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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “February, 2014”

7 th Sunday of Ordinary Time

LOVE

 

Recently  we had the centenary celebrations of our parish school Holy Family. There have been two masses as part of  the celebrations on Friday the 7th and last Friday 14th. The Mass for the whole school community was on the 7th and during this I came across the a P3 class register from 1974 yes forty years ago with my name in it. It was an eye-opener as I think about all the various things and people that have passed through my life over the past 40 years with some of them now deceased. Also last Sunday we had the celebration of the anointing of the sick which is a highlight in our Parish year, a highlight if you can call it that because you know so many of the people present and that many of them won’t be here next year. It is a sobering thought when you think about it so many of those present both young and not so young might not be there next year and the youngest there was a few months old !!!

In this weekends readings we are told not only to be holy, but perfect as well!  We are also told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This is really hard stuff especially as I live in  BELFAST NORTHERN IRELAND, that said anything that is worth doing is usually the hard thing to do the out of the ordinary thing. Do you think that Jesus is going a bit too far in today’s selection from the Sermon on the Mount?

Last week he said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” That sounded pretty extreme, but we know about the Mediterranean peoples custom of exaggeration to make a point. That Is what he is also doing today when he advises turning the other cheek; volunteering to go the extra mile when pressed to one; or lending to anyone who asks? If that weren’t enough, what about loving enemies and praying for persecutors? Then, to make it still more difficult, our selection closes with, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Will people in the pews and that means you and me just shrug our shoulders and figure Jesus is wildly impractical, or that what he says must have been applicable “back then” – but not in the 21st century? Well in our situations of life and living I think that these stories can be applied today in our daily lives. Many people carry scars through life, refusing to let them heal until they have settled accounts with other people. Feuds, vendettas and–grudges are nurtured in parishes, in streets and even in families. Perhaps the most difficult words we pray today and every day are those words found in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That archaic word, trespass, means to cross the line. When we say the Our Father we are saying that we will forgive those who cross the line of common decency so that we also might be forgiven for any ways that we have crossed the line.

 If we refuse to forgive, if we demand the law of talons, an eye for an eye, if we desire vengeance more than Christ’s presence, then we are refusing to accept Jesus Christ himself.  Christianity is continually reforming and renewing itself. Christian society must continually scrutinize its actions to see if it is living up to the standards set by the Lord. Consider slavery. It took almost nineteen hundred years for Christians to recognize that slavery was incompatible with Christianity. It will take many more years for Christians to eliminate the various ways the law of talons has been embedded into our culture. But the standard is there. The standard for what is Christian and what is not Christian is the Law of the New Kingdom, the Sermon on the Mount, the Word of God. Let us not be afraid to do what Jesus asks of us in this Gospel reading and that is to  love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Or at least let us try to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us and to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

5th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

SALT LIGHT

 

In today’s Gospel  passage Jesus speaks again in the present tense, “You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world.” It is very common these days, upon entering a church or religious institution, to see the community’s “Mission Statement” prominently posted. Usually, such a statement is the result of a prayerful dialogue by the community to arrive at a description of its identity and mission in the light of the Gospel.

At one parish some members of the staff told me their Priest  composed and published the statement without consulting members of the staff, parish council or parishioners. A woman said, “Since we didn’t have any input, how can we identify with and fulfill that mission statement? It’s not ours, it’s his She was right. But Jesus has that authority. Jesus’ mission statement to us, his followers, fits the requirement of a brief, focused and easily remembered summary of our task. Even those who don’t read much scripture can quote today’s teaching, “You are salt of the earth….You are light of the world.”

We are to be witnesses to the world. Jesus begins to describe the task for his disciples by using two images. We are to affect the world the way salt and light affect their environments. Salt seasons food, and in Jesus’ world, it was used as a preservative. It kept food from spoiling. Light removes or pushes the darkness back. Even one lighted match can be seen at a distance on a dark night. It doesn’t take much to have a surprising good effect when light is lacking.

