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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “February, 2017”

ASH WEDNESDAY

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 Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday here we go again comes to mind as it seems like no time since we began lent 2016  and here we are at Lent 2017 as usual time keeps marching on. As we place the ashes on our foreheads this year and listen to the words repent and believe in the good news  we remember that the Church teaches that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are significant ways to become closer to God.  The decision for each of us on Ash Wednesday is to determine the way we want to celebrate Lent for this year. Over the next six weeks there will be a packed programme of activities providing many opportunities for undertaking spiritual renewal coupled with fasting and alms giving and I encourage you wherever you are reading this to try and take up some of the opportunities provided  in your area for Lent. As we begin our Lenten journey for 2017 may god give us his grace to make a good Lent as we begin our journey  on the road to Easter .

 

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8th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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In our Gospel reading for this Sunday we hear Jesus telling us that  ‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money. He then goes on to say that we should  set our hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well.  These day our world has so many worries for everyone with various countries in a state of flux with their governments not doing what everyone expects and this is creating uncertainty. Even where I am in Northern Ireland there is a sense of not knowing what will happen next as we go to the polls next week in what really is an unwanted election but we live in hope of better things and this is what keeps all of us going. I think that the key to this weekend’s readings lies in the psalm which tell us:  In God alone is my soul at rest; my help comes from him. He alone is my rock, my stronghold, my fortress: I stand firm. So for us god is our rock and our strong fortress and if we rest in him no matter what happens we will come through it and come out the other side realising that we got through that problem with the help of God.

This Gospel passage concludes  with Matthew  reminding us to address each day’s problems as they come, confident that we are in God’s loving care he will show us the solutions to our problems as they arise. God is a loving father who holds  each one of us and the whole world in his hands  If we develop that attitude of faith, then whenever the events of our lives become heavy, when calamity strikes individuals or relationships in a family, we can call on the presence of the Lord to care for us, to share our burdens.

Lent always seems to come around so quickly!  Next Wednesday March 1st  is Ash Wednesday, and we begin our 40-day annual Lenten journey once again. As we place the ashes on our foreheads we remember what Lent is about coming back to the Lord. Over the six weeks of Lent there will be a packed programme of activities providing many opportunities for undertaking spiritual renewal coupled with alms giving and all of these are good and I encourage you wherever you are reading this to try and take up some of the opportunities provided  for Lent where you are.

7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This Sunday in our Gospel we are told that we should offer the wicked man no resistance and that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us these are strong words. Jesus asks his followers to take a different approach by resisting retaliation altogether. The response to a stronger person who slaps us on the cheek, takes us to court, or demands a service of us is not to resist. Similarly, for a weaker person, such as a beggar or borrower, we are to give him or her what he or she asks for. Those who are called to the Kingdom of Heaven are to go beyond the way the world usually works and serve God’s kingdom here on earth. We must, if we are truly Christian, forgive those who offend or injure us. We must love all men, whether they be friends or enemies. G. K. Chesterton says : “We are commanded to love our neighbours and our enemies;  very often we find that they are the same people.” This is very true for all of us. It is very easy for us to love in a theoretical way all people as they never come in contact with us in a personal way and never tread on our feet. But it is those among whom I live and work, who are liable to injure me and might  become my enemies.

Jesus argues that the love that we his disciples give people is not related to the love they receive from others: it is not a social contract or a fair bargain it is unconditional. The disciple loves because that is what the nature of discipleship involves. That means loving your enemy as yourself and doing good to those who would persecute you . A disciple is the child of the Father  and look at the Father’s gracious love for us as we are. He does not withhold the sun and the rain from those who oppose him; likewise, disciples must not withhold their love from those who oppose them. The love is offered not because Jesus thinks that it will change the enemy into something else: certainly, love might confuse the enemy! Love is offered because that is the example and the way of life disciples of the kingdom should follow.

Jesus is telling us not to follow the way of the world, which often perpetuates old oppressions and makes new ones as well. This only leaves people stuck and unable to move forward.  Jesus is telling us that we should be agents of real change in the world by acting in unexpected ways. This means that we do not go along with the crowd but rather approach the various situations of life with new and imaginative thinking as befits a disciple of Christ.

