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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “April, 2017”

3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter. Our gospel reading for this Sunday recounts the apparition of Jesus on the evening of Easter to two disciples who were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  Their life with Jesus had come to an abrupt end. They were So disappointed and so disillusioned about Jesus and the way he died that they decided to leave the community of his followers.  Slowly but surely they are walking away from it all and then Jesus comes to them and walks with them along the road asking them about what had gone on in Jerusalem. Why did the Lord not tell the disciples straight away who He was? Indeed, in the dialogue that the Gospel Story presents to us today, it almost seems that Jesus did all He could to avoid revealing His true identity.  He pretended not to know what Cleopas and his companion were discussing and then He went on to ‘explain to them the passages throughout scriptures that were about Himself’ (Lk 24:27) but without making direct reference to who he was.

 Then at the end of the reading they recognised him in the breaking of the bread and went back to Jerusalem to tell the others that they had seen the Lord and Jesus had risen as he said he would. This passage has a different purpose from the other gospel accounts whose intent is to demonstrate that the Lord is truly real in a new spiritual way. This gospel of the encounter of the two disciples with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and in the breaking of the bread is a story of friendship. The Risen Lord is a friend who talks with them as they walk, a friend who shares a meal with them. Luke describes an intimate, personal encounter marked by tenderness and hospitality. He was walking with the disciples in their time of wondering what will happen next. He walks with us during times of great joy, as well as in our darkest moments. At times we become so caught up and distracted with what’s happening in our lives that we fail to recognize his presence with us remember that line from Christmas that Jesus the Son of God is Emmanuel that means God with us. Jesus doesn’t give up and leave us, he continues to walk with us if we  look around we see his presence in those around us. Sometimes we don’t realize his presence and how it is strengthening us, but it is certainly there.

Many people have left the Church, only to return again and find their spiritual home. Many feel distant from God, discouraged over an unresolved faith issue, or snubbed by someone in the Church or whatever. Then, something happened to turn them back. If we look closer, we will find it was not a personal crisis or children or maturity that made them return. It was God who travels the roads of life with us as Jesus travelled the road to Emmaus  with the apostles who were running away in the Gospel story for this Sunday.

 

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DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

 

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This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy. This is a fairly recent feast in the liturgical calendar that was instituted by Pope St. John Paul and it comes hot on the heels of Easter Sunday. The Easter season has the most exciting Scripture readings of the year. They take us from the empty tomb of Easter Sunday all the way to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We know from experience that it isn’t easy to believe in someone we cannot see for ourselves. But we also know that many people who did see Jesus did not believe in him either. The apostles have a unique place in the Church because they saw Jesus and believed in him, and they were commissioned to share their faith with others. Without the apostles’ seeing and believing there would be no Christian faith as we have it today. That is why, in the creed, we affirm one of the marks of the Church is that it is “apostolic”.

We have no experience of the physical presence of Jesus, but our understanding of him is linked through time  through all the previous generations of Christians back to the apostles themselves. It is a great chain of faith which is linked to the person of Jesus himself. Thomas doubted the Resurrec­tion because he had suffered the crisis of the crucifixion. Like the other specially chosen disciples who would later be called apostles, like Peter, James, Andrew, Bartholomew, Simon and all the rest, Thomas ran and hid. He was too afraid to remember the promises of the Lord. But his faith was restored when he saw the Lord. At this point Jesus told Thomas about a greater faith, a faith that He has called you and me to follow. The Lord looked at Thomas and then looked down the ages at us and said, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe. “When a crisis hits us we all pray for deliverance from whatever is happening at the time it is a natural thing to do. If deliverance comes we feel that we have seen the Lord. But how much greater is our faith when we hold onto the Lord even when our prayers are not answered and most times the prayers won’t be answered .  

Our faith in the Resurrection is not based on experiencing the presence of the Risen Lord, but on an empty tomb. When we feel empty, when we feel that the Lord is no longer in our lives, if we open our eyes and look around us will see that more than ever He is alive, among us. When we look We will see the merci­ful love of God  who shares our trials and tribulations as well as our happy and sad moments throughout  our lives,  he is with us as he shows us his love and mercy in order that  we show the same love and mercy to other people. As we celebrate the divine mercy of God this weekend  may we pass that great mercy on to others.

 

EASTER 2017

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The Forty Days of Lent are over. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lamb of God have  been celebrated during Holy Week. The tomb is  now empty. The flowers symbolize the New Life that has come to the world. Jesus Christ lives! He has Risen as he said he would and his light lights up our world.  The Easter celebration is an invitation to come out out of darkness into the light of the risen Christ. In that light we see him and recognise each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is that light which summons us to leave the darkness of our lives behind and all of us have some of those. As a  result of Jesus conquering death on the cross nobody and nothing can be written off as a lost cause ever again. Year after year when we celebrate Easter we hold as holy the memory of God’s great act in raising Jesus from the dead. We believe that God’s graciousness will be extended to ourselves and that our own death will not be the final word.

Our faith educates our hope that we will participate in Jesus resurrection on the last day. But a question raises itself: is our faith in the resurrection limited to remembering Jesus’ resurrection and hoping for our own on the last day? What happens between times? What about today? The resurrection of Jesus is a proclamation that this outcast from Galilee is the beloved Son of God who cannot be held in the darkness of death because someone else takes action. Jesus did not raise himself; he was raised by God his father. The truth that God raised Jesus from the dead gives hope and help to all those who want that miracle repeated in the midst of life. All of us believe that God’s work continues not least because we believe Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Our celebration of the Easter Season begins with our celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday  and continues for 50 days until Pentecost  and then it resonates throughout the rest of the year: full of gratitude for Christ’s passion, with joy in his resurrection and, strengthened by the Spirit, we continue our Christian journey this Easter time.

