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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “December, 2017”

THE HOLY FAMILY

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This weekend we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, and it is a  good time to stop and reflect on the meaning of the Christian Family. In past times the family unit consisted of the Mother and Father and the children and these days the family unit consists of maybe one parent and we have the same sex marriages which are a recent thing. We stop and remember exactly what the Christian family should mean for us who are people of Faith. We in Ireland have a particular reason for celebrating the Holy Family this year as we will be hosting the world meeting of Families here in Ireland in August 2018 and as we prepare for this great event it is a good to reflect on Family and what it means and these days there are more than one meaning for the word Family. This Sunday, we commemorate a family in deep stress because their Son is seen as a threat to a jealous king as Joseph and Mary are running for their lives from Herod the Great. Tradition says that after three years in exile, another angel informs Joseph that Herod is dead.

The Holy Family returns to their homeland, not to Bethlehem, since the new king who reigns in his father’s place is also a barbaric ruler. Joseph brings Mary and Jesus to his native town of Nazareth in Galilee. There, they lived a simple ordinary life, Joseph as a carpenter, and Mary as his wife and mother of Jesus. Jesus grew in holiness and in knowledge of God’s will in the same ordinary ways that families do in our day. We  also remember the care that Mary and Joseph gave to Jesus. We recognize the sacrifice they made for Jesus, in the same way as we recognize the sacrifices our parents made for us  and many more  are making for their children today in our I want I get world.    As the world continues to change so too the idea of what the family means is constantly under fire. For us who have come together to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the feast is a reminder of all that the Christian Family has meant to us, and all that he continues to mean to us.  We remember that we have come to know Jesus  through the guidance and the love and support, of our parents! 

In the friendship of many other family members and of many other friends and significant people in our lives! And in things that have happened to us good and not so good!  We have also met Christ in the sacraments we have celebrated as a community and as individuals. In this Sundays  Gospel reading Simeon makes his prophecy about Christ’s destiny and as it says, ‘the child’s father and mother stood there wondering about him. Every parent wonders about their children and every parent is full of hope for their children. Over a period of time this might turn in to fear and anxiety, but the fundamental feeling of hope is still there. We hope that everything will turn out well for them; we hope that they will make a success of life; we hope that they will be safe and keep out of trouble; and that they will be happy.  As we think about family life and what it is now we pray that the great ideal of the Family  will continue to be cherished and not diminished and that we will celebrate it in our own lives and the lives of our families as we prepare for the World Meeting of Families In August 2018.

 

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Christmas 2017

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At Christmas the Christian Churches throughout the world celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ. Throughout the Advent season we have been waiting for the coming of  Jesus Christ the Son of God our Saviour the light in the darkness of our lives. Now we celebrate His birth with joy  as we  recall that God gives us the greatest of all gifts, His beloved Son. But with the tidings of great joy we need to remember those who may not be happy this Christmas. Many people sit in dark despair wondering where exactly the Christ light will come from and who will bring it to them for so many reasons. Simply put it is the baby in the manger the that brings the light of god into the world a world that is broken in so many ways.  There are three separate sets of scriptural readings for the feast of Christmas.  The Gospel that we are familiar with is about Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, they settle for a stable.

 The Gospel for the mass at Dawn relates how the shepherds who had heard the message of the angels believe that they had heard something inviting and so they too go to the stable. The third Gospel for the Mass during the day is not about stables and angels, nor about stars and kings, but a well-worked summary of how believers much later than the writers of the early accounts,  express the birth of the Christ Child, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”   The Word which was in the beginning,  has embraced time and space. God so loved the world that he did not send an idea or a feeling or a document or an instruction. God sent his son and he has come and lives among and within us all and Jesus is the reason for this season.  Christ came to light up the darkness of our hearts minds and souls. His light gives us hope, true hope, and true Joy. During Christmas we are reminded  of the mystery of Mary as Mother of God, mother of the Incarnate Word, and mother of His mystical body, the Church. Christmas encourages us to contemplate Jesus together with Mary, reflecting on Jesus with ‘His mother’, as recounted many times in the Gospels.

