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THE LITURGY OF THE WORD.
It is very important for us to read God’s Word slowly and reflectively. We are not reading it just to get information or answer questions; we must enable God’s Word to enter us just like liquid polish enters timber that is thirsty for nutrition. A good rule of thumb is to have a question like this in our mind……”Lord, what are you saying to ME in your Word today? Secondly, how can my life be changed, in order to allow God’s Word to find a Home in my being? Finally, as for special Feasts, Advent and Lent, the three Readings are in a sequence which has an underlying thread running through them. In Ordinary time, the First Reading, and the Gospel are bridged…so we generally look for the link. The Second Reading is continuous, and follows on to the next Sunday.
First Reading: Joshua 24:1-2.15-18
Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem; then he called the elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua said to all the people: ‘If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’
The people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’ The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
(Let’s PAUSE and reflect upon this reading, and let us ask ourselves the two questions stated above. That is our PERSONAL response to the Word. This might take a few minutes, try not to rush it. The Psalm and Antiphon is the COMMUNITY response to God’s Word, a bit like a short and sweet Text Message)
Psalm: Ps 33:2-3. 16-23
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad. R.
The Lord turns his face against the wicked
to destroy their remembrance from the earth.
The Lord turns his eyes to the just
and his ears to their appeal. R.
They call and the Lord hears
and rescues them in all their distress.
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted;
those whose spirit is crushed he will save. R.
Many are the trials of the just man
but from them all the Lord will rescue him.
He will keep guard over all his bones,
not one of his bones shall be broken. R.
Evil brings death to the wicked;
those who hate the good are doomed.
The Lord ransoms the souls of his servants.
Those who hide in him shall not be condemned. R.
Second Reading: Ephesians 5:21-32
Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives submit to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church. The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Let’s PAUSE again after this Reading, and reflect on it like you did after the first Reading. The Community Acclamation follows and should be sung: e.g ALLELUIA, or PRAISE TO YOU LORD JESUS CHRIST KING OF ENDLESS GLORY. When we are present at our Sunday Eucharistic Celebration, the Alleluia or Praise be to you…should always be sung. Why? It’s a bit like singing Happy Birthday! We never say it… 🙂
Gospel: John 6:60-69
After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?
‘It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.
‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’
For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.
Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Reflection time again……. Can you see and hear the links, connecting the First Reading, and the Gospel? After that, we are then ready for what is to follow…..
DEEP SEA DIVING INTO THE SCRIPTURES
If you have ever opened your eyes under water, or used a snorkel and face mask, or had the opportunity to use an aqualung, it is a very different world to explore isn’t it? I love snorkelling, and it is though the fish welcome you into their world. However, they need to be treated with respect, and one must be aware of ‘no-go’ zones especially where sharks are known to call that place, ‘home’ especially at meal times. So, this next section is going down into the Scriptures, which opens the pathway for us to be curious about The Word, and it will also develop an appetite in us to do this more often.
Focusing the word
Key words and phrases
This is intolerable language; how could anyone accept it?
Do you want to go away too?
Lord who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life.
We believe that you are the Holy One of God.
If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve.
to the point
Why do some choose to leave Jesus and some choose to stay with him? The answer in both cases lies in the same issue – what one believes about Jesus and his teaching. What one believes is critical because it determines whether we receive eternal life – or not.
Connecting the Word
to the first reading
Just as Joshua sets before the Israelites a choice (‘decide today whom you will serve’) so, too, does John’s gospel set before us a choice (‘Do you also want to leave?’).
to human experience
It is easier to live out of habit and routine than to see faith as conscious choice that carries consequences.
Understanding the Word
‘This is a hard saying’
The gospel begins abruptly – the disciples complain, ‘This is intolerable language. How can anyone accept it?’ (6:60). What is the issue?
It is helpful to remember that earlier the Jews were murmuring against Jesus (6:41, Sunday 19). Now it is Jesus’ own disciples who murmur and question. The claims Jesus makes are difficult for everyone to believe, not just his opponents. Even some of his disciples ‘no longer accompanied him’ (6:66). Note the implications: ‘not believing’ and ‘betraying’ Jesus are lumped together (6:64).
