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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “September, 2017”

26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend in our local parish we begin our preparation for the world meeting of Families being held in Dublin in August 2018. We are unique in that we are the parish of the Holy Family and over the next 10 months or so we will have a short time of prayer and reflection for families on the first Sunday of the month at 5pm. As part of the preparation for the world meeting each diocese in Ireland will be hosting the icon of the Holy Family that was anointed in Knock recently. The Icon will be coming to Down and Connor Diocese on the 30th September for the annual diocesan convention. We will have the icon in our parish from the afternoon of the 2nd October to Wednesday 4th October.

In our Gospel reading for this weekend we hear the story of the two sons. The first son, who said no to his father but who went and did what his father wanted. And then the second  son, who says yes to the father but does not deliver . The first son “thought the better of it.” He was open to change. The second son was set in his ways and closed to the idea of change. The ability to change one’s mind is essential to all healthy relationships. A mind that is closed, whether from pride, stubbornness or stupidity, tends to destroy all relationships, e.g., when we refuse to admit a mistake, when we are unwilling to apologise and change our ways, when we persist in prejudice against a person or group, when we think we know it all when we don’t.

 Jesus surprises the people around him by responding favorably to the actions of the tax collectors and prostitutes who may have gotten it wrong at first but have since repented and come back.   Too many of us are down on ourselves for our past lives. Many of us can truthfully say, “I have made mistakes.” But we are here now. We are doing our best to follow the Lord. We try our best to receive the strength of Christ, the power of the Gospel, and integrate this into our daily lives. This Gospel passage points out something very important about faith and religion. Sometimes the terms faith and religion are taken to be the same. But they are not at all the same. The difference between them be seen more clearly if we speak of religious practices rather than religion. There is of a close relationship between religious practice and faith. Religious practices have to be based on and animated by faith.  The Lord calls us to a living faith whereby we enter into a living relationship with God. That involves something more than adherence to a system of ideas or obedience to a collection of rules or the practice of certain rites. It requires an authentic desire to follow Christ, whatever the costs to us material or otherwise.

 

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25TH SUNDAY OR ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend life just seems to continue as normal with the usual rhetoric coming from the usual people we need to redouble our efforts in prayer for peace in the world. We also remember all those people out there who were affected by the recent hurricanes and the efforts to help them get back to normal.

In our Gospel reading this weekend Matthew recounts the parable of the laborer’s in the vineyard who don’t see the generosity of their Master  because they are blinded by their own envy and selfishness.  Those who first heard this parable would have voiced their bewilderment. How could God not treat the hard, long-suffering workers in the vineyard better than those who had just arrived and didn’t seem to have done as much to gain their reward? The Day laborers in the vineyard objected to the amount of pay the owner gave them as the first was paid exactly the same as the last one denarius.

This tense image rode against the popular view of the Kingdom as a peaceful plentiful feast for the faithful in paradise. Jesus told this story to emphasize how the Kingdom differed from what people expected. What kind of God do we have? The parable tells us that our God is a generous and a just Father who doesn’t have any favourites, but continually invites us into the vineyard of faith and treats us  all equally.  God rewards us all “the same daily wage.” this is really a pointer  towards the “daily bread” God is constantly giving us to feed and strengthen us every day, as we strive to be God’s faithful people. In the pages of the gospels we meet many people who start out as losers but end up as winners. The parable of the  workers in the vineyard is the Lord’s call to all of us   to share generously with all people  what we  have received and that means sharing our resources and our time. Sharing with those who are physically emotionally, spiritually or economically crippled.

It means sharing with the prodigal sons and daughters, the outcasts, the overlooked, and the ones whom the powerful and respectable simply ignore or shun. The losers end up winners because Jesus makes a clear choice in their favour. Why does he do so? Simply because Jesus knows and teaches that God’s ways are not our ways, that God does not work from the mathematics of a calculator but from the fullness of a full and loving heart the heart of the Father. All of us share equally in the task, whether called early in the morning or late in the day, we are called  to build up the kingdom of God in this  unjust and often times hard world. When we focus upon the needs of others, even if they encroach upon our rights, we give  ourselves for the Kingdom. Our work  becomes more honest and our leadership when we are called to lead will bring others to Christ for they see Christ working through us for everyone’s good. Ultimately, service means sacrifice. What are we willing to give up for the Kingdom of God as we proclaim the good news in word and deed

 

24th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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On Friday we saw terrorism rearing its ugly head again with another incident in London. Thankfully no one was killed and we pray for all those who were affected. We also continue to pray for all those who have been affected by the Hurricane in the Caribbean that they will be able to get their lives back to normal as soon as possible in some places its reported that this could take up to two years.

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is all about forgiveness. The parable of the unforgiving official is told in order to underline our need for forgiveness. When the king calls his court officials to audit the accounts, one shows a deficiency of ten thousand talents, a colossal sum of money. The sum is deliberately extravagant, running into millions of pounds, to heighten the contrast with the few pounds owed to the official.  When the king orders the sale of the debtor and his family into slavery, the official pleads for time.

