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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “February, 2020”

1ST SUNDAY OF LENT

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With the Ashes of Ash Wednesday we have begun the season of Lent for 2020. We have heard the words repent and believe the Gospel but what does lent really mean for us in 2020. Lent should mean that we take time to renew our spiritual selves as we go forward to Holy Week and Easter. Why do we have Lent every year? Why penance? Why fasting? Why almsgiving? What does that have to do with us? Many people fail to see the connection. ” many say I’m not a sinner when the truth is I AM A SINNER”  So why Lent? Of course We know the answer that the Church gives us. We have to prepare ourselves during Lent for the celebration of Holy week that leads us on to Easter the season of the resurrection.  Lent is a time for correcting our faults and raising our minds and hearts to God. Lent is a time for personal and community conversion it is also a time for personal and community renewal! It is the time for a face-to-face encounter with God our origin, our purpose and our destiny and hopefully we will be changed for the better by that encounter! The bottom line for all of us during Lent is that we should try to get to know God better so that those not too easy to detect lines separating good and evil will become more apparent to ourselves and everyone else.  

The Church teaches that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are good significant ways to become closer to God How we do these is something that is personal to each person. The temptations, to which our Lord submitted himself to in this Sundays Gospel story are a source of encouragement and consolation for all of us. If our Lord and master underwent temptation, we cannot and must not expect to live a Christian life without experiencing similar trials. The three temptations Satan put to our Lord were suggestions to forget his purpose in life that is his messianic mission of redemption for one and all. He was urged to get all the bodily comforts of life, all the self-glory which men could give him, and all the possessions and power this world has to offer. In the same way all the comforts of life are put before us including the self-indulgence and glory which is the exact opposite of our calling as followers of Christ. We are called during Lent not to give in to the temptations of this life we are also called to renewal of heart mind and Spirit. As we begin Lent many things are placed before us to enhance our spiritual lives such as the early Mass which in our parish is at 7.15am or the Friday stations of the cross or some of the other spiritual programs. All of these help us to renew ourselves in preparation for the events of Holy week and the Easter feast.

May god give us his grace to make a good Lent as we take the road that leads us to Holy Week and the great feast of Easter.

 

 

 

7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

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Believe it or not next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and my first thought when this came into my mind was here we go again. Another year gone full circle as we arrive back at Ash Wednesday and the 6 weeks of Lent. Lent is a time for giving up and taking up things that means giving up the things that we really enjoy such as Sweets and treats and taking up the opportunities such as the early Mass before work or the various Lenten programmes that are available in the places where we live. Lent is the time that we should use to renew ourselves and our spiritual lives. Lent also gives us the opportunity to give alms to others through the Church organisations .

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 you 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 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 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 get out there and change it. 

 

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SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This Sunday we celebrate the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time and for us in Northern Ireland we are pondering what happened last Saturday in the Southern Irish Election and the result. A result that has placed Sein Fein in the political driving seat and side-lined the other 2 political parties what will happen going into the future is anyone’s guess but  we hope and pray that changes will be made that will benefit everyone.

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us that he has come to fulfil the law not to abolish or replace it. Any new movement or community which emerges from an older tradition has to face the problems of its own identity and direction. How different is it from the old community? How similar? One of the problems which the early Church had to face was its relationship with Judaism. Jesus was a Jew and his early followers were all Jews: they upheld the Law of Moses and they honoured the traditions of their own people. But there is also discontinuity with that tradition when it comes to healing on the sabbath, attitudes to Samaritans, and fasting.  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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This weekend we  pray for the sick as we celebrate the World Day of the Sick next Tuesday the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. We also pray in a special way for all those who care for the sick in our Hospitals and care facilities, Doctors, Nurses, Care assistants and Chaplains We also pray for the families who care for  their  Sick family members and friends at home  may  God bless all of them. We also hear about the Corona Virus and its continuing effects on China and the world at large and we pray for all those who are involved in that.

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 many places . 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 also 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 looking around for light  in darkness of their lives.

 

 

 

THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD IN THE TEMPLE

 

This Sunday we celebrate the presentation of the Lord in the temple also known as Candlemas Day. The feast was first observed in the Eastern Church as “The Encounter.” In the sixth century, it began to be observed in the West: in Rome with a more penitential character and in Gaul (France) with solemn blessings and processions of candles, popularly known as “Candlemas.” The Presentation of the Lord 40 days after Christmas concludes the celebration of the Nativity and with the offerings of the Virgin Mother and the prophecy of Simeon, these events now point us onwards toward Easter. “In obedience to the Old Law, the Lord Jesus, the first-born, was presented in the Temple by his Blessed Mother and his foster father. The Christ Child is revealed as the Messiah through the canticle and words of Simeon and the testimony of Anna the prophetess. Christ is the light of the nations, hence the blessing of candles on this day.

in our Gospel story, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple as prescribed by their Jewish faith. There they encounter Simeon and Anna, both of whom tell them amazing things about their child’s future. In our own humanity, we wonder about our own child’s path and think about many, many questions such as “Will I be able to encourage, accept, and support him/her along the way?”, and perhaps, the unspoken fear “What if his/her path is derailed?”  To both Simeon and Anna, , the Presentation means that the Christ-child (the Messiah) has come to meet his God and theirs in God’s own house. In turn they themselves are meeting the Christ-child, and in his company they are experiencing relief and peace, light and life, hope and joy. In a word, their meeting with Jesus is an experience, a powerful experience, of salvation.

The feast of the Presentation reminds us of all that Jesus means to us. We first met him on that momentous day our parents and godparents led us into the House of God and into the community of Christ to be baptized. We have met him again and again many times since as we take part in the sacramental life of the Church.

If we are open, we can hear the holy prophets as they remind us how and where God can be found. Like all parents, each of us is called to labour together with God. We may be young, enthusiastic, and optimistic. We might be middle-aged or old enough to have learned that hope is not about expectations but discernment. No matter our starting point, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord invites us to recognize God’s appearances in our world, to marvel at the mystery we see and to dedicate ourselves to nurturing it in our own lives and the lives of our families.

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