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Displaying items by tag: Celebrating At Home

Friday, 24 March 2023 11:12

Celebrating At Home - 5th Sunday in Lent

Let him go free
(John 11:1-45)

The final of the three Great Gospels of Lent is ours today - a Gospel story of life and freedom. Like the gospels of the last two Sundays, the dramatic story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead is a story of love, faith and belief.

There are three different groups of believers in the story: those who believe that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death (Jesus is already known to be a healer); those who came to believe in him because they see Lazarus rise, and those, like Martha, who believe in Jesus even though Lazarus died.

In this Gospel Jesus proclaims himself ‘the resurrection and the life’. We see him deeply moved by the death of his friend. We find him in earnest prayer with God.
We see him full of strength as he commands Lazarus to come out of the tomb.

One thing that is rarely commented on about this story is the image of love that pervades it. Jesus has treated the Samaritan woman with dignity, respect, gentleness and love, and reached out in love to heal the blind man without being asked. In this story his love for Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and the grief he feels because of that love, are very clearly seen.

For me, it brings together once again the connection between faith and love. If John intended this story to reassure his community (those who have faith in Jesus) then he makes clear that they are also loved by Jesus, and suggests in a certain manner Jesus, too, weeps when harm (illness and death) come to his friends (believers). The ultimate reassurance is that this loving, faith-filled relationship we have with Jesus not only sustains us in life but also sees us through the dark moments of suffering and death – ultimately to life beyond the restrictions (binding cloths) we find in this world. Finally, we will be free.

For me, the most powerful words in the Gospel are: Unbind him, let him go free.

Freedom is one of the deepest aspirations of the human heart. We long to be free – from illness, worry, fear, (especially at the moment) the expectations of others, guilt, our faults and so on. The ultimate freedom is freedom from eternal death.

We know we can be physically alive and spiritually dead through envy, greed, fear, hatred. We know we can bring death to others through lies, gossip, meanness, cruelty, withholding forgiveness and so on.
By living the life of Christ we bring life, love and freedom to ourselves and each other. 

Quiet time for reflection

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Friday, 17 March 2023 09:11

Celebrating At Home - 4th Sunday in Lent

Journey into the light
(John 9:1-41)

In this Sunday’s Gospel we accompany the man who was born blind on his journey into the light. The first thing we read in the full version of this Gospel is that Jesus announces that the man is sinless – he has been born blind so that God’s glory can be seen at work in him. Then Jesus gives the blind man sight. Notice that the man didn’t ask to be healed – this is Jesus’ initiative, taking the first step and reaching out in love.
That’s how Jesus approaches us, too.

When the man returns home there is no rejoicing or welcome from his neighbours and friends. Instead, he is greeted with many questions and much suspicion. They seem blind to what has happened to the man.
These same neighbours and friends march the man off to the religious authorities to see what they make of the situation. But they, too, greet the man with many questions and great suspicion and finally drive him away. They, too, are blind to the work of God both in the man and in Jesus who cured him.

Jesus seeks the man out and asks if he believes. The man asks in whom he should believe. Jesus answers, ‘in me’. The man, who now sees clearly who Jesus is, believes and worships.

The man’s whole world has been totally transformed from total darkness into light through the loving action of Jesus. Bit by bit throughout the reading the man has gradually come to realise who Jesus is. At first Jesus is simply ‘a man’, then ‘a prophet’, then ‘Son of Man’ and finally, ‘Lord’.

We, too, can be blind to the many ways God is present in our lives and in those around us. It can take some time on our journey of faith to realise just who Jesus is and to allow our lives to be filled with Light.

The candles we use in our churches remind us of the vitality and life of Christ which has been entrusted to us. With our minds lit and our hearts warmed by the Spirit of Christ we, too, develop true insight and as God’s heart begins to beat within our own, we become light and warmth for each other.

May the light of Christ burn strongly within us!

Quiet time for reflection

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Friday, 10 March 2023 08:34

Celebrating At Home - 3rd Sunday in Lent

Come and drink
(John 4:5-16, 19-26, 39-42)

Last Sunday the Gospel of the Transfiguration completed the ‘little parable’ which begins Lent. The Gospels of the first two Sundays describe what Lent is about and what Christian life is about: a constant journey from temptation and doubt to transfiguration and faith; a journey away from allowing ourselves to be tempted to evil and towards allowing ourselves to be tempted to good by the action of God’s Holy Spirit within us.

