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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

4th Sunday of Advent, Luke 1:26-38

Homily for ‘Do This in Memory’ Mass. This is part of the parish’s preparation of children who will receive Holy Communion in May 2012.

‘Mary’s Yes!’
Invite the children to locate a statue of the woman who is mentioned in this Sunday’s Gospel.

Why do you think is Mary so important at this time of year?

In the Gospel, Mary said ‘Yes’ to God.
What would have happened if Mary had said ‘No’?

  • No Jesus
  • No Christmas

But, she didn’t say ‘No’. Mary said ‘Yes’!
And, because Mary said ‘Yes’, we will soon have a good reason to celebrate. What will that celebration be?

So, today we remember Mary and her ‘Yes’.
We say thank you to Mary for saying yes.
We promise to love Mary and to honour her by praying her special prayer and by trying to live like Jesus wants us to.

What is Mary’s special prayer?

Perhaps you might take time after Mass to light a candle and to pray the ‘Hail Mary’.

Source:  http://frjohncoughlan.blogspot.com/

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3rd Sunday of Advent, John 1:6-8, 19-28

   This Sunday we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. The word Gaudete comes from the Entrance Antiphon to today’s Mass, “Rejoice, again I say to you, Rejoice”. Today is the one time in the Church’s year that the priest can wear rose coloured vestments. This Sunday we light the rose coloured candle on our Advent wreath. This Sunday is a Sunday of joy in the middle of what is otherwise a penitential season, a time of preparation for the feast of Christmas.

My generation, those born after Pope John Paul II visited Ireland, have never really known a Christmas without plenty. Plenty of presents, plenty of alcohol, plenty of food, plenty of money, even if it was borrowed money. There was plenty of everything. Our celebration of Christmas has been tied up with big parties, lots of new clothes, expensive presents handed around.

This Christmas is different though. Many people in our own community are taking a long hard look at their budget for this Christmas. Gone is the spendthrift attitude, gone is some of the festivity of yesteryear.

It is difficult to rejoice in the circumstances we find ourselves in. The places where we have sought the Christmas spirit are no longer open. We find ourselves approaching Christmas in a very different way, approaching Christmas in a new way.

We’re challenged this year to dig deeper to answer the question: What is my reason for rejoicing this Advent as we prepare to greet the Christ-child this Christmas. As one phrase goes “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Another one goes: “Lets put Christ at the heart of Christ-mas.” Listening to the Ryan Tubridy yesterday morning on the radio, I was struck by a caller who rang in to share that he was going in to work to hand back his car, his phone and his laptop. Yesterday was his last day at work. As the conversation went on, I was amazed to hear the same caller tell us all that he was going to go bring his child into town yesterday afternoon to buy a toy for the SVP toy appeal. Here was a man losing his job in the face of Christmas and yet he was still willing to be generous and give. If this is not Christian, I don’t know what is. This is putting Christ back into Christmas for me anyway.

This year, more than ever in the past decade and a half, we are being given a delicate opportunity to reflect on the reason for our rejoicing. We do not rejoice in expensive gifts, nice though they are. We do not rejoice in wasted food and drink. We do not rejoice in all the stuff of Christmas. We rejoice in the Emmanuel, in God become one of us.

We can choose to be depressed and blue about the circumstances of our world today. Or we can place our hope and trust in God who cared enough for each one of us to give us his Son.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say, Rejoice!”

Source:  http://frjohncoughlan.blogspot.com/

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2nd Sunday of Advent, Mark 1:1-8

A good friend of mine began his journey towards priesthood by reading the gospel that we have begun reading today: the gospel of Mark. Somebody handed him a copy of the gospel on it’s own, a copy of this one gospel taken out of the rest of the Bible. He often told me about how he carried that gospel up into his bedroom, where no one else could see him, and he gradually read through it.

Mark’s gospel has been called the disciple’s handbook, maybe because it is the shortest of the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you wanted to read the whole Bible, beginning with the gospel of Mark isn’t a bad idea. You could easily read it in a couple of hours.

Reading the gospel transformed my friend’s life. It led him to offering his own life as a priest to share the Good News with other people. In Mark’s gospel, my friend encountered what the writer of the gospel intended, “the Good News about Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

At the moment, we are journeying with a new translation of the Roman Missal, the book of prayer that we use in the Catholic Mass. We could say that we are, at the moment, ‘Lost in Translation’. You see, all of the prayers that we use, all of the readings we listen to, are translations.

