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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the category “Life”

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.

 

14TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

 

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Well here we are getting into the holiday mood with all the opportunities that this time of year provide. While many people will be taking the time to get away we spare a thought for all those who may not get away for a break this year. This weekend in our Parish community we thank God for the life of a pivotal member of our music ministry Mark Mooney who died suddenly last weekend we pray that god will give him eternal peace in heaven and give consolation to his relatives and friends who are left wondering why.

One of the most wonderful things about the person of Jesus has been and continues to be, his special love for ordinary people ­ for people like us with all our faults and failings. It comes out in a particular way within the two statements that he makes in this Sundays Gospel reading. The first is in his prayer to God: ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.’ The second is in his Invitation to all of us: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.’  Why did he say this? The answer comes across very clearly so many times in the gospels, and may be summed up in just one word – COMPASSION. For example: – The plight and tears of the widow of Nain touches his heart to the core: ‘Don’t cry,’ he says to her, before bringing her son back to life.  He is moved with compassion at the plight of a leper begging for help (Mk 4:41), for two blind men sitting at the side of a road and pleading for mercy (Mt 20:29-34), and for a crowd of people with nothing to eat (Mk 8:2). In each case he responds to their sufferings with the power, love, compassion and care of God. To be a Christian and to have the light of faith to guide our steps in the neo-pagan darkness of today’s world, is a gift, and a blessing from God, for which we can never thank Him enough.  So, in the here And now of our daily lives  the big question for each of us has to be whose side are we on? Are we  on the side of Jesus, that is the side of compassion, kindness, help, healing, and mercy? Or on the side of the scribes and Pharisees who are  amongst us even today  and they are – fierce, fault-finding, heartless, critical, and merciless people without much compassion. Will we take our cue from their cruel, harsh, and insensitive judgements and actions? Or will we take our inspiration from what we see in Jesus, and from his touching  compassionate outreach to the poor and the broken:  ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest’?

13TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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Here we are at the start of July and the beginning of the summer holidays. Here in Northern Ireland the schools will be closed for the next 2 months and by the end of that time the parents will be ready for the asylum. So these days spare a thought for all those parents out there who are wondering what they will do with the youngsters over the next few weeks. We were lucky as we had our granny to go to down the country and the cousins etc. were there so times were great during the summertime for us but for many the summer holidays can be a difficult time.

In our Gospel story for this Sunday we are reminded that  The priority of faith demanded radical consequences for early Christians. At that time extended closely-knit families formed the basis of society, a choice for a follower of Christ could mean a rejection of the family’s faith and values. Jesus reminded his followers that the Christian life involved many risks and one could not compromise or hide these risks away a believer could not placate his or her family if the cost threatened faith. The people of the day thought that No, faith could involve such an extreme choice.

Either the relationship with family took priority or the relationship with Jesus took the number one slot it seemed that both could not go together.  Even though they had only a very vague idea then of what he meant, when the time came, they remembered Jesus  words and gladly suffered imprisonment, hardships, and finally martyrdom for Christ.  This shows how the resurrection of Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit on them, changed them from worldly weaklings into fearless heroes. They had become convinced that Christ was the Son of God their saviour who had come on earth to bring all men to heaven. Through time they came to realize how unimportant, the few years of the earthly life that we have were compared to the eternal life of bliss to follow.  Today, too, there are still those who are suffering a lingering martyrdom, worse than quick death on the scaffold, because they obey God rather than man. We can help them to persevere, by our prayers. We ourselves, who are free from any overt persecution, must show our gratitude to God for being allowed to practice our religion openly and without fear. As well as carrying out our own personal duties, we must remember the spiritual needs of our fellowmen. They, too, need to get to heaven and anything less will be eternal disaster for them.

We may not be able to preach, or teach them the truth of the Christian faith, but we can and must help all those who are doing so by our prayers and how we lead our lives when we try to live according to our Catholic faith. We are here in this world for a few short years, our real and lasting home is in heaven. We must keep this thought uppermost in our minds, in all our dealings with others and then by our example we will lead others whose faith may not be as strong to their eternal homeland as well.