So, what, precisely, is the ‘intolerable language’? The easy answer might appear to be Jesus’ claim that one must ‘eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood’ (6:53, Sunday 20) in order to have life. As difficult as that may be to believe, there is an even more difficult claim. Throughout John 6 Jesus has claimed to ‘come down from heaven.’ We saw on Sunday 19 that the people seemed unconcerned that Jesus claimed to be ‘bread’ but they did question his heavenly origin: they know his family so ‘how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?’ (6:42). That seems to be the issue here as well, as Jesus’ response indicates: ‘Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?’ (6:61-62). In effect Jesus says, ‘If you saw me ascend to heaven, would you then believe that I have come down from heaven?’ In other words Jesus’ ‘intolerable language’ is his claim to have come from God (13:3) and to be one with God (1:1; 10:30). Indeed, Jesus is ‘the Holy One of God’ (6:69).
The entire Bread of Life discourse comes to a conclusion by returning to one of its major themes. Jesus asserts, ‘The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life’ (6:63) and Peter affirms, ‘You have the words of eternal life’ (6:68). Throughout, Jesus the Teacher has been speaking words of life. The response to Jesus’ teaching is to ‘believe’ (6:64, 69). The result of believing: eternal life (6:68).
A realhomilie from Fr. Kevin Walsh
Dear One and All,
When I was growing up in Sydney many years ago, we used to have Parish Missions about every five or six years. The Mission would generally last about one month, and usually two Priests from a Religious Order would be invited into the Parish to reawaken the faith in the Parishioners. We used to look forward to the Missions because it was a bit like the Circus coming to town! Most of the times the Mission Fathers would comprise of a young one and an old one, or a fat one and a thin one; I don’t wish to sound disrespectful but we used to enjoy the stories the Mission Fathers would tell, and the kind of banter that they would have with each other, it was like a breath of fresh air. The Missions were good for the Parish, it would bring the people together in home groups, and then the last week of the Mission was seven nights of preaching in the Church, and new life and renewed fervour used to come from it. I am talking about 30 to 40 years ago; I almost feel as though I am a priest of Old Testament times! Life was much different in those days! For a start, when the Mission Fathers did their three weeks of intense Parish visitation, they would mostly catch someone at home, and evening times were nowhere as busy as they are these days, so there were lots of Mission activities in the Homes and in the schools. Fortunately, I was ordained when the Missions were still going, but struggling; lifestyles were changing, society was also changing and unfortunately people became too busy, and the competition became intense for people, so the old Mission Format as such has seen its day, and new forms have been growing from the past, namely time to STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN to our faith-life and all that springs from it.
Now, I would like to share a little story, which I am sure is true about a certain Parish Mission. Now, before I get into it….I believe that the 8th Gift of the Holy Spirit is a sense of Humour, especially Catholic Humour! Well, let’s get into the story.
It so happened that two Passionist Fathers were invited into a certain Parish to give a good solid Mission. Well, that is what the old Irish PP (Parish Priest) of the area told the men what he wanted! In this case there was a seasoned old man, and a young one on P Plates, just ordained! The older man was somewhat large, with a deep resounding timbered voice. The younger man was modern looking with longish hair, terribly thin and looked as though he needed a few good T-Bone Angus Steaks, in order to put a bit of beef on him, and to put some colour in his cheeks. A very fine pair of Mission Fathers. Well, for the first three weeks they visited the whole Parish. A list had been prepared by the old PP so that the Fathers could start fishing in the open waters and then slowly come back to shore. Everyone got a visit! Even the people who didn’t want to see the Priest got a visit, and no one ever spoke ill of the Mission Fathers. Night times were Home gatherings where special topics would be presented, discussed and prayed from in terms of personal resolutions. I might add that the old Irish PP had his head screwed on right, because he got the Mission Fathers in October, which is a very good month here Down Under…..spring is in the air! People want to get up and about.