Our faith cannot neglect a sane and profound devotion to the Mother of God, as she shows us the easiest way to reach Jesus. In the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes the inscription on the mosaic over the Altar is to Jesus through Mary and the mosaic shows Mary with open arms and again at the wedding at Cana Mary told the attendants as she tells us do whatever he tells you. These are two pointers for us in our modern day as to what we should do in order to do what he tell us. So, why do we celebrate Christmas? It is more than the birth of Jesus. It is a celebration of God with us in all the ups and downs of our daily lives. It is the realization that God’s love and faithfulness dwells among us . It is a sign that we are to carry that love and faithfulness to other people where we are especially at this time of year.

 

 

4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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This weekend we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent and we hear the story of the Angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. But as we listen to this story we should stop and spare a thought about how Mary felt when she got the news that she was to have a child who was the Son of God. Luke tells us that, ” she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” In that uneasy world of Galilee, a place of conflict and struggle, Mary’s personal response showed confusion and doubt and that was why the angel reassured her. Mary did not get a roadmap of the future – neither do we. All her questions weren’t answered – nor are ours. Gabriel announced the conception and birth of the Son of God. Mary’s child would be “great”. He would be Son of the “Most High” a title for the greatest God, the highest concept of divinity one could have at that time. Mary made room for God in her life do we make room for God amongst the general hustle and bustle of life and living not forgetting the Christmas preparations that are part and parcel of this time of year.

Mary and the saints are more like us than the arts or literature about them tell us or we might like to think. They are amazingly human that is like you and me and it is among us, in all our human limitations, that God wants to dwell – among people who despite struggle and doubt, say “Yes” to him. Scripture suggests God wants to enter more fully into our lives; our not-so-neat and orderly lives but our messy untidy lives with all the good and bad and happy and sad times that are part and parcel of our lives. Mary accepted, and proclaimed, God’s will in her life. She placed her future completely in the hands of the Father and we are called to do exactly the same. Her example should be our inspiration to stand firm as Catholics in today’s world of ever-changing fads and fancies especially as we face up to the secular razzmatazz that we see in the run up to Christmas. Remember, the words of Mary when she said ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ May we accept the word of God and try to put it into action in our lives this Christmas Time.

 

3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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This Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent  it is also known as Gaudete Sunday. In some places Rose vestments are used and we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath. It is a Sunday when we rejoice as we look forward to the birth of Jesus. In our parish  this year we are celebrating Bambinelli Sunday.  This  is a Roman tradition where  the pope will bless the baby Jesus from family cribs brought to the papal audience by the children on Gaudete Sunday.   Pope Benedict tells us that the blessing of the “Bambinelli” in Rome, reminds us that the crib is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in having many things but in feeling loved by the Lord, in giving oneself as a gift for others and in loving one another. Let us look at the crib. Our Lady and St Joseph do not seem to be a very fortunate family; their first child was born in the midst of great hardship; yet they are full of deep joy, because they love each other, they help each other and they are certain that God, who made himself present in the little Jesus, is at work in their story. As we prepare for the birth of Jesus we have to ask ourselves is God made real through the baby Jesus present in our own life stories?  Our Gospel story tells us about John the Baptist who was the voice crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord. John the Evangelist presented the Baptist as God’s witness, the one who spoke eternal truth in a transient world. John’s message and ministry of a repentant baptism prefigured Christ’s. John baptized in the spirit of hope and we live in the spirit of hope. The baptism of Jesus realized that hope. Those baptized by John looked forward to a life with God. Those baptized by the Christ lived in God as we live in God.

We rejoice and praise God on this Gaudete Sunday. We thank him for all he has done for us in our own lives and in the lives of all those who are near and dear to us, families and friends wherever they are.We rejoice that through the coming of his Son Jesus we have come to know God as our Father. We do our best to follow his Gospel of love in a spirit of joy. As we continue our Advent journey  along the road that lead to salvation let us prepare the way for the Lord in our own lives remembering that in  the words of the Entrance Antiphon  we should rejoice in the Lord always; for the Lord is near. 