12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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This Sunday the message of the Gospel is quite simple Jesus tells us not to be afraid  He does not disguise the truth that his disciples will be confronted by those who threaten, bully and intimidate others into submissive agreement.  In the first reading Jeremiah refuses to be intimidated by terror from every side. That doesn’t mean that the terror doesn’t get to him it means that he has no intention of allowing the terror to write his script and dictate who he is. Jeremiah has been abandoned by all his friends who now try to discredit him. He is thrown into prison for his preaching, and the army council threatens him with death if he doesn’t change his tune. But Jeremiah refuses to be bullied into agreement because he believes that “the Lord is at his side, a mighty hero”. What keeps Jeremiah sane amidst all this persecution is the profound belief that God cares for him. And, less spiritually, the frank hope that God will clobber all his enemies in good time!

Not only does Jesus want his disciples to refuse to submit to the merchants of death, he tells them not to be afraid of them: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” What our Lord said to His Apostles applies to all Christians including you and me in the practice of our faith. By the very fact of living our faith day and daily openly and fully we are apostles. So today we think of all of those who have given us an example by living their lives in faith. These may be parents family members or people we have known we all have people who have shown us the way of faith. So as faith filled people Jesus teaches us that our only source of freedom and strength is the goodness of our heavenly Father a goodness that is mediated through Jesus himself as well as through good people and beautiful flowers. Furthermore, the discovery of this goodness carries with it the solemn obligation to pass on one’s blessings through concern for others.

Our world is full of hype and glitter, but the only truth that will prevail is the truth taught by Jesus. The elements of this teaching are not mysterious or obscure. First, one must be honest enough to acknowledge one’s need for help in seeking liberation and fulfilment. This same honesty will enable one to see the goodness in life, both that which is visible to everyone and that which is subtle but very real. We must look for the goodness in life and learn to count our blessings as we pass them on to other people.

DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

 

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This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy. This is a fairly recent feast in the liturgical calendar that was instituted by Pope St. John Paul and it comes hot on the heels of Easter Sunday. 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 at Pentecost. We know from experience that it isn’t easy to believe in someone we cannot see for ourselves. But we also know that many people who did see Jesus did not believe in him either. The apostles have a unique place in the Church because they saw Jesus and believed in him, and they were commissioned to share their faith with others. Without the apostles’ seeing and believing there would be no Christian faith as we have it today. That is why, in the creed, we affirm one of the marks of the Church is that it is “apostolic”.

We have no experience of the physical presence of Jesus, but our understanding of him is linked through time  through all the previous generations of Christians back to the apostles themselves. It is a great chain of faith which is linked to the person of Jesus himself. Thomas doubted the Resurrec­tion because he had suffered the crisis of the crucifixion. Like the other specially chosen disciples who would later be called apostles, like Peter, James, Andrew, Bartholomew, Simon and all the rest, Thomas ran and hid. He was too afraid to remember the promises of the Lord. But his faith was restored when he saw the Lord. At this point Jesus told Thomas about a greater faith, a faith that He has called you and me to follow. The Lord looked at Thomas and then looked down the ages at us and said, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe. “When a crisis hits us we all pray for deliverance from whatever is happening at the time it is a natural thing to do. If deliverance comes we feel that we have seen the Lord. But how much greater is our faith when we hold onto the Lord even when our prayers are not answered and most times the prayers won’t be answered .  

Our faith in the Resurrection is not based on experiencing the presence of the Risen Lord, but on an empty tomb. When we feel empty, when we feel that the Lord is no longer in our lives, if we open our eyes and look around us will see that more than ever He is alive, among us. When we look We will see the merci­ful love of God  who shares our trials and tribulations as well as our happy and sad moments throughout  our lives,  he is with us as he shows us his love and mercy in order that  we show the same love and mercy to other people. As we celebrate the divine mercy of God this weekend  may we pass that great mercy on to others.

