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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the category “Life”

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.

7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This Sunday in our Gospel we are told that we should offer the wicked man no resistance and that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us these are strong words. Jesus asks his followers to take a different approach by resisting retaliation altogether. The response to a stronger person who slaps us on the cheek, takes us to court, or demands a service of us is not to resist. Similarly, for a weaker person, such as a beggar or borrower, we are to give him or her what he or she asks for. Those who are called to the Kingdom of Heaven are to go beyond the way the world usually works and serve God’s kingdom here on earth. We must, if we are truly Christian, forgive those who offend or injure us. We must love all men, whether they be friends or enemies. G. K. Chesterton says : “We are commanded to love our neighbours and our enemies;  very often we find that they are the same people.” This is very true for all of us. It is very easy for us to love in a theoretical way all people as they never come in contact with us in a personal way and never tread on our feet. But it is those among whom I live and work, who are liable to injure me and might  become my enemies.

Jesus argues that the love that we his disciples give people is not related to the love they receive from others: it is not a social contract or a fair bargain it is unconditional. The disciple loves because that is what the nature of discipleship involves. That means loving your enemy as yourself and doing good to those who would persecute you . A disciple is the child of the Father  and look at the Father’s gracious love for us as we are. He does not withhold the sun and the rain from those who oppose him; likewise, disciples must not withhold their love from those who oppose them. The love is offered not because Jesus thinks that it will change the enemy into something else: certainly, love might confuse the enemy! Love is offered because that is the example and the way of life disciples of the kingdom should follow.

Jesus is telling us not to follow the way of the world, which often perpetuates old oppressions and makes new ones as well. This only leaves people stuck and unable to move forward.  Jesus is telling us that we should be agents of real change in the world by acting in unexpected ways. This means that we do not go along with the crowd but rather approach the various situations of life with new and imaginative thinking as befits a disciple of Christ.

He wants us to see the world from the top down as God does. And then  by seeing the world the way it really is with all that is good and bad within it we will find that we are in a far better position to change it. 

 

5TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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In our gospel reading this Sunday Jesus tells his disciples that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He adds, “. . . your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.”

If we were to witness the events of this passage being acted on stage, I think we would find them humorous: Jesus telling a motley group of puzzled followers, many illiterate, that they are the light of the world and when we hear the gospel passage in church on Sunday, we assume that Jesus is talking to those first disciples, surely not to us. But Jesus is talking to us in the same way  he spoke the Disciples  long ago. .Jesus used salt as a metaphor to describe who his disciples are and how they are to be in the world. Just as salt draws out the flavour of food, so  we as Jesus’ disciples we are asked to draw out goodness in the world. As salt of the earth we may even have to upset the way things are and how life is ordinarily carried on – the usual “salty taste” of daily life in the world these days can be so topsy turvy as recent events have shown in America and other places as well. Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” They are to be seen, not hidden away they are called to be the light overcoming the  darkness of our world and its peoples.

We in our own time are called to be the “light of the world,” each one of us a tiny ray of light, dispelling darkness, living in charity toward all, including persecutors. This light is an inner light the light of faith . Its source is divine grace that becomes visible to others by our kind words, our gracious acts, our personal refusal to resort to “oppression, false accusation or malicious speech.” And thus, as Isaiah promised, the gloom of sin and death shall be overcome, or as the psalmist declares, justice and mercy of the upright will be a light shining through the darkness. Christ gives us a huge amount of latitude and invites us to carry out our role as his representatives with the maximum level of personal responsibility. We are invited to utilise our own special gifts and talents to inform our role of being a disciple who is the salt of the earth and the light for the world. So let us turn to Jesus the light of life today, let us pray that we might share in his life, so that we might be the salt of the earth, and light in the darkness for all  the people in our world still groping around for light  in darkness of their lives.

4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we continue our journey of faith as we hear the beatitudes. The first Beatitude strikes the keynote also for the seven Beatitudes that follow. The decisive word in this first Beatitude is the word, poor The first recipients of the Beatitudes are, in fact, the ‘poor in spirit’, an expression that indicates those who have their hearts and consciences directed intimately to Our Lord. They are the expression of the just who are tried by moments of suffering and difficulties. However, they are called ‘blessed’ and ‘happy’ because God’s merciful and compassionate gaze rests on them. These are the poor that the Bible text really refers to. The poor in the Bible are the humble people  who bear a burden on their shoulders. They are given God’s favour and because of this the Word identifies them as just, meek and humble. All kinds of attitudes are included in the eight beatitudes. This way the true significance of the ones who don’t confide mainly in themselves but in God. The poor are those who detach themselves concretely and interiorly from the possession of people and things and above all of themselves.

The poor don’t find security in the gods of this world like success, power or pride but the true Lord God in Heaven. Those who are called “blessed” or “happy” in these beatitudes can hardly be described as fortunate or lucky people in the eyes of the world: the lowly, the mourners, those deprived of justice, those who are persecuted and abused. In structuring the beatitudes in the way he does, Matthew is not offering an unusual programme to happiness; rather, he is describing what happens to Christian discipleship when the kingdom breaks into this broken world. The beatitudes speak of a variety of experiences that disciples undergo as a result of their involvement in living the Gospel. The result of this involvement might appear to the world as senseless suffering, but Jesus heaps blessings on those who struggle to love the truth of the Gospel.

Discipleship is centred on Jesus. Because of who he is, others will change. Jesus alone is the source of discipleship. Without the person of Jesus, discipleship is meaningless. All of us have some experience of the cost of discipleship. Some will know what it is like to be counted as a nobody because of our fidelity to Jesus. As Christians we are pledged to share the wisdom of one who was counted a nobody himself. In doing that we will continue “to shame the wise” by declaring the foolishness of God, remember that gods foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. The beatitudes of this Sundays Gospel are all about the mercy of God which Pope Francis in our own time is all about, Do we have the attitude of mercy that is the attitude of the Beatitudes or are we happy to be as we are instead of being merciful in our dealings with other people?

 

THIRD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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These days we seem to live in weird and wonderful times at the start of this week we heard the British Prime Minister outlining the Brexit or at least putting a wee bit of meat on the bony skeleton of the UK leaving the EU. Then on Friday we had the inauguration of President Trump as the 45th US president how the world is continually changing hopefully for the better but who knows things really are in the hands of God. The Sundays of Ordinary Time lead us through the three years of Christ’s public ministry. We began last week with his identification as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist and this week we hear how he called the Apostles to follow him. 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. Even though the Romans put down revolts with brutal efficiency, large Jewish protests did sway official decisions, especially at the local level. There was strength in numbers. Part-time fishermen like Peter and Andrew, like James and John would easily leave their daily tasks, if the group they joined promised to protect and enhance their way of life.

Proclaiming the Kingdom was a message with political undertones for Jews and Jesus quickly amassed an audience. This gospel story 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. Are we listening to Jesus saying to us today, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men?”   This Gospel also asks us to remember that our own personal vocation is  an absolutely free choice to make.  This means that we are totally free to accept or deny the  invitation for us to take up the vocation that is there for us. Some are called to the Priesthood, or Consecrated Life, others to marriage, others are called to a single life there are many other vocations in life all of the m are  different and yet they are all calls to holiness that we are given. 

 

May we experience the beauty of accepting the call with faith in God and acting on it.  In this way we will become like the first apostles who quickly responded, continued to learn during their three years walking with Jesus and the years afterwards during which, with the power of the Holy Spirit, they did what they probably never imagined they would do when first called; travelled to the ends of the earth. 

 

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