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Dwelling on the Word of God: A Child is Born for Everyone (Tuesday 24th December 2013)

Posted on December 24, 2013 at 7:24 AM Comments comments (2)
 
From today’s Psalm (Psalm 88):
 
‘I will sing forever of your love, O Lord’
 
 
Sing!  Rejoice!  Dance!  Because the Lord our Saviour, our hope and our light, is coming! 
 
Sin had made its way in the world, and people were becoming desperate.  Poverty and disease were rife.  Inequality spanned the globe and hatred stretched to the four corners of the earth.  Where honour was bestowed on one man, jealousy rose in another.  Where riches were left to one family, poverty was inevitably passed down to another.  The devil had been working hard in the world and humanity was not at one.
 
Yet, a star rises in the East.  A star to herald the coming of a little child; a child that is to be born to change the world!  Foretold by the prophets for hundreds of years, he comes to give hope to all. 
 
This is the story of the Nativity.  The coming of the Saviour, the Messiah!  Yet here he was, coming into the world like any other child.  Not many people expected this and they certainly didn’t expect him to be born into such poverty!  Yet he was.  With no suitable accommodation available, the Saviour was born among animals in a stable.  And over two thousand years on we still celebrate this momentous occasion, the birth of a little baby boy in a stable. 
 
Sadly, however, not everyone feels the need to celebrate.  Yet this event was for everyone.  At that very moment Jesus was born, he was born for each and every person who has ever lived and who is yet to live.  Mary, in giving birth to Jesus, not only gave birth to the one who would save the world; she gave birth to the whole world.  The whole of humanity was already secure in the heart of that little child as it lay in the manger, wrapped in cloth, surrounded by animals and hay.  Not one person was forgotten. 
 
You see, this child was born to save.  He wasn’t born to lead the kind of life many of us are blessed to have.  He, unlike us, was born to die.  This beautiful, innocent, little child cradled in his loving mother’s arms and gazed upon by his doting step-father, will still have each and every one of us secure in his heart many years later when he is nailed to a cross on Calvary.  And on the third day, when he rises to Heaven, he takes each and every one of us with him in his heart to the Father.  This is no ordinary child.  This child was born for you, and this child died for you.  This child wants you to follow him to the Father; he wants you to follow him to the Kingdom of Heaven.  So, rejoice!  Join in the celebrations and let us praise Jesus and delight in his great gift of true freedom and eternal life for all! 
 

Dwelling on the Word of God: Rejoicing at Mary’s ‘Yes’ (Friday 20th December 2013)

Posted on December 20, 2013 at 8:19 AM Comments comments (2)
 
Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38):      
 
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
 
 
The Annunciation: the ‘yes’ that saved the world.  Oh how grateful we must be to Mary our Mother for her ‘yes’ to God (also known as the fiat).  Without any kind of selfish thought Mary trusts completely in the Will of God and agrees to bear and give birth to the Saviour of the world.
 
Read the passage again and imagine the whole of Creation waiting to hear those words….’I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.’  Imagine the joyous scenes in Heaven as Mary says ‘yes’ to God…
 

Dwelling on the Word of God: Trusting in God’s Will as Joseph did (Wednesday 18th December 2013)

Posted on December 18, 2013 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Today’s Gospel (Matthew 1:18-24):
 
‘This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’
When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.’
 
 
To all the men out there: would you have acted as Joseph did in these circumstances?  Would you have trusted the angel in your dream?  Mary had taken a vow of perpetual virginity and here she was, pregnant.  It would have brought disgrace upon both Mary and Joseph for her to be with child given this vow.  And Joseph was aware of this; hence his decision to divorce Mary.
 
But, trusting completely in God, he listens to the angel in his dream and takes Mary home.  He does this despite the threat of public disgrace.  But Joseph has God on his side so there is no reason to fear!  He trusted the angel and knew that this was God’s Will. 
 
So, what does this mean for us?  Well, are we open to messages from God, in whatever form they may come?  Are we prepared, like Joseph, to submit to the Will of God, knowing that whatever might happen to us He is on our side? 
 
In today’s society the idea of knowing God is on your side is an important one.  We have been encouraged over the last year or so, first with Pope Benedict’s Year of Faith and now Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium exhortation, to evangelise.  Are we doing this?  Are we living our faith openly so that others can see and hear the Good News?  If you aren’t or if you struggle with the idea of evangelisation, remember, God is on your side and there is nothing that you and He together cannot face.