He wants us to see the world from the top down as God does. And then  by seeing the world the way it really is with all that is good and bad within it we will find that we are in a far better position to change it. 

 

6th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we celebrate the 6th Sunday of ordinary time along with that we also celebrate World Day of Prayer for the sick which takes place each year on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes February 11th. Here in our parish we will have the anointing of the sick and the blessing of the carers on Sunday afternoon.  We pray for all those who are sick at this time and we pray for all those who care for them family members, friends, doctors, nurses, care assistants and the priests of our parishes along with the priests religious and lay people who are our hospital chaplains.

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us that he has come to fulfil the law not to abolish or replace it. When he introduced the New Law of the Kingdom of God Jesus said something that was absolutely shocking to those heard what he told them that the holiness of the people had to surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees. How could anyone be holier than the Pharisees who were supposed to be holy men”! They dressed well, they fasted said their prayers loudly for all to hear. But Jesus said that his followers had to be holier than the Pharisees. How could that be possible as they were the people that everyone held up as being good. Jesus explains, our external actions must be a reflection of what we are really like. If what we do is not a reflection of who we are, then we are hypocrites. Hypocrite, is the word that Jesus uses over and over to describe the Pharisees.

They were considered the righteous and holy ones who in truth were neither righteous or holy in so many ways.  Jesus’ challenge was not only to his followers, but to the Pharisees and scribes as well. Their religious faith was to go deeper than exterior works – the right motives were supposed  to support right behaviour. His demands are high indeed! They seem impossible to achieve. The Pharisee spent a lot of time and energy fulfilling the Law like so many people today the law was more important than compassion. They were of the middle class and unlike the desperately poor, who were most of Jesus’s followers, the Pharisees had the education and leisure to pursue purity of observance. What chance did the illiterate, overworked and burdened poor followers of Jesus have? For that matter, what chance do we have in fulfilling these teachings? And yet, Jesus calls for a holiness that surpasses those scribes and Pharisees the people who stuck by the letter of the law instead of the compassion of God! Jesus’ demands are more radical; his vision sharper; his expectations greater When we see our own record of doing good against the demands of Jesus in the Gospel, we can all come away feeling helpless. Our own efforts look so shabby against the clear unambiguous demands of the larger vision. May we be courageous in taking up the challenge that Jesus gives each one of us today that is the call to holiness living our lives so that people will see that we are faith filled people who live our lives with the compassion of God for those around us in our hearts.

5TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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In our gospel reading this Sunday Jesus tells his disciples that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He adds, “. . . your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.”

If we were to witness the events of this passage being acted on stage, I think we would find them humorous: Jesus telling a motley group of puzzled followers, many illiterate, that they are the light of the world and when we hear the gospel passage in church on Sunday, we assume that Jesus is talking to those first disciples, surely not to us. But Jesus is talking to us in the same way  he spoke the Disciples  long ago. .Jesus used salt as a metaphor to describe who his disciples are and how they are to be in the world. Just as salt draws out the flavour of food, so  we as Jesus’ disciples we are asked to draw out goodness in the world. As salt of the earth we may even have to upset the way things are and how life is ordinarily carried on – the usual “salty taste” of daily life in the world these days can be so topsy turvy as recent events have shown in America and other places as well. Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” They are to be seen, not hidden away they are called to be the light overcoming the  darkness of our world and its peoples.

We in our own time are called to be the “light of the world,” each one of us a tiny ray of light, dispelling darkness, living in charity toward all, including persecutors. This light is an inner light the light of faith . Its source is divine grace that becomes visible to others by our kind words, our gracious acts, our personal refusal to resort to “oppression, false accusation or malicious speech.” And thus, as Isaiah promised, the gloom of sin and death shall be overcome, or as the psalmist declares, justice and mercy of the upright will be a light shining through the darkness. Christ gives us a huge amount of latitude and invites us to carry out our role as his representatives with the maximum level of personal responsibility. We are invited to utilise our own special gifts and talents to inform our role of being a disciple who is the salt of the earth and the light for the world. So let us turn to Jesus the light of life today, let us pray that we might share in his life, so that we might be the salt of the earth, and light in the darkness for all  the people in our world still groping around for light  in darkness of their lives.

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