With the salt image comes a warning. “But if salt loses its taste…it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Christians cannot merely co-exist and comfortably fit in we too could loose our saltiness and be trampled underfoot. We must change what needs changing. Remember the saying, “If it were a crime to be a Christian, would they have any evidence to convict you?” would the charges be against you and me be upheld and what exactly would we be convicted by? Hence, Jesus’ warning that salt can lose its capacity to season the food it is in and should be thrown out. We are sent on mission into the world to change it – not merely to live in it. Jesus tells his disciples that, though they are only few in number, they are salt.

The danger for the church is that, being in the world, we disciples can take on worldly ways and lose our “saltiness” to flavor those around us. We are called as Disciples to draw out goodness in the world by supporting what protects, nourishes and enhances life, while rejecting what limits or destroys it. For these and other positions of the status quo or the same old thing  “salty disciples” are to be agents of change. If we cannot bring about more humane conditions for all, then Jesus is right, we are salt without flavor and useless for his purposes of passing on the good news. In the Gospel reading today, Jesus, says to those who had just heard His teaching on the Beatitudes, “You are the salt of the earth … you are the light of the world.” In this passage, Jesus urges them not to “light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket.” No, “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” We need always to look outward to those who are looking for light, as well as to those who have given up hope of ever finding it! As we hear the challenging mission Jesus gives us we can feel what those first disciples must have felt – we are not large or influential enough to affect the world and resist the powers that “run the world’s business.” On our own, that’s true.

But remember we are not on our own. Jesus began his words  with a reminder of God’s blessings here and now. At this Eucharist, through Word and Sacrament, we are again formed and reformed by God. We are called to be salt of the earth people and followers of Jesus whom God blesses and Jesus sends on mission. We strive, with God’s grace, to live out the gospel mission statement Jesus has enfleshed by his life, death and resurrection.

The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple

 

MAY THE LIGHT OF CHRIST LIGHT UP THE PATHS OF OUR LIVES

In terms of the Liturgy there’s a lot going on this first Sunday in February and that’s right you did read February TIME IS PASSING US BY.  Like so many festivals in the church living in the northern hemisphere, a lot of liturgical celebrations centre on seasons and weather. This year especially, we are very inclined to pay attention to changes in the weather as it has been so very bad but at least we haven’t had temperatures of minus 55 like those who live in parts of Canada.

This Sunday we celebrate a major feast of Our Lord, The Presentation. This feast is also known as Candlemas Day, since traditionally candles used in the Liturgy were blessed on this day, with a solemn procession in which all carried lighted candles before the Mass. Forty days following the birth of a child, a Jewish mother, having been “purified”, came into the Temple with an offering to the Lord. Since every child belonged to God, the parents would “buy back” their child. Poor people, like Joseph and Mary, were obliged to bring only two inexpensive birds, like turtledoves or pigeons. This feast was first observed in the Eastern Church as “The Encounter.” In the sixth century, it began to be observed in the West: in Rome with a more penitential character and in Gaul (France) with solemn blessings and processions of candles, popularly known as “Candlemas.” The Presentation of the Lord concludes the celebration of the Nativity and with the offerings of the Virgin Mother and the prophecy of Simeon, the events now point toward Easter.

“In obedience to the Old Law, the Lord Jesus, the first-born, was presented in the Temple by his Blessed Mother and his foster father. The Christ Child is revealed as the Messiah through the canticle and words of Simeon and the testimony of Anna the prophetess. Christ is the light of the nations, hence the blessing and procession of candles on this day. We Christians stress our communal worship, especially our Sunday Eucharist. But we are also encouraged to take our faith home with us. In numerous ways we learn in our homes what we express each Sunday when we come together for Mass that we are the body of Christ. We are a family, Gods family who are nourished by our God through Word, Sacrament and one another. Our Faith is a treasure beyond price, by the strength of which we stand boldly against the winds of fad and fashion. May we be the light of Christ to all those we meet as we move forward in faith that is faith in God and in one another with our pathways lit up by the light of Christ.

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