It came to the last week of the Mission – seven nights of solid Preaching, with either, Benediction, A service of the Word to conclude, followed by individual Confessions which would go for a couple of hours. The Mission Fathers were not free loaders; they earned their keep!
In this Parish as in most others, people generally sit in the same seats or there about, each time they go to Mass. Well of course at the Mission; more people come to the Church who may not have a special seat, if you get my drift? So, there was always moving along the seats, and looking out of the corner of one’s eye to see who extra was getting in the seat! It did not take long for the Mission Fathers to get to know who sat where, but they always noticed the latecomers but never made a fuss about it because it might be a return for someone who has been away for a long time. However, at this Mission an older gentleman would always come into the Church just as the Sermon was starting. He was somewhat unsteady on his feet, and would always make for the third last row from the back…..a seat which was already full and hence a challenge for this biggish man to get in!
After the third night of Preaching, the young Priest mentioned to the older man, if he had noticed this chap coming in late. The older Mission Father said that he has noticed him, and it was starting to get on his nerves. So, the older Mission Father thought that he would bring the subject up at Breakfast with the old Irish PP. This is how the conversation went: ‘Paddy you might be able to help us identify a chap who comes in late for the Mission nights.’ ‘Arrrr yes, you don’t need to even describe him to me, I know who he is….’ And left it at that! To the dismay of the younger Father he could not contain himself during the silence to find out who it was. “Paddy, can you tell us who he is…..” “ Well, young man,” said Paddy, “ you goin’ to be sorry that God gave you breath to ask that question……you see Son, he comes from the other end of the suburb, and before he gets to the Church he has to pass three watering holes….” To which the young Priest was lost…not knowing what a watering hole was…..” Paddy looked at the young Priest, knowing that he was not as street wise as the old one….” He has to pass three Pubs to get here” Exclaimed Paddy with a bit of a shout! The young priest’s face went as red as a beetroot! “In other words son, he is full of the spirit in more ways than one by the time he gets here…..” The conversation ended at that!
However that did not stop the Mission Fathers in thinking how to get the message though to the latecomer that he should be on time. To cut a long story short they got a plan ready! The last night of preaching was to be a lively Sermon on Death and Judgement! A pretty good way to end up a Parish Mission. The young one was to proclaim the Gospel from Matthew about the sorting out of people at the last Judgement; the sheep and the goats. Then the older Father was to give the final Sermon.
Well, as it happened the man who usually came late, was a bit later this night. The Mission Father was into his Sermon about describing in detail the fires of Hell and the embarrassing sides to judgement. I tell you, there was even more detail than the Gospel writers could ever imagine! Just then the old somewhat wobbly man came into the Church, more unsteady than usual. The Mission Father paused after he had described Hell in vivid detail. As the old man finally sat down and had produced a Domino effect along the seat, the old Missioner said with a deep voice, “if there is anyone in this church who would like to spend eternal life in that place which I have described in detail….let them stand up! Goodness gracious me, the people in the church were looking sheepishly from side to side to see if anyone would even want to put their big toe in that horrible place. With that; the old man who came in late stood up! There was an audible gasp in the Church! The Mission Father nearly died! With that, the old man who came late proclaimed in a very deep and cultured voice so that all could hear:” Well Father, it looks like that it is you and me standing…………..”
In the first Reading from the Old Testament, Joshua, who was the 2 I C to Moses had called all the tribes of Israel together to commemorate their common past, the covenant that had been initiated by the Lord God, and a commitment to the Deca Logue (The Ten Words/Commandments and associated guidelines). In the act of gathering the Assembly at the Holy place of Shechem, the tribes of Israel acknowledge their belonging to a people who owed their existence to God’s imitative. They are in some way, the children who recognise their father, and who state their resolve to remain attached to the one who gave them life. In a very real sense this is a ‘memorial’ a ‘thanksgiving’ Liturgy, Eucharistic in its overtones, and very much Sacramental.
