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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “April, 2016”

6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This weekend we celebrate the 6th Sunday of Easter. It seems no time since we began Holy Week on Palm Sunday and now we are heading into Ascension and then Pentecost Sunday which is often called the birthday of the Church. In this Sunday Gospel Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles as the advocate. Although Jesus had spoken to the Apostles and told them many different things, he knew them well and realized that they wouldn’t remember everything he said Jesus also knew that they would have to endure many struggles, that they would have to face ambiguity and confusion, difference and disagreement. They would not see eye to eye on everything; they would have different memories of Jesus; they would emphasise different things. In the conflicts that would arise they would have to put their faith to work. That is why he told them and he tells us that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in his name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. These words are a direct pointer towards Pentecost and the gifts that the Holy Spirit would bring to them as well as us.

We don’t have the physical presence of Jesus with us the way his first disciples did when he talked with them around the table at the Last Supper, washed their feet, and gave them his reassuring promises. His farewell to them was a real farewell he was going, he would no longer be with them as he had been. But he assured them and us that he is present in a different way, in his gift of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel Reading Jesus also promised the Apostles Peace  ‘A peace that the world cannot give.’ Sometimes we mistake this peace for our idea of quietness or tranquillity, but the peace the Jesus gives is a peace that can be found even in the midst of turmoil. This peace is not something we can manufacture ourselves by our own power. It’s a gift that comes from Jesus, who doesn’t want to lose touch with us. Jesus chose his followers to carry out God’s plan of salvation. He chooses us today to do the same. By allowing us to participate in his work of redemption, he gives us a personal stake in the Kingdom of God. If we keep on trusting in the presence of the Spirit to us, we will have peace in the midst of any personal, family, or community turmoil that comes our way as well as someone who will keep us going along the right Road!

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5th Sunday of Easter

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In this Sundays Gospel Jesus calls us to a new way of living when he tells us to love one another as I have loved you.  At one level this is a simple call to love, at another it is a big challenge for us to be Christ like  to others in this sometimes horrible world. This means that we should love as Jesus loves, in order to be the face and heart of Christ the face of the fathers mercy to a wounded and hurting world. It seems to me that our faith should constantly challenge us to live lives of love, love of God and love of one another and this ideal is so very hard to achieve. The love Jesus speaks of seems to be narrow and restrictive. He is addressing his disciples when he says, “love one another.” This love may seem insular and applicable just to an inner circle of his followers. Is he telling us that the sacrificial love he calls us to applies only to those around us in the Church? No, of course he is not saying that because we know from other parts of John’s gospel that Jesus’ mission of love includes an outreach to the world (John 10:16 I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.)  That outreach in our modern times must include all those who have left the Church for many reasons we should not leave them behind as many people might want to do.

Jesus wants us to be united with him and one another in love. A loving and caring community has a great effect on others bringing those who might be doubtful with it. What more articulate proclamation of the gospel can there be than a group of diverse people drawn together, not by similarities in education, economic status, neighborhood, citizenship, race, etc, but by the love that God has for them and their bringing that love for one another to other people? A community such as this couldn’t help but draw others into it and to one who is the source of their universal love. We are called to be that community of love showing the love of God to those around us especially during this year of Mercy and at all other times as well.

 

 

4th SUNDAY OF EASTER Good Shepherd Sunday

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This weekend we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Easter which is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a lovely thought because it is a well known fact that the shepherd never leaves his sheep outside the sheepfold. If any are outside the sheepfold the shepherd will seek the lost sheep at all costs until they are found.  The wandering figure of the shepherd, anxiously tending his sheep to the point where he is willing to surrender his life for them, is the image Jesus uses about himself in this Gospel Reading. That mixture of tenderness and toughness, care and self-sacrifice, is one that summarises his own practice of leadership. It is not a leadership of detachment and defensiveness; rather, it is a leadership of physical involvement and self-sacrificial love. In the good shepherd’s foolish extravagant love, his own life matters less than that of his sheep as we know Jesus gave up his life for us on the cross Good Friday. 

The good shepherd is not an image of religious authority that is involved with its own importance, blind to the useless pain it causes in those it leads. The authority of the shepherd costs the shepherd, not the sheep. The image of the shepherd cannot be separated from how the shepherd actually cares for his own sheep. When we see how Jesus actually behaves as a leader, we see his tenderness and courage.   The parable of the Good Shepherd has many consoling truths and promises for people of every century, including ourselves in the twenty first. The good shepherd challenges our own way of leaving people for lost: remember that Jesus also said “I have come to seek out and save the lost.” All of us know people who have wandered away from the Church, who have lost their sense of belonging, who feel they have no community to belong to. How will they know they are welcome back if no one tells them? How will they be helped back if no one offers to make the journey with them?

