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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

THE FEAST OF THE MARY THE MOTHER OF GOD 1st JANUARY 2015

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On Thursday January 1st we celebrate the feast of the Mary the mother of God It is also the beginning of the New Year. We pray in a special on this day way for Peace in a world that seems to be always at war with itself. Pope Francis speaks in his message for this day of being brothers and sisters instead of slaves; the message is worth reading and can be found on the Vatican website. In the West we celebrate January 1 as the inaugural day marking the beginning of the civil year. The faithful are also involved in the celebrations for the beginning of the New Year and exchange “new year” greetings. However,  while we exchange the new year greetings with each other we should try to lend a Christian understanding to this custom making of these greetings an expression faith in that regard there is no better teacher of faith than Mary the Mother of Jesus. Mary teaches us that being a disciple of Jesus is a matter of the heart: contemplating Jesus and allowing his presence to transform the thoughts, words and actions of our lives.    On New Year’s eve in our parish we have a holy hour at 11pm concluding with the first Mass of the new Year at midnight as the fireworks go off and the  Church bells ring in the areas around us.

On this feast we ask a special favor of Mary our mother and intercessor:  that the love we have for Jesus her son will Grow in our hearts and lives!  As We thank God for all that has been over the last year we pray  through the intercession of Mary mother of the Church that God  will be present with us in the good bad, happy and sad times we might encounter in the year that is ahead .

 

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HOLY FAMILY 2014

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This weekend we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, and it is as good time to stop and reflect on the meaning of the Christian Family. In past times the family unit consisted of the Mother and Father and the children and these days the family unit consists of maybe one parent and now we have the same sex marriages which are a recent  and maybe a not so good thing. We stop and remember exactly what the Christian family should mean for us who are people of Faith.

This Sunday, 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 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 his wife and mother of Jesus. Jesus grew in holiness and in knowledge of God’s will in the same ordinary ways that families do in our day. We  also remember the care that Mary and Joseph gave to Jesus. We recognize the sacrifice they made for their son, in the same way as we recognize the sacrifices our parents made for us  and many more  are making for their children today in our I want I get world.    As the world continues to change so too the idea of what Marriage and  the family means is constantly under fire. More and more we see single parent families and now we have the so-called equality agenda which is challenging the Christian concept of Marriage by its promotion of same sex marriages which by their definition are wrong.

For us who have come together to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the feast is a reminder of all that Christ has meant to us, and all that he continues to mean to us.  We came into his presence and company on the day we were led into the House of God to be baptised.  We have met him many times since. For example, in the guidance protection, the goodness and kindness, and the love and support, of our parents!  In the friendship of many other family members and of many other significant people in our lives! And in things that have happened to us good and not so good! We have also met Christ in the sacraments we have celebrated, and especially those of Reconciliation, Eucharist, Anointing, Marriage and for some ordination to holy orders.

In this Sundays  Gospel reading Simeon makes his prophecy about Christ’s destiny and as it says, ‘the child’s father and mother stood there wondering about him. Every parent wonders about their children. Every parent is full of hope for their children. Over a period of time this might turn in to fear and anxiety, but the fundamental feeling of hope is still there. We hope that everything will turn out well for them; we hope that they will make a success of life; we hope that they will be safe and keep out of trouble; we hope that they will be happy. 

As we think about family life as we knew it when we were growing and what it is now we pray that the great ideal of the Family, that is the Father Mother with their children will continue to be cherished and not diminished. 

CHRISTMAS DAY 2014

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At Christmas the Christian Churches throughout the world celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ, it is the first day in the octave of Christmas as well “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The Son of God became man to give us a share in that divine life which is eternally His in the Blessed Trinity. Throughout the Advent season we have waited for the coming of our Savior. Then on the 25th of December we celebrate His birth with unrestrained joy. But as joyful as we might like to be we should remember that for a large number of people young and not so young Christmas is not a happy time. Not happy because many are homeless, because they are not able to provide for their families the way they would like. We need to remember that in many houses throughout the country things are not as good as they might be. Children are not unwrapping the presents as they may well have none. Many families are not preparing to sit down to a big Christmas dinner because they are going hungry again as there is not much food in the cupboard and the little food that they may have may well have come from a food bank or other charities such as St. Vincent DePaul and the Salvation army and we remember the charities and their outreach as well.

