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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “February, 2015”

Second Sunday of Lent

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Well here we are at the second Sunday of Lent. It is hard to believe but time is marching on. In the Gospel reading for this weekend we hear about Jesus going up the mountain taking Peter and James and John, with him and we hear the voice from the cloud identifying  Jesus as “my beloved Son.”  the God who speaks to the disciples on the mountain directs them to Jesus and instructs them and us, “Listen to him” and our journey during lent is a journey of listening to scripture and listening to one another as we tell our own stories of faith. Jesus invites us to an exciting journey as a matter of fact our lives if lived in faith should be an exciting journey from birth right until we get to the pearly gates when we die. “The kingdom of God is at hand, Repent, and believe the Good News is all about Lent and in a particular way it is our call to take up the spiritual fight beginning on Ash Wednesday.  We’re not invited to a trip to Disneyland or any other holiday place we might want to go to. Instead we are called to explore the great depths of God’s love for us as we try to move and live in God’s Spirit as we climb the mountain of the Lord which is represented by our faith led observance of Lent.

2015  happens to be the Year of Consecrated Life, it is a time in  which we honor and support those who give total commitment to following Jesus Christ. Many people have taken up the call to go on an exciting journey of faith as priests, brothers and nuns in so many diocese and religious orders throughout the world.

 

Lent provides inspiration for all Christians  to remember and celebrate the days of their Baptism and Confirmation. Every year we hope to rise again from the ashes of our sins and failures “to recreate ourselves anew.” Every year we take a journey, a pilgrimage through the penance, self-discipline, prayer, and  good works in Lent leading  to the refreshing Easter waters of renewal. For many their journey began last Sunday in the cathedral churches as they began the journey to their Baptism at Easter as Catechumens. The  Catechumens are led to the sacraments of initiation by means of the rite of election, the scrutinies and catechesis. The faithful, listening more intently to the word of God and devoting themselves to prayer accompany them on their journey and  through a spirit of repentance all of us are able to renew our baptismal promises at the Easter Masses. We remember once again the voice of god from the cloud, our heavenly father identifying  Jesus as “his beloved son.”  The god who speaks to the disciples  also speaks to us and directs all of us to Jesus. That same voice of God also  instructs us  to “listen to him” may we sit up and take note of what he is saying and not be afraid to do what he asks of us.

 

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1ST SUNDAY OF LENT 2015

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Well Lent has begun, after the ashes of Ash Wednesday comes the commitment of the next 6 weeks. Our gospel story for this weekend tells us about Jesus going out into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  God asks us to undertake this time of renewal and that is why we have the penitential season of Lent. Why do we have Lent every year? Why penance? Why fasting? Why almsgiving? What does that have to do with us? If we take our faith seriously then Lent, penance, fasting and almsgiving have a great deal to do with all of us.

This reading from the Gospel of Mark also tells us that the time has come for us to repent and believe in the Good News. It is an ancient custom in the Church that the story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert should be read on the first Sunday of Lent. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness. At the beginning of the forty days of Lent the Church always puts before us his time of solitude and it also puts before us a time for renewal. We ask ourselves what in our homes, at work, local, and parish communities needs to be changed for so many are out there in the wilderness of a godless faithless life.

During the season of Lent we stop to take stock of where we are in our lives and where we really need to be as people of faith who believe in God. These next few weeks will be a time of refreshment, a time of repentance and also a time of renewal that prepare us for Holy Week and Easter. So now as we begin Lent we are invited to commit our lives fully to God and God’s ways remembering that god’s ways are not our ways. Jesus preaches “Metanoia” – that is “Repentance” – which requires change of heart, mind and Spirit. Let us ask ourselves whether we are open to be really changed as gods people s so we will be able to enter more fully into the great ceremonies of our redemption during Holy Week and Easter.

