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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the category “Life”

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

 

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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.

 

21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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Last Monday marked the beginning of the year of preparation for the World Meeting of Families to be held in August 2018. The Icon of the Holy Family was anointed and blessed during the Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady in Knock with all the dioceses of Ireland represented. Over the next few months the icon will tour the dioceses of Ireland as a focus for our prayerful preparation for the meeting in Dublin.

This weekend in our gospel reading Jesus asks the apostles “who do you say the Son of Man is?” Jesus was in Caesarea Philippi in the north eastern corner of Palestine. There no one would not look for Him. He had much to teach the twelve before He could leave them this was quality teaching time. So, He put the question to them that went to the heart of the matter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter acting as spokesman for the others told Him He was “the Son of the living God” Peter confesses the deep mystery of Jesus, who is the Christ and the Son of God. In the light of this inspired confession, Peter is chosen to be the rock on which the Church is built.When Jesus told him “ you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” Peter received the gift of being the leader of the Church.

Peter was first among the apostles, first among those who were called to proclaim the Kingdom of God on earth. Peter took leadership in the Church at Pentecost. After he, the apostles and Mary, received the Holy Spirit, Peter led everyone out to the Temple and began preaching the good news to the people. After Saul became Paul, after the persecutor of the primitive Church accepted Jesus Christ, Paul spent three years in the desert reflecting on his experience of the Lord on the Road to Damascus. He then went to Jerusalem to receive Peter’s blessing and commission to bring the Good News of the Gospel to the world.  We do not know how Peter got to Rome. We know that he was there, though. We know that Peter died in Rome, crucified head down. The excavations under the Basilica of St. Peter revealed a tomb with the words, Here Lies Peter. We also know that when Peter died, the charism he was given to lead the Church remained active in Rome. The ones who took his place, St. Linus, and those who followed him, St. Cletus, St. Clement in the Apostolic succession right through the centuries up until Pope Francis in our present time .All of them are all recognized as having received the  same charism that the Lord gave to Peter to lead the Church and this has passed down through the centuries. As time went on, these bishops of Rome would be given the title, Pope, Papa, Father of the Family, leader of the Church. Through our baptism, all Christians have received a share in the power of the keys to heaven. With that power goes responsibility to witness to the Gospel. So who do you and I say Jesus is in light of this Sundays Gospel reading.

20th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

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Well after all the threatening words coming from the US and North Korea last week we haven’t seen anyone annihilating anyone else as a result of a nuclear strike and we thank God for that but we must continue to pray for peace in the world.  As I am writing these words the news is coming in about the loss of 14 lives in Barcelona may all of those who have been touched by this awful event know that our prayers are with them. Closer to home we remember all those who have got or  will be getting their public exam results during these days exams are not everything it is the people involved who are important.

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is all about the faith of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was being tormented by a devil, but when you read the story we realize it is really about  the great faith that she has and it was that faith in Jesus that cured her daughter even though she had to be persistent in dealing with the Lord.

The woman in today’s Gospel story is not satisfied with just tears as  her daughter “is tormented by a demon.”  Any mother or father out there knows how fiercely they  would spring into action if a “cure” was before them for their own sick child.  The Canaanite woman is an example for us of that deep-seated faith and trust in Christ’s power and Christ’s goodness. Even though He ignored her she continued to beseech Him, and when He answered with what seemed a direct refusal, her faith and trust did not waver. She answered His reason for refusal with another statement which showed that the granting of her petition would not in any way interfere with or impede His primary task, His mission to His father’s chosen people. This was the proof of great faith which He required. He granted her request. There is a great deal about ourselves and our own faith in this gospel passage.  Over a number of years I have been involved with many people who have been praying for this or that or for or a member of their families and they have said to me that the prayers have not been heard let alone answered.

