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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

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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.

CORPUS CHRISTI

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This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ also known as Corpus Christi. As we celebrate this great feast we pray in a particular way for all those effected by the fire in Grenfell tower in London that god may console them.

When we gather at the Eucharist we bring ourselves and our needs in prayer to God. We bring our prayers to God because God is with us and continues to be with us in good and bad times through the sacramental life of the Church and through the Eucharist in particular. When we see the Eucharistic Bread, we believe that it is Jesus who is there before us:  such is the faith we have in the Eucharist the bread of life.  this means that, because Christ is really, truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, we recognize that all the graces we enjoy as Catholic Christians come from this great Sacrament, and all we aspire to, the fullness of the life of God, is contained in this Sacrament.

In the Gospel for this feast John picks up the theme of the manna from heaven and contrasts the bread the Jews ate in the desert with the new bread of life given by Jesus. Now the Word of God has become flesh, and the bread of heaven is Jesus himself. To eat this bread is to have a share in the life of God himself. In celebrating the Eucharist we celebrate the memory of Jesus passion, death and resurrection. We recall the radical values that put Jesus’ in opposition to so many of his own people: his talk about God and the kingdom; his insistence on forgiveness; his opposition to religious sham; his commitment to peace; his willingness to die in order to overcome sin these values should be our own values as well. In receiving the body and blood of Christ we become his body living in the world. Called to bring the values of Jesus into the world where we are.

The celebration of Corpus Christi is there to remind us that the great gift of the Eucharist is a both a gift and a mystery. Jesus is present with us in a way that is really beyond our understanding. We take Him into ourselves when we receive communion. We are united to his sacrifice on the Cross for all of us when we pray the Mass in its fullness and eat the Sacred Meal. We come before His Presence whenever we are in Church where the Eucharist is reposed in a tabernacle or exposed on the Altar. Jesus was present with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the universe. He is present with the angels and saints in heaven now. He is present in the Blessed Sacrament and he is with us in all of the ups and downs that are part of our daily lives. So in the words of  a great eucharistic hymn “Come let us adore this wondrous presence”.

Trinity Sunday

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This Sunday we celebrate Trinity Sunday which is a celebration in honour of  the Father Son and Holy Spirit.  The three persons in the trinity reveal the fullness of the unity of God’s love. How do we understand the Trinity? We don’t! God, by definition, is beyond imagination, beyond language. The Christian belief that God is a trinity helps underscore how rich the mystery of God is and how our experience of God is always richer than our thoughts  and language about God. The feast of the Trinity goes back to 12th century England and St Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Historians say the great Thomas celebrated a Liturgy in honor of the Trinity in his cathedral. So was born the observance. In the 14th century, the feast came to be observed by the universal Church.   

The belief in the Trinity goes back to the New Testament. There it is mentioned about forty times. We open each Liturgy especially the Mass invoking the Trinity . We also close Mass and so many other liturgies by calling upon those same 3 Persons (Father Son and Spirit)  in blessing us as we go out into the world. Trinity Sunday is the day when we stand back from the extraordinary sequence of events that we’ve been celebrating for the previous five months—Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension and  Pentecost  it is the day when we  are asked to rub the sleep from our eyes and discover what the word ‘god’ that is Father Son and Spirit might actually mean for us. This is a feast which should speak to us of this simple fact of faith: the Father loves us, has revealed that love in his Son, and has called into a relationship sustained by the Spirit. It is our joy that, as baptized members of the Church, we can somehow share in that divine life and love which is the Trinity becoming children of God.

God has chosen us, and we are his own people, just as he chose the people of Israel long ago. Each Trinity Sunday, we only scratch the surface of this great mystery of our faith. In gratitude let us begin and end every prayer with greater reverence when we say “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Pentecost Sunday

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This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, the day when 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 Easter!! With the feast of Pentecost the seven weeks of Easter have come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance. (Cf. Acts 2:33-36) (CCC 731)In the Gospel reading, Jesus, gives the apostles the power to forgive and reconcile those who sin. This is God’s mercy in action working through the Apostles and the priests down through the ages to ourselves in our time and place!

By the time John wrote his gospel, Jewish Christians had been excommunicated for their belief in Jesus. Ostracized and socially persecuted, some Christians reacted in fear, while others boldly proclaimed the gospel. The First Christians needed a sense of stability, a sense of serenity and peace. Through the words of Jesus, “Peace” was John’s prayer for his readers as it is for us 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 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 for ourselves and those around us.

