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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “January, 2016”

4th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we celebrate the fourth Sunday of the year. In our first reading which is also the first reading for the feast of John the Baptist Jeremiah says, “The word of the Lord came to me….” I wonder if he understood the implications of what God was saying to him when he heard it.  In Jeremiah’s narration of his calling we have a summary of a typical prophet’s call. First, God does the choosing and then empowers the person with the Word of God. It is not explicitly mentioned in this passage, but when prophets are called they are also empowered with God’s Spirit. They will need both, the gift of the Word they must speak to the people and the presence with them of God’s life-giving and fortifying Spirit. Prophets do not have an easy job and need all the help they can get from God. The second Reading is Paul’s hymn to true love. It is an awe-inspiring challenge to those who claim to be followers of Christ and is a reading that is often heard during wedding ceremonies. The first part describes the folly of good works done without a relationship built on love. The second part describes love in terms that appear prosaic but, because they allow for infinite development, are transcendental. Then the third part is wisdom which comes from years of reflected experience.

In the Gospel Jesus’ preaching begins with affirmation from the hearers. “All who were present spoke favorably of him.” Almost immediately the mood changed. The use of the reading from Isaiah was welcomed. It is good news that the people have waited a long time to see fulfilled. But, somehow conveyed in the words was the suggestion that Jesus himself has a role to play in the inauguration of the new age, the eternal Jubilee and it is this that is not acceptable. The examples that follow indicate that Jesus was hinting that the word of God was spoken universally, not to one particular person or group of people. The stories of the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, show that God’s love and mercy are to be found wherever there is a need and the faith to receive it. The reaction from the group was swift and indignant. They rose up and wanted to throw him not only out of the synagogue but out of the town. The hearers have hardened their hearts to the word.

Why did the crowd rise up against Jesus? Because he stepped outside the box they had constructed for him. He was no longer the local boy who made good; he was a self-proclaimed prophet. And his signs were not for the edification of the mob, but for the glory of God. In these ways, he rejected the expectations of those in Nazareth, and, so, they rejected him. As a last sign to them, Jesus walked safely through them and, according to Scripture, he never returned to his home town. Expectations are always hard to fulfil as we hear from the readings of this weekend. But, faith is not based upon expectations, but on a relationship with God. We must recognize the difference between the two. And place our expectations before God. There is a great saying that was often quoted to me by a friend who passed on a few years ago she always pointed out the man proposes and God disposes meaning that god will see and do whatever is good for us whether it is what we want or not for sometimes what we think is for our good is in fact the opposite !!

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3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This Sunday we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of ordinary time which falls during the week in which we pray for the unity of Christians. The second reading from St. Paul tells us that though the Church has many parts we are one body, the body of Christ and this is true. As Christians there are different faiths and each of us has a different faith journey but the one thing that unites all of us as one body is Jesus Christ the son of God.

In the Gospel Reading for this Sunday Luke wants to make very clear to his readers what drives Jesus the Prophet from Galilee and what is the goal of his action. We as Christians need to know in what direction God’s Spirit pushes Jesus, since following him means that we are walking in the same direction as he did. The Spirit descended upon Jesus at his Baptism in the Jordan. With the Spirit poured upon him, Jesus would proclaim freedom for the trapped (captives), the diminished (blind), and those in need (oppressed). When Jesus proclaimed the Good News, he proclaimed the Spirit. Since Spirit meant breath, Jesus breathed God’s word in his words and deeds.  The power of his proclamation changed people, situations, and environments because he breathed out the power of God.

When Jesus spoke, hearts turned to God and health of mind body and spirit were restored. There is an immediate life-implication of today’s passage that is easy to overlook for us in our I want I get world. it is this: The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Jesus and comes upon the Church in order to bring good news. The presence of the Spirit means joy. In the 21st century we’re OK with entertainment and pleasure, but we are often suspicious of Spiritual joy because it might be a pie-in-the-sky illusion. How can we talk about or even allow ourselves to experience joy, when there is so much false hope, so much suffering, so much serious work to be done in the world around us? The paradox of Christian faith is the cross of Jesus. The cross symbolizes the pain and sorrow that Jesus and we know so well. At the same time, the cross of Jesus is the ultimate revelation of the love and mercy of God shown to us through his son. “For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12: 2). The joy that lay before him was not only that God would wipe away his every tear, but that through his self-giving love, his joy might be in us and our joy might be complete. We pray that as individual Christians and as Church, through the power of the Spirit, we will have the courage to bring Mercy to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed especially during the Year dedicated to  Mercy in all its forms.

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This weekend we also have the beginning of the week-long Eucharistic Congress in the Philippines. It seems like yesterday when we celebrated the 50th Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012 and yet four years have passed and so many things have happened. We pray this weekend for a successful congress for all those who will be going there in the days  ahead.

3RD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we have the gospel story of the wedding at Cana which was the first time that Jesus worked a miracle when he changed the water into wine. We hear Mary telling Jesus that ‘they have no wine’ Jesus said ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’  This Gospel is a story with many threads – the insight into the relationship between Mary and Jesus – the miracle of the wine itself – the fact that the miraculous wine is better than the original – the fact of Jesus honoring the young couple in this way – and so on. Images of marriage feasts and bridegrooms, wine and water, appear in the Old and New Testament with great regularity. The relationship between God and Israel was often seen as a marriage – Israel the bride, God the bridegroom. The coming of the Messiah was described in terms of a wedding feast and later, in Revelation, we hear of the marriage feast of the Lamb. Jesus spoke of himself as the vine and of longing to celebrate Passover, blessing wine into the cup of his blood. The abundant wine reminds us of the “new wine” spoken of by Jesus: the new order of things that he was inaugurating through his Paschal Mystery.

