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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

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PENTECOST SUNDAY

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This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Last Sunday when we celebrated Ascension Jesus told us in the Gospel that he would send us the Holy Spirit to be our advocate  with the Father. Today we celebrate the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the beginning of the apostolic mission to bring the Church to the world. It is the birthday of the church so maybe we should sing happy birthday as well as Veni Creator Spiritus and blow out the candles on the birthday cake instead of blowing out the paschal candle because it’s the end of the Easter Season!!

By the time John wrote his gospel, Jewish Christians had been excommunicated for their belief in the Messiah. Ostracized and socially persecuted, some Christians reacted in fear, while others boldly proclaimed the gospel. Early Christians needed a sense of stability, a sense of divine peace. Through the words of Jesus, “Peace” was John’s prayer for his readers as we listen to this gospel reading. With the sight of Jesus, fear turned into great joy. Anxiety turned into relief. Desperation turned into vindication.

Most important, a lack of spiritual direction turned into a sense of deep spiritual grounding. The divine presence stood close to them and with the divine presence came divine peace. We too have the divine presence in the Blessed Sacrament and it brings Joy and spiritual grounding to all those who come and Jesus says to each and every one you are welcome.We can’t ignore the problems that are there and there are many in our own lives and the lives of those around us. Most of the time, the problems just don’t go away by themselves very often we need to stop and think things through.  If we pray through the problems as well as thinking them through we will find that they are much easier to get through.  Simply put Prayer Moves Mountains and we shouldn’t stop climbing. Gathered at Mass week in week out we bring our prayers to God. We each have our own needs. Family and friends may be sick.  People we know need work. The person who has been central to our lives for so long has died.  We bring these and all our concerns in prayer to church because they remind us of our need and they raise our hopes in the power of God made real to every generation through the Holy Spirit.  

Through the Holy Spirit our relationship with God is fruitful, satisfies our longings, and brings us peace. Because of God’s faithfulness, we give thanks, offer sacrifice, and once again present our needs this Pentecost Sunday as we remember the presence of God with us in all our lives.

 

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ASCENSION SUNDAY

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This weekend we celebrate the feast of Ascension, in many place this feast was celebrated on Thursday of this week but here in Ireland it is celebrated on the 7th Sunday of Easter.  Over our lives we have seen the departure of so many people, Perhaps it is a son or daughter leaving for university or maybe it was someone leaving to go to another country or the hardest departure of all someone close to us dying. Our lives are made up of so many different times and places of departure or leave-taking and really that is what Ascension is really about. Jesus going back to heaven to be at the Fathers right hand. The words of the Gospel for Ascension day strike me in a particular way Jesus tells us ‘go therefore make disciples of all the nations and know that I am with you yes to the end of time.

Jesus is definite about what he has to say when he speaks and calls his disciples to be the first missionaries. This is in sharp contrast to the fact that, their feelings were varied. Some of them worshipped him, while some of them still doubted.  Jesus didn’t seem to have any great problem with that, because he knew that, when the Spirit came, all of those doubts would be ended. It would seem, indeed, that he was in a hurry to take his leave of them, so that the next  part of his salvation plan could get underway. The mission of the apostles was simple to understand; difficult to carry out. It was to teach others all that Jesus had taught them. Just as he asked his disciples to follow him, they were to ask that others should follow him and was so hard for them then and it is hard for us to do in the world of today. The programme of salvation was to begin at Pentecost and continue from generation to generation, until the end of time.

So many things have changed in the Church and society. However the two things that have not changed are Jesus himself and every word of his message as they are ever old and always new for each generation. The message of Jesus is ignored by many people inside and outside the Church for their own reasons. The essential message of God and his messenger Jesus his Son have never changed up and I don’t think that they will ever change. Again and again we need to ask ourselves what we are doing to make disciples of all the nations realizing that Jesus and his message are always new for each generation. May we be heralds of God as we place the message of Jesus before others by the way we live out the call of Jesus to follow him.

 

6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter. it is also the beginning of the month of May. May is the month in which we venerate the Mother of Jesus in a special way. In the Gospel for this Sunday Jesus tells us ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love. This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.  

The teaching about love is not a recent innovation, or a new-age trend as many people seem to think. Jesus does lay down a commandment for us today, but he does so, not as the master talking to servants, but as a friend speaking intimately  to other friends. Servants follow rules, their lives are dictated by the one who holds authority over them. Jesus’ religion isn’t based on such a model though many in the church today seem to think otherwise. Instead, love is the foundation of our faith. Jesus is asking us to live out of the realization of that love. We are his friends, he tells us, so now we are asked to go out and live like friends with one another. “Friends,” in this context, means “beloved ones.” We need to live out of that description for we are the beloved disciples.

