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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

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PENTECOST SUNDAY

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This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost Sunday and it seems to be a new beginning for everyone as we emerge from the lockdown of the past 10 weeks or so.  But our new beginning will result in many changes in our lives and our faith lives going into the future. As we go on through the process of getting back to a new normal we remember all those on the front-line who have done so much to keep us going throughout these weeks. We also spare a thought and a prayer for all the families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic whose lives are particularly hard during these weeks.

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: Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance.  By the time John wrote his gospel, Jewish Christians had been excommunicated for their belief in Jesus. Ostracised 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 the same as we do these days. The words of Jesus, “Peace” was John’s prayer for his readers at the beginning as it is for us as we listen to this gospel reading in our current situation. 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 especially during these days. Very often we need to stop and pray through the problems as well as thinking them through.   Gathered together in prayer week in week out we bring ourselves to God especially when we celebrate the Mass. 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 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.

As we go forward into a new unknown future as we come out from the lockdown we are like the first disciples who did not know what was going to happen or when but Through the  Holy Spirit everything made great sense to them. With the Holy Spirit as our guide the relationship we have 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 as we remember the presence of God with us in all our lives especially at this time.

ASCENSION

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As we continue to coexist with the COVID19 pandemic some of the restrictions are being eased. Our local Churches were I am are beginning to open for prayer and this is welcome and we are beginning to get used to the new normal with all of us keeping the required distance. This weekend we celebrate the feast of the ascension, In many places throughout the world this feast was celebrated last Thursday. Throughout our lives we see 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 taking leave of his beloved Apostles.

In the Bible when people climbed a mountain they wanted to encounter God In the peace and the quiet. On the mountain top, God would reveal himself to the person. So, the mountain symbolized the place of teaching, revelation, and mission Now, on a mountaintop, he would commission his followers to make disciples of all the nations before ascending to the Father. The ascension is the completion of Jesus mission on earth. It was also the beginning of the church, however before the disciples begin their mission they must be clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus began his public ministry he was filled with the Holy Spirit. So in similar fashion the new church and its leaders needed to be clothed with the Holy Spirit before they began their mission to the world.

The programme of redemption and salvation was to begin at Pentecost and continue in every generation until the end of time. So many things have changed in the Church and society since the time of Jesus and the church continues right up until this present moment. The Church continues because two things have not changed they are the person of Jesus and his message. The message of Jesus is ignored by many people inside and outside the Church for many reasons. Again and again we as people of faith need to ask ourselves what are we doing to make disciples of all the nations remembering  that Jesus and his message are always new for each generation. May we be heralds of faith by the lives we lead as we place the message of Jesus before others by what we say and the example we give.

6th Sunday of Easter

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This Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter it doesn’t seem that  long since we celebrated Easter Sunday but it is 6 weeks as we  head towards Ascension and Pentecost. We pray in a particular way for all those affected by the COVID19 virus as we begin to take the small steps to begin the end of lockdown and return to a new kind of normal.

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 back 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.”

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.

These past few weeks now nearly 2 months have been hard going for everyone who has been experiencing lockdown. So many people have experienced the loss of loved ones and were unable to say a proper good bye there is much sadness about as a result of this pandemic them but there is also a lot of hope around these days. Over the next weeks and months we will be getting back to the New Normal what that will be we will have to wait and see and work with it. but the one thing that will remain as it has up to now is the reason for our hope and simply put the reason for our hope is Jesus Christ who is with us in all our troubles whatever they are.

5th Sunday of Easter

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This weekend our gospel reading could have been written for the current situation we are in with the corona virus pandemic. As a result of this  many people are fearful for what might happen going forward and Jesus calls us to have faith and trust in him.  This Gospel is about Jesus helping the Apostles get ready for his suffering and death. For the apostles this would be a huge reversal from the adulation of the entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Remember when he asked them whether they would leave him, along with the rest of the crowd or stay with him? Now it is he who is leaving. They are stunned. ” Jesus tells them as he tells us now “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”

The straightforward meaning of this directive is, you know how to trust, you do it with God. Use that same trust with me. Jesus speaks to us not at us.  His presence is in the word proclaimed in the Assembly of the people of god gathered together via the internet during these days.  His word is proclaimed to us in the readings from scripture as well as in lived example of others in the community where we live especially those who are on the front line working to help and protect all of us from covid19.  We come to Pray week in week out to hear the Word of God.  We come to share the joys and sufferings of all the community gathered together.  During these days we make a spiritual communion with Jesus, risen from the Tomb as we cannot meet together in our churches. When we’re confused about what might happen Jesus Himself will show us the Way.