In contrast, the water jars of the Jews represent those who refuse to believe in Christ are empty and there must be a large number of empty jars in people’s lives these days for the same reason they don’t believe! The wedding celebration provides the context that enables us to see the greater reality. The bride and groom whose wedding is being celebrated are in the background as a matter of fact scripture says nothing about them or who they were. In the foreground we see Mary and Jesus. Mary, who asks for help when she tells Jesus “they have no wine”, Mary the faith filled disciple, has trust in divine providence. In the place of the divine spouse, stands Jesus. “The Word was in the world, yet the world did not know it.” The care, concern and affection of God are manifest in the Son.  Today there are so many different definitions of marriage and what exactly being married means and as we know so many freely choose not to get married and for some they live together which of course has its own particular problems.  In her response at the wedding at Cana Mary shows herself a model disciple who trusts in God. She shows that trust with the words that are meant for all of us even now we read them again “Do whatever he tells you.”  If we place ourselves at that wedding banquet, Mary is giving us direction. 

She is mother to us all and also the first disciple of her son. She knows the way to live because she learned it by listening to her son and thinking in her heart and in her mind about what he did and said. We should listen closely to what she says as Mary is the one who “keeps all these things in her heart, pondering them.” She learns to understand the message that is Jesus. Do whatever he tells you is Mary’s message for us. Today what does Jesus ask us to do as we think about the wedding at Cana are we like Mary prepared to trust in the Father who can give us all things or are we prepared just to trundle along accepting the things that come along. Or are we prepared to learn and understand the message that is given to us through Jesus whose mother asks us in the to ”do whatever he tells you.”

THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

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This Sunday we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, when Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan by John. None of us remember when we were baptised when we were infants but that said we may know an Adult who was baptised at the Easter Vigil or at another time through the RICA process.

Sometimes beginnings are not remembered because they didn’t seem important at the time. However, some events in our lives become important because later on we see that it was then that something started, it was when we met that particular person or did a particular thing that changed our lives. Of course there are beginnings that are important like baptisms, marriages and ordinations. We like to mark these beginnings so we surround them with ceremony to give a sense of occasion. So the relatives are called in, photographers are hired, priests officiate, solemn words are spoken, cameras click, music is played, and there is an atmosphere of rejoicing. Clearly, something happened to Jesus while he was with John. He underwent a change that gave his life a new direction while he is with John, Jesus makes his big beginning. As Peter says in the second reading, “Jesus of Nazareth… began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism.” John was a very important turning point in the life of Jesus – so important that Jesus says of him later: “of all the children born of women, there is no one greater than John” (Luke 7:28).

It is a measure of John’s importance that Jesus makes a three-day journey south to the place in the Jordan valley where people immerse themselves in the river in response to John’s call. It is unlikely that Jesus’ relationship with John was confined to the moment of baptism; but it is the baptism that is the most important moment. Jesus is baptised in the company of many other people; for him, as for them, a new time begins. For us when we celebrate baptism there is a new beginning for the person who is baptised infant young person or adult. The baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan marked the beginning of a journey which ultimately led Jesus to the Cross on Good Friday and our own baptism was also the beginning of our faith journey which won’t lead to the cross but will lead to eternal life.  Through our baptism we died with Christ and thus have been reborn into a whole new life (Romans 6). We, the baptized, are made a part of the body of Christ. We are called to imitate Jesus. We have the companionship of the Spirit of Jesus who is our wisdom, impulse and help to do good.

That same Spirit will enable us to do what is right in every situation we may find ourselves in. So today as we are reminded of our baptism by renewing our baptismal promises and being sprinkled with holy water. Take a moment and reflect on where your baptismal journey has brought you. What has been joyful for you on this journey? Then look around at everyone else and give thanks that together we can celebrate our life in Christ and look forward to further adventures in the life of faith  as we journey along the road.

 

 

Second Sunday after Christmas

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Yes you did read the heading correctly it is the second Sunday after Christmas and we are now almost  at the arrival of the Three Wise Men on Epiphany which takes place on Wednesday 6th January in Ireland. By long standing tradition Christians celebrate Christmas as a season, with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany as one long “Christmas feast.” The season ends with the Baptism of the Lord which is also the first Sunday of ordinary time and that takes place next Sunday. The Christmas and New Year festivities are now a distant memory, and I am certain many people  out there are asking themselves the time honored question for this time of the year,  why did I make such a fuss!!!  So many make a fuss about the secular part of Christmas and as a result they have missed the essential message of the season.  The essential message is that Jesus Emmanuel was born in the stable in Bethlehem at Christmas and  that he is the reason for the season.

Our readings this weekend are all about Wisdom and the blessings of God and the Gospel tells us about the word who was in fact the Son of God. Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word made flesh, was sent as “a man to men.”  He “speaks the words of God” to us and completes the work of salvation which His Father gave Him to do. To see Jesus is to see His Father. To see Jesus is to see the face of the Fathers Mercy. Through the “least,” and the poor, Christ comes to us. That’s a lesson that we the members of the Church need to continually remember and proclaim in our lives and our dealings with other people. We will find Christ among the “least” and this is the message, the humble message that lies at the heart of our faith It is the message that Pope Francis is proclaiming in our own time and place. May we not be afraid in the year that has just begun to seek the wisdom that God wants for us, that is the wisdom and the light of faith so that we will be able to show the mercy of God to those around us during the year of mercy and throughout our lives.     

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