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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

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SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD

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In his Apostolic Letter of 30 September 2019,  Pope Francis established that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time to be the Sunday of the Word of God. It is a day to be devoted to the celebration, study, and spreading of the Word of God.

 Each and every Sunday we listen to the word of God in the Scripture Readings at Mass and we hear the Gospel reading  explained to us by the priest or deacon. Throughout the whole year we see the message of salvation placed before us in the readings from the sacred scripture texts as they tell us about the message of salvation from the Angel at the annunciation to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. From the temptation of Jesus in the dessert for 40 days during Lent to the Last Supper in the upper room and then to the Cross of good Friday and the resurrection from the tomb on Easter Sunday to Pentecost when the Church began with the Holy Spirit coming down on the Apostles.

All of these events are marked in and through the readings from scripture that we listen to week after week as they tell the story of salvation. We are called to listen  as the reader, proclaims God’s Word. For in fact it is God who speaks to us when the Scriptures are read or studied. In our Gospel story this Sunday we hear about Jesus calling Andrew, Simon, Peter, James son of Zebedee and his brother John to follow him. As Jesus travelled around Galilee, he actively built a following. Biblical scholars speculate that the Galileans would network and form groups around social, economic, or religious issues. There was strength in numbers. This gospel is about the call of Jesus to the first apostles to be his followers. This gospel story is not just an echo from the past it is very much for us today as it was yesterday as all the stories in the Scriptures are call to us to action. The Word of God, that we listen to each and every Sunday which is living and active,  challenges us and calls us individually and all of us together to a response that moves beyond the liturgy itself and moves out into our daily lives.

And the word of God should lead us to engage fully in the task of making Christ known to the world by all that we do and say. So on this day when we celebrate the word of God in a special way let us listen more attentively to the  message of the Scripture Readings and put it into our daily lives.

 

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SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

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This weekend we have the second Sunday in ordinary time. Christmas and new year are now a distant memory as we continue our spiritual journey. In the Gospel reading this Sunday we hear about the meeting between Jesus and John the Baptist at the Jordan River. We hear John telling us Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He is the one who I spoke about Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

The first Christian communities saw a clear difference between John’s baptism that immersed people in the river Jordan  and Jesus’ baptism that communicated his own Spirit, to cleanse, renew and transform the heart of his followers. Without that Spirit of Jesus, the Church would simply close up shop and die. Only the Spirit of Jesus can put more truth and life into today’s Christianity and lead us to recover our true identity, letting go of paths that lead us further and further away from the Gospel and what it teaches.

Only that Holy Spirit of Jesus can give us light and energy to fire up the renewal that we need today so that we can also become Christ’s authoritative witnesses in the world. A believer can only be an authoritative witness if he or she lives in harmony with two of the Baptist’s evangelical qualities. Firstly, knowledge of Christ that is cultivated through prayer, the sacramental and ecclesial life and good friendships. Secondly, the constant attribute of the person who goes in search of the Jesus  is the virtue of humility because in everyone’s life, Christ must increase and we must decrease. We have all been baptized;  through our Baptism we have been called to be witnesses  to Jesus the chosen one of god. We are asked to point away from ourselves to the lord; as we lead others to know  the person of Jesus. None of us comes to him alone we all know people who help us along on our own faith journeys. Most people are moved when others share with them what really matters in their lives. Perhaps we have lost the courage to say any more about what matters to us as people who take faith seriously perhaps we doubt if anyone will care and yet so many do.  We should take courage to share what we believe.

With Saint John Henry Newman, we know that we believe because we love. In the power of that love, the Love of God made real in his Son let us share our belief with each other and everyone else as well. So that we can say with John the Baptist that Jesus is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, he is the Chosen One of God.’ Let us follow him,

 

 

 

 

THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

 

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After the arrival of the Wise Men on the feast of the Epiphany on Monday  we have come to the end of the Christmas season as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan by John. This feast is also a reminder to us of our own baptism, most of us were baptised when we were babies and today we recommit ourselves to the promises that were made on our behalf when we renew our Baptismal Promises.

The figure of the Baptist is mysterious and captivating. He was the Precursor of Christ, not only two thousand years ago but in a sense also in our day. He is the voice, which makes us hear the Word which introduces us to the mystery of the redemption, who helps us to respond to the call to conversion, with humility and love. He helps us understand that the human person, every person in front of the Lord Jesus stands before the greatest mystery of our existence: the Mystery God made man! Our own Baptism calls us and empowers us to be Christ like that is what the word Christian means. Our humility can openly declare our trust in God the Father.