The Gospels of the next three Sunday make clear that the Way from temptation to transfiguration is in and through Jesus Christ who is Living Water, Light and Life for the would-be disciple. They are three great stories from John about responding in faith:

• The Woman at the Well – coming to faith despite barriers, personal history, differences of religious tradition, circumstances of life.
• The Man Born Blind – Faith grows amidst all sorts of trials and the doubt of others.

• The Raising of Lazarus – Faith tested by the ultimate: death.

The first of the three ‘great Gospels’ of Lent is ours this weekend: the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.

The ground-work for the Gospel is laid in the first reading from Exodus. The people are thirsty, God gives them water even though they grumble against him and ‘put him to the test’.

From the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman we might gather that faith comes through personal encounter with Jesus who offers us the living water of his Spirit. Jesus offers us his spirit in spite of all kinds of barriers, our personal history or circumstances and our often stubborn reluctance. Faith is a journey – it takes time to understand what is being offered and who is offering it. Some barriers about religion or religious practice need to be transcended to enter fully into faith which does not depend on cultic rituals. Faith makes us into missionaries, evangelists, proclaimers of Good News.

Water is a powerful symbol of life. You can last many days without food, but only a few without water. In our Christian tradition water is a strong symbol of the life of God which sustains us and brings our hearts to life. That is why we use it in Baptism and to bless objects and ourselves. The living water Jesus promises is his Spirit. A spirit which heals and transforms; which revels in the experience of God’s love and mercy; which cannot help but proclaim God’s goodness.

Our fresh encounter with the spirit of Christ this Lent heals and transforms us, and makes us into a “living gospel for all to hear”.

Quiet time for reflection

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Thursday, 02 March 2023 15:09

Celebrating At Home - 2nd Sunday in Lent

(Matthew 17:1-9)

This Sunday’s Gospel of the Transfiguration completes the ‘little parable’ formed by the Gospels of the first two Sundays of Lent.

These Gospels tell us what Lent is about and what Christian life is about: a journey from temptation and doubt to transfiguration and faith. A journey away from allowing ourselves to be tempted to evil, and towards allowing ourselves to be tempted to good by the action of God’s Holy Spirit within us.

As the ‘Chosen One’ Jesus will let God’s glory be fully seen in the resurrection. On the one hand, this Gospel looks forward to the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. On the other, it invites us to reflect on our journey from temptation to transfiguration.

The journey Jesus undertakes does not end in death, but in life. Through prayer we remain in contact with the heart of God which allows God’s love to transform and transfigure us and to ‘burst forth’ in goodness.

That’s how we allow the glory of God to be seen in us and through us.

Transfiguration means to be shot-through with the presence of God. Being transfigured is about allowing the presence of God to completely transform us; it’s a revolution of mind and heart driven by God’s Spirit and enabled by our open heartedness.

Our life as Christians is about being transfigured by the Spirit of God so that God is seen in, and experienced through, us.

It takes faith and perseverance to dare to allow ourselves to be tempted by the passion, hope and vision of God rather than our own desires and wants. It takes great faith to trust in God’s word to us. But if we do, the living word of the Chosen One forms in us the heart of God.

Quiet time for reflection

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Thursday, 23 February 2023 12:53

Celebrating At Home - 1st Sunday in Lent

Temptation to transfiguration
(Matthew 4:1-11)

Our great Lenten journey has begun. It’s a journey which begins in ash and ends in water. Fire is a profound part of our experience. We know its power to destroy, blacken and reduce to ash.

We know that evil can do the same - destroy our wholeness of spirit, blacken our lives and reduce the beauty of human life to so much dust.

We begin Lent in the ash of acknowledging our own part in harbouring, creating and doing evil - those places in our hearts where the fire of anger, bitterness, selfishness or narrowness of mind and heart has left nothing but cold ash.

The ash is a reminder that our true life is not found in mortal things which eventually turn to dust, but in eternal things. We also know that out of ash new life can bud, grow strong, bloom into fullness - that’s the Easter miracle.

As always, the Gospels of the first two Sundays in Lent provide a road map for our Lenten journey from temptation (this Sunday) to transfiguration (next Sunday).

We allow ourselves to be tempted out of the ash of selfishness and narrowness of heart and into a life of open-hearted goodness. We celebrate God’s graciousness to us by sharing what we have with those in need whether it be food, wealth, time, love, friendship or compassion. That’s what it means to ‘repent and believe the Good News’.

