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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “December, 2016”

MARY MOTHER OF GOD

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This Sunday January 1st we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, as well as this we also celebrate world day of prayer for peace. In the modern Roman Calendar only Christmas and Easter have an octave. This Sunday it is the turn of Our Lady as we celebrate her as the mother of God. At the Council of Ephesus (451), Mary, the mother of Jesus was proclaimed as  Mother of God or Theotokos. Under this noble title she is still honored by most Christians around the world, and today’s feast invites us to lay our hopes and plans for the new year in her motherly care. We entrust all our concerns and those of our world, with all its conflicts and injustices, to her motherly protection. on the feast of the Holy Mother of God we see Mary marveling at what has happened, treasuring the events of Christmas in her memory, and pondering them in her heart. The image is that of the contemplative woman who ponders the marvels the Almighty has done for her. Mary treasured the words of the shepherds in her heart, for they were Good News. She was the vessel of God’s providence; she conceived by the power of the Spirit. Her Son was Messiah and King. She was the first follower and a symbol for all of us, the Church. On this feast we ask a special favour of Mary our mother and intercessor:  that the love we have for Jesus her son will Grow in our hearts and lives!  As We thank God for all that has been over the last year and look forward to all that will be we pray  through the intercession of our Lady that God  will be present with us in the good bad, happy and sad times we might encounter in the year that is ahead .

 

 

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CHRISTMAS 2016

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As we come to our celebration of Christmas this year the world is such a different place. In the UK referendum the people unexpectedly voted for the Brexit. Then a few short months later the USA voted unexpectedly for President Trump how the world has changed and of course the world is constantly changing. We are all panicking about what might or might not happen in the places where we live and how the world events will impact on us and our families we will have to wait to see how everything turns out. Preparing for Christmas is often a very tense time with extra hours at work, standing for hours on the queues at the shops as the craziness goes on around us. For a great number of  people Christmas is not all it seems as they deal with the stresses of not being able to provide a good time for the members of their families. Or for many they may find themselves refugees in foreign countries.

As we think of our own families we also spare a thought for  the poor, the neglected, the lonely, the victims of disaster and war.  Now after all the preparations and fuss of recent days we have time to think about Christmas and what it is all about, time to ponder on the fact that the birth of the Baby Jesus is the supreme manifestation of God’s love for humanity. Our salvation came in the messiness, poverty, and the weakness of ordinary human life that is to say our ordinary often times messy lives. Jesus was born in a stable not a great palace or mansion he was welcomed by the shepherds this hardly seems like a very auspicious beginning for the dawn of salvation! Yet, we have hope because Jesus was born into the Family of humanity with all its messiness. Christ came and brought new hope and transforming joy for all. In the middle of our own dark nights of pain and anguish, God comes and transforms them into “holy” nights of his peace.

Amid the noise and clamor that that are part of our lives, the voice of God speaks to us in the “silence” of our hearts. The first news of God’s coming to us does not go to the wealthy or those in high political or religious positions but to the  lowly shepherds, who had no wealth, power, or privilege by any standards they were a scruffy bunch. God to whom all riches belong wants to be sure that the poor and lowly are the first to hear about the arrival of the messiah. The shepherds used to being left alone during their long, dark nights in the fields where they watched over their flocks were terrified at the appearance of the angelic mes­senger surrounded by the glory of God.  Who told them Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).The angel’s message to the shepherds is also for us in the here and now of today It simply states the good news of the birth of the Son of God into our lives. During these days of  celebration we will have occasion to sing as the angels did long ago, “Glory to God in the highest!” At this time when we celebrate the birth of “a saviour who has been born for us”, the One who is “Wonder- Counsellor and Prince of Peace,” the One who is “a great light”  we welcome the opportunity to put aside our cares and worries for a short while in order to bask in the joy of the season, and give Glory to God as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Emanuel who is God with us. Now with Mary and Joseph with the shepherds and Angels Let us take this story and the news of great joy into our hearts and let the joy and peace flourish within us as we pass this joy on. Let us be thankful for the light that is Christ the light of the world.  Let us hold this simple story of Jesus birth in the Manger in our hearts throughout the year whatever ups and downs it may bring.

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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This weekend we come to the last Sunday of the Advent season. In our churches we light the last purple candle as well as the other three leaving the last candle the white one for the first Mass of Christmas Day. It’s only in this last week before Christmas that we begin to hear about the “Christmas story” itself. For the past weeks we have been preparing ourselves to greet the Lord, when he comes. Now we prepare to remember how he first came, by listening to the prophecies of his coming, and by hearing of the events before his birth. At Christmas we will concentrate on the simplicity and poverty of Our Lord’s birth: how human he was, born of a young woman, not in luxurious comfort, but in the discomfort of a stable. That shows him as one of us, the human side of “Emmanuel.” God enters into our world: it’s a world where plans don’t always work out and where people have to adjust to the reality presented to them. Joseph was betrothed to Mary; he had his plans. Mary’s pregnancy turns his world and plans upside down. Instead of exposing her, he “decided to divorce her quietly.”

