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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “March, 2018”

EASTER VIGIL AND EASTER SUNDAY

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Having  completed our Lenten observance and after the liturgies of Holy Thursday and  Good Friday we  are now at the stage of celebrating the Easter Vigil on the day of resurrection that is Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday is about emptiness, the cross is empty and Jesus lies in the tomb everything around us is still.  The heavens and the earth cry out with longing for the sinless one who is not to be found, if we stop to think for a moment we remember that Jesus died and rose again on the third day. We wait, as mourners beside a grave, unsettled, ill at ease, not knowing what to do with ourselves. The Church has only one thing to do today: to pray through the emptiness of Holy Saturday.

Holy Saturday is the day when we experience watching and waiting at the tomb as we await the celebration of the Resurrection which we celebrate in the Easter Vigil and the season of Easter. The Psalm for Easter Sunday says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”Above all days, Easter is a day of joy. At Easter, we celebrate the kind each of us longs for, when every tear is wiped away, and there is no sorrow any more no more suffering from weather or hunger or hurtful human beings. As we sing in the much-loved hymn by Fr. John Foley, S. J., at Easter, “the cross and passion past, dark night is done, bright morning come at last!”  When we ourselves rise to meet our risen Lord, in that bright morning we will hear him say, “Come away, beloved. The winter is past; the rain is gone, and the flowers return to the earth” (Song of Songs 2:10-12). In the loving union of that encounter, all the heart brokenness of our lives will be redeemed. That will be perfect  joy.So in that same vein of perfect joy we say “this is the ‘day which the Lord has made.’ Alleluia!  let us take fresh hope,  with Christ our Passover everything is possible! Christ goes forward with us in our future!” Let us go forward together as Easter people rejoicing in the Resurrection.

THE EASTER SEASON

It can seem that once Easter Sunday has passed Easter is finished, but the’ celebration continues for fifty days. The next Sunday of Easter after Easter  day  is traditionally known as Low Sunday or Dominica in Albis (White Sunday) which refers to the white baptismal garment of the newly baptised. Divine Mercy Sunday is a new feast also celebrated on this day. It comes almost as an opportunity in which anyone who missed out on celebrating the mercy of Christ in Holy Week has another chance. After forty days we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of Christ who returns to the Father to send us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We spend the novena (nine days) between the Ascension and Pentecost praying for the Spirit like Mary and the apostles in the Upper Room. On the fiftieth day (which is the literal meaning of the word “Pentecost”) Easter ends. On that day “Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 731). Our celebration of Easter resonates throughout the rest of the year: full of gratitude for Christ’s passion, joy in his resurrection and, strengthened by the Spirit, we continue our Christian journey.

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HOLY WEEK

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Lent has ended and now we begin the Holy Week Triduum. The word Triduum is the Latin for three days that is the three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the great Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. The Church celebrates one liturgy each day. We should not think of the liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil as three separate events, all three form part of one single extended liturgy. In fact at the end of the Mass on Holy Thursday there is no dismissal and blessing instead we accompany Jesus to the Altar of repose. In the same way there is no formal beginning and end to the Good Friday liturgy.  This three-day liturgy concludes with the solemn blessing at the end of the Easter Vigil or at the morning Mass on Easter Sunday.

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday is all about the priesthood and the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper. On the Morning of Holy Thursday, there is only one mass celebrated in a Diocese (Although the Chrism Mass may be celebrated earlier in the week). All the priests gather around the Bishop and the people of God to renew their commitment to priesthood. Also at this Mass the oils of Chrism, Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick are blessed by the bishop, these holy oils will be used in the Baptisms, Confirmations and anointing of the sick in the local parishes over the next 12 months. The theme running throughout this day is one of humble service that is service of God and his people.

The Evening Mass commerates the Last Supper again the theme is service and sacrifice both of these are aspects of the same mystery.  We see Jesus as one who serves, who gives himself. Just as he freely gives himself in washing the feet of his disciples, so too he gives himself  in the bread and wine he takes, blesses and hands to the disciples.  

In the same way we receive Jesus in the form of Bread and wine from the hands of our priests. All these acts of self-giving are the same act – that of the Son of Man who came ‘not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ May we take up the mantle of humble service giving a helping hand to others and not counting the cost to ourselves. Many people over the years have given much at great personal cost and have not failed in their example of humble service and that for me  is what  Holy Thursday is all about  Humble service for others and not being afraid of being the presence of Christ for others no matter what the cost is.