In these days when we are so conscious of the impact of human life on God’s creation, perhaps we could think about some permanent fasting from our excessive consumption of power, food and petrol in order to allow our earth to heal, to breathe and to continue to be a source of nourishment and life for the whole human family.

Quiet time for reflection

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Thursday, 16 February 2023 09:03

Celebrating At Home - 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Going the extra mile
(Matthew 5:38-48)

Vengeance, retaliation and violence seem part and parcel of the human experience. When we are hurt our first instinct is often to strike back, to take revenge on the one who hurt us - ‘pay back’, as we call it.

That’s how cycles of violence get started. These cycles can continue, between families for example, for generations, enduring long after the original incident has been forgotten.

In continuing his Sermon on the Mount in today’s Gospel, Jesus calls his disciples to a new way of handling violence and unjust treatment - not with revenge and retaliation, but with open-hearted generosity and forgiveness.

Jesus’ teaching must have sounded like the ravings of a mad man to his hearers. Even for us today that teaching can be ‘hard to swallow’. Is Jesus seriously asking us to offer the other cheek to the one who strikes us, to suffer double the injury? If someone wants our shirt, do we have to give them our coat as well? If someone forces us to go one mile, do we really have to go two miles with them? Love your enemies?

Pray for those who persecute you? Seriously?

The challenge in Jesus’ words is for the disciples to always act in our dealings with one another as God would act. That is how we can break the cycles of violence which would otherwise entrap us.

Jesus calls his disciples to a more abundant righteousness even when they are unjustly treated. He takes traditional interpretations of the ancient biblical teachings and corrects and extends them in a more generous interpretation.

Virtue and righteousness are not about looking good on the outside, fulfilling the ‘letter of the Law’. They are about being good on the inside and acting for the good of others, allowing God’s heart to reign within our own. That’s what brings us into right relationship with God and neighbour.

True Christian virtue always goes beyond merely what is required. It is always willing to ‘go the extra mile’ in tolerance, love, forgiveness and mercy. It mirrors the excessive generosity of God.

The perfection of true holiness is found in acting towards others, including our enemies, as God acts towards us all.

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Friday, 10 February 2023 15:03

Celebrating At Home - 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Excessive generosity
(Matthew 5:17-37)

In the Jewish tradition, guidance about how to be at rights with God and neighbour is found in the Torah, the teaching contained in the fi rst fi ve books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). 

It is especially important for St Matthew, writing his Gospel for Jewish believers, to show that Jesus is not opposed to Jewish teachings and traditions. He has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to complete or fulfi l them.

But for Jesus it is not enough to follow these teachings only in external actions. The path that Jesus is calling his disciples to is a path of thorough-going transformation from within.
The short version of this Sunday’s Gospel begins with, ‘I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.’ Those listening to Jesus would have been deeply shocked by these words. The scribes and Pharisees were considered the righteous ones – those who stood most chance of getting into heaven. They were expert practitioners of the Law. But Jesus is calling his disciples to a more abundant righteousness. He takes traditional interpretations of biblical teachings and corrects and extends them in a more generous interpretation.

A number of examples in today’s Gospel reading serve to make the point. As always, Jesus’ words go to the heart and from there address issue. For example: it is not enough to be able to say, ‘I have kept the commandment not to kill’. What about the anger in your heart that gives rise to a whole raft of insults, bitterness and injury against another person?

Virtue and righteousness are about being in right relationship with God and others. It is not about looking good on the outside, fulfi lling the ‘letter of the Law’, but about being good on the inside; having the right attitude of heart so as to be in right relationship with God and neighbour. Such an attitude of heart will manifest itself in generous life-giving actions that make the world safe for others.

True Christian virtue always goes beyond merely what is required and always mirrors the excessive generosity of God.

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Thursday, 02 February 2023 08:00

Celebrating At Home - 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Vulnerable risk-takers
(Matthew 5:13-16)

Last Sunday, in the ‘Beatitudes’, Jesus called his disciples to be vulnerable risk-takers in the way they lived their lives.

Continuing the Sermon on the Mount this week, Jesus goes on to say that if they live this way, they will be like the salt that transforms the fl avour of food and the light that transforms the darkness.

Undertaking this path of transformation produces the fl avour and light of good works which lift burdens from our fellow human beings, not for the praise of the disciple but for the praise to God. In this way, these good works draw others into the circle of God’s friendship and the experience of the kingdom.