The king feels sorry for him and decides to remit the whole of the vast debt.  The official, however, learns nothing from his experience, for he refuses to give a colleague time to pay a trifling debt; instead, he has him thrown into prison. When this heartless behaviour is reported to the king, the grant of full forgiveness is withdrawn and the unforgiving official is thrown to the torturers. What do we learn from this parable about showing mercy the saying goes that the mercy we show to others will also be the mercy that  will be shown to us in our turn. We often forget that God showed us mercy In the same way that the king showed mercy to  the official!  If we think we do not need the mercy of God we need to stop and think about it  for all of  us need gods mercy in one way or another. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it was difficult to forgive someone who offended you all of us have been in that situation at some time in our lives. Forgiveness can be very hard in many situations, and for this reason it takes a long time before we bring ourselves to forgive those who sin against us  especially when they might be  people we trusted a lot.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus seems to tell us that God’s forgiveness has necessary limits, but perhaps these are just the limits we set. The unforgiving slave brings judgement on himself by treating his own forgiveness as a license to bring judgement on others. He thus transforms a merciful king into a vengeful judge. The problem lies not with the king, or even by analogy with God, but with the world the slave insists on constructing for himself, under which terms his fate is now set. With whom, and to what systems, do we bind ourselves each day? Each day let us ask the Lord for forgiveness for all our sins Let us forgive all those who have sinned against us because that is what our father in heaven asks us to do. Remember our Father in heaven sent us Jesus his son to point the way and he encourages us to follow him.

23RD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we remember in a special way all those who are affected by Harvey and Irma the Hurricanes in the Caribbean. I have a nephew who is presently in Cuba wondering what he is going to do and he tells me though they are well prepared they are still expecting the worst!

In our Gospel passage for this Sunday St Matthew recounts Jesus’ instructions to the disciples about how they should deal with a brother who does something wrong. This same instruction applies to us and our dealings with other people in the here and now of today. This passage is very different from those of the two previous Sundays. They were dramatic stories, marked by deep emotions and with deep implications for the characters involved. This is a little gem of a passage but with little drama, a very practical, common-sense teaching on that most common and most prosaic of community problems conflict. It is a great wisdom teaching which continues to be valid for us in our own time.

Today management of time and people  has become a science, and Jesus’ teaching stands up well as a model of how to “manage” conflict in any situation.  It is the duty of the disciple we are told  to point out the error and even if our correction might not be well received. St Matthew wants to let the Christians in his community know how to deal with those who drift away from the teaching of Christ or blatantly contravene the commandments. Matthew chooses those words of Jesus which most stress the authority and the competence of the Christian community, the Church, to deal with these cases: Whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.  However, there are some safeguards built into this teaching on reproving those who go astray. Jesus says that first of all you must have it out with him alone. This might lead to a speedy solution and the person’s good name is preserved. Yet it seems  from the gospel reading that the only sanction is that the person be excluded from the community of the Church.

All the practical advice in the Gospel centers on Christians taking responsibility for each other and even now that is what we are asked to do take responsibility for each other. Belonging to a community implies that we are involved in the life of its members. This is not a charter for the legion of the curious, but a procedure for a caring community to follow. It is a way of handling wrongdoing and hurt. For many people have done wrong and many are hurting for so many reasons and this Gospel reading calls us to be there for all those who have done wrong and for all those who are hurting. It is a call for us to show the people who are around us that the way of Jesus is the right road to follow.

22ND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Last Thursday and Friday the local kids went back to school at the end of the summer holidays, I’m sure that the mums and dads out there were pleased about that. As we also know the hurricane in the USA as well as the North Korean missile test have been in the news there is much to think about and much to pray for this week especially the peace of the world.

In our Gospel Reading this weekend we see Jesus starting to prepare his Apostles for the journey he must make to Jerusalem which ends up with Jesus crucified on the Cross. In foretelling his sufferings and death, which took place some months later, Christ intended to prepare his disciples and other followers for  the severe crisis of faith that would hit them after the crucifixion. He also took the occasion to remind his disciples, and all the others of what their attitude to suffering and death should be. He told them, and us too, that we must be ever ready to accept sufferings in this life, and even an untimely death if that should be demanded of us, rather than deny our Christian faith.

Peter is appalled at this prospect and tries to deflect Jesus from the path that lies ahead and yet it was peter who was crucified as well. After having declared Jesus to be the Christ, a title associated with victory and glory, Peter now denies that Jesus must suffer. Peter wants to banish suffering from the agenda; Jesus brings the subject to the forefront of the conversation. Jesus faced suffering which could only be conquered if it was accepted If the suffering was to pass, it had to be endured. He faced rejection which could be transformed only if he assented to it. He told them “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. The way of the cross which Jesus followed in Jerusalem was one which passed through streets and markets, by houses and palaces, by windows and doors. While it happened people went about their business not giving the procession to Calvary a second thought. Suffering must run the course of the familiar as it does for us. As Christians we live in the assurance that our way of the cross does not go unnoticed.

We are asked like Jesus to carry our crosses through streets and markets, by houses and palaces, by windows and open doors. Jesus notices what we are going through and he is our companion along the way he is our strength and our shield; his power is mighty in our weakness. If the cross we carry is the price to be paid for love, then carrying it is love in action. For Jesus, that was enough it is also enough for us to know that our sufferings large or small were nailed to the Cross on that first Good Friday through the love that God the Father had to send us his Son to be with us for all time.

 

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