GOOD FRIDAY

 On this day in the liturgy we read St. Johns account of the passion, we pray for the needs of the Church and the world, we venerate the Cross and we receive the blessed Eucharist. We think of the death of Jesus on the cross, his death was a result of the courage of his convictions. He lived his life with a message of compassion, of equality and love, Jesus was often critical of those who lorded it over those who were less well off or who had little or even nothing at all. The cross of Good Friday is a sign and a symbol that all of us recognise, it is a sign of the completeness of the love that God has for each one of us faults and failings included. It is not accidental that the Passion according to John is always read on this day.  This account shows Jesus always in charge, in total command of his situation.  John’s Passion is an extended commentary on an earlier statement of Jesus found in John 10:17-18:  “I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”   

The focus of the liturgy of Good Friday, is not primarily a meditation on Jesus’ pain, nor on our sinfulness, nor on our imitation of Jesus’ humility on their own.  Rather the focus is a reminder to us that we are beneficiaries of this event, and so we call the Friday “Good” by thanking God for what God has done for us in Jesus.  The final words of Jesus from the cross say it all for us, “Is is accomplished!”  Jesus is not overcome.  On the contrary!  He has overcome! When we go up to venerate the cross on Good Friday we should allow the cross to move us to be better people. Consoling, comforting and challenging the people we meet with the values of Jesus and the Cross.

 

Palm Sunday

 

 

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This Sunday we commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem for the completion of the Paschal Mystery. Palm Sunday is just the start as we begin our annual journey from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday through to the Upper room of Holy Thursday and then on to the denials of peter and the Cross of Good Friday when all seemed to be lost. And then we come to Easter when all that seemed to be lost on Good Friday was redeemed and is redeemed every Easter. So now we stop and think for a moment about how we began our journey on Ash Wednesday and where we are now as we approach the life changing and life giving events of Holy Week.

The entrance into Jerusalem is one of the very few events in Jesus’ life which is mentioned in all four gospels.  It is the only time that Jesus accepts and encourages public acclaim as Messiah.  He even goes as far as organising his entrance by telling the disciples to go and fetch the donkey. The key moment in God’s great plan of salvation is about to begin and Jesus knows exactly how it will unfold as he knew and understood what the will of the father would mean for him.

The events of Palm Sunday were foretold thousands of years ago. The first reading from Isaiah, speaks of a courageous and obedient messiah-figure, who says, “I have set my face like flint” against the beatings and scourging that lie ahead, “knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” The second reading from Philippians reminds us of Jesus’ total emptying of His divinity in order that He might identify Himself with the lowest criminal being led to His execution, “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And the reading continues but God raised him high and gave him the name above all other names. We move towards the heavenly Jerusalem because Christ himself made the journey to the Cross for us and now he offers to make it with us.  The full drama of the Gospel  begins with the crowd’s fickle acclamation of Jesus as King at the beginning of the reading.

On Palm Sunday we feel embarrassed to cry out “Crucify Him” with the palm branches still in our hands. It reminds us of our own fickle response and our lack of courage in responding to His love and truth. Yet we know that it was the sins of us all which brought Jesus to Calvary. Palm Sunday and Holy Week are all about Jesus suffering for our inadequacies and our own very real sins. Holy Week is a time for us to realize what we’re really like, and to find that the only remedy for our pains and our fears is love. That is Love of God, love of others and oneself. Are we ready to join our own pains and fears to the Master’s? Are we ready to add as much love as we can possibly muster to His boundless love? As God’s family, we are called to look out for one another. It’s not just about “me myself and nobody else.” It’s about “us and everyone else all together. Our journey during Holy Week is a journey about god’s love for all of us that is his great love that has no end.  let us not be afraid to set out and go through the week we are beginning today so that we will be able to celebrate the bright light of Jesus present in our lives  at Easter having travelled the journey of Lent and Holy Week.

 

 

5TH SUNDAY OF LENT

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Well we are now at the fifth Sunday of Lent, it is hard to think that we are going through lent at such a fast pace and soon  we will be celebrating Palm Sunday and Holy Week. At the beginning of Lent I said that Lent was a time for giving things up as well as taking things up I hope that all of us were able to give something up as well as taking something up such daily Mass or that extra spiritual task and I hope that all of this hasn’t been too hard. There are so many worthwhile things that we can do during Lent in order to make our celebration of Holy week so much better.

In the Gospel for this weekend some Greeks ask to see Jesus. Jesus responds by saying that anyone who loves his life will lose it; to gain your life, you have to be like a grain of wheat which brings forth much fruit only by falling into the earth and dying. The seed which must die to produce a harvest is a powerful image of Jesus death. The Greeks must have been baffled. They were baffled in much the same way that we are when we listen to the stories from scripture about Jesus and all the things that he had done.

