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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE HOLY FAMILY

This weekend  we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family which is the name of the parish in where I live. Just four days ago we celebrated the birth of a tiny Baby, surrounded by the ethereal angel choir, greeted with awe and adoration. Today, we commemorate a family in deep stress because their Son  is seen as a threat to a jealous king: Joseph and Mary are running for their lives from Herod the Great. Tradition says that after three years in exile, another angel informs Joseph that Herod the Great is dead. The Holy Family returns to their homeland, not to Bethlehem, since the new King Archelaus who reigns in his father’s place is also a cruel and barbaric ruler. Joseph brings Mary and Jesus to his native town of Nazareth in Galilee. There, they lived a simple ordinary life, Joseph as a carpenter, and Mary as a housewife and mother. Jesus grew in holiness and in knowledge of God’s will in the same ordinary ways that families do in our day. How their lives resemble the modern scene in Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey as well as in other countries as thousands of Syrian refugee families struggle to stay unified! The scene is repeated in many other countries as well. Families on the run with a few possessions loaded onto a tractor and cart, or on foot, move out of their native land to seek refuge wherever they will be tolerated. Most homes are abandoned and will probably be looted and vandalized. It may never be possible for these people to return to their homelands. Add to this the thousands of broken families, broken by divorce, , or abandonment by one or the other parent, and we may well wonder what is “normal” for the word “family.” Pope Francis is deeply concerned with these threats to family life. He has started the process for an extraordinary synod of Bishops to meet in 2015 to determine how the Church may help remedy the current situation.

St. Paul, in Colossians, gives families, both our own individual families, and the wider family of the Church, a surefire formula for success. We are to act with “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” Who would ever want to escape — whether Dad, Mom, or teenager — from such a happy home?

As we think about the Holy Family we remember the care that Mary and Joseph gave to Jesus. We recognize the sacrifice they made for Jesus, in the same way as we recognize the many sacrifices our own parents made for us  and many more  are making for their children today in our I want what I want and  I get what I want world.   Our families would find the disagreements, stressful relationships, and resentments that spoil the joy of family harmony so much easier to solve by imitating the faith and loving trust of the Holy Family.

 “Lord Jesus, you came to restore us to unity with the Father in heaven. Where there is division, bring healing and pardon. May all peoples and families find peace, wholeness, and unity in you, the Prince of Peace and Saviour of the world.”

 

 

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CHRISTMAS 2013

 

 

Well, here we are approaching the big event that all the preparation has been leading up to, but  the even bigger question is this, “Has all our preparation been about tinsel and glitter without anything else, especially the spiritual preparation that the Advent Season calls for?” That is the same type of spiritual preparation that we are called to undertake during Lent when we prepare for Holy Week and Easter. Many people forget the real reason for Christmas as the secular preparations overtake and often undermine the Spiritual reasons which are much more important than the externals of tinsel and glitter.

 Preparing for Christmas is often a very tense time with extra hours at work, standing for hours at the end of queues at the shops as the craziness goes on around us. And spending more time with families and friends can be an endurance test in many ways to say the least!! Having said this, we need to remember that for some people Christmas is not all it seems as they deal with the stresses of not being able to provide a good time for the members of their families.

 We need to remember that in many houses throughout the country things are not as good as they might be or they might have been in the past. Children are not unwrapping the presents as they have none. Many families are not preparing to sit down to a big Christmas dinner because they are going hungry again.  People have lost their faith, faith in God and man. Many others sit in dark despair, wondering where exactly the light will come from and who will bring it to them. And it simply put it is the baby in the manger who is  the reason for the season that brings the light of God into the world.

During these days of celebration we will often have occasion to sing as the angels did long ago, “Glory to God in the highest!” At this time when we celebrate the birth of “a saviour who has been born for us”, the One who is “Wonder- Counsellor and Prince of Peace,” the One who is “a great light” in the darkness of war and strife around us, we welcome an opportunity to put aside our cares and worries, bask in the joy and generosity of the season, and sing out our “Glory to God in the highest as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. And as we do this we cannot forget those who are less well off than we are those who have little or nothing at all. We are mindful of all the organizations such as the Salvation Army and the St. Vincent De Paul who do so much good for so many at this time of year and throughout the whole year.