We might not be aware of it but, for example, the Old Testament was written first of all in Hebrew, the language of the People of Israel. Properly speaking, the Old Testament is called the Hebrew Bible. When the Israelites were expelled from their own land, they journeyed out into the greek speaking world. Eventually, they translated their Bible into greek for all of their people who were gathering to worship & pray in their synagogues.

For that reason, remembering that Jesus was a Jew, the first Christians wrote down the gospels in the primary language of their day: greek. When Christianity spread as far as Rome, and became more or less the State Religion of the Roman Empire in the third century, the Bible, and all the prayers of the Church were translated into Latin, because Latin was the official language of Law, of Business, and of Civic Life in ancient Rome.

It took almost twenty centuries, almost 2,000 years, for the Church to make the big leap to using the language of local people around the world for the Mass. And, so it was in 1965 that the first translations of the Roman Missal in English, Irish, and all the other languages of the world, began to be used at Mass. It would take another ten years, from 1965 to 1975 for a stable translation in English to be developed. This translation was in use up until last weekend when we made the momentous leap to using the newest translation of the Roman Missal in English. The story of translation is a core part of the story of Christianity.

To go back to the gospel of our Mass today. The word ‘gospel’ in English is a word that we associate with Church. The word gospel is not really used outside of Church, and where it might be used it is automatically associated with all things ‘churchy’. The word ‘gospel’ is a translation of the greek word, ‘evangelion’. From evangelion we get the familiar word: ‘evangelise’. But the word ‘evangelion’ in contemporary English means ‘good news’ or ‘glad tidings’. So, to evangelise means to share with others the good news that we have already heard ourselves. The gospel is literally ‘good news’.

The story of Jesus is The story of Good News – and this evangelion – this good news, is a story that we cannot put down once we pick it up. It is a story that promises to change and shape our lives in ways that we may wish it didn’t.

The ‘good news’ will evangelise us, but only if we want to be evangelised. And to be evangelised means to be absorbed by the story of Jesus and ultimately to encounter the Lord in a profound and personal way in prayer, in the Sacraments and in the broken Community of Faith that the Church is. Pope Benedict put it like this in his first homily as Pope:

… Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world. www.vatican.va

Don’t let the good news be lost in translation. Very often we assume that our experience of Church, our experience of faith, our experience of God, is all that there is. Our hearts and our minds are not open to the possibility of being evangelised, not because we are bad, but because we become used to religion in the way that it seems it always has been. We know that religion is no subsitute for the personal encounter with Christ that Pope Benedict speaks about.

It is never too early, and it is never too late to be evangelised. It was as a teenager that I really encountered the good news of Jesus, even though I had been baptised and confirmed and went to Sunday Mass with my family long before that. The real encounter with Jesus led me to where I am today as a happy human being, as a happy priest. And the first task of this priest, and all priests, is not to ‘say Mass’ but to share “the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Source:  http://frjohncoughlan.blogspot.com/

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1st Sunday of Advent, Mark 13:33-37

In the summer of 2007, I spent a month in Los Angeles. I was a deacon at the time. Spending a month in America was about killing two birds with one stone; I wanted to get a holiday and I also wanted to pick up some pastoral experience. So I stayed in a parish there. It was a very nice place, I had access to a car most of the time, and there was plenty to see and do.

One night, about two weeks into my stay, I was brushing me teeth before going to bed. Suddenly the bathroom window began to shake and rattle. I didn’t know what was going on, and at first I thought that someone was trying to break into the house. Then, I saw the mirror over the sink. It was swaying in and out from the wall. It was then that I realised that I was experiencing my first earthquake! It measure 4.1 on the richter scale and it woke up many people in the neighbourhood.

In California earthquakes are commonplace. But, even though I knew that, I just presumed it would never happen while I was there. I presumed wrong. If it had been a more serious quake I wouldn’t have been at all prepared, and God only knows what might have happened.

We don’t experience extreme weather here in Ireland. We don’t have to prepare for any extreme conditions, because they rarely if ever happen here.

The Gospel call on this first Sunday of Advent, is to become prepared, to stay awake because we do not know when the time will come. ‘The time’, this is God’s time. In God’s time, not our time.

