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Displaying items by tag: Celebrating At Home

Thursday, 15 February 2024 08:35

Celebrating At Home - 1st Sunday in Lent

From Temptation to Transfiguration
(Mark 1:12-15)

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, 08 February 2024 13:22

Celebrating At Home - 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Continuing the Journey with Jesus
(Mark 1:40-45)

Following last week’s Gospel, Jesus has set out to preach and heal in the other towns of Galilee when a leper comes to him and pleads for healing.

In Biblical times people with any kind of shiny, scaly skin condition were usually considered to have leprosy. This is not Hansen’s Disease - the proper name for leprosy as we know it today.

Anyone suspected of being leprous had to live outside their town for fear of spreading the disease to others.

They had to leave their home and family, their job, their community and their synagogue. They were dependent on others to bring them food and water.

This sense of fear and suspicion about lepers is a stark contrast to the welcome given by Jesus to the man in the Gospel.

He comes to Jesus and asks him to make him clean, to cure him. Jesus is deeply moved and touches the man (which must have required great compassion) and cures him. In healing the man, Jesus has done much more for him than simply relieving him of a distressing ailment. Jesus has literally given the man his life back. Now he can go home to his family, take up his job again and renew his religious practice in the synagogue.

In Jesus’ day many people took illness, disease and disability as a sign that people were also morally ill, that they had sinned, done something wrong. By healing the sick, Jesus removes the taint of evil from them as well.

Interestingly, there is a kind of ‘role-reversal’ in this Gospel. In the beginning it is the leper who is the outcast, the one who must live outside the town.

Because the cured man tells the story everywhere, Jesus now becomes the one who has to stay outside the towns and villages. Never the less, the people, like the leper, still come to him for healing.

Aware of our need for healing, we, too, can take the initiative by approaching Jesus. We will be met with welcome, compassion and love. We can be restored to our rightful place as beloved sons and daughters. We, too, can tell the story of what God has done for us.

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Thursday, 01 February 2024 09:04

Celebrating At Home - 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

On the journey with Jesus
(Mark 1:29-39)

The story of Jesus’ first day of ministry in Capernaum continues in the Gospel for this Sunday. After leaving the synagogue where he has healed the possessed man Jesus goes to Simon’s house. He heals Simon’s mother-in-law and restores her to her rightful place as hospitality provider - a sacred ministry in Jewish households. No words are spoken. Jesus simply holds her hand and helps her up. In doing so he would have broken taboos about touching a sick person, and touching a woman to whom he was not related. But in Mark’s Gospel law and custom cannot stand in the way of God’s healing power.
That evening, after sunset, after the Sabbath day was over, people begin to bring the sick and possessed to Jesus for healing.
Notice how ‘local’ all these elements of Mark’s story are: a local man in the local synagogue, a local woman in her own house, local people crowd around the door, local people are brought for healing.
In all the healing stories, Mark presents Jesus in conversation with each individual. There are no ‘en masse’ healings – each person gets individual treatment – sometimes with words, sometimes by touch, sometimes both. There is a sense of intimacy in Jesus’ healing ministry.
Interestingly, the devils seem to know exactly who Jesus is, but the human beings take much longer to recognise Jesus.
In the early morning Jesus goes off to pray by himself.
Jesus prays both in public worship in the Synagogue and in moments of quiet communion with God. Mark helps us understand that both are necessary for would-be disciples. Jesus begins and ends his day in prayer.
When they find Jesus the disciples beg him to return to the town, but Jesus has other ideas. His preaching and healing is not only for the people of Capernaum, but for the whole people of Galilee.
No doubt, the disciples enjoyed being in the presence of such a wonder-worker as Jesus! But Jesus’ focus is not himself; it is his mission of proclaiming the Good News of God’s love through healing words and actions. The healing stories underline the idea that contact with God through the person of Jesus brings healing and wholeness, not death and destruction.
The preaching of Jesus together with the healing/ wholeness stories is fundamentally about the transformation of real, living human beings into the new People of God.

