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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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This weekend we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent and we hear the story of the Angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. But as we listen to this story we should stop and spare a thought about how Mary felt when she got the news that she was to have a child who was the Son of God. Luke tells us that, ” she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” In that uneasy world of Galilee, a place of conflict and struggle, Mary’s personal response showed confusion and doubt and that was why the angel reassured her. Mary did not get a roadmap of the future – neither do we. All her questions weren’t answered – nor are ours. Gabriel announced the conception and birth of the Son of God. Mary’s child would be “great”. He would be Son of the “Most High” a title for the greatest God, the highest concept of divinity one could have at that time. Mary made room for God in her life do we make room for God amongst the general hustle and bustle of life and living not forgetting the Christmas preparations that are part and parcel of this time of year.

Mary and the saints are more like us than the arts or literature about them tell us or we might like to think. They are amazingly human that is like you and me and it is among us, in all our human limitations, that God wants to dwell – among people who despite struggle and doubt, say “Yes” to him. Scripture suggests God wants to enter more fully into our lives; our not-so-neat and orderly lives but our messy untidy lives with all the good and bad and happy and sad times that are part and parcel of our lives. Mary accepted, and proclaimed, God’s will in her life. She placed her future completely in the hands of the Father and we are called to do exactly the same. Her example should be our inspiration to stand firm as Catholics in today’s world of ever-changing fads and fancies especially as we face up to the secular razzmatazz that we see in the run up to Christmas. Remember, the words of Mary when she said ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ May we accept the word of God and try to put it into action in our lives this Christmas Time.

 

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3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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This Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent  it is also known as Gaudete Sunday. In some places Rose vestments are used and we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath. It is a Sunday when we rejoice as we look forward to the birth of Jesus. In our parish  this year we are celebrating Bambinelli Sunday.  This  is a Roman tradition where  the pope will bless the baby Jesus from family cribs brought to the papal audience by the children on Gaudete Sunday.   Pope Benedict tells us that the blessing of the “Bambinelli” in Rome, reminds us that the crib is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in having many things but in feeling loved by the Lord, in giving oneself as a gift for others and in loving one another. Let us look at the crib. Our Lady and St Joseph do not seem to be a very fortunate family; their first child was born in the midst of great hardship; yet they are full of deep joy, because they love each other, they help each other and they are certain that God, who made himself present in the little Jesus, is at work in their story. As we prepare for the birth of Jesus we have to ask ourselves is God made real through the baby Jesus present in our own life stories?  Our Gospel story tells us about John the Baptist who was the voice crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord. John the Evangelist presented the Baptist as God’s witness, the one who spoke eternal truth in a transient world. John’s message and ministry of a repentant baptism prefigured Christ’s. John baptized in the spirit of hope and we live in the spirit of hope. The baptism of Jesus realized that hope. Those baptized by John looked forward to a life with God. Those baptized by the Christ lived in God as we live in God.

We rejoice and praise God on this Gaudete Sunday. We thank him for all he has done for us in our own lives and in the lives of all those who are near and dear to us, families and friends wherever they are.We rejoice that through the coming of his Son Jesus we have come to know God as our Father. We do our best to follow his Gospel of love in a spirit of joy. As we continue our Advent journey  along the road that lead to salvation let us prepare the way for the Lord in our own lives remembering that in  the words of the Entrance Antiphon  we should rejoice in the Lord always; for the Lord is near. 

 

 

2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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Our gospel reading for this weekend is all about a voice in the wilderness. The voice we hear from the wilderness is John the Baptist, who came before Jesus as the lords herald.  John  tells us that there is one coming after him and that he is the son of God and that he was not good enough to take the sandals of his feet. He also tells us that we should make the paths straight for the lord. So are we making the paths straight for the lord as we try to make sense of all the ongoing razzmatazz or are we going to go with the flow, just too busy with all the secular preparations that this time of year brings to really take notice of the importance of the preparation that John the Baptist talks about?  John the Baptist came to reawaken the sense of expectation among a people that had grown tired and distant from God as many have done in our present time.   John was called to bring renewal to the institutional expressions of religion which, at the time, had so often become fossilized into mere formulae or external ritual.  