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ASH WEDNESDAY 2015

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Here we are once again at the beginning of the holy season of Lent. It seems like yesterday when we began our observances of this Holy Season with the Ashes and the words repent and believe in the Gospel for Lent 2014.  But here we are on the ongoing circle of the year and have arrived at Ash Wednesday. In a packed programme over the next six weeks we will give up things and we will take up things. I like to think of Lent as a time when we take up things such as the daily Mass we have mass at 7.30am each weekday or perhaps we might travel the road of the Way of the Cross. It is also a time when we give up things in order to renew our spiritual lives. There are so many opportunities to give up and take up things to renew our spirit there are also chances to give alms to other people through Trocaire and other agencies. 

A few days ago I spoke in this blog about many who are disheartened by what they see within the Church of recent times Young and Old sense what seems to be the tedium and a staleness about our religion and our practice of our faith. Lent is a time to change that within ourselves! Though we live in the world and are of the world we need to remember that all of us who have to deal with and live in the world should not become engrossed in it as the world and its life has taken many people including at times you and me  down the wrong road and that road  leads one  away from god and his ways. Lent then is a good time to start a renewal within ourselves and our Church and it is a time to banish the tedium and staleness within our lives of faith.  When we come to Palm Sunday we will be able to sing Hosanna with renewed heart and mind  and then during Holy Week and Easter we will truly be able to celebrate the great things that God has done for us and is doing in our lives.

6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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Last Wednesday  on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes we as the universal Church celebrated the world day of prayer for the sick this year  the theme chosen by pope Francis was “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame” (Job 29:15). On that day we prayed in a special way for the sick and those who care for them. This Sunday in our parish we celebrate the anointing of the Sick and the reading from the Gospel is the healing of the leper. Our Gospel story tells us  about the Leper going to Jesus who healed him but it is about much more than just the healing, it is about the faith that the leper had in Jesus. It is also about the faith we have in Jesus.  After he heals him Jesus tells the man to be silent. He wants the miracle to be personal and quiet for a purpose. The man is to go first to the priests and go through the ritual cleansing prescribed in Leviticus (14:1ff.) Maybe the priests would ask the man how he was cured and then they would hear about Jesus. Who better to give witness to Jesus than someone whose life has been changed by him? Who better to witness to the strength, joy, encouragement, hope and direction that Jesus gives us than one who has been transformed by him?  The man’s life was changed not by any observance of religious codes or rituals, but by Jesus’ compassion, touch and words. We have to ask ourselves are our own lives changed by the words and compassion of Jesus?

Do we  show the same confidence in Jesus that the leper did?  Do we allow ourselves to be transformed by the compassion and words of Jesus in order to show the compassion of Jesus to others? Each one of us know what needs to be put right in our own situation, where we are and as we begin Lent next Wednesday we stop and thank God for the faith we have. May we share the healed man’s enthusiasm to make known the goodness of God. As we begin the season of Lent  with the Ashes next Wednesday with all the opportunities it provides for renewal of our spiritual lives Let us pray for a spirit of compassion and understanding as we journey through Lent to the great celebration of Holy Week and Easter.

Our Lady of Lourdes 11th February

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Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. Lourdes has been a great place of pilgrimage and healing for over 150 years. So many people have been healed physically and spiritually and even more have been given the strength to continue their lives despite great hardships. I have been to Lourdes many times at this stage too many to count and I like so many others have got strength from the healing waters of the spring and the way that life is lived there. At Lourdes we see the brotherhood of man working together in service of the sick and those in need. Lourdes is one of the most important “places of grace” where countless people  have put on the snow white garments of spiritual rebirth and renewal ! One of the reasons why I go on pilgrimage to Lourdes is to see things more clearly, to get the bigger picture of what is going on in my life. All of us come, with our own worries and intentions for our pilgrimage. We come to pray with and for the invalids who are with us, we come to pray for our families and friends, for our parishes  dioceses and our countries.

But we find ourselves here with other people on our own pilgrimage and with people on other pilgrimages and there are countless nationalities who are praying for their own intentions and worries, their invalids, their families, their countries. All of us are on a journey to a house, the house of God that has many rooms. There is room in it for every person of every place and time to be fully at home, fully transformed, fully healed. The wonder of God is not just that he can and will care for each one of us with a love so powerful that it will fully answer all our deepest hopes and longings – the wonder is that God’s love offers complete fulfillment to every human being who ever lived or whoever will live – to the peoples from every nation and from every period of history from the past to the present and way on into the future. This is really what Lourdes is about the Love of God in action. Bernadette saw the Lady dressed in white, whereas we don’t see her with our eyes but with our heart, which is aware in faith of her presence on our journey through life.