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Wednesday, 24 January 2024 08:16

Celebrating At Home - 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Beginning the journey
(Mark 1:21-28)

Following directly from the call of the first four disciples in last week’s Gospel, this week we are plunged into the ministry of Jesus. The gospels of the 4th, 5th and 6th Sundays detail Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum.
Last Sunday the Gospel highlighted the disciples’ call to live and work in active partnership with Jesus. To become ‘fishers of people’ they left behind all that was known and familiar to them, including their thriving fishing businesses and families. They took ‘a leap of faith’, not knowing where their journey with Jesus would take them.
Over the next three Sundays we get some insight into who Jesus is and what that journey is about.
Today’s gospel finds Jesus and the disciples arriving in Capernaum, a small town on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee, which will be Jesus’ base for his ministry in Galilee.
On the Sabbath Jesus and the disciples attend the Sabbath service during which Jesus gives a teaching.
His words strike the people as authentic and having the ‘ring of truth’ about them. Jesus’ words not only move the people but also release a man from an unclean spirit. Jesus’ action is in response to the question the man poses, ‘Have you come to destroy us?’ Rather than destroy, Jesus liberates the man from the unclean spirit, restoring him to health and wholeness.
Jesus’ way is not about crushing people with the power and authority of God, but about bringing freedom and liberation from the evil which holds them bound.
Many people are afraid of God, but Jesus keeps saying and showing that we don’t need to be afraid of God.
God is about doing good for his people, not about punishing them. God’s power heals, restores and frees so that we can grow into the people God has always dreamed we might become.
The disciples are learning something new about who God is through the words and actions of Jesus. There is a call here to greater faith and trust in the goodness of God.

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Saturday, 20 January 2024 14:14

Celebrating At Home - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Partners with Christ
(Mark 1:14-20)

The Gospel today begins with the foundational cry of Jesus’ ministry: The Kingdom of God has drawn near; repent and believe the Good News. The call of the disciples follows immediately. This Gospel builds on last Sunday’s readings about vocation, and specifically, about how becoming a follower of Christ leads to transformation and the proclamation of the Good News.

The idea of repentance here is not about turning away from sinfulness, but about leaving a known way of life behind and turning around to face in a totally new direction as a follower of Christ.

We see that played out in the call of the fishermen called away from everything they know and even from their family to set off in a new direction, following Christ.

The fact that Jesus called (and still calls) disciples is not about creating a flock of ‘blind followers’ but a people who live and work in active partnership with Christ to establish the Kingdom and preach the Good News. Becoming ‘fishers of people’ they draw others into the circle of God’s life.

Using the proclamation at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the story of the call of the first four disciples, the Gospel invites us to think about our own vocation, our own call, as followers of Jesus and what might need to be left behind in order to enter more fully into the mystery of God’s Kingdom; how we might work in partnership with the Spirit of Jesus in making the Kingdom a living reality in the world.

Note that the Kingdom does not exist apart from human beings – it is to be incarnated (enfleshed) in the new people of God, the disciples of Christ.

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Thursday, 11 January 2024 14:44

Celebrating At Home - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Called to be a living Gospel
(John 1:35-42)

This Sunday could very well be called ‘Vocation Sunday’. Both the first reading and the Gospel are stories of call and response.

The episode we read in the first reading is well described as ‘Samuel’s Call’. Three times he hears God calling but thinks it is Eli (a Temple priest) and goes to him. Eli finally understands that it is God calling Samuel and tells him that next time he hears the voice to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”.

The reading concludes with the thought that God was with (dwelt with) Samuel and that Samuel spoke in God’s name.

Taken together with the Gospel, it’s hard to escape the thought that this Sunday is Vocation Sunday for all disciples. Just as God calls Samuel and Eli points the way, Jesus calls Andrew and the other disciple and John the Baptist points the way. Andrew responds (follows) and goes to ‘see’ and ‘dwell with’ Jesus. Next day, he calls Peter and both go to ‘see’ and ‘dwell with’ Jesus.

Andrew’s meeting with Jesus transforms him into both a follower and an evangeliser. Peter’s meeting with Jesus (coming to ‘see’ Jesus) transforms him into the ‘rock’, the ‘foundation’ and the ‘shepherd’ (in John’s Gospel) of the flock.

Using both these readings the church returns to Ordinary Times calling us to reflect on our vocation, our call, to be disciples – to ‘come and see’ Jesus, to ‘dwell with him’ and to become evangelisers and shepherds in our own day.

Spending time in the company of Jesus (dwelling with him) we come to see who Jesus and God really are – often very different from the images we have grown up with.

Christians are called to a ‘mature’ faith in Jesus, a living relationship which is not dependent on rules, threats and fear, and is motivated only by love.

We learn to live in faithful relationship with Jesus.

Eventually, we become the living ‘voice’ of Christ in our thoughts, words and actions.

It is not a passive following to which we are called.

This is not about simply putting our feet in the footprints of Jesus. This is about dwelling with him, making his home ours, making our home his. It’s about making room for him in our hearts and our lives, becoming the dwelling place of God and the voice of Christ – to become a living Gospel of God’s love.

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God is with us!
(Matthew 1:18-25)

We began Advent with the cry, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’.

