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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

22ND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TME

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THE CROSS OF CHRIST

Well here we are at the last weekend of August and the youngsters are going back to school. Here in this part of Ireland the kids have been on holiday for the last 2 months and I think at this stage everyone will be happy to get back to the daily routine of school and home life. I met a friend of mine with her grandchild on Thursday and the youngster looked lovely in her new school uniform as she was changing to first year in a new school, how time flies. I remember that this particular girl had her legs in splints when she was born and the doctors thought that she mightn’t walk at all and here she was walking towards me with a big smile on her face.

In our gospel reading for this Sunday we see Jesus telling his disciples that ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. He also says that to us in the here and now of today, also in the gospel Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes this was a pointer to all that happened on Good Friday.Peter knew that Jesus was the messiah awaited by God’s people, but he did not understand that Jesus would be a suffering messiah a suffering servant.  But it did happen to Jesus, and it happens to those who follow him: “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self (and) take up his cross.”In the first reading Jeremiah had foretold the suffering of those who work for the coming of the kingdom: “All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me … The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.”

Among all the religious symbols in the world none is more universal than the cross. You see crosses everywhere, on walls, on hillsides, in churches, in houses, in bedrooms, on chains around peoples’ necks, on rings, on ear-rings, on old people, on young people, on believers, and on people who aren’t sure in what they believe. Not everyone can explain what the cross means or why they choose to wear one, but most everyone has an the sense that it is a symbol, perhaps the ultimate symbol, for depth, love, fidelity, and faith. We are told  in our gospel reading to deny our very selves and follow Jesus by taking up the crosses that might come our way.  It is so easy to say this but with grace, we can do exactly what Jesus asks of us!

 With the goal of eternal life as our focus, the grace of god enables difficult things to become not only possible, but easier for us.   We can find the life God wants us to live.  We can embrace ways to proclaim the Good News in word and deed.  Nothing else makes much sense… if we keep our goal in mind.  What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit eternal life? The sick the old the sad the young and the old they all have a special need of our prayer. Today we pray for all those who find the burden of the cross they carry too hard to bear and we hold them in prayer. That god will be with them as well as ourselves and help all of us along the road of faith.

 

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21ST SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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At the end of next week the youngsters start to go back to school, I can just see my mother at the bottom of the stairs shouting up to us ‘Will you get up out of your beds its 8.00  and the bus will be away without you’!!! we didn’t want to get up. There was always something reassuring about another school year beginning because all the clubs etc that closed for the summer break would reopen and the area would get busier again. So much has changed since my mother stood at the bottom of the stairs trying to get us out of bed to get going again for September. It has been a long and eventful 30 years since I was at school but I don’t think I would want my life to be any other way that the way it is at the present time with god and my family as central points in the ever changing world.

In The Gospel reading we have this weekend we hear Jesus asking the question WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?  It is a powerful question to ask anyone. Jesus firstly asks the apostles who do the people say I am they told him that the people thought that he was John the Baptist, or Elijah or maybe even one of the prophets. But then Jesus asks the question of those closest to him his disciples as today he asks you and me WHO DO YOU SAY I AM? When Jesus puts his question to Peter, and to us, he isn’t asking about public opinion. He is asking Peters opinion in the same way he is asking us for our answer to his question WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?

Peter gave the right answer to Jesus’ question, when he said ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God. Peter got it right and went on to become the rock on which the church was founded Jesus gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven to Peter and through his successors right down to Pope Francis in our present time. Jesus is the one who had come to liberate not only those enslaved by Rome, but all who are poor and oppressed. He can liberate those diminished by sin, dominated by colonial powers, oppressive national debt, violence and enslavement of any kind. His liberating power was handed on to Peter and his companions. If Jesus was to ask us the question today who do you say I am what would we say in answer? Throughout history, people have attempted to answer this question. Today it is popular for people to simply make something up, to make of Jesus whatever occurs to them, is convenient or “believable.” I think C.S. Lewis put it best: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He’d be either a lunatic- on a level with a man who says he’s a poached egg – or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. We often question God’s judgments or ways and sometimes rather negatively.  As we re-think the place of Jesus in our lives, may we come to know the security of being in God’s hands through the suffering of Jesus’s hands on the cross.  May we find comfort in the continual workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  May we rejoice in the abundant love of our Triune God  

 

20TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

Faith

Well here we are at the middle of August, with just two weeks to go before the schools reopen after the long 8 week holidays of July and August. When you stop to think about it time just seems to be passing by. It is worrying when a 23 year tells you that his life is flashing by his eyes what must it be doing for those who are older?