The great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas whose feast day is at the end of January spoke of times of grace when God enlivens people in special ways for different tasks and this is what baptism is all about the grace of god enlivening us to live out our new beginning  living life as people who are Christians that means Christ like.

The Holy Spirit is the power behind all our spiritual beginnings, when we are willing to begin, God is there as the grace  behind our going out into the sea of faith. There are beginnings that we know are important like baptisms, marriages and ordinations. We like to mark these beginnings as important, so we surround them with ceremony to give a sense of occasion and there is an atmosphere of rejoicing. The new beginnings that we make in our own lives may not mark the fulfilment of anyone’s prophecy, but they probably mark the fulfilment of someone’s hope. Sometimes we are so hesitant about making a new start that we end up in no-man’s-land waiting for more weather reports wondering what to do instead of getting on with it. This weekend as we think about our baptism we stop and think about our journey of faith as we celebrate beginning of Jesus ministry, we look at our own beginnings.

And if some of them look a bit shabby now or half-hearted, we take consolation from the Gospel challenge to begin again. There probably won’t be any doves flying or voices from heaven, but as people of God we make our beginnings like Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone. We make them in the power of the Spirit and in the love of the Father. So let us take courage to face our own rocky roads as the new year unfolds before all of us.

 

 

SECOND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS epiphany in some countries

 

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Yes you did read the heading correctly it is the second Sunday after the feast of Christmas and we are now almost  at the arrival of the Three wise men on Epiphany which takes place on Monday 6th January or in some countries on Sunday the 5th.  By long standing sacred tradition Christians celebrate Christmas as a season, with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany as one long “Christmas feast.” The season ends with the Baptism of the Lord which is also the first Sunday of ordinary time and that takes place next Sunday.

In the feast of the epiphany that we celebrate on the 6th of January the Magi or the Wise men  represent the “mystery” made manifest in concrete human beings. By their very nature they are seekers, people who came looking for the “king of the Jews.” Where would they find this royal child? Not in the courts of the powerful, like Herod. He was an example of how those in power would react to the gentle one who would draw all people into his realm.

Jesus was not born in a mighty city, nor was he an heir to a powerful ruler. Instead, he was born  in Bethlehem, a backwater in the eyes of those of Herod’s court and the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Through the “least,” and the poor, Christ comes to us. That’s a lesson the church needs to continually learn and proclaim. The Christmas and New Year festivities are now a distant memory, and I am certain many people  out there are asking themselves the time honored question for this time of the year,  why did I make such a fuss!!!  So many make a fuss about the secular part of Christmas and as a result they have missed the essential message of the season.  The essential message is that Jesus Emmanuel was born in the stable in Bethlehem at Christmas and  that he is the reason for the season. Our readings for the second Sunday of Christmas are about the Wisdom and the blessings of God and the Gospel tells us about the word who was in fact the Son of God. Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word made flesh, was sent as “a man to men.”  He “speaks the words of God” to us and completes the work of salvation which His Father gave Him to do.

When we look for Jesus as the wise men did we will find Christ among the “least” and this is the message, the humble message that lies at the heart of our faith. Jesus does not seek what is good and wise in the eyes of the world he seeks out the small and the humble people those who are unwise in the worlds eyes. May we not be afraid in the year that has just begun to seek the true wisdom that God wants for us, the wisdom of the Wise Men which is  the wisdom to seek God and  follow the star which is Jesus the light.

New Year 2020

 

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Some 20 years ago at the end of 1999 many people foretold that the turn of the new millennium would mean the end of the world. As we all know here we are at the end of 2019 looking forward to all the adventures that 2020 might bring to us and the end of the world has not happened though many things in our daily lives have changed with many people gone from our lives and the lives of those around us. We remember with thanks all that has been as we look forward to all that will be in the year that lies ahead

On the 1st of January  we celebrate two  things the feast of Mary the Mother of God  as well as world day of prayer for peace in the world. While we exchange the new year greetings with each other we should try to lend a Christian understanding to this custom making of these greetings an expression faith in that regard there is no better teacher of faith than Mary the Mother of Jesus.

Mary teaches us that being a disciple of Jesus is a matter of the heart: contemplating Jesus and allowing his presence to transform the thoughts, words and actions of our lives.  There is a mosaic in the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes which tells us through Mary to Jesus and that is what Mary is all about pointing all of us in the right direction towards Jesus her Son .On this feast we ask a special favour of Mary our mother and intercessor:  that the love we have for Jesus her son will Grow in our hearts and lives! 

