today we pray in a particular way for peace and we unite ourselves with Pope Francis call for fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and in the world on Saturday 7th September.

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