Disciples walk the path of vulnerability and risk in order to help lift burdens from human beings; to make the world safe for their brothers and sisters.

These good, life-giving actions towards our fellow human beings restore life, heal relationships and seek peace and justice.

This non-aggressive, non-grasping, non-competitive stance towards one another would hardly be described by many in today’s world as the way to a successful life. It is a real challenge to live by the Gospel in a world which fawns over and celebrates wealth, power, aggression, status and deceptive and combative behaviour. We, too, can be easily seduced.

We need to be bold and brave in our care for one another, like a light-fi lled city on a hilltop.

So, can we run the risk of being poor in spirit, gentle, a peacemaker, working for what is right, being merciful, or persecuted in the cause of right? Can we be vulnerable risk-takers?

As always, the fi rst reading (see back page) provides an introduction to the Gospel text. The reading from Isaiah (58:7-10) gives some very practical examples of good works: share your bread with the hungry, clothe the naked, look after your family members. Then ‘your light will shine’. Integrity will be yours and God will walk with you. ‘If you do away with the angry word and the clenched fi st, feed the hungry, give relief to the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness and your shadows become like noon.’

A great ‘setting of the scene’ for the Gospel!

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Thursday, 26 January 2023 08:03

Celebrating At Home - 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Catching the vision
(Matthew 5:1-12)

Last Sunday’s Gospel introduced the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, his call to repentance, the choice of some disciples and the spread of his fame.

Now, over the next four Sundays, the church will take us on a journey through Jesus’ teaching in Chapters 5-7 of Matthew’s Gospel. These chapters form the Sermon on the Mount. Each Sunday’s Gospel builds on the one before – they are part of this first discourse in Matthew’s Gospel and need to be understood in a connected sense, not as a series of isolated sayings.

The text we know as the ‘Beatitudes’ introduces Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom, discipleship, the true meaning of the Law and true righteousness (virtue), interior disposition of the heart against external fulfilment of Law, trust in God and keeping the Kingdom as the focus of the disciple’s life.

Matthew’s beatitudes have been understood as a pattern of life for the follower of Jesus. Put in the context of Jesus’ call to conversion (the idea of radical change and transformation), those willing to be transformed will enjoy the blessings of the kingdom as their reward.

To be ‘poor in spirit’, to experience sadness (‘mourn’) because of the present state of affairs, to be gentle and unselfish rather than on the make, to have a passionate commitment to justice, to exercise mercy instead of taking advantage, to be ‘pure in heart’, to be ‘peacemakers’, to endure persecution and calumny for the sake of the right way of life (‘righteousness’) and allegiance to Christ: all these things make one vulnerable here and now, entailing much loss. The vulnerable make the world safe for humanity.*

For those who live according to the heart of God as Jesus reveals it, the blessings of the Kingdom will be theirs, their place in the household of God will be assured and they will be making the world a safe place for their brothers and sisters.

*Byrne, Brendan, Lifting the Burden: reading Matthew’s Gospel in the Church Today. St Pauls, 2004, pp55-57

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The light shines
(Matthew 4:12-23)

Last Sunday’s Gospel served as an introduction to Jesus, the Lamb of God.
The Sunday Gospels between now and the beginning of Lent will use the Sermon on the Mount to help us explore and reflect upon who this Lamb of God is and how we, as disciples, should respond to him. They will unfold for us how Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the source of true peace and how we can find our way to him and to one another – that is, how we can live faithful to the tradition of Jesus.
This Sunday Jesus begins his ministry in an unexpected place – Capernaum in the countryside, not in the holy city, Jerusalem. The familiar Gospel demand: Repent for the kingdom is close at hand, is sounded for the first time by Jesus, echoing John the Baptist.
To the ministry of proclaimers of the Kingdom Jesus adds four intimates who will be with him throughout the journey into the light.
The Gospel begs many questions: just what is this Kingdom all about? Who is this Jesus who seems to have the power to compel prosperous, ordinary men to follow him? What does it mean to be ‘fishers of men’? Why does Jesus begin his ministry in an unexpected place? What is this Good News of the Kingdom that Jesus offers?
In all, the Gospel serves not just to tell us about Jesus and what he did, but also to help us reflect on our own experience of Jesus: what does it mean for us also to be called (not just as followers but also as ‘fishers’)?
How immediate and life-changing is our response to him? Can we follow him all the way to the cross? How do we proclaim the Good News of the kingdom? How are we healers of people and situations which are part of our lives?

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