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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

17TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Well here we are nearly at the end of July and for us here in Ireland the summer break is almost at the half way mark. I’m sure the kids have been enjoying their time off from school and by the same token I am sure their parents are pulling their hair out wondering what are we going to do next, these days family life is not easy!!!

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we hear the story of the feeding of the five thousand. The crowd is huge can you imagine five thousand people and all of them are hungry: for physical food in a deserted place and hungry for still more. They are hungry to be acknowledged, to feel counted and recognized. Like those of us gathered for Eucharist each Sunday, they are also hungry for what Jesus had to say about God. They hunger to know that God is on their side, when the rest of the world considers them insignificant. How can their physical hungers be fed, there is no food around? How can their spiritual and human hungers be noticed, their need to feel important, and their hunger to know God be filled? In their Roman- occupied world they are slaves. In their religious world, a long way from the seat of their faith in Jerusalem and the religious elite, these Galileans were considered next to pagans;

ignorant and a long way from God when in truth they were nearer to God than many of the righteous people of the day. There is some food there, but almost nothing in the light of the numbers who are hungry. In this story the food of the poor barley bread counts and it is not an insignificant gift. It’s given by a boy, it’s all he has, and he makes it available.We tend to measure the size of any problem that may arise and then back away, shrugging our shoulders, “What can I do about such a big problem?” Well we in simple terms have to face the problems head on and the boy in this Gospel is a good example for us: better to do something about the situation we are in than nothing at all. The life implication of this gospel is simple: Jesus wants to work the miracle of feeding a huge number of people who are hungry; but the miracle will not happen without someone to provide five barley loaves and two fish. The end of this passage is important: “and all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces”. Jesus asked the disciples to ensure that nothing was wasted: nothing thrown out!

The people in this story realize that Jesus had something to offer them in the deserted and lonely places in their lives. Jesus wasn’t just filling their stomachs he was also nourishing their souls. They weren’t rich, famous, educated or powerful; they were the afflicted and 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 of life would be fulfilled. The Gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves proclaims who Jesus is and provides food for thought and prayer. This Gospel also proclaims who we are as people who are hungry for what Jesus the bread of life has to say to us about God.  Are we prepared to open our ears and listen to the message of Jesus in the Gospel so that we can pass that message on in what we say and do in our lives ?

16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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As we listen to the scripture readings this weekend we hear about shepherds. The first reading is a call to those who were not good shepherds who allowed the flock to be both destroyed and scattered to come to their senses. And the gospel story seems to suggest that we should separate ourselves from our work at times in order to find some peace and quiet. That is surely part of it as we are often encouraged to go on retreat, but something much more profound is the issue here. We must in fact find the quiet place in our hearts to which we can withdraw at any time, whether at work or at play. It is in this quiet place that we ponder the word of God, our loving Father. These words are spoken to all of us, just as they were to Jesus in his time. The biblical reader knows the significance of a “deserted place.” We recall that, after God delivered the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery, God led them out to the desert and tended them with food and drink. And more! In the desert God revealed himself to the people and made a lasting covenant with them.

Jesus is doing what God did for the people in the desert. He teaches them “many things.” They are spoken softly but very insistently. When we take time to hear them in that quiet place in our hearts, there is nowhere else that we would rather be, for they affirm us and liberate us to be all that we are meant to be.  When this happens, we are no longer like sheep without a shepherd, no longer confused about the meaning of life or about our ability to live in peace and joy. One may object that, if this happens, we will soon be “out of touch or distracted or living in fantasy. But that does not happen when we are really in touch with God, we become far more attuned to what is real in life than the so-called “practical people” do. Those who really encountered Christ, especially the Apostles had an anchor in their lives. That anchor was the care of Jesus the Good Shepherd for each of those around him in his day. This is the Christ we to believe in today, he is the good shepherd who cares for us in the here and now of our daily existence. We remember the words from the psalm The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want Or just to change it a wee bit Jesus is Our  Shepherd there is nothing we shall want.

15TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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This Sunday our Gospel reading is all about Mission. Jesus summons the twelve apostles and sends them out on a missionary tour.  The chosen followers of Jesus have to carry the word of God as a challenge to others. In that mission the apostles have the authority and the power of Jesus. They have to travel on that. They are not to rely on their own resources but on the authority that has been given to them and the hospitality that will be offered them. With no bread and no money, they have to depend on the kindness of others: that vulnerability makes their message their real resource. If they have bread to eat, it means that people are not only hospitable to them but to the word they preach. If they are not accepted, they have no option but to move on. And when a town rejects their message, the apostles are to shake the dust from their feet – a symbolic act performed by strict Jews returning to Palestine after journeying abroad. The Twelve went out and preached. Jesus and his Twelve preached that God would adopt humanity, making its members which include you and me “sons” and “daughters” of the Father This was Good News then just as it is now!  In recent times we have seen the decline in people attending Church in our parishes for many reasons and I think we need to be like the twelve who were sent out with the message of Jesus but with one difference we need to seek out those who do not want to hear the message instead of shaking the dust off our feet we really need to let our feet get dirty. We have to have carry the word of God as a challenge to others and it should also be a challenge to ourselves in our time and place. There is much within the Church that needs to be challenged but there is so much more that is of value even now. In telling us about the beginning of the church in so dramatic a fashion, Mark, wants to be certain that disciples in his church and in the church  of our time will be mindful of some important implications. We, like the first disciples, are inadequate for the task; yet Christ’s mission for God’s kingdom is given to us. If we labor under the illusion that we can bring about God’s reign on our own, we will be advancing something other than God’s kingdom on earth. Paul refers to his experience of preaching the gospel as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1: 1831). He relishes saying “we are fools for Christ’s sake? Because he understands that it is because of his weakness that the power of Christ can dwell in him (1 Corinthians 4: 10 and 2 Corinthians 12: 9). Of course, we know that is a task not confined to the clergy or to religious sisters and brothers. It is the job of every single member of the Church. The message of hope from today’s Gospel is that we don’t have to communicate the Gospel in highfaluting or overly technical language. We will be far more effective if we just use ordinary words and simple concepts. We don’t have to have spent years of study before we can explain what Christ means; we can do it quite easily using concepts we already understand as well as examples from our own lives.

The crucial point in the Gospel  is that by doing things Jesus’ way the Apostles get close to the people, they understand their concerns and they share their life. There is no better way of communicating the love of God to the people around us than sharing the concerns of others and getting close to the people of God. Let us be fools for Christ like St. Paul as we remember that it is through our weakness that the power of Christ can dwell in us and work through us for other people.

14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This Sundays  Gospel sees Jesus going back to his roots in Nazareth. This is not a social visit: like other towns in Galilee, Nazareth and its people have to hear the Good News of the kingdom. When Jesus teaches in the local synagogue, many of the townspeople are astonished at the performance. They wonder at the origin of Jesus’ teaching and the nature of his wisdom, as well as the miracles that are done through him. From the unanswered questions about Jesus’ wisdom, the neighbours move to more familiar territory and focus on what they do know about Jesus. Whatever their wonder, they are not going to allow the wisdom of Jesus  to interfere with their memories of him. Prior to this section in Mark’s gospel, Jesus has been doing some extraordinary things. His baptism by John in the river Jordan was accompanied by an affirming voice of the Father from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son. On you my favor rests.”

After his desert testing Jesus called his first disciples, cured the man in the synagogue with the unclean spirit and the paralytic in Capernaum; expelled the legion of devils from the Gerasene man, you may remember last week in our Gospel Reading Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, cured the woman with haemorrhage, Jesus is doing wonderful things as he proclaims, in word and deed, the coming of the reign of God. Though he did all the wonderful things the people still had little faith which also seems to be the case these days. The people wanted the powerful signs of God’s final coming with a strong right arm to rescue them. But when Jesus spoke about the signs of the kingdom’s presence, he spoke of scattered seeds and, to emphasize the kingdoms small beginnings, he compared it to a mustard seed, “the smallest of all of the seeds of the earth” Where was God’s show of power and mighty arm in a tiny mustard seed? Mark sums up their reaction, “And they took offense at him.”

And so it is today as many take offence at the values of Christianity and the good it makes for all of us in our world. A world which in many respects is so faithless with many  people taking offense at Jesus and his teaching. Jesus revealed God’s presence to the people of Nazareth as a different kind of power: the power used only to help others, not ourselves; a gentle power that does not force or coerce people to do our will; the power of compassion and gentleness, when others are expecting force. All of us know from our own experience that when we admit our failures and limitations, that exercise in honesty can mark the beginning of a new understanding. If our Lord and God can take failure in his stride, we might even end up boasting about God’s fantastic message! What is the message of the wisdom of Jesus? Jesus message is really about using whatever power that we might have in a positive way to help others and the greater our weakness the more powerful we will be that is powerful with the power of compassion and gentleness.

gentleness.

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