This as we know is the Year of Mercy a year of return a year of journeying with those who want to return to God as well as those who believe. Turning our gaze to God the merciful Father, and to our brothers and sisters in need of mercy, means focusing our attention on the essential contents of the Gospel: As we celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy we are asked to place Jesus Christ, the face of the all merciful Father, at the centre of our personal life and that of our communities. As people of mercy we are asked to journey with those who are trying to return to the sheepfold as well as journeying along with our friends who are still there.

 

3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This Weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter it seems strange that we have come so far from the ashes of Ash Wednesday right through to Easter and Jesus resurrection but time waits for no one. In Jesus resurrection we are given the possibility of forgiveness, of being forgiven and of forgiving each other. That new possibility and its radical mercy should never be understated or forgotten as we celebrate the joy of Easter. We celebrate the resurrection of the one who affirms for us that our God has walked on our streets, confronted the evil we confront and suffered for us, even though we celebrate Easter Joy the craziness of some people is still there.

The resurrection assures us that life can come out of death and good can overcome evil and it does. It doesn’t always seem that way these days but for people of faith that is people who have faith in God and Faith in each other nothing is impossible. Of recent times we are being harangued by unyielding ideologues that say I am right even though they are inherently wrong. After a tragedy like Paris, Brussels, or whatever there is a strong response of self-sacrifice and compassion from everyone to help the victims and those affected by the violence.

Then with the passage of time we go back to where we were before the crisis, preoccupied by our concerns and yet through all of this bad stuff God is with us remember at Christmas we sing about Jesus, Emanuel and that means as we all know that God with us. After the earth shattering events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday Peter and the others were ready to put the events of those days behind them and return home to what they did before they came across Jesus. But Jesus won’t let them go. In our Gospel Story for this Sunday he comes to the shore fishing for them. He gets their attention, as he did when he first called them, with a large catch of fish. He prepares breakfast for them and invites them to eat, “Come, and have breakfast.”

After the meal Jesus asks Peter three times about the reality of his love. Insisting on love is something of a mark with Jesus. Three times Peter affirms his love, as three times Jesus insists on it. And when Peter professes his love Jesus commissions him to care for his flock when he says feed my sheep. And that is what Peter does – as we hear in Sunday’s first reading. In his ministry of preaching and healing Peter gets through to many people, and the authorities become nervous at the ability of Peter and the apostles to work in the name of Jesus. In spite of the opposition Peter will continue insisting on his love for Jesus and this insistence will take him to martyrdom in Rome.

No matter whether the believer is new or old, a pew sitter or a leader of people, the call of Christ is the same: “Follow me.” Following Christ means life in the community where we are. Are we, like Peter, spreading the net for new believers and professing a true love for our Savior? Or are we on the sidelines watching others doing the work when we should really be out there doing the work with them? At the end of the day whatever happens we remember that God is with us and wants us to be with him now and in the future, He is with us in good and bad times so let us take courage this Easter to go forward in faith.

DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

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I was sitting here a few days ago  just thinking that the season of Lent, Holy Week and  Easter  Sunday have come and gone. Many people think that Easter begins and ends on Easter Sunday but it doesn’t end there, the celebration of the season of Easter goes on to Pentecost Sunday. I wonder what the Apostles would think if they were to come down to us these days and find that we are celebrating the Death and Resurrection of Jesus that took place all those years ago, they would be amazed especially as they thought everything was over with the Crucifixion on Good Friday. In this Sundays Gospel reading the Apostles were still huddled together behind locked doors, pondering the shocking experience of the week before when all seemed to be lost. Then we are told that Jesus came to them and to assure them that He was alive. His message must have troubled them as well when he told them: “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 

In the same way as the apostles were sent out we are sent out to bring his message of mercy to other people wherever we are. Then of course there is doubting Thomas who heard the witness of the those who saw Jesus but, like so many of us today he wanted more proof. Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” That is a favourite quote for many of us, who have not “seen” the risen Christ as the disciples did. We have come to believe though we have not seen him in the flesh but he is with us in the midst of our communities through so many different people. When Jesus says to the Apostles Peace be with you the Peace he is talking about is much more than the lack of conflict. True peace, gives us happiness, since it is built on trust.  The gospel tells us how Jesus gave his followers peace because they trusted him. In spite of the scepticism of Thomas and so many others, Jesus  offers us the same peace of heart mind and soul. As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday we remember the joy, the hope, the grief and the anxieties of the people in our time those we know and those unknown to us and we bring them to the Lord. As Pope Francis says, we must courageously reach out to those who are doubtful among us, and assure them of the great mercy of Jesus the face of the father’s mercy. Our world is hurting so much because of the things that are happening within it with so many people at each other’s throats for so many reasons. May all of us be witnesses to the joy and mercy of the Gospel as we bring the caring face of God’s mercy to the people in our own communities wherever we are called to be.

 

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