During the Christmas season there is an extensive exchange of greetings and good wishes among friends. These greetings are a reminder of those “good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people, for this day is born to you a Savior Who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11). They are a reminder, too, that all blessings and graces come to us from Christ. During the Christmas season there is also an exchange of gifts. But with the exchange of gifts comes the responsibility to remember those who have little or nothing at all in terms of a roof over their heads and food in the cupboard

During Christmas we are reminded  of the mystery of Mary as Mother of God, mother of the Incarnated Word, and mother of His mystical body, the Church. Christmas encourages us to contemplate Jesus together with Mary, reflecting on Jesus with ‘His mother’, as recounted many times in the Gospels. Our faith cannot neglect a profound devotion to the Mother of God, as she shows us the easiest way to reach Jesus. In the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes the inscription on the mosaic over the Altar is to Jesus through Mary and the mosaic shows Mary with open arms and again at the wedding at Cana  Mary told the attendants as she tells us do whatever he tells you. These are two pointers for us in our modern day as to what we should do in order to follow the light of Christ Christmas also reminds us of the great mystery of God’s people, the Church animated by the life giving Spirit, governed by the legitimate shepherds in communion with the successor of Peter.

So, why do we celebrate Christmas? It is more than the birth of Jesus. It is a celebration of God with us. It is the realization that God’s love for us and faithfulness to us dwells among us. It is a sign that we are to carry that love and faithfulness to other people. Like the Baptist, we, too, are to witness to God’s living, breathing Word and we are called to rejoice and be faithful so let us adore the Lord Jesus in the manger the reason for the season and bring his love and joy to those we meet in the days ahead.

4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2014

 

This weekend we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent and we hear the story of the Angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. But as we hear this story we should stop and step aside from all the ongoing activities of this time of year to think about how Mary felt when she got this news that she was to have a child. Luke tells , ” she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” The angel has to reassure her, “Do not fear Mary.” – she must have been afraid. In that uneasy world of Galilee, a place of conflict and struggle, Mary’s personal response showed confusion and doubt. Still, Mary did not get a roadmap of the future – neither do we. All her questions weren’t answered – nor are ours. Gabriel announced the conception and birth of royalty. Mary’s child would be “great” (as unique and history changing, like Alexander the “Great”). He would be Son of the “Most High” (a title for the greatest God, the highest concept of divinity one could have. As we discussed last week, the title “Son of” indicated a unique, intimate relationship with this highest God and a sharing in this God’s power). He would have the Davidic throne of Israel forever. [1:32]

 

Mary made room for God in her life. She and the saints are more like us than the arts or literature about them show. They are amazingly human that is like you and me and it is among them, in all their human limitations, that God wants to dwell – among people who despite struggle and doubt, can say “Yes” to God. Scripture suggests God wants to enter more fully into our lives; our not-so-neat and orderly lives but our messy lives with all the good and bad and all the happy and sad times that are part and parcel of our lives. Mary accepted, even proclaimed, God’s will in her life. She placed her future in the hands of the Father so should we. Her example should inspire us to stand firm as Christians in today’s ever-changing fads and fancies and especially as we face up to the secular razzmatazz in the run up to Christmas. Remember, the words of others may sting, but the Spirit of God burns within. The divine fire can withstand the darts others fling toward us.

 

 

 

3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT GAUDETE SUNDAY

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This weekend we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of advent also known as Gaudete Sunday or Rejoicing 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 the birthday of Christ is near, and we also light the rose candle on the Advent wreath. Again we hear John the Baptist in the Gospel Reading for this Sunday where he calls us to renewal and repentance in our lives and the lives of others when he calls all of us to make way for the lord

The question for us this “Gaudete” Sunday is how do we measure our lives and how do we make straight the ways of the Lord? By what standard do we live, work, and relate to the world and with those around us ? How do we encounter and relate to God? Advent the same as Lent has at its heart the message and the call to repentance, to what the Greeks called “metanoia ”which means to come back. In Advent we look towards a different measure for life and this is hard as we continue our preparations for the razzmatazz of Christmas

The secular world’s way to peace and happiness is always a focus on individual achievement to the exclusion of others. The way of God does not focus on the achievements of  the individual at the exclusion  of the other. We as people of god should realize that The Messiah’s message, revealed in his words and his deeds, provide us with a different standard  to live by a standard where all are valued and none are left out. A standard where all people are valued Sons or daughters of God and known as such .

