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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “November, 2015”

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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Here we are at the beginning of another Church year, today  we have a change of colour and a change mood we go from the green of Ordinary time to the Purple which symbolizes the penitential season of Advent last week, at the end of the Church’s year, we had the  highpoint of the Feast of Christ the King. This weekend we begin all over again as we light the first purple candle on the advent wreath. Advent is the season that brings us back to the ancient longing of the human race for the coming of one who would bring to this world liberation from sadness and the fulfillment of perfect peace.

 

The word Advent derives from the Latin word meaning coming. The Lord is coming may the heavens rejoice and earth be glad. We may reflect that every year at this time and celebrate his coming, so that in a sense we can lose the feeling of expectancy and joyful anticipation, because at the end of the season everything seems to return to pretty much the same routine. If that is the case, then our preparation may have been lacking and we have therefore been robbed of much of the true meaning of this season.

During Advent we recall the history of God’s people and reflect on how the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled.  At the beginning of each church year we are reminded that Jesus the Christ is present as a person to us.  When we think that his presence is something so exalted as to be beyond our own experience, we are reminded that he was born in the lowliest of places, a common stable.  The first visitors were rough shepherds.  The preparation of Advent is for us to prune, weed and convert our way of thinking. 

The prophet Jeremiah foretold the day when God would send his Messiah King  to “execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15). Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise and every promise which God has made. In these short verses in the Gospel, Jesus described the beginning of God’s final initiative. He would give signs of warning across the sky, cause anxiety on earth with violent sea storms, and shake up the heavens. What we would explain scientifically today as eclipses, meteor showers, and the result of storm systems on earth, the ancients attributed to God’s intervention in the order of the cosmos. God would shake things up and so he does just look at Pope Francis for example and the way he challenges us as individuals and as members of the Church.

People of Jesus time would grow anxious because their faith systems and rituals failed.  But, Christians were to rejoice. Their Savior was at hand! Now, their world view and lifestyle would be vindicated. For, Christians saw the world and lived in the world differently. Finally, Luke presents a time of hope. Through great power and glory, the Son of Man would come and free his followers. Unlike the anxious people of the world, the Christians were to anticipate the end in hope. During Advent, we are invited to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord – to wait in joyful hope for his return in glory at the end of time  and to prepare for the annual celebration of his birth. So now let us go forth in peace and hope to prepare meet the Lord at Christmas.

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FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

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This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Christ the King the last Sunday of the Churches year. The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, this is a way of life which leaves God out of a person’s thinking and has us living life as if God did not exist as we all know God does exist and we see this through so many people throughout history right down to ourselves.  In a week that has seen murder, mayhem, and attempts to dominate the world and its people the word ‘king’ might seem a bit  harsh. Having said all of this we need to remember that the kingship Jesus is talking about is not about thrones or dominions or anything as negative as all of the recent violent episodes that have taken place in our world. Jesus is not king in an earthly sense. The acclamations of the crowds on Palm Sunday and the enthusiastic endorsement of the disciples that Jesus is the Messiah might mislead us. Jesus is king because he is the anointed one of God, who comes to do the will of God.

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday has Jesus before Pilate. The exchange between Jesus and Pilate makes it clear that the execution of Jesus is a consequence of his rejection by the Establishment of the Jewish nation. The authorities of the time did not like the truth that Jesus was speaking about on so many things.  In the reading from John’s Gospel  which is also part of the Good Friday Passion Narrative we see  this conflict is described in terms of the “truth” that Jesus  has brought from his Father: “It is because I speak the truth that you cannot believe me” (8:45). Jesus urged the people of his time as he encourages you and me in our time to find again our true calling in the work of God, to be “a light to the nations,” showing the world the life and joy of a people living according to the ways they have learned from Jesus son of the Father. The way for us to be a light to the nations  is to work for the for the relief of the deprived, the oppressed and the outcast. When we do this we are serving Christ because he fully identifies himself with all those in need and we should do the same. The disciple of Jesus cannot afford the luxury of saying “I keep myself to myself” or “I do nobody any harm.”

To be deaf to the cries of the oppressed is to be deaf to Christ. To be blind to the agony of those around and about us is to be blind to Christ  At the end of this church year , we are asked to embrace the cross and walk in the victory of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. What began as a humble event with the birth of Jesus in the stable has changed the world. As we prepare for Christmas during Advent are we with Jesus and his call to us to be merciful as the father? Are our lives an open sacrifice in a demonstration of the love of God? We can be sure that nobody there on Good Friday  thought they were witnessing the death of a great King. The kind of kingship Jesus spoke about has to be learned neither in palaces nor in schools of diplomacy but among the poor and needy and those whom the world has forgotten. For our king is the servant of the poor and we only belong to his court when we do likewise become servants of the poor. As we begin the Jubilee Year of god’s mercy in a few days time on December 8th, let’s not forget the beautiful truths that we have learned, let’s continue to learn more about them, celebrate them, live them, and pass them on. So that when people look at us, they will see that “Christ is King to the glory of God our merciful father.”