The gospel goes on to tell us that a voice is heard from the cloud, as at the Transfiguration in the other gospels, but here it speaks of the ‘glory’ that will come to Jesus for giving up his life. It is in his death and resurrection that he draws all people to himself, both Jew and Greek. Many Learned men and women have tried to put their interpretation on the Scriptures but if we listen with open hearts and minds what the word of God means in our lives and the way we live them will become apparent. For many people including me God’s presence is not often thought of  at the time his spirit is with us but afterwards, when you look back at what has happened or what you have said you often see that the hand of God was with you at that point. I have often said things to people about situations that they are in and thought to myself where did I get that from? Then on reflection I know that what I said was inspired by the Holy Spirit and was the right thing to do or say in the right place.  As we come to the last few days of Lent let us prepare with great intensity for Palm Sunday and the Easter Triduum and then we will really be able to enjoy the Easter feast on Easter Sunday which we have been preparing for since Ash Wednesday and don’t forget the Easter celebration lasts until Pentecost Sunday !!!

4TH SUNDAY OF LENT

 

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This weekend we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Lent and this is also known as Laetare Sunday and this mirrors Gaudete Sunday in Advent because their mood and theme is one of hope and rejoicing. So what is the cause for rejoicing this Sunday? The cause for our rejoicing is that we are getting close to the great events of Holy Week and Easter that have brought us salvation.

The Gospel reading from John tells us that a person is condemned because that  person did not  has not believe in the Son of God. God the Father has no desire to condemn, but people condemn themselves by putting God and the ideals of faith out of their lives. Over many centuries so many people have said there is no  god or in situations that seemed hopeless where is your God. There are so many people out there in our so called modern world  who have turned out the light of faith in their lives permanently for many reasons.  I know people of all ages who have been brought up in the Christian Faith and then have left it all behind and yet we as people of faith know that there is a  god and he is there among us in the people who are in our daily lives . He is also there in the good and bad times that we have in our lives and helps us to get through whatever happens.

At the Easter Vigil we proclaim the risen Lord as Christ our Light and we celebrate with joy. We are invited to celebrate this Sunday with joy, because through baptism and confirmation we have been invited to live in the light of Christ and to act accordingly. This Sunday we also pray for all those who are undertaking the RCIA process who will take up the light of Christ for the first time when they are baptized at the Easter Vigil.  We also remember and pray for all those who have left the faith and extinguished the light of faith in their lives and we pray that they may reignite the faith in their lives by seeing the good example of those around them.

 

3RD SUNDAY OF LE

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Well here we are at the third Sunday of Lent as I am writing these words it’s snowing and blowing a gale outside with the storm called the beast from the east attacking Ireland with full force. We think of all those who are in any need this weekend especially the homeless, the old perhaps there are people in our localities who might appreciate a friendly knock on the door to see how they are and if they need any help. This is what we are called to do all the time not just during times of crisis. We are called to be a friend to those around us who might be in any difficulty especially when life is not so good.

This Sunday’s gospel puts Jesus’ knowledge of our human nature so clearly: He really knew what was going on in the hearts of those around him. He knew what they thought. He saw what they did to the Temple. The Temple was supposed to be a place of celebrating the spiritual presence of God in the world. As we hear in the reading  the people changed the Temple into a marketplace when it should have been a place of spiritual encounter.

For many in our modern world the day of the Lord Sunday has been replaced with so many secular things taking the place of God religion and faith.  Jesus knew that people would see the signs that he worked, the miracles he performed, but would refuse to see the messages behind the signs and the miracles that were there if front of them. Instead they would see him as a wonder worker, a superman, a good show and Jesus wasn’t about any of that. Many people have left the faith behind but in similar fashion many are returning again. It is often said that in order to really appreciate something we have to leave it behind and then go back to it again later on when we understand the thing we have left behind better.

The portrait of Jesus in today’s Gospel is a world away from the storybook caricature of Jesus, the meek and mild figure. An equal caricature is to use this passage to make Jesus into a godfather of violence, a revolutionary willing to support annihilation for the sake of the cause and that was not the case. Jesus did use force in the Temple; he was certainly aggressive. But he did not use force he was not a political leader. Nor did he use aggression to gain power for himself because his kingdom could not be established by violence.

Our faith is not about a good show instead it is about our relationship with God and with one another. Jesus shows us  what real love is as he went on to die on the cross for us on Good Friday.  Our dying to ourselves during Lent is an identification with the power of Christ crucified. Our calling, then, is to be strong in faith, not weak. God gives us signs both people and places as anchors of faith. But, at some point, we must trust the Lord enough to cut ourselves free from our anchors and allow him to guide us through the rough currents of life.

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