As the journey of Advent continues we prepare to celebrate the nativity of Jesus, John the Baptist’s clarion call to conversion sounds out in our communities. As we continue our preparations for the razzmatazz of Christmas let us not forget the true and lasting message of Christmas that has lasted for over 2,000 years and the message is that God came among us.  All of us are asked to take up the Baptists call of renewal to prepare the way for the Lord. This  is the call to reawaken within ourselves the fact that Jesus is god with us Emmanuel who will be heard and seen through us in the Joy we give to others and the Joy that is there in our own hearts.  Christianity is a religion of anticipation and joy. We await the coming of the Lord in glory. We also wait for that joyful time that is the Christmas season, a time of happiness and peace. The Church in every age must become like John the Baptist, an uncomfortable reminder of how we must allow the truth of Jesus to break into our lives to enlighten the darkness that can at any moment enter into  the life of the Church or our own lives .

Remember that the words of Jesus in the Gospel are there to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. At the beginning of this piece I began with the voice of John the Baptist out there in the wilderness. For many people out there in the wilderness the voice of Jesus means very little as they go about their daily lives. We are called to reawaken within ourselves and others the great spirit of expectant waiting as we wait on the Christmas feast. So are we making the paths straight for the lord or are we just going to go with the flow a taking little or no  notice of the importance of the preparation that John the Baptist talks about  that is the spiritual preparation of our hearts and minds for the great spiritual event that Christmas is.

 

 

1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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This Sunday we begin the church’s new year as we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent. At the beginning of the Liturgy we bless the Advent Wreath  and light the first purple candle we also place the first symbols on the Jesse Tree. In the secular world Advent seems to begin the season of Christmas and the measuring of Christmas-time profits in the business sections of our newspapers. We will hear happy, silly jingles in stores and malls. While at church, this season’s sounds will be different sober hymns and Scriptures, that help us “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  Though the vestments are purple and there is a certain penitential feel running through the next few weeks there is also a sense of joyful expectation as we await the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.   The main theme for our readings this Sunday is  waiting and watching in hope. Hope is the basis for a watchful and vigilant spirit.

In our anticipation for the Lord’s coming, we hope that our faith will help reveal the Kingdom and prepare others as well as ourselves for eternity. Our efforts alone will not bring about the Kingdom, but, God, acting through us, will reveal the Kingdom.  Blessed John Henry Newman reminds us in a homily for the Advent Season: “Advent is a time of waiting, it is a time of joy because the coming of Christ is not only a gift of grace and salvation but it is also a time of commitment because it motivates us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance. This ‘vigilance’ means the urgency of an industrious, living ‘wait’. To make all this happen, then we need to wake up, as we are warned in the Gospel reading to stay awake for we do not know when the master will return.  Advent poses some basic questions to us today: do we still trust that God is in charge, is faithful to us and will finally draw us into a loving and lasting embrace?

The Advent liturgies and scriptural texts encourage us to trust in God. They keep our hope alive, despite national and international headlines of gloom and doom and closer to home reports of family arguments and break ups and many other things. Advent doesn’t look back to a former time when things seemed better. Advent really is the time to look forward. What do we have to look forward to? We look forward to the birth of Jesus the son of God, the child in the Manger who is the light in the darkness of our world and our lives. I hope that at the end of this Advent when Jesus arrives at Christmas he wont be the stranger in the Manger but a welcome friend for all of us.