Most of the time, the problems just don’t go away by themselves very often we need to stop and pray through the problems as well as thinking them through.  Simply put Prayer Moves Mountains but we shouldn’t stop climbing. Gathered at the Eucharist week in week out we bring our prayers to God. We each have our own needs. Family and friends may be sick.  Kids need work. The person who has been in 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 produces fruitfulness, satisfies our longings, and brings us serenity and 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.

6th Sunday of Easter

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This Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter it doesn’t seem that  long since Easter Sunday but it is 6 weeks as we  head towards Ascension and Pentecost. Please stop and say a prayer for all the young people who are doing exams during these days. Life for our youngsters is not easy in so many ways and we pray for them that they will get the courage and the strength to go forward.

In the Gospel for this Sunday Jesus promises us the “Paraclete,” or “Advocate.” The word “Paraclete” literally means “one called alongside” indicating one who accompanies another. This can refer to a Lawyer who intercedes for another in a lawsuit, a helper who encourages, or a companion who gives comfort. The Paraclete, or advocate, is the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his ascension, his going to the Father. When he finally leaves He doesn’t leave his followers a detailed plan. Instead, he promised them and us a person, the Holy Spirit, who will never leave our side. This is why he says “I will not leave you orphans.” The Spirit is with us to open our hearts and minds to the fullness of the truth of Jesus’ words, and the commandment he gives to “love one another as I have loved you.”Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure as well as the coming of the one who will replace him on earth, the Holy Spirit.

The second reading is one that I always love to hear as It speaks of us having reverence for God and that we should always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks about the reason for our hope, the reading goes on to tell us to give our answers with gentleness and reverence” What is the answer for our hope simply put the reason for our hope is Jesus Christ the Son of God the Father. If we live for Christ, we will be criticized and many people over the centuries lost their lives for their defence of the faith. Would we be able to stand up and tell those around us the reason that we have for the hope that is within us today? Would we be prepared to stand up for the faith that so many have turned their backs on and point towards Jesus Christ the reason for the hope that we have both these questions are hard  to answer for people of faith in the world we find ourselves these days. If we share our faith with courtesy and respect for others who might not hold our belief then we will find that they will show respect for the things we hold dear as we stand up for the faith we profess wherever we are.  

3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER

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This weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter. Our gospel reading for this Sunday recounts the apparition of Jesus on the evening of Easter to two disciples who were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  Their life with Jesus had come to an abrupt end. They were So disappointed and so disillusioned about Jesus and the way he died that they decided to leave the community of his followers.  Slowly but surely they are walking away from it all and then Jesus comes to them and walks with them along the road asking them about what had gone on in Jerusalem. Why did the Lord not tell the disciples straight away who He was? Indeed, in the dialogue that the Gospel Story presents to us today, it almost seems that Jesus did all He could to avoid revealing His true identity.  He pretended not to know what Cleopas and his companion were discussing and then He went on to ‘explain to them the passages throughout scriptures that were about Himself’ (Lk 24:27) but without making direct reference to who he was.

 Then at the end of the reading they recognised him in the breaking of the bread and went back to Jerusalem to tell the others that they had seen the Lord and Jesus had risen as he said he would. This passage has a different purpose from the other gospel accounts whose intent is to demonstrate that the Lord is truly real in a new spiritual way. This gospel of the encounter of the two disciples with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and in the breaking of the bread is a story of friendship. The Risen Lord is a friend who talks with them as they walk, a friend who shares a meal with them. Luke describes an intimate, personal encounter marked by tenderness and hospitality. He was walking with the disciples in their time of wondering what will happen next. He walks with us during times of great joy, as well as in our darkest moments. At times we become so caught up and distracted with what’s happening in our lives that we fail to recognize his presence with us remember that line from Christmas that Jesus the Son of God is Emmanuel that means God with us. Jesus doesn’t give up and leave us, he continues to walk with us if we  look around we see his presence in those around us. Sometimes we don’t realize his presence and how it is strengthening us, but it is certainly there.

Many people have left the Church, only to return again and find their spiritual home. Many feel distant from God, discouraged over an unresolved faith issue, or snubbed by someone in the Church or whatever. Then, something happened to turn them back. If we look closer, we will find it was not a personal crisis or children or maturity that made them return. It was God who travels the roads of life with us as Jesus travelled the road to Emmaus  with the apostles who were running away in the Gospel story for this Sunday.

 

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.

 

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