When we don’t know what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong, the Holy Spirit through the Church and its members will enlighten us and guide us to trust Jesus and one another. The disciples learnt soon after Jesus had left them that they didn’t have ready answers to everything the same as ourselves today. As we learn from the divisions in the early Christian communities, they all had to work together to find a way forward. There are many things Jesus did not tell them, and they had to face the future together with honesty and that too is what we need to do face the future together. Jesus trusted his followers down the ages right to you and me today to face the confusion and complexity of the world. That’s why he doesn’t leave us answers to everything. There’s still a lot of working out to be done by all of us especially theses days.

Looking to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life doesn’t actually solve every question effortlessly.  But Jesus knew that! Clearly he wants us to put our faith to work and solve the problems that we encounter in our daily lives and living especially during these more difficult days. During these days of pandemic lockdown we pray that we will trust in the love of God shown to us through Jesus who asks us to trust in him  when he said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

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JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD

 

This weekend we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday and the readings especially the Gospel are about Jesus the Good Shepherd. It is also the day when we are requested to pray for vocations to the Priesthood and religious life. Over the past 5 weeks we have been in lockdown with little or nothing happening as a result of  COVID19 with the result that all of us wondering when the lockdown will end and it will end but when that will happen is a question that none of us can really answer at this time.  The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a lovely thought especially in our current pandemic because it is a 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 for us Jesus will seek us out and help us to find our way back into the sheepfold of the 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 today’s gospel Jesus likens Israel’s corrupt shepherds to the “hired man” who has no real interest in the sheep who deserts them 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 in these most difficult of times. 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 Good Shepherd and to follow him faithfully. So In these days of uncertainty we remember  Jesus  the Good Shepherd and we know that he is with us to help us to get through the current COVID19 crisis.

3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER

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ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS  

This weekend as we continue the COVID 19 isolation we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter.  We remember and offer a prayer for all the front line workers and all who are unwell as a result of the Pandemic. We also pray for all those who have died and their families at this difficult time that God may console them.

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 recognise 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 realise 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. May we continue to walk the often bumpy roads of life over these days and the days to come knowing that Jesus walks with us

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

 

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This Sunday we continue our COVID19 isolation and as we do that we have been told that the isolation will be continuing for at least another three weeks. But as we keep our distance and remain in isolation we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. There are many people out there during  this pandemic who need both our help and our prayers We remember  all the various front line workers and the work that they are doing  we also remember all the people who have died as a result of COVID19 and their families and we bring all of them to the Lord.

I was sitting here a few days ago  thinking that Lent, Holy Week and  Easter  Sunday have come and gone so quickly even with the ongoing covid19 pandemic life seems to be going at breakneck speed. Many people think that Easter begins and ends on Easter Sunday but it doesn’t stop there, the celebration of the season of Easter goes on for 50 days and ends on Pentecost Sunday. I wonder what the Apostles would think if they were to come down to us these days and find that we are celebrating the Death and Resurrection of Jesus that took place 2020 years ago, they would be amazed especially as they thought everything was over with the Crucifixion on Good Friday.

In this Sundays Gospel reading the Apostles were still huddled together behind locked doors, mulling over the shocking experience from the week before when all seemed to be lost. Then Jesus appeared  to them and assured them that He was alive. His message must have troubled them as well when he told them: “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”   In the same way as the apostles were sent out we are sent out to bring his message of god’s mercy  and love to other people . Then of course there is doubting Thomas who heard the witness of the those who saw Jesus but, like so many of us today he wanted more proof. Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” That is a favourite quote for us, who have not “seen” the risen Christ in person as the disciples did. We have come to believe though we have not seen him in the flesh but he is with us in the midst of our communities through so many different people especially during these days of lockdown.  When Jesus says to the Apostles Peace be with you the Peace he is talking about is much more than the lack of conflict.  True peace, gives us happiness, since it is built on trust in God and one another.  The gospel tells us how Jesus gave his followers peace because they trusted him.

In spite of the scepticism of Thomas and so many others, throughout history Jesus  offers us the same peace of heart mind and soul.  As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday we remember the joy, the hope, the grief and the anxieties of the people in our time those we know and those unknown to us and we bring them to the Lord. The people throughout the world  are hurting so much because of the things that are happening within it with many people wondering what will happen next and none of us really know that what will happen or when but we trust in God to be with us and show us the way. These days are filled with uncertainty and anxiety and we bring all of it to God who is rich in mercy and love for all of us. May all of us be witnesses to the love  and mercy of the Gospel as we bring the caring face of God’s mercy to the people wherever we are called to be in these difficult times.