 

Spy Wednesday

Spy Wednesday

The Wednesday of Holy Week is often called Spy Wednesday because it was the day when Judas went to the authorities to betray Jesus. He told them that the one that I kiss he is the man  and they paid him 30 pieces of Silver . Tomorrow, Holy Thursday we begin the annual triduum or three days of prayer which conclude with the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening. May we follow Jesus journey over the next few days a journey of Betrayal, death and resurrection with renewed hearts and minds

PALM SUNDAY

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This weekend we begin Holy Week with our annual celebration of Palm Sunday. This is the day in which we commemorate Jesus entry into Jerusalem his own city. We read the passion gospel, which is often referred to as the long gospel because in simple terms  it is quite long and some would even say boring.  Jesus has brought his disciples together as a group, then it all seems to fall apart with one of his apostles Judas betraying Jesus and then of course we all know what followed.   In many ways the two main themes of Palm Sunday are happiness and sorrow, and these themes  also come into play on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. On ash Wednesday we placed the ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our humility as we began our Lenten Journey and now six weeks later on Palm Sunday we remember Jesus entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey as the people raised their voices in joyful acclamation as they sang hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 

But what does Palm Sunday really mean to you and me? What does it mean to us as Christians in the year 2017, a big question indeed. The Passion and death of Jesus will mean so much to some and many other people won’t care one single bit.The Passion narrative of Matthew which we hear this year emphasizes the great humility of Jesus, the King.  Lent, Palm Sunday and Holy week taken as a whole give us  the opportunity to look hard at ourselves and see exactly where we are going and perhaps were we should be going. We need to remember that Christ came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many as a result of this  he points us in the right direction. Jesus took our sinful ways on himself because of his love for us  It is important that we who say we are Christians accept the truth about ourselves that truth  may not always be good and then in our acceptance of the truth we will be able to look at the Cross and recognise the love of God our Father in the man on the cross.

May the passion story inspire all of us to try to imitate in some small way the all loving all forgiving Jesus who went through betrayal to death and finally came to the resurrection for us so that we will have life and have it to the full. Over the next few days let us prepare with greater intensity for the Easter Triduum Holy Thursday, Good Friday and  Holy Saturday and then we will really be able to enjoy the Easter feast which we have been preparing for since Ash Wednesday.

3rd Sunday of Lent 2017

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As we continue our journey of prayer for lent we come to the 3rd Sunday and our gospel story for this weekend tells us about the woman at the well.  What a surprise it must have been to the Samaritan woman, when Jesus, tired, hungry and thirsty, asks her for a drink of water! He broke all the rules in speaking to her and as we know Jesus didn’t let the rules get in the way when he saw an opportunity to make a difference to someone and the life they are leading. Jesus suggests that He can give her living water that is far superior to anything she had ever tasted. We presume she was no stranger to intoxication, power, and money! Jesus offers this woman spiritual grace that is living water. Finding her heart curious and open to this miraculous water, He proceeds to raise her vision. He asks her to go back and bring her husband to the well with her. Of course, this is the turning point of the story. When He confronts her with the truth, she could have flounced off in righteous indignation and denial as many people do when confronted with the truth of their lives but she doesn’t run away.

In true humility, she accepts the reality of her life. Because of her humility, Jesus floods her soul with grace. Lent is a time for us to let Jesus satisfy our thirst for the truth. Like the Samaritan  woman, we too have tried the all kinds of water to quench our thirst for happiness, satisfaction, and peace of mind without really finding it. Lent   is the time for us to find real joy and satisfaction of letting the Lord fill us with grace in order to fully enjoy the season of Easter. We will find that our joy from that comes from the well of salvation the living water is greatest when we share the gift of salvation with others by really listening to them, praying from the heart in a quiet place, reflecting on the Word privately or at daily Mass, and letting the Eucharist change us into the Body of Christ.  The Samaritan woman at the well reminds all of us who doubt, or struggle with faith that we should take encouragement to stay in the conversation with Christ. The Woman at the well  came looking for physical water and found Jesus, the “living water,” who would quench her thirsty spirit. One of the responses for the psalms of the Easter vigil sums up what this gospel is really about  it tells us with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation May we find joy at the well of salvation which is Jesus Christ, the lining water of salvation.