 

THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

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This Sunday  is the last Sunday of the liturgical year as we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Before parents leave the house they usually give parting instructions to their children: “Don’t fight. Don’t turn on the stove. Don’t let a stranger in, etc.” In a way, that’s what this Sundays readings are, important reminders for us as we close this liturgical year. The theme of the kingship of Christ should not be misunderstood. Jesus is not king in an earthly sense of the word. The acclamations of the crowds that took place and the enthusiastic endorsement of the disciples that Jesus is the Messiah might mislead us. Jesus is king; Jesus is Messiah, because he is the anointed one of God, who comes to do the will of God.The gospel parable of the last judgment picks up on the king and shepherd themes. At the end time Jesus, the Shepherd King, will return and surrounded by his retinue of angels, will judge the nations. He will share his glory with those he finds worthy. Will he find us to be worthy of his call to be with him forever?

If we are serious about our Christianity, if we are committed to the Kingdom of God, then we will be living lives of sacrificial love, the love of Jesus Christ. To take Christ as our Shepherd involves becoming a shepherd to others making Christ present to them by reaching out showing the faith and leading them along the path of faith if they aren’t already there. The kingdom of Christ, a reign of charity and peace, is for all of us where ever we are. We remember that the Kingdom of God exists in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every region and country that cares for its weak and vulnerable people. It exists in every parish that reaches out to the needy with a helping hand. This very moment in our history and our lives presents us with a challenge and a choice. We can hear the Lord’s call in the presence of other’s needs. Or, we can turn away. Still there is hope in the grace God offers. Our past selfish ways can be overcome.  Now is the time for  conversion of heart and mind as we look to the season of Advent. Now is the time to give ourselves to the work God and his kingdom where all are valued and no one is left behind.

May all of us take up the challenge that the feast of Christ the King gives us. That challenge is to reach out to others showing them that the ways of Jesus are what we as Christians are really all about instead of being selfish and self-centred people which all of us can be at times.

 

33rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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This week in our parish we remembered all those who had passed on during in our annual Mass for  those who died during the year and we prayed with and for their families and friends. We pray for all the dead during November and we remember in a special way all those who have no one to pray for or remember them. We also remember all the members of our own families who have died that all of them our friends relatives and all  those we don’t know at all will rest in the peace of the love of god.

Our reading from the Gospel for this weekend  is about the servant and his one talent. The parable speaks first of the Master’s trust in his servants. While he goes away he leaves them with his money to use as they think best. While there were no strings attached, this was obviously a test to see if the Master’s workers would be industrious and reliable in their use of the money entrusted to them. The master rewards those who are industrious and faithful and he punishes those who sit idly by and who do nothing with his money. The essence of the parable seems to lie in the servants’ conception of responsibility. Each servant entrusted with the master’s money was faithful up to a certain point.

The servant who buried the master’s money was irresponsible. One can bury seeds in the ground and expect them to become productive because they obey natural laws. Coins, however, do not obey natural laws. They obey economic laws and become productive in circulation. The master expected his servants to be productive in the use of his money. If we stop and substitute the money aspect of the parable with the word faith then we get to what the parable is really about and it tells us that faith is a real and wonderful gift from God that should be treasured. Faith is also given to us according to our ability to deal with it; each in proportion to his ability, as it says in the parable. But the most important aspect of the Parable is that the Master will eventually return and the big question is will we be ready for his return? Paul assures us, ” The day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.” This is a wake-up call to alert us to stop relying on false security, while missing the ways that Jesus comes into our lives and they are many.  Sometimes we feel God’s blessing. Sometimes we feel he is away out there in the distance. There are even times God may feel like the enemy. We enjoy times of intimacy as graced moments. But in all the moments of our lives  we should try to realize that in times of distance and estrangement God offers us his life.

The Gospel parable about the talents, and Saint Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians both tell us to be at peace with ourselves in heart and mind, for if we are doing the Lord’s work there is nothing to fear. So let us be fearless in our living out the gospel in our lives where we are and remember that even in our darkest times God is near to those who love him.