None of us will travel to Bethlehem to behold the newborn infant in the way the shepherds and the wise men did in their time. But all of us travel the road of daily life, and we are called to see Jesus the newborn Infant in the youngster who needs companionship, the teenager who needs a listening ear, the parent who needs a helping hand, the older person who needs someone to care, to name but a few. There are so many others. We remember in a special way all those who have died since last Christmas and we keep their families in our thoughts and prayers. Some of our Christmas customs seem to turn away from Christ. Or do they? The giving of gifts expresses love of the other person. Festive decorations set this season apart from all others.

Santa Claus was originally St. Nicholas, who was bishop of Myra in Lycia which is now in Turkey he was remembered for his generosity. Every letter sent and received bears the stamp of this special season, tidings of good will, and a reminder that those who are far away are close to us in mind and heart. The customs of this season are veiled announcements of one message: Christ is born for us. To remove the veil, to hear the good news, we gather together in our churches. There the message of Christmas speaks loud and clear. The Letter to the Hebrews says, “In times past, God spoke in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”

 The customs of Christmas speak the message in partial ways, but God speaks the message clearly through his Son, who is born in our midst this Christmas day. On this day the whole community of heaven joins with all believers of good will on earth in a jubilant song of praise and thanksgiving for the good news proclaimed by the angels: Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people, for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11). So, with Mary and Joseph with the shepherds and Angels and the Archangels and the whole company of heaven, let us take this story and the good news of great joy into our hearts and let the joy and peace flourish within us and around us this Christmas.

Let us be thankful for this great light that is Christ the light of the world. Let us keep the light burning brightly in our hearts and in our lives.  Let us hold this simple story of Jesus birth in the Manger in our hearts throughout the year as we continue to travel the often bumpy roads of daily life and living.  As we proclaim Come let us adore him Christ the Lord, the child in the Manger, the true reason for Christmas.

 

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A

 

This weekend we come to the last Sunday of the Advent season. In our churches we light the last purple candle as well as the other three leaving the last candle the white one for the first Mass of Christmas Day. It’s only in this last week before Christmas that we begin to hear about the “Christmas story” itself. For the past weeks we have been preparing ourselves to greet the Lord, when he comes. Now we prepare to remember how he first came, by listening to the prophecies of his coming, and by hearing of the events before his birth. We meet Mary, who herself had been prepared for the coming of the Messiah. She has received the angel’s greeting, and his strange news, and has accepted her role in God’s plan. Now she hurries to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who herself bears John the Baptist in her womb. John,  alerts us to the presence of the Lord, as he leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. His joy is that God has kept his promise, and is with his people.

Matthew is well planted in his Jewish tradition. He shows that from the very beginning of his gospel. By quoting the prophet Isaiah, Matthew tells us that God is with us; not in general, but now on the throne of David – as God had promised. The promise found in Scripture has been fulfilled. By referring his readers to the scriptures, Isaiah reminds his readers that believers do well to put confidence in the Scripture – especially to sustain hope and strengthen faith in discouraging times.

God enters into our world: it’s a world where plans don’t always work out and where people have to adjust to the reality presented to them. Joseph was betrothed to Mary; he had his plans. Mary’s pregnancy turns his world and plans upside down. Instead of exposing her, he “decided to divorce her quietly.” He was a “righteous man” and he will protect Mary from being publicly dishonored. He is not vengeful and, though wronged, displays mercy. After his dream Joseph, “took his wife into his home.” The world God chose to enter was not only one of poverty, hard labor and political and military oppression but, from the beginning, messy – even while the child was still in his mother’s womb. God took a big chance being born among us. Surely there must have been neater options for God, to make the savior’s path and work a bit smoother. But who has a “smooth path” through life anyway? It’s good to know that Emmanuel, “God with us,” chose to be with us – people of the real and messy world. God is with us in the mess of our daily lives!

