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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “September, 2014”

26TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Well here we are at the weekend once more and again we are at the end of the month of September as we look towards the month of the Rosary, October. During the past week the order of the Sisters of Mercy (RSM)  celebrated the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Mercy International Centre at the foundation house in Baggot Street Dublin. In 1827, Catherine McCauley established a ‘House of Mercy’ in Baggot St and there she and her companions provided food, clothing, hospitality and education for many of Dublin’s poor. In 1831 she founded the Sisters of Mercy, and the first Mercy house of became her first convent. Today there are thousands of Mercy sisters working all over the world. Baggot St is now the International Centre of the Sisters of Mercy.  I  take this opportunity to pay a personal tribute to all the mercy sisters who have done so much for the people here in Northern Ireland and in particular here in north Belfast where I live. From education to healthcare they were at the forefront and  the backbone of so many apostolic works that may not have otherwise been undertaken particularly here in Belfast and so many other places.The  first pioneering sisters came to Belfast in 1854 and threw themselves into the educational and social work for which they would soon become renowned and I take this opportunity to thank God for them and all they have done and continue to do within the communities where they live.

Our readings this weekend are really all about the mercy of God. From the first reading which is about the sinner who decides to turn away from his sinful ways to choose life to the second reading where we are encouraged always to consider the other person to be better than yourself,  and then the gospel  Jesus is teaching his listeners through this parable.  He is telling the pompous and self-righteous to beware.  Jesus says they are out of line, off track, and in danger of not entering the kingdom of heaven. He says that it is risky for them to think they already know everything and ignore the fact that what they do is not pleasing to God.  Jesus surprises them by responding favorably to the actions of the tax collectors and prostitutes who may have gotten it wrong at first but have since repented and come back    Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out God’s perspective of the right thing to do.  How fortunate for us that Jesus advocates and even applauds repentance and the prodigal who comes to his senses comes back to God the Father!  

When we empty ourselves of our desire for status, position, respect, then we are like Christ, who humbled himself. For the Christian, empty means full. We empty ourselves of our concern for our self and find for ourselves that we become more Christ like. We often come upon the scripture passages where the Lord tells us to pick up our crosses and follow Him.  We know that this means accepting our suffering so the world can be filled with sacrificial love, and the Kingdom of God might grow. But we usually just relegate these passages to the way that we handle crises. Today’s second reading is more expansive. It tells us that to follow Christ we have to change our attitude in life to be like His.  We have to be like the One who humbled Himself. This is difficult. It is difficult because pride is so deeply rooted in each of us. But through the Grace of God we can conquer pride. And then we can be the people that God needs us to be for His Kingdom. Christ is the victor, even over our pride. And because He can conquer our pride, “He makes us an eternal offering to the Father.” 

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25th Sunday In Ordinary Time

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In this weekend’s gospel story  we hear about the Labourers in the vineyard. As unskilled workers, they lived day to day at a subsistence level, just above the homeless and destitute. In areas where such workers can got employment, they got   together in a common area known to employers. (In the time of Jesus, the marketplace acted as their gathering area). The employers sought the workers out, hired them only for the day, and paid them the same night . Day laborers in the vineyard objected to the amount of pay the owner gave them as the first was paid exactly the same as the last one denarius. This tense image rode against the popular view of the Kingdom as a peaceful feast of the faithful in paradise. Jesus told this story to emphasize how the Kingdom differed from people’s  ideas and expectations what people expected and the actual kingdom of God were two very different things. According to Jesus, the faithful, even those who practiced faith all life long, did not earn the Kingdom. The Father gave his children the Kingdom as a gift. The pay issue scandalized Jesus’ followers the most, however. Imagine the most dedicated and hard working were paid the same as the others. And they were paid last! Beyond the question of money lie the question of social treatment. The owner treated those who worked for only an hour as he would treat his own family. Those hired at dawn were treated as mere workers. The owner gave greater honor to those who worked the least by paying them well and paying them first. The owner belittled those who worked all day long by paying them so little and paying them last. And, when the workers grumbled, the owner rebuked them in public. No wonder they gave him the “evil eye.” [20:11-15]

If our  ways of thinking and judging are truly far from the Lord’s way, then we have some adjusting to do! Perhaps we  need to work harder in the areas of forgiveness, mercy, and generosity, to mention a few To think as God thinks requires openness and a broad vision, free of self-pity and selfish brooding. It takes a habit of gratitude. It means sitting down and reflecting, “What does God want me to do in this  or that situation?” It takes courage and humility and grace to act this way. It helps if we just ask ourselves a simple question: What would Jesus do we will act in the right way.