The apparitions have sustained countless souls, encouraging them on the path of conversion and personal sanctification. And their change of heart has helped improve the world because the whole world benefits from the conversion of even one heart.There are so many stories that I could tell about Lourdes and what it means to me stories both funny and sad but the one factor in my life that I am so grateful for is that all my friends and I have one thing in common that is all of us have been to Lourdes at least once or more!! So today as we celebrate and thank God for the gift that St. Bernadette and Lourdes are to the Church and the people of God my prayer is  that many graces will come to all who visit this place of healing during 2015.

5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we celebrate the 5th Sunday of ordinary time on the 18th of February we begin the annual celebration of Lent on Ash Wednesday.  It is so hard to believe that we are now into the second month of 2015 but time does not wait for anyone and that includes you and me. This weekend here in our diocese of Down and Connor we have the annual vocations weekend for those young men who are in the process of discernment for a vocation to the priesthood in our diocese. In my lifetime I have known many great and good priests and to my great regret I have also known a number of priests who turned out to be some of the rotten apples in the barrel! But despite all of this men and women young and not so young  are still coming forward to join the priesthood and the religious life . We have a vocation as lay men and women and that vocation is to pray to the Lord that he will send labourers into his harvest. So many have become disheartened by what they see within the Church of recent times and our youth get this in a particular way, they are certainly no dozers. They sense what seems to be the tedium and the staleness about our religion and our practice of our faith. We are often told “Mass is so boring,”. Well, surely you won’t find much entertainment there—especially if you compare it to the  fifty or more available TV and cable channels and the razzmatazz of pop culture.

 We should not expect novelty and slickness from a sacred communal practice of faith, which has as its  hallmarks of which great tradition, universality, and stability of form which is the Eucharist?  We also need to remember that our future as the Church is not with the Golden Oldies on their own nor is the future with the young on their own or indeed any individual grouping within the church. Instead the future lies with the young and old with all the groups within the Church working together as the body of Christ the Church.  All of us were young once and in our own time we were the future of the Church and now our sons and daughters, grand children nephews and nieces are now the future of the Church and in their turn their children will be its future and so the Church as Christ’s Body will continue. But the question for the here and now of our present time is how do we reconnect with all those who have left the Church Young Old and all the in-betweens. I was asked this question recently by a mother of a 16 year old who did not want to go to Mass at all she asked how do I get him to go to Mass when he really is not interested? we need to reconnect as Church with the people young and old where they are and not where we might want them to be.

In the Gospel Reading for this Sunday, Jesus comes to Peter’s house, he finds that Peter’s mother-in-law is sick, and he heals her. And then look what happens. The whole town hears of her healing and rushes all their sick to Peter’s house. The house is surrounded, and so is Jesus. Now, all of a sudden, Jesus seems to have become a one-man hospital the man who heals all their ills. He is so besieged that he can’t even pray in the house. He has to head out secretly into the countryside in the dark of morning. When his absence is detected, his disciples go looking for him. “Hey,” they say, when they find him, “Everybody is looking for you!” I honestly believe that today people of all ages are out there looking to find Jesus seeking to find the things of lasting value they are out there looking for Jesus and in their time and place they are finding him. Many have come to know that the things of God and the Spirit are built on solid foundations of the rock of faith instead of the things and values of the world that are built on sand and have no lasting value.

 To all of you whoever you are wherever you are reading this I ask you to pray for vocations to all the varied states of life and living religious and otherwise. We remember that the definition of the word vocation include so many fields of work that are outside the religious sphere. In a few days time we begin Lent with the Ashes of Ash Wednesday and as part of our prayer time during the six weeks that are lent we might spare a prayer for all those who are searching for God and for all of us who have found him that all of us will be steady on the search and faith filled when we find God as Christians.

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