HOLY SATURDAY AND EASTER

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The cross is empty now Jesus lies in the tomb and everything around us is still. The silence echoes the reality of our lives these days with corona Virus and all the the  issues around it . 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, almost 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 then 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. 

 

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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 and the day of resurrection that is Easter Sunday. The heavens and the earth cry out with longing for the sinless one who is not to be found, when  we stop to think we remember that Jesus died and rose again on the third day. We wait, as mourners beside a grave, unsettled, ill at ease, almost 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 then is the day when we experience watching and waiting 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 season of joy . But what is joy? The answer St. Francis gave to this question is famous. St. Francis said to his Brother Leo, “When we come to St. Mary of the Angels [our house], soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of the place and the brother porter comes and says angrily: ‘Who are you?’ And we say: ‘We are two of your brothers.’ And … he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, until night falls—then if we endure all those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, … oh, Brother Leo, … perfect joy is there!” Whatever we may think of St. Francis’s explanation of perfect joy, Easter reminds us that Francis’s kind of joy is not the end of the story. At Easter, we celebrate the other kind of joy, 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.

Good Friday

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This Good Friday we gather in our homes in our virtual churches as pray with our parish communities through the Web Cams and Parish radios. It seems strange that the churches will be closed because the Good Friday ceremonies when we remember Jesus journey to the cross are among the most packed church services every year. On this day in the liturgy we read St. Johns account of the passion, we pray for the needs of the Church and the world, we venerate the Cross and we make a spiritual communion as we are not able to receive the blessed Eucharist. We think of the death of Jesus on the cross, his death was a result of the courage of his convictions.

He lived his life with a message of compassion, of equality and love, Jesus was often critical of those who lorded it over those who were less well off or who had little or even nothing at all.  The cross of Good Friday is a sign and a symbol that all of us recognise, it is a sign of the completeness of the love that God has for each one of us with all our faults and failings. It is not accidental that the Passion according to John is always read on this day.  This account shows Jesus always in charge, in total command of his situation.  John’s Passion is an extended commentary on an earlier statement of Jesus found in John 10:17-18:  “I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  

The focus of the liturgy of Good Friday, is not just  a meditation on Jesus’ pain, nor on our sinfulness, or our imitation of Jesus’ humility.  Instead the focus is a reminder to us that we are beneficiaries of this event. The final words of Jesus from the cross say it all for us, “It is accomplished!”  Jesus is not overcome.  On the contrary!  He has overcome!

When we look at  the cross on Good Friday we should allow the cross to move us to be better people.  Consoling, comforting and challenging the people we meet with the values of Jesus and the Cross.

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How splendid is the Cross- of Christ!

It brings life, not death;

Light not darkness;

Paradise, not its loss.

It is the wood on which the Lord,

like a great warrior;

was wounded in hands, and feet and side,

but healed thereby our wounds.

A tree had destroyed us,

a tree now brought us life.

Theodore of Studios

Palm Sunday

 

Palm Sunday Tickets, Wed 15 Apr 2020 at 10:30 | Eventbrite

 

From the Ashes of Ash Wednesday to the Palms of Palm Sunday we have come full circle once again in our celebration of the Churches liturgy. This year our Palm Sunday celebrations are going to be so very different as we are dealing with the difficulties that the COVID19 virus has brought to all parts of the world. We will be uniting with one another through the Webcam and radio links that have been a great help. But the main message of Palm Sunday remains the same as we commemorate Jesus going up to Jerusalem and then all that happened during the days of that first Holy Week.

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 2020 in the midst of the COVID19 outbreak , 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 no matter what is going on at this time. The Passion narrative of Matthew which we hear this year emphasises the great humility of Jesus, the King.  Lent, Palm Sunday and Holy week 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 through Jesus 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  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. As we go forward we think of all the people wherever we are who are not able to get to the Holy Week ceremonies who will be joining their fellow parishioners through the web cams and the parish radios. We also remember in our prayers the healthcare workers and all the other front line workers who are keeping all of us going during this difficult time.  As we celebrate Palm Sunday and the events of Holy Week  we remember that our faith tells us that god is with us no matter what happens and he will help us to get through the COVID19 pandemic and come out the other with our faith in God and one another  renewed.

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