 

Holy Saturday

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Today is Holy Saturday a day to pause and take stock , all is quiet as we wait watching by the tomb, after the great liturgies of the last few days and the fasting of the forty days of Lent we are Quiet in a reflective mood that is part of Holy Saturday. Today gives us  a chance to think about all that we are and what we should be as Christians while we wait and watch for the resurrection. While  we  wait we think about the  betrayal, suffering and death of Jesus as we look forward to the Easter Vigil and his resurrection. The Easter Vigil is the most distinctive liturgy of the Christian year, In several very special ways we celebrate our life in the risen Christ during the Vigil. In the expanded readings we recount the history of God’s saving actions in the lives of his people. We add new members to the Body of Christ in the sacrament of Baptism and we renew our own baptismal vows. Then in the Eucharist, we celebrate our membership of the Church, the Body of the Risen Christ. On Good Friday we celebrated Jesus life giving death on the Cross but today we stop and reflect on our own personal faith journeys in the light of the Cross of Christ as we await the great call that Christ the light in our darkness has Risen.

GOOD FRIDAY

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I never could understand why this day was called Good Friday because at first glance it seems that there was nothing good about it but here we are over two thousand years after the event talking about and celebrating the Passion and death of Jesus. The events of Good Friday celebrate the life giving death of Jesus who died upon the cross giving his life as a ransom for many. The main liturgy of this day is extremely simple. The focus is on the Cross. All other decorations have been removed from the church. The liturgy consists of readings, including the Passion from John’s Gospel, and solemn prayers of intercession for the church and the world. The central liturgical action is the veneration of the cross by all present. We venerate the one Cross in a variety of ways: by a genuflection or bow, by kissing or touching the cross, by a simple pause. The Eucharist is not celebrated on this day, but Communion is made through the Eucharist reserved from the Holy Thursday liturgy.

Spy Wednesday

Spy Wednesday

The Wednesday of Holy Week is often called Spy Wednesday because it was the day when Judas went to the authorities to betray Jesus. He told them that the one that I kiss he is the man  and they paid him 30 pieces of Silver . Tomorrow, Holy Thursday we begin the annual triduum or three days of prayer which conclude with the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening. May we follow Jesus journey over the next few days a journey of Betrayal, death and resurrection with renewed hearts and minds

PALM SUNDAY

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This weekend we begin Holy Week with our annual celebration of Palm Sunday. This is the day in which we commemorate Jesus entry into Jerusalem his own city. We read the passion gospel, which is often referred to as the long gospel because in simple terms  it is quite long and some would even say boring.  Jesus has brought his disciples together as a group, then it all seems to fall apart with one of his apostles Judas betraying Jesus and then of course we all know what followed.   In many ways the two main themes of Palm Sunday are happiness and sorrow, and these themes  also come into play on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. On ash Wednesday we placed the ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our humility as we began our Lenten Journey and now six weeks later on Palm Sunday we remember Jesus entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey as the people raised their voices in joyful acclamation as they sang hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 

But what does Palm Sunday really mean to you and me? What does it mean to us as Christians in the year 2017, a big question indeed. The Passion and death of Jesus will mean so much to some and many other people won’t care one single bit.The Passion narrative of Matthew which we hear this year emphasizes the great humility of Jesus, the King.  Lent, Palm Sunday and Holy week taken as a whole give us  the opportunity to look hard at ourselves and see exactly where we are going and perhaps were we should be going. We need to remember that Christ came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many as a result of this  he points us in the right direction. Jesus took our sinful ways on himself because of his love for us  It is important that we who say we are Christians accept the truth about ourselves that truth  may not always be good and then in our acceptance of the truth we will be able to look at the Cross and recognise the love of God our Father in the man on the cross.

May the passion story inspire all of us to try to imitate in some small way the all loving all forgiving Jesus who went through betrayal to death and finally came to the resurrection for us so that we will have life and have it to the full. Over the next few days let us prepare with greater intensity for the Easter Triduum Holy Thursday, Good Friday and  Holy Saturday and then we will really be able to enjoy the Easter feast which we have been preparing for since Ash Wednesday.

5TH SUNDAY OF LENT

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Well here we are at the 5th Sunday of lent as we look towards Palm Sunday and Holy Week. In this weekend’s gospel reading we listen to the story of Lazarus and we hear about the compassion that Jesus had towards him and his sisters Martha and Mary. This story is also about faith, the faith that Martha and Mary had in Jesus when they sent the message to them that Lazarus was sick indeed he had died and was in the tomb for four days when Jesus arrived and called him to come out from the tomb. When Lazarus was called from the tomb, it was the last sign, worked by the Lord before his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, everything seems to flow to that ‘new reality’ inaugurated by Emmanuel, God with us. Sharing our existence, Jesus loves us with a supreme passion right up to sacrificing Himself for us on the cross of Good Friday. He was moved by those who were linked to him by ties of the most profound friendship who understood that it could not be anything but God’s presence amongst them.

John’s message for us is that Jesus raises us to new life. This raising to new life does not mean that we no longer suffer. As a matter of fact, this new life leads through pain and suffering before it reaches fullness of resurrection. Jesus demonstrates this to us as it leads to his painful death on the Cross on Good Friday. But the new life we live leads to a new creation, a new way of living. The proof of this is the Resurrected Christ of Easter Sunday. He appears after his resurrection to those at the beginning of their new life. We ask the Lord for the courage to walk towards the voice that is saying, Lazarus, Come out! Jesus is calling us. He is calling us to come out of the darkness, and come into his Light. Lent may be winding down as next Sunday is Palm Sunday, but there is still time for us to do our spiritual spring cleaning. There is still time for us to be at peace with ourselves and with the Lord in the light of the presence of Jesus who is God with us.

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