I stated at the beginning that we are celebrating the joy of Gaudete Sunday which is about the happiness and rejoicing of Jesus the son of god being near. 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 joy of Christmas will come to us if we set about actively trying to create it for others. If I go about my life demanding that others carry me rather than seeking to carry them; feeding off others rather than feeding them; demanding that others meet my needs rather than trying to meet theirs, joy will never find me no matter how hard I party or try to crank up the Razzmatazz and the good cheer.

The Joy we have at Christmas is not really about Partying or the Secular Razzmatazz of the ongoing parties etc instead it is really about Jesus Christ the Son of God who is for us the light in the darkness. It is about really reaching out to others family members, friends and relations those who we might not value as much as we should. Indeed those who the secular world really count for nothing.

We joyfully praise God on this Gaudete Sunday. We thank him for all he has done for us in our own lives and in the lives of all those who are dear to us, families and friends whoever. We rejoice that through the coming of his Son Jesus we have come to know the Father. We do what we can to imitate Jesus life, to follow his Gospel of love in a spirit of joy. As we continue our Advent journeys  along the roads that lead to salvation let us prepare the way for the Lord in our own lives remembering that in  the words of the Antiphon  we should rejoice, that is Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. the Lord is near. 

2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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Here we are at the second Sunday of Advent as the seconds, minutes, hours and weeks continue to pass away as we hurtle towards Christmas at breakneck speed. Just think about the amount of money the various shops and many other places  and people are making but as the shops make their money I wonder how many of the people spending that money without rhyme or reason really understand the meaning of Advent and Christmas. Advent is all about WAITING and this weekend we continue our wait as we light the second purple candle on the Advent Wreath. In the gospel reading John the Baptist the voice in the wilderness takes centre stage as he calls us to prepare the way and make the paths straight for the lord. He also tells us that there is someone coming after him who is more powerful than he was and that he was not fit to undo the strap of his sandal. So are we making the paths straight for the lord as we try to make sense of all the ongoing razzmatazz or are we going with the flow, just too busy with all the secular preparations to really take notice of the importance of the preparation that John the Baptist talks about? 

We need to remember that John the Baptist was called to reawaken the sense of expectation among a people that had grown tired and distant from God as many have done in our present time.   John was called to bring renewal to the institutional expressions of religion which, at the time, had so often become fossilized into mere formulae or external ritual.  This too is what has happened to a large extent within the Church these days. However having said that at the present time under Pope Francis our Church is being renewed for the work that needs to be done in our time and place with all its problems and opportunities. 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 own lives or the life of the Church.

As the journey of Advent continues we prepare to celebrate the nativity of Christ, John the Baptist’s call to conversion sounds out in our communities. As we continue our preparations for the razzmatazz of Christmas let us not forget the true and lasting message of Christmas a message that has lasted for over 2,000 years and the message is that god came among us.

All of us are called to take up the Baptists call of renewal, it is the call to reawaken within ourselves the fact that Jesus is god with us Emmanuel who will make the glory of his voice be heard and seen through us in the Joy we give to others and the Joy of that is there in our own hearts.  Christianity is a religion of anticipation. We await the coming of the Lord in glory. We also await that magical razzmatazz of the Christmas season, a time of peace. So as we continue our preparation for Christmas will it be the secular razzmatazz that will take over our celebration of Christmas or will it be Jesus the Child in the Manger the reason for the season who will take his  place amongst our families friends and  all the other things? We need to refocus ourselves as we try to prepare the way for the Lord doing our best to make his paths straight, especially in the our own lives.

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