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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “January, 2017”

4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we continue our journey of faith as we hear the beatitudes. The first Beatitude strikes the keynote also for the seven Beatitudes that follow. The decisive word in this first Beatitude is the word, poor The first recipients of the Beatitudes are, in fact, the ‘poor in spirit’, an expression that indicates those who have their hearts and consciences directed intimately to Our Lord. They are the expression of the just who are tried by moments of suffering and difficulties. However, they are called ‘blessed’ and ‘happy’ because God’s merciful and compassionate gaze rests on them. These are the poor that the Bible text really refers to. The poor in the Bible are the humble people  who bear a burden on their shoulders. They are given God’s favour and because of this the Word identifies them as just, meek and humble. All kinds of attitudes are included in the eight beatitudes. This way the true significance of the ones who don’t confide mainly in themselves but in God. The poor are those who detach themselves concretely and interiorly from the possession of people and things and above all of themselves.

The poor don’t find security in the gods of this world like success, power or pride but the true Lord God in Heaven. Those who are called “blessed” or “happy” in these beatitudes can hardly be described as fortunate or lucky people in the eyes of the world: the lowly, the mourners, those deprived of justice, those who are persecuted and abused. In structuring the beatitudes in the way he does, Matthew is not offering an unusual programme to happiness; rather, he is describing what happens to Christian discipleship when the kingdom breaks into this broken world. The beatitudes speak of a variety of experiences that disciples undergo as a result of their involvement in living the Gospel. The result of this involvement might appear to the world as senseless suffering, but Jesus heaps blessings on those who struggle to love the truth of the Gospel.

Discipleship is centred on Jesus. Because of who he is, others will change. Jesus alone is the source of discipleship. Without the person of Jesus, discipleship is meaningless. All of us have some experience of the cost of discipleship. Some will know what it is like to be counted as a nobody because of our fidelity to Jesus. As Christians we are pledged to share the wisdom of one who was counted a nobody himself. In doing that we will continue “to shame the wise” by declaring the foolishness of God, remember that gods foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. The beatitudes of this Sundays Gospel are all about the mercy of God which Pope Francis in our own time is all about, Do we have the attitude of mercy that is the attitude of the Beatitudes or are we happy to be as we are instead of being merciful in our dealings with other people?

 

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THIRD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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These days we seem to live in weird and wonderful times at the start of this week we heard the British Prime Minister outlining the Brexit or at least putting a wee bit of meat on the bony skeleton of the UK leaving the EU. Then on Friday we had the inauguration of President Trump as the 45th US president how the world is continually changing hopefully for the better but who knows things really are in the hands of God. The Sundays of Ordinary Time lead us through the three years of Christ’s public ministry. We began last week with his identification as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist and this week we hear how he called the Apostles to follow him. In our Gospel story this Sunday we hear about Jesus calling Andrew, Simon, Peter, James son of Zebedee and his brother John to follow him. As Jesus travelled around Galilee, he actively built a following. Biblical scholars speculate that the Galileans would network and form groups around social, economic, or religious issues. Even though the Romans put down revolts with brutal efficiency, large Jewish protests did sway official decisions, especially at the local level. There was strength in numbers. Part-time fishermen like Peter and Andrew, like James and John would easily leave their daily tasks, if the group they joined promised to protect and enhance their way of life.

Proclaiming the Kingdom was a message with political undertones for Jews and Jesus quickly amassed an audience. This gospel story is about the call of Jesus to the first apostles to be his followers. This gospel story is not just an echo from the past it is very much for us today as it was yesterday. Are we listening to Jesus saying to us today, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men?”   This Gospel also asks us to remember that our own personal vocation is  an absolutely free choice to make.  This means that we are totally free to accept or deny the  invitation for us to take up the vocation that is there for us. Some are called to the Priesthood, or Consecrated Life, others to marriage, others are called to a single life there are many other vocations in life all of the m are  different and yet they are all calls to holiness that we are given. 

 

May we experience the beauty of accepting the call with faith in God and acting on it.  In this way we will become like the first apostles who quickly responded, continued to learn during their three years walking with Jesus and the years afterwards during which, with the power of the Holy Spirit, they did what they probably never imagined they would do when first called; travelled to the ends of the earth. 