The parable of the  workers in the vineyard is the Lord’s call to all of us  who have received Him in word and sacrament to share generously with all people  what we  have received and that means sharing our resources and our time. All of us share equally in the task, whether called early in the morning or late in the evening of the day, we are called  to build up the kingdom of God in this  unjust and often times hard world. When we focus upon the needs of others, even if they encroach upon our rights, we give  ourselves for the Kingdom. Our work  becomes more honest and our leadership will then lead others to Christ. Ultimately, service means sacrifice. What are we willing to give up for the Kingdom of God as we proclaim the good news in word and deed?

EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS

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This weekend we celebrate the feast of the exaltation of the cross. The cross can be seen an instrument of torture and death as well as being a sign of great hope and joy. What does the cross of Christ say to you? For me it is a sign of contradiction because it is an implement of death and yet in the spiritual sense it gives life, Jesus went to the cross so that we would have life and have it in its fullness. There are so many people in our world who are asked to take up a cross of one sort or another perhaps ill health or whatever. I know a family that is having a wedding this Saturday without the mother of the house being with them. This particular lady died of Cancer a year or so ago and that is a cross the extended family circle will find particularly hard this weekend. We all have a cross that we are asked to carry with us at various times and we get the strength to carry on by prayer and the knowledge that we won’t be asked to carry a cross that we can’t handle.

The cross reminds us that God is in charge and has a plan for our ultimate well-being. We trust God who has made a promise to be faithful to us, and through the cross, he guarantees to see that promise come to completion. We sign ourselves with the cross as we enter and leave church and as we begin and end our prayers. Each time we do that we remember the God of the Promise the god who was who is and will be the one who will always be part of our journey. Signing ourselves with the cross also “reminds” God of God’s promise to be faithful to us.

Many people find the various crosses that they carry a very heavy weight. Over the years I have come across so many who have carried their cross which were very heavy burdens. Jesus carried all our crosses on his shoulders on that first Good Friday and no matter how hard life may seem we should remember this. In so doing, we will find healing, often a sense of joy, and a new ability to love ourselves and others and gain  greater strength to carry our crosses big and small.

23RD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Well we are now at the end of the summer holiday months of July and August  and all the schools in our locality are back in full swing and all the various clubs and societies that closed for the holidays are now gearing up for the new season. It seems to me that time waits for no one and this must be true enough when my nephew who is 22 years old was wondering why his life was passing by him so quickly. It is very true that life is passing by all of us both young and old along with all the other age groups in-between and the question to be asked of all of us is am I doing what god wants me to do with my life?  

In our Gospel passage for this Sunday St Matthew recounts Jesus’ instructions to the disciples about how they should deal with a brother who does something wrong. This same instruction applies to us and our dealings with other people in the here and now of today. This passage is very different from those of the two previous Sundays. They were dramatic stories, marked by deep emotions and with deep implications for the characters involved. This is a little gem of a passage but with little drama, a very practical, common-sense teaching on that most common and most prosaic of community problems – conflict.

It is a great wisdom teaching which continues to be valid for us in our own time. Management has become a science today, and Jesus’ teaching stands up well as a model of how to “manage” conflict in any situation.  It is the duty of the disciple we are told  to point out the error and even if our correction might not be well received. St Matthew wants to let the Christians in his community know how to deal with those who drift away from the teaching of Christ or blatantly contravene the commandments. And he chooses those words of Jesus which most stress the authority and the competence of the Christian community, the Church, to deal with these cases: Whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.  However, there are some safeguards built into this teaching on reproving those who go astray. Jesus says that first of all you must have it out with him alone. This might lead to a speedy solution and the person’s good name is preserved. Yet it seems  from the gospel reading that the only sanction is that the person be excluded from the community of the Church. That is surely the meaning of the words: treat him like a pagan or a tax collector treat him as an outsider. But in considering such matters we must be very careful; for getting all worked up about the behavior of someone else  can frequently be a sign of something else, something much closer to home.  Encountering the truth about another person and ourselves is daunting  because it makes us face up to the other person and ourselves and the weaknesses that are part of us and all we are.

We may try to make others a function of our egos, but it fails. Rather than enter the struggle, in many cases we ignore it. Our human relationships mirror our relationship with God sometimes good  often times not so good. Whenever we encounter each other—not only in prayer—Jesus is in our midst let us remember this as we go forward as people of faith.

 

 

 

 

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