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is all about the faith of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was being tormented by a devil, but when you read the story we realize it is really about  the great faith that she has and it was that faith in Jesus that cured her daughter even though she had to be persistent in dealing with the Lord. The woman in today’s Gospel story is not satisfied with just tears though.  Her daughter “is tormented by a demon.”   Parents among us know what that might feel like and how fiercely we would spring into action if a “cure” was before us for our own sick child.   She cries out and asks Jesus for help … and perseveres even when the disciples try to send her away and Jesus Himself rebuffs her!  Jesus relents because great is her faith.

In the same story we see much about ourselves and our own faith.  Over a number of years I have been involved with many people who have been praying for this or that or for or a member of their families and very often they have said to me that the prayers have not been heard let alone answered. I have always told them to hang in there to persist and not give up in the prayers because they are always heard and this has been the case with so many people throughout history. In the same way as the Canaanite woman  pestered Jesus  we should never give up though we mightn’t have our requests granted when WE want them they will be granted when we really need the things that we are praying for. A friend of mine is constantly praying for her son and thankfully her prayers are being answered but sometimes as happens in all families the road can be a bit rocky along the way but we have to keep on going. The message of today’s readings is all about FAITH life can be a bit of a pickle with good and bad things within it, but a life lived with faith will see all the various obstacles being removed. Would our faith be as persistent as the faith of the woman in this Sundays Gospel? Only you can answer that one and I hope that your faith is persistent like the Canaanite woman whose daughter Jesus Cured because faith moves mountains !!

19TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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At the beginning of this week we had the centenary of the start of the First World War which was called the war to end all wars. As we know all too well the great war of 1914 did not  stop the world going to war many times after it ended in 1918. We only have to look at the modern world that we live in  to see so many places at war and Syria, Israel and Gaza, and the Ukraine all come to mind this weekend. We pray for those who have died or are being persecuted and we pray for peace.

The gospel reading this weekend is all about  Jesus  walking on water but if you look beyond the walking on water this story is really about trust and faith in God. We have no problem identifying with Peter he is so like ourselves . He is confident one moment and then, when things get difficult and he has bitten off more than he can chew, he falls apart. By then it is too late and he needs help. Life is like that, we start at something like a new job, college, marriage, or a project to help others, but then it gets complex and beyond what we are capable of. We didn’t realize it was going to require so much time and effort! We are sinking, we are drowning. Not an uncommon experience in so many situations of life and in the way we deal with them.

God doesn’t always give us an immediate cure or a fast solution when we bring ourselves in prayer  as well as  the problems of the day to God.  God, through Jesus, is not a distant Father aloof from our problems. Jesus shows us that when he reaches out a hand to Peter and to us he is companion with us in the storms of life.

At times we may well be floundering, like Peter, but Jesus reaches out to help us, to rescue us. What better image of salvation could there be than Jesus reaching out to Peter to save him from drowning. What better analogy could there be of our own lives and relationship with Jesus. We live messy lives, we doubt and we lack faith but nevertheless we are still moving towards the Lord. In the days ahead when we flounder and start to sink Jesus will be  there for us, reaching out with his saving hand ready to raise us up.

18TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Well here we are at the beginning of August its seems no time since the schools closed for the long summer break at the end of June and yet here we are halfway through the holidays!! It will be no time until the new uniforms etc will have to be bought and the schools will reopen at the beginning of September and the summer holidays for 2014 will be a distant but hopefully a  good memory.

In our Gospel story for this Sunday we hear about the feeding of the five thousand. The gestures and words of Jesus in the Gospel bring to mind the Last Supper The Gospel writer is making clear references in this miracle story to the Eucharist.

The people in this story are a crowd that realize Jesus had something to offer them in their “deserted places.” Jesus wasn’t just filling their stomachs. They were not the rich, the famous, the educated or the powerful; they were the afflicted and the marginalized people that Jesus went out of his way to seek out.  Life may have passed them by, but Jesus didn’t.  He took note of them, and they in turn saw in him a place to be nourished, a place where deep hungers and longings would be fulfilled.

The physical bread of the miracle story was of temporary value. It could not satisfy deeper spiritual hungers, but it was a sign that Jesus can and that his heart is moved with pity for us. Notice how he handled the food with reverence, the same reverence he felt for the crowd whom he knew were the beloved of God. The sign for us today  is that we too are the beloved of God and we will not be left hungry or alone for God is with us in the good and bad and happy and sad things that are part and parcel  of our daily life.

 

 

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