The instruction that Jesus gives are valuable  lessons by which we will master the love of God our Father in what we think, what we say and what we do. Jesus chose his followers to carry out God’s plan of salvation in every age he chooses us today in our turn to do the same.  Love is the best way to become his “co-worker,” since it reveals the reason he made the world and affirms our friendship with the creator. Love changes everything it touches. It tells us to stop bragging about this or that. It enhances our reputation. It denies the power of position and wealth which we sometimes feel is ours by right, it raises us up as true leaders. It connects us to God and to one another. Divine love transcends mere emotion. It becomes our lifeline to God. And it forms the basis of real community where everyone is valued and none are left out. It is inexplicable in theory, yet easily seen in action. Wherever God loves, he acts. Wherever he acts, he is there with us. HE IS WITH US simply because he loves us and the love of God knows no bounds; we remember the love that God has for each and every one of us each time we look at the Cross. There was no greater love than the Cross of Good Friday. We are called to bring the love of God into our own lives as well as the lives of those around us remembering that the Love of God lasts forever.

During the month of May we honour  Mary the Mother of Jesus in a special way with our May Altar in our homes. May she lead us to her Son Jesus who calls us to remain in his love and to pass it on to others.

 

 

5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER

 

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This week we have heard the story of Alfie Evans and the lengths his parents went to preserve his life reported throughout the media. Sadly little Alfie has died but his parents did all they could to preserve his life and they deserve the greatest credit. All of us in Ireland at this time could learn a lot from their example as we head toward the referendum on the 8th amendment with all the implications that it has in the way we treat the unborn.

In our Gospel story for this Sunday we hear the story of the vine and the vinedresser of course Jesus is the vine and the Father is the vine dresser and we are the branches of the vine. If we remain in him with him in us we will produce much fruit. The sound of the pruning shears does not sound very pleasant, in fact, it sounds quite stark, threatening and painful. Keep that vine dresser from my door in case he cuts me down comes to mind!  From the time of Moses, the Hebrew people thought of their nation as a vine which God had taken from Egypt and transplanted into Palestine. There in the fertile valleys and plateaus the nation thrived and grew, as does a vine that is well tended.

The snag for us today is the worry that if we are found wanting and are unable to yield fruit then we will be quickly pruned and cast into the fire along with all the rest of the dead wood. Every vine dresser knows the importance of pruning away branches that will not bear fruit. Those branches rob the vine of its vitality and diminish the amount of grapes produced. Life in Christ is a gift freely given, and a gift freely accepted, because there is freedom, the life and love of Christ can be rejected. Of course, we are using the language of analogy here; we are not talking about a harvest of actual grapes. When Jesus says ?I am the vine’ he is clearly meaning a vine of a heavenly order. The fruit, is therefore surely also of a heavenly order. We realise that the harvest is one of souls for heaven. Our task is in fact to continue the work of Christ in the world. In order to know what to do we must look at his life and imitate him as best we can. He taught the truth, he spoke words of comfort, he healed the sick, he brought sight to the blind, he rebuked the devil, he spent much time in prayer and in communion with the Father. And ultimately he laid down his life for our salvation. These then are the things we must do. We must think hard and find ways to translate his actions and his words into our actions and our words

We are meant to live in the peace and joy of the Easter gospel not in fear and uncertainty. “Without me you can do nothing,” Jesus tells us. But with him we can do anything. If we remain in his life and love, we can ask anything of the Father and it will be given  Christ has promised to remain with us during our lives if we stay close to him. While we remain healthy branches of the vine, we will be on the road to heaven. Our daily tasks, our work as well as our prayer, our recreation as well as our rest, our joys as well as our sorrows, will give glory to God and prove that we are worthy to be called disciples of Christ as we find ways to translate his actions and his words into our actions and our words.

4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This weekend we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Easter which is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is good thing because it is well-known fact that the shepherd never leaves his sheep outside the sheepfold. If any are outside the sheepfold the shepherd will seek the lost sheep at all costs until they are found. In the same way Jesus will seek us out and help us to find our way back into the sheepfold of faith. In the Old Testament, the shepherd was a metaphor for the leaders of the  people of God. Most often those leaders failed in their responsibilities and many were corrupt. God excoriates the incompetent and sinful leaders who were appointed to shepherd the people which they did not do. With the failures of the leaders of the people, God decided to take on the shepherding role. “For thus says the Lord: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. (Ezekiel 34:11).