2ND SUNDAY OF LENT

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This weekend we are continuing our Lenten journey and hopefully the  various  aspects of penance alms giving and fasting that we are undertaking are not too hard. This Sundays gospel story is about the Transfiguration. This momentary vision of Christ, in his glory, was given in order to strengthen the three Apostles Peter James and John  to face the trials to their faith which the sufferings and crucifixion of their beloved master would bring to them. For the very same reason this Gospel is retold to us today, in the early part of Lent so that we will strengthen our resolve to keep our faith.  The Father of Jesus told the apostles “This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” What is so important about listening to Jesus? Wouldn’t we rather have the spectacular vision as a sign of God’s presence in our lives of course we would. We live such regular, ordinary lives most of the time and such a vision might help us get stirred up and enthusiastic again. Well it’s not really about the big splash, or the spectacular vision on the mountain, instead its all about listening to Jesus and hearing what he is saying to us in our own time and place.

 

To really listen to anyone with your heart is a  hard thing to do sometimes we have to listen to someone going on about something that is or at least seems to be complete rubbish to us but is really important for the person telling their story. Listening to Jesus means not just hearing his words, but listening  to everything his life and his story tells us about how we should  live our lives as a children of God. There are many people out there who hear the story and pay it lips service but don’t take it to heart. Jesus, trusted completely in His Father’s plan for him with faith that recognized his dependence on his Father. This is the same sort of faith that you and I are asked to embrace during lent and throughout our lives. For us in 2017 this gospel asks us to listen to Jesus words and bring them into our lives so that by our words and actions we will be able to transform and transfigure our own lives and the lives of those around us.

1st SUNDAY OF LENT

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Last Wednesday we put the ashes on our foreheads and began our annual observance of lent after the Ashes comes 40 days of hard work. So what’s so special about the number forty in scripture?  Let me explain a little forty is a biblical length of time that represents the period of purification before a momentous change. After forty days on Mt. Sinai, Moses was ready to receive the ten commandments. He descended the mountain with the tablets of the ten commandments and they were a sure way for the Hebrews to live as God’s people. Forty years later, their children and grandchildren would enter the Promised Land as people who had faith in God, not like their parents and grandparents whose faith wavered. And so  for this year we begin our forty days of Lent, looking forward to momentous change as we spiritually renew ourselves by fasting, undertaking charitable works and Alms giving in preparation for Holy Week and Easter. In our Gospel reading for this Sunday we hear about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by the devil. The temptations of Jesus begin with something that seemed so harmless, providing bread for his hunger and ended with the devil showing him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour then telling Jesus that he could have all of them if he acknowledged the tempter or the evil one.  

As we know that didn’t happen as Jesus reply to these temptations from the devil was Be off, Satan! Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ and You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’ There are many temptations in our lives these days and they often begin with something small that then leads onwards to something big. Often the temptation is that we  question our relationship with God and everyone else. Fortunately for us, not only did Jesus resist the temptations in the dessert, his ultimate victory over sin and death are also our victory. We can hold on  to this and find strength from Jesus victory during our own difficulties and we all have these from time to time. On Ash Wednesday the ashes were used as a sign of our desire to “turn away from sinful ways  and to be faithful witnesses to the Gospel,” Lent is a time for us to remember who and what we are, sons and daughters of God created in his image and likeness.   After forty days in the desert, Jesus was strengthened to do battle with the Tempter. Over  the forty days of Lent, we are empowered to join the Lord in fighting off evil in our lives and our world. During these days we are called to fast and pray with the desire to draw closer to God who draws close to all those who call upon him with faith.  

So as we continue our Lenten journey over the next few weeks our call is to have the same confidence that Jesus had in the face of temptation so that we can make the changes in our own lives so we will be able to face up whatever temptations we come across in our lives.

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