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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “April, 2014”

DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

 

HE HAS RISEN

 

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter more recently known as Divine Mercy Sunday. We also celebrate the canonization of Pope John the 23rd who was known as the pope of the second Vatican Council who opened the doors and windows of the Vatican to let the light of renewal into the Church and pope John Paul the 2nd who was known as the Pilgrim Pope as he travelled the world proclaiming the Gospel to the nations.

The Easter season has the most exciting Scripture readings of the year. They take us from the empty tomb of Easter Sunday all the way to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. On Easter Sunday, the Apostles huddled in fear in the empty room. They weren’t so sure that the women’s report that Jesus had risen was believable. They weren’t singing for joy! Now, a whole week has gone by. They still felt “rocky” about their future.Thomas wasn’t the only one who had doubts about Jesus I think so many were doubtful then as so many are doubtful right here and now. The Apostles were still huddled behind locked doors, pondering the shocking experience of the week before when all seemed to be lost. Jesus had broken through those doors to assure them that He was alive. And His message must have troubled them: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” in the same way we  are sent out in the Joy of the Gospel to bring his message to other people wherever we are.
As Pope Francis directs us, we must courageously reach out in the joy of the Gospel to so many doubters among us, and assure them of the great mercy of Jesus, His great love for them. Our world is hurting as So much because of the many evil things that are happening within it. We pray this weekend  through the intercession of the Churches two new saints  John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII that we will be witnesses to the joy of the Gospel as evangelizers and witnesses to the Resurrection to the people of our time and place as Christians in our own communities.

 

John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII 

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EASTER

 

HE HAS RISEN

 

The cross is empty now Jesus lies in the tomb and everything around us is still.’ The heavens and the earth cry out with longing for the sinless one who is not to be found, if we stop to think for a moment we remember that Jesus died and rose again on the third day. We wait, as mourners beside a grave, unsettled, ill at ease, almost not knowing what to do with ourselves. The Church has only one thing to do today: to pray through the emptiness of Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday then is the day when we experience watching and waiting at the tomb as we await the celebration of the Resurrection which we celebrate in the Easter Vigil and the season of Easter. The Jewish people have been celebrating Passover annually for thousands of years, commemorating the night in which God brought them out of slavery in Egypt to begin the journey to the promised land.

At the Last Supper, Jesus also celebrated the Passover but gave it a new meaning. No longer a remembrance of passing from slavery to freedom, but through his own passion, death and resurrection we too pass from death to life with him. Until the fourth century, Easter was the only feast of the Church’s year, and to this day it remains the most important. As the Catechism says: “Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts’, the ‘Solemnity of solemnities’.”

Every Sunday Eucharist echoes the Sunday of the Resurrection and Easter. It can seem that once Easter Sunday has passed Easter is finished, but the’ celebration continues for fifty days. The next Sunday of Easter day  is traditionally known as Low Sunday or Dominica in Albis (White Sunday) which refers to the white baptismal garment of the newly baptised. Divine Mercy Sunday is a new feast also celebrated on this day. This year it has the added significance because on this day Pope John 23rd and Pope John Paul the second will be canonized (made saints). Divine Mercy Sunday comes almost as an opportunity in which anyone who missed out on celebrating the mercy of Christ in Holy Week has another chance. After forty days we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of Christ who returns to the Father to send us the Holy Spirit.

We spend the nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost praying for the Spirit like Mary and the apostles in the Upper Room. On the fiftieth day (which is the literal meaning of the word “Pentecost”) Easter ends. On that day “Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 731). Our celebration of Easter resonates throughout the rest of the year: full of gratitude for Christ’s passion, joy in his resurrection and, strengthened by the Spirit, we continue our Christian journey in faith hope and Joy.

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PALM SUNDAY

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Today we begin what I think is the best week in the whole liturgical year. Centuries ago it was called the “Great Week”. Nowadays we call it “Holy Week” and we begin with Palm Sunday. This year we stop to think again about what Holy Week means to us as individual people as a community and we also stop and think about Pope Francis apostolic letter  The Joy of the Gospel and how it impacts the way we celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week and how we celebrate our liturgy and our lives in general. In many ways the two main themes of today are happiness and sorrow, and these themes  also come into play on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
On ash Wednesday we placed the ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our humility as we began our Lenten Journey and now six weeks later on Palm Sunday we remember Jesus entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey as the people raised their voices in joyful acclamation as they sang hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  The Passion narrative of Matthew emphasizes the great humility of Jesus, the King.

It’s the only Gospel to tell us in detail of what happened in Jerusalem at the hour Jesus gave up His Spirit — the sanctuary veil torn in two, the earth quaking, rocks split, dead saints rising from their graves and entering Jerusalem. It’s the fulfillment of all the prophecies of thousands of years before.  It also tells us more fully of the betrayal by Judas, the denial of Peter, the hearings before Caiaphas and Pilate — the awful scourging by the Roman soldiers, the thorny crown jammed upon His weary head, the whip cutting slashes into His flesh, the blood running down His shoulders and back, the cursing by the crowd, the nails tearing through His hands, the thud of the cross into the ground. As He hangs on the Cross, He cries, “I thirst!” How that cry echoes down the centuries as a reminder of His search for our love. But what does Palm Sunday really mean to you and me? What does it mean to us as Christians in the year 2014, a big question indeed with no small answers.