In this gospel Jesus likens Israel’s corrupt shepherds to the “hired man” who deserts the sheep when danger approaches, leaving them in peril. The hired shepherd may leave the sheep behind but Jesus the Good shepherd the Son of the Father does not leave his sheep. One of the most comforting of the Psalms which is also a hymn begins with the line: “The Lord is my shepherd.” It ends with this line: “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Goodness and mercy, in the person of Jesus the good Shepherd are with us even now. The Gospel of the Good Shepherd teaches us how to embrace the gift of redemption by hearing and recognizing the voice of the Good Shepherd. There are numerous voices calling us to believe and to practice things that might seem nice, but those voices are not of or from the Lord. We need to tune our ears and hearts into recognizing the voice of truth that comes from Jesus, the Good Shepherd. We are his people the sheep of his flock and that means that we are people who are able to recognize the voice of the Lord and to faithfully follow him. 

 This Sunday we also pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We pray for all those young and not so young who have a vocation to the priesthood, Permanent diaconate or the religious life. We pray that in their lives they may be like Christ the Good shepherd who came to give up his life as a ransom for many bringing his people into the sheepfold of God and faith in him.

3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter. Many people thing that Easter is just one day but Easter lasts for 50 days ten days more than Lent and ends on Pentecost Sunday.

Our gospel reading for this Sunday tell us about the two disciples who were on the road. They were leaving Jerusalem, their hopes shattered after Jesus’ death or at least that’s what they felt. Then they met the risen Lord. They didn’t recognize him at first, but they did after he opened the Scriptures for them and broke bread with them. After their encounter they returned to the community in Jerusalem with the news of what had happened. While they were still speaking to the community, Jesus stood in their midst and said to them peace be with you. He is encouraging them and not to be afraid. It’s still not enough. Then he invites them to touch him. Still more, he asks for food and eats in their presence. The resurrected Christ is present, in the same way he was when they traveled and ate together. He is not just someone who somehow survived what was done to him and escaped. He didn’t experience a near death on the cross – he died and rose again as he said.

Jesus reminds them and us that he is the same, yet there is something very different about him. They knew that he was with them; Yet, the disciples need more in order to accept his new presence with them. What he did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus he does again and again for us in the person of our priests. He expounds what the Scriptures had said about him in the same way our priests do for us today. Do we see that? Can we understand what God can do and has done  for us – bring new life after death? Jesus doesn’t choose just certain Scriptures as proof texts. He tells us as he told the disciples “everything written about me in the law of Moses, and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” What would we be like if Jesus came and stood among us in real flesh and blood, I think that our reaction would be exactly the same as the apostles disbelief. But if we stop and think for a moment Jesus does come amongst us each time  we go to the Eucharistic liturgy, Jesus is there with us on the Altar in the elements of Bread and wine and in the person of the Priest offering these gifts to the Father on our behalf. We remember the last supper when Jesus gave us himself as an everlasting memorial and we remember that each time we hear the prayers of consecration at Mass that we do this in memory of him. 

Let us walk with Jesus in all of those who serve the poor and needy in the name of Christ. Let us walk with those who serve the children or those outsiders who seek Christ. In the mere process of being witness, the context comes alive. For Christ walks with us  the Easter people when we serve others may we not be afraid to get up and bring the light of Jesus into the world were we are.

 

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This Sunday we celebrate the second Sunday of Easter it is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. For the 40 days of Lent we have prepared for the celebration of Holy Week then after Holy Week we celebrate the season of Easter for 50 days.  The Easter season has the most exciting Scripture readings of the year. They take us from the empty tomb of Easter Sunday all the way to the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days later at Pentecost. The Apostles are huddled together in fear in the empty room. They weren’t so sure that the women’s report that Jesus had risen was believable. They weren’t singing for joy! Now, a whole week has gone by. They still felt “rocky” about their future.

Thomas wasn’t the only one who had doubts about Jesus, I think so many were doubtful then as so many are doubtful right here and now. The Apostles were pondering the shocking experience of the week before when all seemed to be lost as Jesus hung on the Cross. But here we are over 2000 years later thinking about how they felt after the events of that first Holy Week. All seemed to be lost but we gained everything. Jesus had broken through those doors and came to assure them that he was alive and then his message must have troubled them: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” in the same way we are sent out in the Joy of the Gospel to bring his message to other people wherever we are by what we say and do. We are asked to bring the mercy of God to all those out there who need his healing merciful love.

We remember the joys the hope, the grief and the anxieties of the people in our time these are the joys and hopes, the grief and anxieties of the followers of Christ that means you and me. As Pope Francis directs us, we must courageously reach out in the joy of the Gospel to those who are doubtful among us, and assure them of the great mercy of Jesus. Our world is hurting so much because of the many evil things that are happening within it. May all of us be the witnesses to the joy of the Gospel bringing the caring face of the mercy of God to the people of our time and place as Christians in our own communities.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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