32ND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

 

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At the beginning of this week there was  a programme on the Irish TV channel RTE which paid tribute to a number of people who have been married for 50 years. my own mother and fathers would have been married 58 years had my dad survived. The theme of our readings this weekend is not marriage though the Gospel story is about the bridegroom and his attendants. Instead the readings point us towards something very different that is the gift of Wisdom. The first reading  taken from the Book of Wisdom cites watchfulness as the key to a faithful understanding of wisdom according to St. Bernard wisdom lights up the mind and instils an attraction to the divine.  The author of the Book of Wisdom reminds us that we have one unfailing presence to guide us through our lives that is Wisdom. We are told Watch for her early and you will have no trouble; you will find her sitting at your gates. She is “resplendent and unfading;” always there for those who seek her out.

The Gospel story for this Sunday is about an oil crisis in the Middle East it tells us about the five bridesmaids who didn’t buy extra lamp oil they were foolish because they weren’t prepared for the late arrival of the bridegroom. On the other hand the story flags up the wisdom of the five wise bridesmaids who were prepared for the late arrival of the bridegroom as they went out and bought more oil for their lamps. Their wisdom wasn’t extraordinary, but eminently practical. It is true that it is difficult, or impossible, to estimate the quantity of oil necessary to keep a lamp lit as we await the bridegroom for an unknown length of time! In this story the Lamp is our faith and how we live our faith is the oil. This Gospel calls us to seize the moment and direct our lives guided by the wisdom that God gives us through the life and teachings of Jesus. What we experience is the routine of work, school, and various activities, rushed family meals, television, the news on the car radio, shopping, visiting elderly parents, friends and family, church services, etc. It can feel so predictable. But the routine of our daily lives  can also be shattered by the unexpected and sudden demands life puts on us and our loved ones. Will we be ready to respond? It depends on how well we have tended to our “oil” supply.

If we have squandered it by neglect, or missed opportunities to get more oil for our lamps then when we look for backup in a moment of crisis, like the bridesmaids we may be left with the sound of the slamming door being locked as the bridegroom tells us I don’t know who you are you are too late. Only those who were ready went in with the bridegroom to the wedding. When God calls us, will we be ready?

31st SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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In our world these days we hear a lot about FAKE NEWS indeed this week the Collins English Dictionary editors have included the definition of Fake news immortalised by President Trump in their updated dictionary. Having said all of that our Readings this weekend  are all about fake leadership in the gospel for this Sunday Jesus warns against this kind of leadership. The atmosphere of hostility towards the religious leaders of Judaism is evident in this Gospel reading. The scribes and Pharisees are presented as bad examples of religious leadership, not to be followed by leaders of the Christian community. Jesus is presented as engaging in violent caricature, arousing the crowds to condemn the scribes and Pharisees. It is a tense and angry scene in which Jesus makes sweeping generalisations: “Everything they do is done to attract attention…”. Obviously, there were many scribes and Pharisees who were upright and extremely holy men. Matthew is warning against attitudes and practices which are not peculiar to any religious group. The scribes and Pharisees happen to serve as useful examples – especially since at the time of writing they represent the religious leadership opposed to Matthew’s church and the style of leadership Matthew is opposed to within his church.

Authority in any organisation, the Church included, is meant to be a gift. It is meant to be shown in loving service in  support of others, not in domination and control. It’s just not good enough to make people simply comply and obey. People may do that on the outside, while on the inside they are seething with rage and resentment which always boils over. The challenge for all church people is to get others onside, to win their hearts and minds, to persuade and convince them that this or that is the right thing to do in the various situations of life. Again and again in his teaching Jesus insists that we must not dominate, lord it over, or oppress others! He teaches over and over that God invites, calls, attracts and charms, rather than controls, directs, and regulates! He teaches too that the greatest in any group are those who love and serve the others! Jesus challenges us along the way of humility because, whether we are mindful of it or not, as baptised Christians we represent Christ in the world of today. How we present ourselves is how we represent him. Jesus challenges those who believe in him because he has high expectations of us.  Even though the Gospel for this Sunday is addressed to the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, it is also addressed to all of us who call ourselves disciples of the Lord.  