I have always told them to persist and not give up with the prayers because they are always heard and this has been the case with so many people throughout history. In the same way as the Canaanite woman  pestered Jesus  we should never give up though we mightn’t have our requests granted when WE want them they will be granted when we really need the things that we are praying for. The message of this Sundays readings is about FAITH life can be a bit of a pickle with good and bad things within it, but a life lived with faith in God and the people around us will see all the various obstacles being removed.  Would our faith be as persistent as the faith of the woman in this Sundays Gospel only you can answer that one. A friend of mine is constantly praying for her son and thankfully her prayers are being answered but sometimes the road can be a bit rocky along the way but we have to keep on going because faith moves mountains but we need to keep on climbing and we will find that god is there among the pickle of our lives!!

19TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend as we look at the things going on around the world we see the brinkmanship between the president of the USA Donald Trump and the president of North Korea Kim Jong-un. As we look on the 2 sides are giving the rhetoric the full blast as each side tells the other we will do this or that as one side is threatening  to bomb the other but talk is cheap and the outcome of misguided words and deeds can have terrible consequences for all those involved. We can only wonder what will happen next as we continue to pray for the ongoing peace of the world especially in Korea and all the countries around the region as well as the USA and the world at large.

The gospel reading this weekend is all about  Jesus  walking on water but if you look beyond the walking on water this story is really about trust and faith in God and this is a good thing to talk about in the present climate in the world. We have no problem identifying with Peter he is so like ourselves .One moment He is confident and then, later when things get difficult he realizes that he has bitten off more than he can chew and falls apart.

By then it is too late and he needs help. Life is like that, we start at something like a new job, college, marriage, or a project to help others, but then it goes beyond what we are capable of. We didn’t realize it was going to require so much time and effort! We seem to be  sinking or drowning. This is a  common experience in so many situations of life and in the way we deal with them. God doesn’t always give us an immediate cure or a fast answer  when we bring ourselves in prayer for others as well as  the problems of the day to God. God is not a distant God aloof from our problems. Jesus shows us that when he reaches out a hand to Peter and he is with us as our companion through the storms of life. At times we may well be floundering, like Peter, but Jesus reaches out to help and rescue us. What better image of salvation could there be than Jesus reaching out to Peter to save him from drowning. What better analogy could there be of our own lives and relationship with Jesus.

Our lives  are messy with all kinds of ups and downs we often have doubts and lack faith but we are moving onwards towards the Lord.  Christ knew the storm was coming and the grave risk the Apostles would run when he sent them off across the lake. But that trial and the danger they went through  was for their own good, because they learned that Jesus came from God and they could always trust Him. Our trials and our earthly ailments are also foreseen by God and permitted by him so that they will draw us closer to Him and help us on the road to heaven. In the days ahead when we flounder and start to sink Jesus will be  there for us, reaching out with his saving hand ready to raise us up telling us that he is with us in all our ups and downs.

The feast of the transfiguration

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We are now into the month of August  and for many of us  the summer holidays are over and it is back to work. For others who have school going children the run up to school starting in September will shortly begin for this year we are on a never ending circle of everything being the same in so many ways but different as time never stays still.

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the transfiguration. In the Gospel story the disciples went to an out-of-the-way place, a mountaintop. The  Apostles are responding to the invitation of Jesus to come apart for a while and mountains were the best place to get away from it all. On that mountain the disciples heard A  loud voice from the heavens that told them, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The Transfiguration was a grace-filled moment of clarity for the disciples. But it was only a moment along the journey of their lives as today the transfiguration is just a moment in the journey of our lives. We don’t have such a spectacular revelation as the disciples had on the mountain side but like them we come apart each Sunday to our place of worship there we hear the voice of God the Father that asks  to   “Listen to him.”  We listen to Jesus In the scriptures proclaimed for us and they tell the story of  God’s forgiveness, compassion and unfaltering love for us.  The voice we hear on this mountain directs us to listen to Jesus, because in our world  there are many competing voices that might lure us to ways of living other than the one Jesus calls us to follow. Worshiping together gives us an opportunity to  listen again to the Word of God and what it is saying to us.  And the word of God  calls us to point out a number of things

The scriptures tell us that we need to point to the presence of God in our lives and recognize how good He has been to each of us. We need to let people know that just as His Love for us has no end   it will be the same for  them. We do not walk alone. He is with us always, until the end of time.  No one wants to join the First Church of the Perpetual Grouch. But people do want to be with people who are happy, We are Happy because we know that God is with us. So let us rejoice in the Lord as we hear the story of the transfiguration and remember that  Jesus the Son of God is with us  in our lives with all their ups and downs and we should listen to him as he guides us along the right paths.

17TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Well here we are at the last weekend of July and the summer holidays are now at the half way stage. I’m sure there are many parents out there wondering when will the long holidays end it will be no time until the beginning of the new school year in September. Last weekend in the parishes in all the dioceses throughout Ireland a special collection was taken up for Trocaire the Irish Catholic Churches international aid organization to help with their  work in East Africa. In my home parish over £15,000 was raised once again it seems to me that when people are given a chance to help others they take it and give much of the treasure they have.

In this Sundays Gospel we hear the story of the treasure hidden in the field . The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field or a pearl of great price. When its great value is recognized, one gladly does all that is necessary to obtain it. The kingdom of heaven is also like a net that collects all sorts of fish. Just as the useless fish are thrown away, at the end of the age the wicked will be rejected. To members of the Kingdom means to share our knowledge of it with others.

 To truly believe in Christ means leading other people to the same knowledge by what we say and do; for secret faith is no faith at all. We should be happy to bring out of the house that is our life all kinds of treasures to share with our neighbours. But these treasures are not physical things but attitudes spiritual and otherwise that are virtues like love and justice and truth and hope and so on. What we bring out from our treasure store are the values of the Kingdom, the attitudes of Jesus and the knowledge of the one true God. God loves us just the way we are, but He refuses to leave us that way. He wants us to become treasure for other people so that they can discover the faith which is the pearl of great price the treasure hidden in the fields of our hearts.

15th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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The parable of the sower and the seed that we hear this weekend shocked Jesus’ audience as it seemed to be wasteful planting. Ancient people saw waste as an abuse of the rich. When they discussed economics, most ancient people agreed on two points. First, there was only a limited amount of wealth in the world. Second, God willed the distribution of that wealth within a rigid social class system. The rich five percent of the population held ninety percent of the wealth and the poor battled for survival. The bulk of the details in this gospel reading are about wasted effort and lost seed at least wasted effort and lost seed is what seemed to be at first glance. Why wasn’t the sower more careful, after all farmers were poor and the seed was precious? Sometimes, we wonder if all our efforts and words are worth it when things are falling down around us with so many people going their own way and doing their own thing with little regard to things of god.

But if we stop for a moment and think about it anything done for God in faith is never lost. Very often the things that happen  in our lives don’t seem to make sense but when we look at the problems that arise with eyes of faith we see that things around us are the way they are meant to be for the good of everybody. Do good and poor soil both exist in the same person I think that it most probably does much in the same way that a person can be good or bad. Is there something we might say that will land on the interior good soil in a person and bear the “hundredfold, or sixty or thirtyfold” as Jesus promises only God knows but we have to try to be the sower on Gods behalf and he will do the rest. The message of Jesus may not always be welcome especially in our modern world were faith and religion are constantly under assault by those who oppose anyone with a faith based outlook on life. That said we still have to sow the seed of faith by what we do and say and then we leave the rest up to God our efforts are never wasted and we don’t always see the fruit of the seed that is sown.

There are seeds of faith which we have planted in the past  that have yielded abundant harvest and there are also seeds that we have planted that produced little or no harvest. In some cases, life affords us the opportunity to replant and at other times, the opportunity to plant only comes once. In my lifetime I have been surprised by so many people and their stories of faith. How they have come to God by the planting of that small seed and how they have stayed there when they found him. Our God is a God of surprises and our faith has many surprises as well. So let us look and see and let us listen as we hear the story of the sower and the abundant harvest that came from the seeds that he had sown and not be afraid to live our lives by faith and share the harvest of gods love with other people.

 

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