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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “July, 2016”

17th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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The Gospel story for this Sunday has the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray. In response to this request Jesus teaches them how to pray in the words of the our Father. He also encourages them to be unwearied in their prayer because the Father who loves them will pay attention to their pleas. Prayer for all kinds of things is good, because it is faith in action and trust in God. As we pray, we are changed. Many people have told me that they have prayed for this or that intention but didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted that particular thing. My experience is that we often get the thing that we pray for not when we think we need it but when god sees that we really need it and it always brings a change for the better in the person who made the prayer. There are so many different forms of prayer and praying such as the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross etc each of us will have a particular favorite.

The greatest example of prayer that has been passed down to us through the generations is the Mass. Each time we gather as a community of believers to take part in the Mass we reaffirm our belief in God made incarnate in Jesus his Son. We also bring all our intentions with us and we leave them for god to answer in his own time. Persistence in prayer is a worthwhile exercise because the God we believe in is not some sulky, withdrawn figure who is unmoved by what he hears and sees remember that our God is with us. Behind Jesus’ advice on prayer is his image of a God who really does want to help and journey with us as part of our lives. The message of Jesus in the our Father is that our God is one who cares for us as well as concerned about us and those who are close to us. So can we depend on God’s providence to feed us, to shelter us, to clothe us, to save us from violence? If we pray hard enough will God see to it that we have a new car, a better house, maybe win a lottery? God doesn’t work for us in that way and we shouldn’t expect him to either. The most important part of our human life is what we become day by day through faith in the will of the Father.

Of course we need to survive and flourish. When things don’t go the way they should, we benefit from our prayers. Think of Jesus in the Garden of Olives. He prayed what was coming his way would not happen. He also added he would abide by God’s will when he said Abba, Father let it be done as you not I would have it. If we stay in sync with the will of God we will grow day by day, despite what good or bad things come our way we will know that God is for us a refuge and our strength in all things.  These days when so many parts of the world are hurting for many reasons let us remember the power of prayer to help us to do the right thing in the situations we might find ourselves.

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16TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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In our Gospel reading for this Sunday we hear all about Martha and Mary. On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus led his entourage into the village to call at  the home of Martha. As the good host, she served them but, her sister, Mary, sat listening to Jesus. Martha tried to shame Mary into helping with the work but Jesus would have none of it. Instead, he praised Mary’s choice when he said leave her alone for she has chosen the better part. Martha loved Jesus as much as Mary did, and it is clear that he treasured them both. Her mistake was in not trying to find out how Jesus wanted to be entertained, while visiting her house. Her sister correctly senses that when Jesus comes on a visit the last thing he wants is to have people fussing over how to feed him. So, while Martha makes the greater housekeeping effort, Mary understands better what is expected of her by him. Her contemplative intuition grasps instinctively the real reason for Jesus’ visit.  He is there not to receive but to give, not to be served but to serve. He has something he needs to say and the one thing necessary is to listen to his voice.

There a whole theology of contemplation in this gospel reading, on how to receive the Lord’s visit. It starts off from the basis that, no matter who our visitors may be, there is always something to be learned, something from them. The one who comes knocking on our door will have something to tell us, should be listened to and understood. When Jesus comes to us he wants to talk to us in the quiet of the evening or the freshness of the morning, to share with us the Word that brings us to salvation. He comes not because he needs us but because we need him. We too can be “distracted with all the serving;” we too can “worry and fret about so many things.” We may, like Martha, miss the better part, the one thing necessary, which is to submit to the Word of God. If we are to make people welcome in our community it will be by being attentive to who that person is are what they seek rather than giving them the impression that their presence is disrupting our well ordered lives. let us not be afraid of being like Mary and be attentive to what Jesus is telling each of us today.

15TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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In our Gospel reading for this Sunday Jesus is asked the question ‘who is my neighbour?”  Given the migrant crisis in Europe along with the Brexit vote in UK this is a very timely question for us to ask ourselves, who do we say our neighbours are. This is an easy question to ask but there are many complex answers. When I was a youngster your neighbours were the people that lived next door to you or those who lived in your street or road they were the families you would go to when you ran out of milk or sugar to borrow some or to share the news about the people and happenings in the area.  The Gospel story tells us about the Good Samaritan it is a story that all of us are familiar with. It was the Samaritan who stopped with the man who was lying on the side of the road it was the Samaritan who was moved with compassion to help him. The Priest and the Levite walked on and passed by on the other side of the road because they felt that it was beneath their dignity to help the man. What does our Gospel story tell us about love for one’s neighbour today?

First, it tells us that we must be willing to help even if others brought trouble on themselves for whatever reason. Second, our concern to help others in need must be practical. And lastly, our love and mercy towards others must be as wide and as inclusive as God’s love and mercy towards us.  We remember that God excludes no one from his care. So we must be ready to do good to others just as God is good to us remembering that his love and mercy are without end. Jesus not only taught God’s way of love, he also showed how far God was willing to go to share in our suffering and to restore our wholeness in life and happiness. Jesus overcame sin, suffering, and death through his victory on the cross on Good Friday. True compassion not only identifies and empathizes with the one who is in pain, it also takes that pain on in order to bring freedom and restoration.  Our world is moving towards ways of acting that hurt more people time after time. We are members of this world so we cannot pretend that it’s got nothing to do with us for it has everything to do with us.  

In these days with turmoil and confusion in so many places we need to reach out in order to show friendship to our neighbours and those who have come to be our neighbours from other places. We should be telling them that they are valuable to us in our time and place and we will not tolerate those who tell them go away home. At the end of the Gospel Jesus asked the Lawyer Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’ There it is in the Gospel we are called today in this place wherever we are to go and do the same as the good Samaritan to show compassion and mercy not to walk on by like the Levite and the priest.

 

14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This Sunday’s Gospel tells us about Jesus appointing the 72 others and then sending them out in pairs to the towns he was going to visit. As he gives his missionary instruction Jesus seems under no illusion about the territory compared to the wolves roaming around, his own crowds are like lambs. He tells the 72 to lead the radical lifestyle of the wandering preacher who must face homelessness and renunciation of family and property. When they enter a house they should bless it with peace. The Gospel also tells us about the practical things to direct the seventy-two as they proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and in rebuilding community life. Jesus told them to carry no purse, no haversack, and no sandals. Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and rebuilding community life are two sides of the same coin. One does not exist and cannot make sense without the other.  When Jesus sends out the seventy-two you might wonder how ready they are for the demanding task ahead of them. Because he doesn’t have all the time in the world Jesus depends on the various talents of his followers; he must depend on their understanding and their resolve to get it right.

Perhaps if we were in charge of that first Missionary outing the seventy-two would still be waiting to get going! There is a clear urgency about the task in hand Jesus says, “Start off now” with urgency in his voice. On their return the disciples were delighted that their mission has actually worked! Their joy demonstrates that people do welcome the word of God and that the word of God is their real resource for mission. Jesus counsels them to rejoice not because their mission has worked but because their names are written in heaven. These words at the end of today’s gospel are addressed to each one of us. Jesus empowers us in our day to do his work, and to work in his name. Jesus assures us that we have a passport, visa, and “green card” for heaven. Our names are already registered there and our mission is to proclaim the good news of salvation to others.

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