Lent Palm, Sunday and Holy week taken as a whole give us  the opportunity to look hard at ourselves and see exactly where we are going and perhaps were we should be going. We have always to remember that Jesus came to take away our sins and to point us in the right direction that is towards our father in heaven and all that is good.  We need to remember that Christ came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many as a result of this  he points us in the right direction.

Christ took our sinful ways on himself because of his love for us  It is important that we who say we are Christians accept the truth about ourselves that truth  may not always be good and then in our acceptance of the truth we will be able to look at the Cross and recognise the love of God our Father in the man on the cross.

Let us remember that  Pope Francis tells us that in his letter that The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew…  The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.

Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost!… God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18,2) has given us his example… Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders (Lk 15,5). No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. This week  and indeed throughout the whole of our Lenten Journey that will soon finish we have been given  the opportunity to renew ourselves in heart, mind, body and soul and see where we should be going.May the passion story that we hear on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday inspire all of us to try to imitate in some small way the all loving all forgiving Jesus who went through betrayal to death and finally to resurrection for us so that we will have life and have it to the full. 

Over the next few days may we prepare with greater intensity for the Easter Triduum Holy Thursday, Good Friday and  Holy Saturday and then we will really be able to enjoy the Easter feast which we have been preparing for since Ash Wednesday.

 

HW

5th SUNDAY OF LENT

LAZARUS COMES OUT OF THE TOMB

LAZARUS COMES OUT OF THE TOMB

 

Well here we are at the 5th Sunday of lent as we look towards Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Just a couple of weeks left. And, as the drama intensifies in the tension between Jesus and the Pharisees, so too, our personal struggle to overcome the weak spots in our spiritual armor should also “heat up.” There’s so little time remaining before our well-deserved Easter joy! As usual time has just flown in it seems to me that it has been no time since we celebrated the feast of Christmas  and  that was three months ago!!  Time waits for no one is certainly a saying that is so true. I hope that Lent hasn’t served to mire us in guilt and shortcomings. Instead the Sundays of Lent give us the opportunity to look at where we have been, where we are and where we need to go  as we listen to the Word of God. If we were listening we would have heard what we hear again today through the prophet Ezekiel. God intends to “open your graves and have you rise from them.” And again, as John puts it: Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” And we see this especially in the Gospel which is a pointer to the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. It seems a bit strange to have this gospel on the Fifth Sunday of Lent . It seems to be clearly about the resurrection and yet we are still plodding through Lent and have to get through Good Friday before we get to Easter and the joy that is there waiting for us.

Beneath the layers of theology in today’s Gospel reading, John tells us that Jesus had some very good friends.  Some people followed Jesus for what he could do for them. But Martha, Mary and Lazarus seem the type of people that “sit around the table with a glass of good wine and share the day and daily ins and outs of life” kind of friends. The kind of friends whose faces “light up” with arms open wide when you meet them. The kind of friends who will witness your execution and stay with you when others run away. They are the friends you are one in spirit and mind with.

This sort of friendship brings life and joy, to individuals and to communities. It seems to be another good image of Church – Jesus surrounded by people who love him and each other, working together to bring life to others. Martha and Mary both say the same thing when they meet Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” When Jesus tells Martha, “Your brother will rise,” she professes faith that he will rise, “in the resurrection on the last day,” Then she professes her faith in Christ as “the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” But neither Martha nor Mary express faith that Jesus will resuscitate their dead brother. In fact, when Jesus orders the stone removed Martha says, “Lord, by now there will be a stench, he has been dead for four days.”

Jesus doesn’t work some miracle to remove the stone from Lazarus’ tomb? He asks others to do it for him. When that barrier is removed, Jesus calls Lazarus forth to life. The gripping drama of the rising of Lazarus points towards Jesus as the Lord of Life and prepares us for the celebration of our  coming out of the tomb and sharing in His Life at Easter. 

But this Gospel is about more than this friendship. It is also a call and a command for all of us  to stop and consider if we are in a tomb, and if so, it asks us to hear the voice of the Lord calling us to shore up our courage and to come out of the tomb. The Gospel calls us to walk to the Lord and then to walk with the Lord as he shows us the way.As we go forward on our journey to Calvary, we should not fear the power of evil that so clearly fuels the plotting of the Pharisees. All evil in this world will have a short life. We need fear only our own weakness and vulnerability, our own false selves. From the deadness of our sinfulness and fears, we need to open our ears and our hearts to hear Jesus calling us to come into a new life.

How loving and compassionate is our God in the person of Jesus! He wept over Lazarus, wept over Jerusalem, he weeps over those killed through terrorism and war, through famine and disease, through murders and rapes- and-weeps when we fail to forgive one another.In these days of continued wars, terrorism, and ethnic hatreds, may we reflect on the truth that Jesus had to give his own life that we might have life and have it to the full.

Lent may be winding down, but there is still time for us to receive the sacrament of penance. There is still time left for our Lenten Spiritual Spring cleaning. There is still time for us to be at peace with ourselves and with our Lord. May we appreciate more each day that we are privileged to share with Jesus as Christians in his continual work of bringing the world from darkness to light, from hatred to forgiveness, and from death to life.We ask God today for the courage to walk away from that which is killing us and to walk towards the Light. We ask the Lord for the courage to walk towards the voice that is saying, Lazarus, Come out which in turn is asking us to come away from all that entombs us to  the everlasting love and mercy of God. 

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