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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “June, 2016”

12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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There is great uncertainty in the life of our nation these days. Polls show not only a general distrust of leadership and institutions as they battle it out to stay in the EU or make a BREXIT. The polls also show a breakdown in a general belief of progress. The mood in the country is bleak because we see so much loss of life first of all in Orlando and then the murder of Joe Cox MP as she went about her work during this week there just seems to be a lot of suffering at this time in so many places in the world. In our Gospel reading for this weekend we hear Jesus asking ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And the apostles answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’  He then asked his disciples the same question as he wanted to know who they thought he was and so he asked them who do you say that I am? It was Peter who spoke up and said ‘The Christ of God’. But, given the popular overtones of this title within a tradition which spoke of triumph rather than suffering, Jesus insists that he has to suffer for his identity. It’s not that Jesus plans it; rather, he knows that suffering is inevitable if he is to face the future honestly. And he states further that those who become his followers will have to suffer for their identity like their master.

The fact that the disciples still followed Jesus is a measure of the continuing impact that Jesus has on them. The disciples are not following someone who is programmed for failure: they are not idiots. They follow someone they sense is not kidding them; someone who faces real situations that are part and parcel of life with enormous courage and commitment. Every commitment to love means a willingness to suffer for a while. And it’s that kind of commitment that Jesus still expects of all who follow him. Over so many years we have seen so many people perhaps family members friends or other people leaving or at least not practising the faith. The questions for us who are following Jesus today are who do we say Jesus is and how do we make the Jesus of the Gospels alive in the lives of those around us. Many  people who have left the faith blame this priest or that scandal within the Church for leaving but when hardy comes to hardy the Church must face up to its own shortcomings and that includes you and me as members of the church.

In the face of the dark anxiety of these and other days, more people pray and attend weekly worship. While polls show faith in the secular world might be down, they also record and remind us that faith in God rising. The polls show that people need to place their faith in something. When the world lets them down, they return to God. I think it is the same for all of us there have been many occasions that I have felt down but I have been lifted up by the Faith that I have. All of us are asked to take up our crosses and follow Jesus as best we can and remember that none of us will be able to avoid the many crosses that will come our way. Yes, it might be tough to pick up the cross and follow Jesus day by day. But, in doing so, we who follow grow closer to him because we begin to understand his walk to suffering and death. We realize that he understands our troubles. We begin to realize we have a friend and fellow traveler in the Lord who does not let us down whether we are near the Church or even far away.

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11TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we celebrate the 11th Sunday of ordinary time and our Gospel Story tells us about the woman with a bad reputation. Having said that we also hear about the attitude of the Pharisees in this gospel or should I say the wrong attitude of the Pharisees. In this Sundays Gospel story Jesus is at the house of a Pharisee, one of those who emphasized love of law rather than the law of love. It was certainly no place for a public sinner to show his or her face. The woman who did show her face was outside the pale, of a group despised by devout Jews. Jesus frequently said that he had come to call sinners, and to befriend them. Not only did Jesus befriend the woman, but he even let her serve him. There was something about him that stirred a profound reverence within her, and she showed that reverence and respect by the anointing with oil, which was the highest expression of reverence one could show to another. Jesus had a ready-made, real, living object lesson right there, and he took full advantage of it. He was aware of the shock and horror among the onlookers, and he used the occasion to drive home a central point of his teaching.

Why did a woman with a bad reputation approach Jesus and anoint him with her tears and costly perfume at the risk of ridicule and abuse by others? The woman’s action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus – she loved greatly out of gratitude for the kindness and forgiveness she had received from Jesus. She did something a Jewish woman would never do in public. She loosened her hair and anointed Jesus with her tears. It was customary for a woman on her wedding day to bind her hair. For a married woman to loosen her hair in public was a sign of grave immodesty. This woman was oblivious to all around her, except for Jesus and her gratitude for the mercy he showed towards her. There are two other lessons in this Gospel reading for us. The first lesson is that the pardoned sinner should show gratitude to God. One of the greatest proofs of gratitude is the firm resolution to avoid offending our God. The second lesson is for those amongst us who succeed, thanks to God’s grace, in avoiding serious sins is that we must avoid the sin of the Pharisees. They were, on the whole, devout men and did many a good deed. However, they took all the credit themselves instead of giving God the credit. They grew proud of their good works and despised all others who did not do as they did. The question for us this weekend is who are we like in this particular story are we like the woman who loved Jesus with a heart open to god’s mercy. Or are we like the Pharisees taking all the credit and giving God little or even none at all with our hearts closed to the love and mercy of God.  I would hope that we would be like the woman in the Gospel who wasn’t afraid to show her love for Jesus despite all that was going on around her at the time.

 

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