The first Reading describes a primitive form of Liturgy….a Covenant Renewal Liturgy, This Liturgy was just not presided over by the Priests or Leaders, and the people were in humble submission. No, everyone in this Ceremony was a participator; and that is real Liturgy. The overall response was: We will serve the Lord, our God! A response very much like that of a Parish Mission – a renewal!
The Gospel today takes up the theme of commitment to the Lord and his ways. This theme was a very real problem for the early Church around 100 AD; but it is a timeless problem. However the response to this problem has also been seen throughout Biblical History and Church History. The personal and community renewal and re commitment is ongoing, and this is actualised when we celebrate the Eucharist.
Once again, God’s Word is calling us to check our personal and community response as the Living Body of Christ and the responsibilities that go with it. We can so easily slip into a mode of frequent Mass, and even mentally check it off our TO DO LIST! But, due to our human nature, we can either rest on our laurels and be comfortable in doing what needs to be done and not allowing ourselves to be challenged by The Word. Today, we are asked to once again to check out our faith response and its authenticity. Do we leave our Sunday celebration for Sundays? Or is it a personal habit to reflect upon our Spiritual development when we get moments to do so. Do we look for the saving hand of God at work every day. How have we been touched by the Lord today? In prayer, through insight, and in our sisters and brothers? If these questions become part of us, we have much to bring to the community Celebration of the Eucharist in our Parish Family. Food for thought!
May God Bless you and your families and may we never forget each other in prayer,
Fr.Kev and his family dog Rosie
PS: In the READINGS tab on the HOME PAGE of this blog, you will find four short Essays which I have written on the Eucharist. You will need to scroll down about half way according the slide on the right side of the page.
OUR FAMILY PRAYER TIME………
This is a great opportunity to gather the Family in Prayer. Having a Prayer Setting really adds to and designates this time as a ‘special’ time together. You might like to have a nice coloured cloth on a coffee table, or on the centre of the Dining Room Table. You will need a candle, Crucifix, Bible …in the opened position, even at the Gospel of the Sunday, and maybe a flower. During Easter tide you might like to place some white and gold material on your devotional altar. You might like to create your own permanent ‘sacred space’ in your home, where the Word of God is open, and a small tee light within a fire proof glass, could awaken in the minds and hearts of your family of the ‘real presence’ of God in His Word. Prayer time needs to be able to engage as many of our senses as possible. The burning of some fragrant oil also can evoke in the minds of your family, ‘prayer time’. Someone in the family might like to be the leader of the intercessions, then other family members can share the prayers….everyone can be invited to join is spontaneous shared prayer…
LEADER : Let us pray that we might make the choice always to be faithful followers of Jesus who is the Bread of Life.
That the Church always choose to be faithful to Christ at all costs. …………., we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
That the people of the world choose to live in a way open to the Spirits guidance. …………., we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
That those who do not believe choose to believe and accept all its demands. …………., we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
That we here gathered always choose a life of self-giving. …………., we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
+Let’s think back over the past week, and what we have seen on the T.V News, Breaking News on our Mobile Phones and ipads….who are some of the people in our Global village or need our prayers? You might like to share some of these…………., we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
LEADER: Gracious God, your Son Jesus gives us the words of eternal life: hear these our prayers that we might share in your glory. We ask this through that same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessing is taken from the Iona Abbey Sacramentary, Scotland.
Iona Abbey is located on the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland. It is one of the oldest and most important religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic community by St. Columba, when Iona was part of the Kingdom of Dál Riata.
1. The Cross
ALL WE SHALL TAKE IT.
2. The bread……………
ALL WE SHALL BREAK IT.
3. The pain
ALL WE SHALL BEAR IT.
4. The joy………………
ALL WE SHALL SHARE IT.
5. The Gospel……………
ALL WE SHALL LIVE IT.
6. The love…………
ALL WE SHALL GIVE IT.
7. The light……………
ALL WE SHALL CHERISH IT.
8. The darkness…………….
ALL WE SHALL PERISH IT. Amen.