We must be willing to put everything behind us that prevents us from living in the humble way that Jesus modelled for us. The true style of any Christian must reflect the style and life of Christ, the servant of God. Matthew is unambiguous about Christian leadership: if it is not humble service, it is fake. So today as we reflect on the various things that are so called Fake News let us remember that we are called to be the agents of the Good News of Jesus Christ where we are and not be afraid to pass the good news on.

30th SUNDAY IN ORDIANRY TIME

 

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Have you ever had the overwhelming sense you were loved? How do you know you are loved? “Love makes the world go ’round.” In spite of the cynics from the board room to the court room to the news room, love does motivate people. Love indeed makes the world go around. For without love, the world would be a place of despair. Because of love the world though there is a lot of despair is also a place of love, that is the love of God.

 The Pharisees in the Gospel Reading for this Sunday are all out to get Jesus because he had silenced the Sadducees. In an attempt to do this they asked him this question Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. It is hard to love someone that we have never met in person but we love God because many others have passed on their love of God to us.

There is a sense in which we could say that it takes a lifetime of practice to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, to live the first commandment, putting God before all else. To direct us all our lives God has given us guidelines, the Ten Commandments and he also gives us things like the beatitudes as well many people who have given the love of god to us.  So many people in the modern world have decided to turn away from God and from spiritual things. We as the Church have to face up to the fact that the love that god has for each of us means little or nothing for many of todays people.

Love of God. Love of neighbour is Easy to talk about and Difficult to live out. In spite of this love in action will change us and our surroundings All we need to do is  to try and live like Jesus did. we should take one step at a time toward our creator and our fellow human beings and this will provide us with great reward. And we should not worry where we are going, for God’s Spirit will lead the way. like so many other Faith based  questions we are simply asked to try to love God and he will do the rest.

MISSION SUNDAY 2017

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This weekend  throughout the world  we celebrate the great missionary spirit that has brought the joy of  faith to all the corners of the world.  All of us know someone who has joined a missionary order or we may have come across a missionary such as Columbans, Mill Hill Fathers, St. Patricks Fathers the Medical Missionaries of Mary or whatever of course there are many  other missionary religious orders who along with the Lay Missionary movements have brought the joy of the gospel and the love of God to the far flung corners of the world. God is always calling people to come and follow him  and share his mission. Mission is very much part of Christian tradition. Each of us are baptized into Christ’s mission to bring his  light and joy into the world where we are as well as other places. On World Mission Sunday, we renew and celebrate our calling to be missionary disciples.

We join with many people around the world to support the missionary church wherever it is being planted and taking root. We are especially mindful of  the new churches or the little flocks of Jesus letting their light shine in remote and distant lands. As a little flock, the people of god are challenged to witness to Christ in those places by their life of faith, hope and love and we in our turn are challenged to support them by our prayers and other forms of practical support financial and otherwise.

God wants all people to  experience his saving presence in their lives. it is through God’s grace that we have received the joy of the Gospel and then we are sent by the Holy Spirit to be ambassadors of God’s wondrous deeds in all we do and say. Will we accept the invitation to join in God’s mission by our prayers and material support of those who are out there on the missions? The great Irish missionary tradition was the fruit not just of great missionaries, but of humble men and women at home who gave and are giving generously to support the missions through the missionary Orders and other organisations such as the Apostolic Work.

Christian discipleship and missionary endeavour which we celebrate today are alive and active spiritual apostolate and there is much work out there for everyone to do. This type of service should continue in the Church when that happens we will be a truly missionary people. To be servant in the way that Jesus was means that we should live in complete trust that God loves us and this will help us to pass his love on to others in an ever changing world. Let us pass on the Joy of the Gospel and the love of the father to those we meet wherever we are as we live out our vocation to be missionary people.

Our annual celebration of Mission Sunday  gives us the opportunity to acknowledge all those faithful missionary men and women religious and lay from all over the world who left everything behind in order to bring the light of faith to the far corners of the world. We pray that the Lord of the harvest will continue to inspire many people to join the missionary orders as well as the  lay missionary associations so that the  love of God and the joy of the Gospel may be passed on to each generation in its turn.

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