 

SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we have the second Sunday in ordinary time. Christmas and new year are a distant memory as we continue our spiritual journey. In the Gospel reading this Sunday we hear about the meeting between Jesus and John the Baptist at the Jordan River. The first Christian communities saw a clear difference between John’s baptism (that immersed people in the river Jordan) and Jesus’ baptism (that communicated his own Spirit, to cleanse, renew and transform the heart of his followers). Without that Spirit of Jesus, the Church would simply close up shop and die. Only the Spirit of Jesus can put more truth and life into today’s Christianity and lead us to recover our true identity, letting go of paths that lead us further and further away from the Gospel. Only that Holy Spirit can give us light and energy to fire up the renewal that the Church needs today so that we can also become Christ’s authoritative witnesses in the world of today.

A believer can only be an authoritative witness if he or she lives in harmony with two of the Baptist’s evangelical qualities. Firstly, knowledge of Christ that is cultivated through prayer, the sacramental and ecclesial life and good friendships.

Secondly, the constant attributes of the ‘bridegroom’s friend’ who goes in search of the Groom through the virtue of humility because always, in everyone’s life, Christ must increase and we must decrease! Pope Francis is quite clear that the greatest obstacle to a new surge of evangelization is spiritual mediocrity. He says so all the time. He wants to spark a process that is «more burning, joyful, generous, bold, full of love to the end, and full of contagious life», but knows it will be insufficient «if the fire of the Spirit doesn’t burn in their hearts». And the charge that is given to each of us is to be Christ’s authoritative witnesses to the people around us and the world. We have all been baptized; we have all been called to be witnesses  to Jesus the chosen one of god. We are asked to point away from ourselves to the lord; as we lead others to the person of Jesus. None of us comes to him alone we all know people who help us along on our own faith journeys.

Most people are moved when others share with them what really matters in their lives. Perhaps we have lost the courage to say any more about what matters to us as people who take faith seriously perhaps we doubt if anyone will care and yet so many do. We should take courage to share what we believe. With Blessed John Henry Newman, we know that we believe because we love. In the power of that love, Love of God let us share our belief with each other and everyone else as well.

 

THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

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After the arrival of the Wise Men on the feast of the Epiphany on Friday we have come to the end of the Christmas season as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan by John. This feast is also a reminder to us of our own baptism, most of us were baptised when we were babies and today we recommit ourselves to the promises that were made on our behalf when we renew our Baptismal Promises..

The figure of the Baptist is mysterious and captivating. He was the Precursor of Christ, not only two thousand years ago but in a sense also in our day. He is the voice, which makes us hear the Word which introduces us to the mystery of the redemption, who helps us to respond to the call to conversion, with humility and love. He helps us understand that the human person, every person in front of the Lord Jesus stands before the greatest mystery of our existence: the Mystery God made man! Our own Baptism calls us and empowers us to be Christ like that is what the word Christian means. Our humility can openly declare our trust in God the Father. The great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas whose feast day is at the end of January spoke of times of grace when God enlivens people in special ways for different tasks and this is what baptism is all about the grace of god enlivening us to live out our new beginning  living life as people who are Christians.

The Holy Spirit is the power behind all our spiritual beginnings, when we are willing to begin, God is there as the grace  behind our going out into the sea of faith. There are beginnings that we know are important like baptisms, marriages and ordinations. We like to mark these beginnings as important, so we surround them with ceremony to give a sense of occasion and there is an atmosphere of rejoicing. The new beginnings that we make in our own lives may not mark the fulfilment of anyone’s prophecy, but they probably mark the fulfilment of someone’s hope. Sometimes we are so hesitant about making a new start that we end up in no-man’s-land waiting for more weather reports wondering what to do instead of getting on with it. This weekend as we think about our baptism we stop and think about our journey of faith as we celebrate beginning of Jesus ministry, we look at our own beginnings.

And if some of them look a bit shabby now or half-hearted, we take consolation from the Gospel challenge to begin again. There probably won’t be any doves flying or voices from heaven, but as people of God we make our beginnings like Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone. We make them in the power of the Spirit and in the love of the Father. So let us take courage to face our own rocky roads as the new year unfolds before all of us.

 

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