Also we continue to pray for peace in our own lives in our countries and in the world. We live in a world where so many people are at war and we ask god to bless his people with peace of heart mind and soul during 2020. As We thank God for all that has been over the last year we pray  through the intercession of Mary mother of the Church that God  will be present with us in the good bad, happy and sad times we might encounter in the year that is ahead and give us the strength to continue our faith journeys wherever they may lead us.

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. We commemorate a family in deep distress because their Son is seen as a threat to a jealous king: 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 the Great 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 cruel and 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 recognise the sacrifice they made for Jesus, in the same way as we recognize the sacrifices our parents made for us  and many more parents are making for their children today in our I want I get world. The feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth is a reminder of all that the Holy Family has meant to us, and all that it continues to mean to us.   It also represents what Family means for us as people of faith, in the guidance protection, the goodness and kindness, and the love and support, of our parents!  In the friendship of other family members and of many other significant people in our lives! And in things that have happened to us good and not so good!  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.

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; we hope that they will be happy.  As we think about family we pray that the Holy Family will inspire us to recommit ourselves to our families and what they mean to all of us in our ever changing world.

CHRISTMAS 2019

 

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Well  we are nearly at the great day itself CHRISTMAS DAY so happy Christmas wherever you are may the blessings of god be with you and your families and friends. For the last four weeks of advent we have been looking forward to the coming of Christ into our world with all its ups and downs. We have completed our advent observance with all its preparation and now we celebrate with gifts and happiness all around So now  then let us rejoice in the Lord, not in the world; that is, rejoice in faithfulness and not in iniquity; rejoice in the hope of eternity and not the brief flower of vanity that is part of our  daily lives.  During these days of Christmas celebration we will often have occasion to sing as the angels did long ago, “Glory to God in the highest!” At this time when we celebrate the birth of “a saviour who has been born for” us, the One who is  “Wonder- Counsellor and  Prince of Peace,” the One who is “a great light” in the darkness of war and strife around us, we welcome an opportunity to put aside our cares and worries, bask in the joy and generosity of the season, and sing out our “Glory to God in the highest as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  

None of us will travel to Bethlehem to behold the  newborn infant lying in the manger in the way the shepherds and the wise men did in their time. But all of us travel the road of daily life, and we are called to see Jesus the newborn Infant in the youngster who needs companionship, the teenager who needs a listening ear, the parent who needs a helping hand, the older person who needs someone to care to name but a few there are so many others. We remember in a special way all those who have died since last Christmas and we keep their families in our thoughts and prayers. Some of our Christmas customs seem to turn away from Christ. Or do they? The giving of gifts expresses love of the other person. Festive decorations set this season apart from all others. Santa Claus was originally St. Nicholas, a bishop remembered for his generosity.

Every letter sent and received bears the stamp of this special season, tidings of good will, and a reminder that those who are far away are close to us in mind and heart. The customs of this season are veiled announcements of one message: Christ is born for us. To remove the veil, to hear the good news, we gather together in our churches. There the message of Christmas speaks loud and clear. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “In times past, God spoke in  various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he speaks to us through his Son.”

The customs of Christmas speak the message in partial ways, but God speaks the message clearly through his Son, who has come into our midst. At Christmas the whole community of heaven joins with all believers of good will on earth in a jubilant song of praise for the good news proclaimed by the angels: Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people, for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11). So with Mary and Joseph with the shepherds and Angels the Arch Angels and the whole company of heaven  let us adore the Christ Child the child in the manger who is the reason for the Season that we celebrate.

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

 

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This weekend we come to the last Sunday of the Advent season. In our churches we light the last purple candle as well as the other three leaving the last candle the white one for the first Mass of Christmas Day. It’s only in this last few days  before Christmas that we begin to hear about the “Christmas story” itself. For the past weeks we have been preparing ourselves to greet the Lord, when he comes. Now we prepare to remember how he first came, by listening to the prophecies of his coming, and by hearing of the events before his birth. We meet Mary, who herself had been prepared for the coming of the Messiah. She has received the angel’s greeting, and his strange news, and accepted her role in God’s plan. Now she hurries to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who herself bears John the Baptist in her womb. John,  alerts us to the presence of the Lord, as he leaps for joy in his mother’s womb.