 

 

2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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Our gospel reading for this weekend is all about a voice in the wilderness. The voice we hear from the wilderness is John the Baptist, who came before Jesus as the lords herald.  John  tells us that there is one coming after him and that he is the son of God and that he was not good enough to take the sandals of his feet. He also tells us that we should make the paths straight for the lord. So are we making the paths straight for the lord as we try to make sense of all the ongoing razzmatazz or are we going to go with the flow, just too busy with all the secular preparations that this time of year brings to really take notice of the importance of the preparation that John the Baptist talks about?  John the Baptist came to reawaken the sense of expectation among a people that had grown tired and distant from God as many have done in our present time.   John was called to bring renewal to the institutional expressions of religion which, at the time, had so often become fossilized into mere formulae or external ritual.  

As the journey of Advent continues we prepare to celebrate the nativity of Jesus, John the Baptist’s clarion call to conversion sounds out in our communities. As we continue our preparations for the razzmatazz of Christmas let us not forget the true and lasting message of Christmas that has lasted for over 2,000 years and the message is that God came among us.  All of us are asked to take up the Baptists call of renewal to prepare the way for the Lord. This  is the call to reawaken within ourselves the fact that Jesus is god with us Emmanuel who will be heard and seen through us in the Joy we give to others and the Joy that is there in our own hearts.  Christianity is a religion of anticipation and joy. We await the coming of the Lord in glory. We also wait for that joyful time that is the Christmas season, a time of happiness and peace. The Church in every age must become like John the Baptist, an uncomfortable reminder of how we must allow the truth of Jesus to break into our lives to enlighten the darkness that can at any moment enter into  the life of the Church or our own lives .

Remember that the words of Jesus in the Gospel are there to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. At the beginning of this piece I began with the voice of John the Baptist out there in the wilderness. For many people out there in the wilderness the voice of Jesus means very little as they go about their daily lives. We are called to reawaken within ourselves and others the great spirit of expectant waiting as we wait on the Christmas feast. So are we making the paths straight for the lord or are we just going to go with the flow a taking little or no  notice of the importance of the preparation that John the Baptist talks about  that is the spiritual preparation of our hearts and minds for the great spiritual event that Christmas is.

 

 

1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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This Sunday we begin the church’s new year as we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent. At the beginning of the Liturgy we bless the Advent Wreath  and light the first purple candle we also place the first symbols on the Jesse Tree. In the secular world Advent seems to begin the season of Christmas and the measuring of Christmas-time profits in the business sections of our newspapers. We will hear happy, silly jingles in stores and malls. While at church, this season’s sounds will be different sober hymns and Scriptures, that help us “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  Though the vestments are purple and there is a certain penitential feel running through the next few weeks there is also a sense of joyful expectation as we await the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.   The main theme for our readings this Sunday is  waiting and watching in hope. Hope is the basis for a watchful and vigilant spirit.

In our anticipation for the Lord’s coming, we hope that our faith will help reveal the Kingdom and prepare others as well as ourselves for eternity. Our efforts alone will not bring about the Kingdom, but, God, acting through us, will reveal the Kingdom.  Blessed John Henry Newman reminds us in a homily for the Advent Season: “Advent is a time of waiting, it is a time of joy because the coming of Christ is not only a gift of grace and salvation but it is also a time of commitment because it motivates us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance. This ‘vigilance’ means the urgency of an industrious, living ‘wait’. To make all this happen, then we need to wake up, as we are warned in the Gospel reading to stay awake for we do not know when the master will return.  Advent poses some basic questions to us today: do we still trust that God is in charge, is faithful to us and will finally draw us into a loving and lasting embrace?

The Advent liturgies and scriptural texts encourage us to trust in God. They keep our hope alive, despite national and international headlines of gloom and doom and closer to home reports of family arguments and break ups and many other things. Advent doesn’t look back to a former time when things seemed better. Advent really is the time to look forward. What do we have to look forward to? We look forward to the birth of Jesus the son of God, the child in the Manger who is the light in the darkness of our world and our lives. I hope that at the end of this Advent when Jesus arrives at Christmas he wont be the stranger in the Manger but a welcome friend for all of us.

 

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