33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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We pray today for all those who perished in Paris on Friday night this atrocity serves no one. This Sunday in our Gospel story we hear about the End times and I am sure that the people who died didn’t  think that they were approaching their end times may all of them through the mercy of God rest in peace.

For the past two millennia, Christians have looked to the future and asked, “When, Lord, when is all this going to kick off?” Jesus saw the end of time event as the visit of the divine King. God would prepare the visit with cosmic signs and events as a means of announcement. The King would arrive in a way that reflected his power and reputation (on the clouds); his messengers (“angels”) would go throughout the known world to gather all the faithful. Remember that the Jewish people had been displaced throughout the known world because of economic opportunity or oppression. Jesus implied that the injustice of Jews living on foreign soil would be corrected during his lifetime  How did his disciples know Jesus spoke the truth? Jesus gave a farming analogy of the fig tree to support his belief in God’s immanent judgement.

Every spring we observe the twigs on a bare tree start to grow and go green then Leaves appear and we know that summer is on the horizon. As Spring is a prelude to Summer, and Autumn warns of Winter so we must not be complacent, imagining that life can be held in suspension because life keeps marching on.

After the cosmic fireworks, Jesus imagines a peace beyond suffering. This vision of peace is important for Mark’s persecuted community: they need more than a firework display to see them through their own historical apocalypse. If their hope is not to be exhausted by force of circumstances, they need help to imagine a far side to pain and suffering. Mark gives their hope help in sharing Jesus’ vision. For that is the purpose of all apocalyptic writing: to fund the hope of those who suffer in the present. We live in an age of uncertainty: the future never looks wholly secure. But Jesus holds out a vision that takes us beyond our worst imaginings. There is a place beyond the mountains of arms and weapons, beyond environmental damage and terrorism. This vision doesn’t free us from the duty to strive for peace and right living, but it does free us from the blasphemy of believing that a nuclear holocaust will be the last word in the human story. In the meantime, we have to depend on the promise of Jesus: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” No one, not even the Son, knows when all this will take place. The only sure thing we can hold on to is the word of Jesus and all we are asked to do is hold fast to what we know to be good and in these times when we look at all that is happening around us this is good advice.

32nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This Sunday in our Gospel story we hear about the widows mite. Mark sharpens the lesson Jesus gives, by linking this incident with what he has to say about ‘scribes’ who ‘swallow the property of widows while making a show of lengthy prayers’. The situation of widows was insecure. The ‘scribes’, so often mentioned in the gospels, were interpreters of the Law of old Israel they were the lawyers of the day But beneath their exterior religious garb, they were rapacious and in many respects just didn’t give a damn as long as they had what they wanted. The widow, on the other hand, reveals the true religious practice of those who have little, but express great trust in God to provide for them.

Jesus makes a series of charges against the scribes. He criticises their habit of wearing distinctive dress, which marks them as different from others and is calculated to win people’s deference. He criticises their habit of taking the places of honour at religious and civil functions. He criticises their habit of long-winded prayers, made not to God but to their immediate audience. Finally, he denounces their practice of exploiting helpless widows by living off their savings.

In contrast to the counterfeit piety of the scribes, Jesus honours true piety in the generosity of the poor widow. The pious frauds who abused their religious status could take a lesson from a woman who had no status in their religion or society, a poor widow. The two small coins make up the total of her resources. She could have kept one. She doesn’t. Her generosity cannot be bettered. For Jesus, true generosity is measured not by what people give but by what they have left after they give. The poor widow leaves herself with nothing. She cannot give more, for she has nothing more to give. In Jesus’ estimation she is a mighty widow.

We, need to listen to Jesus’s words. We are tempted to preserve our systems and benefit from what they give us: standing in the community, predictability, stability and a blessing of the status quo. The church’s history also reveals how we have blessed armies that invaded and enslaved indigenous peoples, preached slavery and oppression. Our religious apparatus has tended to side more with Caesar and with the economic and political world that belongs to Caesar. Jesus condemns those individuals and institutions that benefit from the burdens put on the poor. He said previously in Mark (11:17) that the Temple had become a den of thieves and not a house of prayer.

He predicted it would all come tumbling down.  Today’s passage illustrates why this destruction was inevitable, because those in the temple were corrupt. Every day demands are made on us. We are called on to be generous with our love, our forgiveness, our patience, our resources. The good news is that when we do that out of love, Jesus will be our constant support through the good and bad and happy and sad times which we often find ourselves in.

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