His joy is that God has kept his promise, and is with his people. Matthew is well planted in his Jewish tradition. He shows that from the very beginning of his gospel. By quoting the prophet Isaiah, Matthew tells us that God is with us; not in general, but now on the throne of David – as God had promised. The promise found in Scripture has been fulfilled.  By referring his readers to the scriptures, Isaiah reminds his readers that believers do well to put confidence in the word of God especially to sustain hope and strengthen faith in discouraging times. God enters into our world: it’s a world where plans don’t always work out and where people have to adjust to the reality presented to them. Joseph was betrothed to Mary; he had his plans. Mary’s pregnancy turns his world and plans upside down. Instead of exposing her, he “decided to divorce her quietly.” He was a “righteous man” and he will protect Mary from being publicly dishonored. He is not vengeful and, though wronged, displays mercy.

After his dream Joseph, “took his wife into his home.” The world God chose to enter was one of poverty, hard labor and political and military oppression. God took a big chance being born among us especially in those circumstances. Surely there must have been neater options for God, to make the savior’s path and work a bit smoother. But who has a “smooth path” through life none of us that’s for sure? It’s good to know that Emmanuel, “God with us,” chose to be with us his people who live in  the real and messy world. God is with us in the mess of our daily lives! So as we come to the end of this Advent as we look forward to the Christmas Celebration there is much to be thankful for. We  thank God for being with us through good and bad as well as happy and sad times and we also remember with all the secular razzmatazz that is going on around us that Jesus the Son of God is the reason for the Christmas season.

3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

 

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This Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday. The term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, “Rejoice”. Rose vestments are worn in many churches to emphasise our joy that Christmas is near, and we also light the rose candle on the Advent wreath. In many places the Parishes celebrate Bambinelli Sunday when the Children are asked to bring the baby Jesus Crib Figure to get a special blessing and then they place the baby Jesus in the Crib on Christmas Morning.

As Christmas draws near, the Church emphasises the joy which should be in our hearts over all that the birth of our Savior means for us or all that it should mean for us especially in our world where so many have little or nothing at all. The readings for this week, particularly the Gospel, express this theme of rejoicing at the imminent coming of the Lord. John’s disciples ask Jesus if he is the one who is to come. Look around you’, they are told. ‘The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy are those who believe.’ We praise and rejoice in God on this Gaudete Sunday. We thank him for all he has done for us. We rejoice that through the coming of his Son Jesus we have been saved.

We do what we can to imitate his life, to follow his Gospel of love and that is all that faith asked of us to do our best in following Jesus. We join together to celebrate the Eucharist, sharing the bread that is his body and the wine that is his blood. ’We do all these things, yet mostly we wait. But this is not like waiting for a bus at the local bus stop or waiting for the postman to deliver a letter. We wait with hope in our hearts for the culmination of all things in Christ and the prayer that is on our lips is ‘thy kingdom come!’ As we continue our Advent journeys let us prepare the way for the Lord in our own lives remembering that in  the words of the psalm the lord keeps faith forever and he won’t let us down.

2nd Sunday of Advent

 

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This weekend we hear about John the Baptist who was the herald of Jesus who said that there is one who is to come after me and I am not worthy to take the sandals of his feet.  John’s task was to announce the coming of Jesus and to point to him when he came. John’s work was extraordinary.  He was called to reawaken a sense of expectation among a people that had grown tired and distant from God as many have done in our present generation.  John was called to bring renewal to institutional expressions of religion which, at the time, had become fossilized into mere formulae or external ritual again for many today that is also the case.   John attracted thousands to come out into the desert to see him. Tradition sees the desert as the place where God speaks to the heart of his people. It is from this solitary place of spiritual combat, the desert bordering the Jordan, that John appears “with the spirit and the power of Elijah” (Luke 7:17).  By his word and his baptism with water, john called the children of the covenant back to the Lord their God as he calls us today to come back to the Lord our God.

The figure of John serves as a warning, to all believers, to the Church and Church organizations that we need to draw our strength from Christ alone, rather than identifying with the cultural patterns or the Fads and fashions of the time, which in any case come and go. The Church is here in the present as it has been in past times to proclaim and live out the message of Jesus in every generation in season and out of season whether people at large like it or not. A great example of this is the teaching of the Church on the issue of Abortion and life issues. The Church that is the people of god, you and I  are called to constant renewal, to tear ourselves away from conventional expectations, attitudes and superficialities and centre ourselves completely on God.  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 our lives or the life of the Church as the scandals have painfully shown. As the journey of Advent continues, as we prepare to celebrate the nativity of Christ, John the Baptist’s call to conversion sounds out in our communities.

 It is a pressing invitation to open our hearts and to welcome the Son of God who comes among us to make the kingdom of God manifest to all of us and to others through us. As we continue our Advent Journey let us stop and listen to the call of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord and put it into action in our lives as we make our pats straight  during this Advent time.

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