He was a “righteous man” and he will protect Mary from being publicly dishonored. He is not vengeful and, though wronged, displays mercy. Joseph, “took his wife into his home after the angel appeared to him in a dream. The world God chose to enter was not only one of poverty, hard labor and political and military oppression but, from the beginning, messy – even while the child was still in his mother’s womb. God took a big chance being born among us. Surely there must have been neater options for God, to make the savior’s path and work a bit smoother. But who has a “smooth path” through life anyway not many if anyone has it easy. It’s good to know that Emmanuel, “God with us,” chose to be with us people of the world and living in the messiness of the world. God is with us in our daily lives with all the ups and downs! Christmas with the child in the manger with Mary and Joseph with the angels and the shepherds challenges us to enter into an intimate relationship with God who is Love itself. We are challenged to keep on trusting that we will receive love, and keep on receiving love, from God and others.

 

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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This weekend we hit the pause button in our Advent preparation as we celebrate the third Sunday of advent which is also known as Gaudete Sunday. We light the pink candle on the advent wreathes also the vestments change from the penitential purple to the rose of expectation. As Christmas draws near, the Church emphasizes the joy which should be in our hearts over all that the birth of our Saviour means for us The often  repeated Veni is an echo not only of the prophets but also of the conclusion of the Apocalypse of St. John: “Come, Lord Jesus,”. We live an age when things seem to be hopeless and many people seem to be lost for great number of reasons but this weekend we look forward to the hope that the birth of the Christ child will bring into our lives and the lives of those around us. In the light of the gospel message of advent where do we stand in regard to our own faith and hope in Jesus?

Perhaps right now our faith is under some strain. Life in our community of faith may not have been as rewarding and helpful as we had hoped. Perhaps some of our fellow Christians have let us down, or some of our leaders have done likewise. Maybe our prayers seem to have gone unanswered. So many things happen that are the opposite of what our faith really means and often at this time of year we find so many people who are not able to rejoice because of the pressure that Christmas brings. The first reading in the liturgy for this day from the Book of Isaiah tells us “Be strong! Fear not rejoice for the lord is near” but many are fearful at this time of year.  If we stop and think for a moment all of us know someone who doesn’t like Christmas and there are many just reasons for this. As we rejoice today and during the non-stop activity of the forthcoming festivities we need to stop and spare a thought and a prayer for all those who are under pressure at this time of year.

There are people out there who are unable to provide for their families, who have little or nothing at all there are people who are homeless or refugees from other countries these are just a few examples of  people who are under pressure there are so many others. We also remember all those organizations such as the Salvation Army and the St. Vincent DePaul who do so much good at this time of year. The customs of the advent season are announcements of one single message: Christ is born for us, so let us rejoice and be glad. To hear the good news, we   gather together in our churches as we gather we rejoice in a god who sent his Son to be one of us in all our lives with the good who bad times that we all have. We are mindful of those who are fearful and under any kind of pressure personal or otherwise this Advent and we pray as Christmas approaches that we will be strong in faith and hope as we await the coming of the lord.

 

 

Second Sunday of Advent

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In the old style theatre you would have had the warm up guy, the warm up guy was the person who went on before the main act in order to get the audience going and build up their sense of expectation as they waited on the main event. This Sunday we hear about John the Baptist who was the warm up guy for Jesus and he certainly got the people’s imaginations going.  He did a great job as Jesus warm up guy because of the sense of expectation that built among the people as he told them that there was one who was coming after him who was the long awaited messiah. Our Gospel reading tells us about john being the voice in the wilderness telling the people to prepare the way for the Lord calling them to repentance.  John told them that what they were waiting for was finally coming. He was called to reawaken a sense of expectation among a people that had grown tired and distant from God as many have done in our present generation.  He also tells us to make the necessary changes in our lives that will allow the “kingdom of heaven” to take root and flourish in ourselves as well as the communities where we live.

It’s time, John insists, for us to look at the world around us and see what we need to do and then get on with ite. Is there a person with whom we must be reconciled? Are there wounds from the past that need to be healed? Are there problems we have not addressed? And to add to that list: what are we doing about the larger issues that affect, not just us but our community and our world – care for the poor, the stranger in our midst, and the other responsibilities we hear from these biblical texts each week? John urges us to take the initiative, when he tells us to “Repent!” His distant urging comes into the here and now of our lives. Are we waiting for some other person to do something we should really be doing ourselves? We are called over these weeks of Advent to prepare and we certainly do that as we get the presents and all the secular things that go with the Christmas celebrations so that we want for nothing. That is not the preparation that John the Baptist calls us to when he tells us to prepare a way for the Lord. Advent is the time when we are reminded that we have to wait for God to come into the world. We cannot grasp God, we don’t  see him; yet wait for God to let himself be known. When we wait for God, our waiting is a time of prayer filled preparation as we testify to our own poverty and to God’s greatness. As the journey of Advent continues, as we prepare to celebrate the nativity of Christ, John the Baptist’s call to conversion sounds out in our ears. It is a pressing invitation for all of us to open our hearts and minds to welcome the Son of God who comes among us to make the kingdom of God the Father manifest to all. As we continue our own Advent Journeys let us hear the call of John the Baptist to repent and make straight the paths for the lord.

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