Now we end it with the joyful shout, ‘God is with us!’ Reflecting on the historical birth of Jesus, the Church proclaims the truth that God is, and has always been, with his people. And if God is with us, then God is for us. God is on our side.

God has no desire to live in houses made of wood, stone or gold. God’s deepest desire is to live in human flesh. Just as God did that in the human flesh of Jesus Christ a long time ago, God continues to do so now in us.

Like Mary, we accept God’s invitation, allowing Jesus to become flesh in us, too; to be seen and experienced in good thoughts, good words and good actions, in deeds of loving kindness which bring life, not death, to God’s people.

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Thursday, 21 December 2023 12:51

Celebrating At Home - 4th Sunday of Advent

Receive your God!
(Luke 1:26-38)

The great Christmas feast is almost here. As always in Advent, what is promised in the first reading is brought to fulfilment in the Gospel reading. We began Advent with the cry, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’. We will end it with the joyful shout, ‘God is with us!’ In the first reading King David wants to build a house (temple) for God, but God says that, instead, God will build David and his descendants into a great house.

God is not about building temples to himself and it’s not dwelling-places made of wood or stone that God wants. God is about building a dwelling-place in human flesh. God is about building a people among whom and in whom he can live.

In the Gospel, Mary accepts God’s invitation to make herself into a dwelling place for God by receiving Christ and God makes his dwelling-place in her human flesh. Through her God has come to live permanently in humanity.

That is what we, too, are about – making ourselves into a living dwelling place for Christ. The great gift of Jesus to the world is not meant to be frozen in one moment of time. Through us, that Gift is made present in every moment of history so that through us Christ is able to continue to touch, to hold and to heal the world.

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Friday, 15 December 2023 07:45

Celebrating At Home - 3rd Sunday of Advent

Rejoice! The Lord is near
(John 1:6-8, 19-28)

Today is Gaudete Sunday. The name comes from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon in Latin, which means, ‘Rejoice’. The full text of the antiphon is: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice! Indeed, the Lord is near.

That is what we are rejoicing in: God’s nearness to us.

We recognise that nearness in the presence of Jesus, born so long ago, and his continuing presence through the Holy Spirit in our lives now. We rejoice that God has always been with us, whether we realised it or not.

God has never left us.

Advent is very much about a fresh discovery of God’s presence and grace in our lives, in our own moment of history.

This is what we are celebrating on Christmas Day, too. Christ is God’s great present to the human family.

Christmas celebrates not only the birth of Jesus in one moment of human history, but his continual birth in us so that he may be present in every moment of human history.

As we wait for the final coming of Jesus we, like John the Baptist, are called to be witnesses to the Light.

We do that best by taking up the mission of the prophet in the first reading, just as Jesus did. The Lord has anointed us to bring Good News to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken, to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison and a year of favour from the Lord. God trusts us to do that. We have been commissioned by the Church through our Baptism to do that.

Our faith in (that is, living relationship with) Christ is meant to be lived openly, generously and graciously, at the service of our brothers and sisters in the world by being the living presence of Jesus in our day and age.

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Thursday, 07 December 2023 14:36

Celebrating At Home - 2nd Sunday of Advent

Prepare a way!
(Mark 1:1-8)

Repentance and forgiveness console God’s people and prepare the way for the Lord to enter our hearts.

The magnificent first reading from the prophet Isaiah today looks forward to the appearance of God.

Great preparations take place for his arrival - hills are lowered, valleys filled in, a straight highway is made in the desert. The joyful message of God’s approach is proclaimed from the mountain tops and shouted in the streets.

How will this God show himself to his people? Not as a warrior-king with a frightening display of military power or with thunderbolts in his hands, but as a shepherd-king: feeding his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading the mother ewes to rest. God’s coming liberates and frees his people through tenderness and forgiveness.

The Gospel presents John the Baptist as one who comes preparing the way for the Lord by proclaiming ‘a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’. According to Mark, all Judea and the whole of Jerusalem come to John for baptism and to hear the proclamation of forgiveness – a moment of real conversion. John says that another will come, more powerful than himself, who will baptise, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit.

Our Advent readings help us realise God’s profound love for us and his presence within us through the Holy Spirit. Knowing that God will always treat us with love and tender care helps us to turn again towards him and to trust in the depth of his mercy.

Our Advent journey is showing us how to prepare our hearts for a fresh discovery of God’s presence in our lives; how to recognise the hidden presence of Jesus among and around us; how to turn around and face towards God with faith, hope and love; and how to be the living presence of Jesus in our moment of history.

The candles of the Advent Wreath remind us of the growing light and warmth of God’s love made visible in Christ.

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