3rd Sunday of Advent

 

 

This week we witnessed  the passing of one of the world’s great leaders Nelson Mandela. I remember sitting watching him coming out of prison in 1990 and wondering where we would be going from there as he came off Robin Island and now 23 years later we have said our final farewells to this great man. His greatness came from the fact that he forgave his tormentors in order to make his country a better place; as a result of this so many countries have held the South African experience  as a blueprint for reconciliation and forgiveness. I also think that there are many individuals out there who should take the example of his life and the way he lived to see how to forgive others for the wrongs that they had done to them. We pray that the soul of Nelson Mandela will rest in peace and that his legacy will continue to inspire countless others to go along the path of forgiveness and reconciliation.

This Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday. The term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, “Rejoice”. Rose vestments are worn in many churches to emphasize our joy that Christmas is near, and we also light the rose candle on the Advent wreath.As Christmas draws near, the Church emphasizes the joy which should be in our hearts over all that the birth of our Savior means for us or all that it should mean for us especially in our world where so many have little or nothing at all. The readings for this week, particularly the Gospel, express this theme of rejoicing at the imminent coming of the Lord. John’s disciples ask Jesus if he is the one who is to come. ‘Look around you’, they are told. ‘The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy are those who believe.’ We praise and rejoice in God on this Gaudete Sunday. We thank him for all he has done for us. We rejoice that through the coming of his Son Jesus we have been saved. We do what we can to imitate his life, to follow his Gospel of love and that is all that faith asked of us to do our best in following Jesus. We join together to celebrate the Eucharist, sharing the bread that is his body and the wine that is his blood. We take seriously his plea to the Father: ‘May they be one, Father, even as you and I are one.’ We do all these things, yet mostly we wait. But this is not like waiting for a bus or for the postman to deliver a letter.

We wait with hope in our hearts for the culmination of all things in Christ and the prayer that is on our lips is ‘thy kingdom come!’ As we continue our Advent journeys let us prepare the way for the Lord in our own lives remembering that in  the words of the psalm the lord keeps faith forever and he won’t let us down.

 

2nd Sunday of Advent Year A

 

This weekend we hear about John the Baptist who was the herald of Jesus who said that there is one who is to come after me and I am not worthy to take the sandals of his feet.  We hear in our gospel reading that Zachariah regained his speech when they came to name the child John. John’s task was to announce the coming of Jesus and to point to him when he came. John’s work was extraordinary.  He was called to reawaken a sense of expectation among a people that had grown tired and distant from God as many have done in our present generation.   John was called to bring renewal to institutional expressions of religion which, at the time, had so often become fossilized into mere formulae or external ritual.  This too is what is happening within the Church in our present time under Pope Francis our Church is being renewed for the work that needs to be done in our present time. John attracted thousands to come out into the desert to see him. Tradition sees the desert as the place where God speaks to the heart of his people. It is from this solitary place of spiritual combat, the desert bordering the Jordan, that John appears “with the spirit and the power of Elijah” (Luke 7:17).By his word and his baptism with water, john must called the children of the covenant back to the Lord their God as he calls us today to come back to the Lord our God.

The figure of John serves as a warning, to all believers, to the Church and Church organizations of our need to draw our strength from Christ alone, rather than identifying with the cultural patterns or the Fads and fashions of the time, which in any case come and go. The Church is here in the present as it has been in past times to proclaim and live out the message of Jesus in every generation in season and out of season whether people at large like it or not. The Church and is not there in any way to be inward looking.  The Church that is the people of god, you and I  are called to constant renewal, to tear ourselves away from conventional expectations, attitudes and superficialities and centre ourselves completely on God.  The Church in every age must become like John the Baptist, an uncomfortable reminder of how we must allow the truth of Jesus to break into our lives to enlighten the darkness that can at any moment enter into our lives or the life of the Church. As the journey of Advent continues, as we prepare to celebrate the nativity of Christ, John the Baptist’s call to conversion sounds out in our communities.

It is a pressing invitation to open our hearts and to welcome the Son of God who comes among us to make the kingdom of God manifest to all of us. As we continue our Advent Journey let us hear the call of John the Baptist and put it into action in our lives.

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