Advent is not about staying awake to wonder when the end of time will be. Advent is about recovering that which has become hidden in us over time. It is about waking up from our spiritual darkness and assuming a position of waiting, of waiting, fully prepared for the coming of the Lord.

As the economic situation changes in our country, the certainties that we thought we had are now gone. We have no choice but to wake up from our sleep. We must waken to the fundamental and unchanging things, the signs of God’s hand in our lives. As once we were talked up into a frenzy about the Celtic Tiger, now we’re being talked down into an economic depression. Where is the truth in this news? Where is God in all of this? As Christians, we’re called to see God’s creative and redeeming action in the world, in our world. We are called to come awake again to the God who has been waiting for us, God who lights up our way.

Source:  http://frjohncoughlan.blogspot.com/

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once suggested that peace and justice will come to us when we reach a high enough psychic temperature so as to burn away the things that still hold us apart. In saying this, he was drawing upon a principle in chemistry: Sometimes two elements will simply lie side by side inside a test-tube and not unite until sufficient heat is applied so as to bring them to a high enough temperature where unity can take place.

That’s wonderful metaphor for advent. What is advent?

Advent is about getting in touch with our longing. It’s about letting our yearnings raise our psychic temperatures so that we are pushed to eventually let down our guard, hope in new ways, and risk intimacy.

John of the Cross has a similar image: Intimacy with God and with each other will only take place, he says, when we reach a certain kindling temperature. For too much of our lives, he suggests, we lie around as damp, green logs inside the fire of love, waiting to come to flame but never bursting into flame because of our dampness. Before we can burst into flame, we must first dry out and come to kindling temperature. We do that, as does a damp log inside a fire, by first sizzling for a long time in the flames so as to dry out.

How do we sizzle psychologically and spiritually? For John of the Cross, we do that through the pain of loneliness, restlessness, disquiet, anxiety, frustration, and unrequited desire. In the torment of incompleteness our psychic temperature rises so that eventually we come to kindling temperature and, there, we finally open ourselves to union in new ways. That too is an image for advent.

Advent is all about loneliness, but loneliness is a complex thing.

Nobel Prize winning author, Toni Morrison describes it this way:

“There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up, holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smoothes and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind – wrapped tight like skin. Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seems to come from a far-off place.”

All of us know exactly what she is describing, especially the latter type, the roaming kind of loneliness that haunts the soul and makes us, all too often, too restless to sleep at night and too uncomfortable to be inside our own skins during the day.

And what’s the lesson in this? What we learn from loneliness is that we are more than any moment in our lives, more than any situation we are in, more than any humiliation we have experienced, more than any rejection we have endured, and more than all the limits within which we find ourselves. Loneliness and longing take us beyond ourselves. How?

Thomas Aquinas once taught that we can attain something in one of two ways: through possession or through desire. We like to possess what we love, but that isn’t often possible and it has an underside.

Possession is limited, desire is infinite. Possession sets up fences, desire takes down fences. To quote Karl Rahner, only in the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable do we know that we are more than the limits of our bodies, our present relationships, our jobs, our achievements, and the concrete situations within which we live, work, and die.

Loneliness and longing let us touch, through desire, God’s ultimate design for us. In our longing, the mystics tell us, we intuit the kingdom of God. What that means is that in our desires we sense the deeper blueprint for things. And what is that?

Scripture tells us that the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, of simple bodily pleasure, but a coming together in justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, that is what we ache for in our loneliness and longing: consummation, oneness, intimacy, completeness, harmony, peace, and justice. Sometimes, of course, in our fantasies and daydreams that isn’t so evident. God’s kingdom seems something much loftier and more holy than what we often long for – sex, revenge, fame, power, glory, pleasure. However even in these fantasies, be they ever so crass, there is present always a deeper desire, for justice, for peace, for joy, for oneness in Christ.

Our loneliness and longing are a hunger and an energy that drive us, always, beyond the present moment. In them we do intuit the kingdom of God.

Advent is about longing, about getting in touch with it, about heightening it, about letting it raise our psychic temperatures, about sizzling as damp, green logs inside the fires of intimacy, about intuiting the kingdom of God by seeing, through desire, what the world might look like if a Messiah were to come and, with us, establish justice, peace, and unity on this earth.

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