Sunday Angelus: Pope Francis asks Mary to ‘Hasten our Steps to Bethlehem’

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 7:51 AM Comments comments (3)
 
During his Angelus message on the Third Sunday of Advent Pope Francis spoke about the Church being a house of joy.  He said, “The Church is not a refuge for sad people, the Church is a house of joy.”
 
The Pope, referring to the Gospel, said that this joy comes from knowing that we are all welcomed and loved by God and “with His help, we can start anew and overcome sadness and tears, we can “sing a new song”. 
 
The Holy Father said that “Christian joy, like hope, is founded on the faithfulness of God, in the certainty that He always keeps His promises….Those who trust in God, experience a peacefulness in their hearts that nothing and no one can take away.”  He said our joy is Christ and if a Christian becomes sad it can mean that he or she, in a way, has become distanced from Christ.  So, said the Pope, “we must pray for them, and make them feel the warmth of the community.”
 
The Pope concluded the Angelus address with an appeal to our Blessed Mother to “help us hasten our steps to Bethlehem, in order to meet the Child that is born for us, for the salvation and joy of all.”   And, in a special address to children he said, “Dear children, when you pray before your Nativity scenes, remember me too, as I remember you.  Thank you, and happy Christmas!”
 

Dwelling on the Word of God: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn (Thursday 12th December 2013)

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 7:59 AM Comments comments (4)
 
Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38):
(please note this is the Gospel spoken during Mass in the Americas today, in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is a different Gospel passage from the one for the UK today)
 
‘The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.’
 
 
Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  And how fitting we should have this Gospel passage!  Our Lady of Guadalupe is, after all, Protectress of the Unborn. 
 
Each and every child conceived today is - like Jesus in the passage above - a miracle of God.  We are all created by God, for God.  Therefore, every child deserves the respect of all mankind.  How many little miracles do not see the light of day in our world?  Today we must pray, and pray hard, for an end to abortion.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is the key to undoing the evil of abortion and we must direct our prayers through her, to God. 
 
Today, in a spare moment, please say at least one Hail Mary through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for an end to abortion.  We have already seen numerous abortion clinics close across the United States in the last year or so and we have witnessed an unprecedented show of support for life through the European ‘One of Us’ campaign which amassed 1.8 million signatures across the continent.  We also have the recent rejection of the Estrela Report in the European Parliament, providing further evidence that life is winning! 
 
But we must not rest.  There are still millions of innocent little miracles dying each and every day throughout the world for no good reason.  Please, please, say that Hail Mary today.  The miracle of life is so precious.  It’s a gift we are all blessed to have received.  Why then should we deny it to others….?
 

Our Lady in Art and Prayer around the World

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 7:49 AM Comments comments (3)
Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We remember that the Blessed Virgin appeared in a familiar form, as a pregnant native woman dressed in everyday clothing.  Accepting the Good News means changing your life and orienting your heart towards Christ, but we also remember that God and His heavenly messengers come down to meet us in our everyday lives. Jesus came to set us free to worship him in our own way, within our own culture.  With this in mind we consider the venerable images of Our Lady depicted around the world and remember that she is the Mother of us all.  Below are some images of Our Lady from around the world along with a prayer to each.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Our Lady of Guadalupe
‘Remember O most gracious Virgin of Guadalupe, that in your apparitions on Mount Tepeyac you promised to show pity and compassion to all who, loving and trusting you, seek your help and protection. Accordingly, listen now to our supplications and grant us consolation and relief. We are full of hope that, relying on your help, nothing can trouble or affect us. As you have remained with us through your admirable image, so now obtain for us the graces we need. Amen’
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Our Lady of China
John Lu Hung Nein (Peking 1914)
‘Almighty and eternal God, Comforter of the afflicted and Strength of the Suffering, grant that our brothers of China who share our faith, may obtain, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our Holy Martyrs, peace in Thy service, strength in the time of trial and grace to glorify Thee, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen’
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Our Lady of Africa
Felix Msalu (Tanzania)
‘Our Lady off Africa, Mother of us all, be specially mindful of the peoples of Africa. Gather together all those who follow Jesus Christ. May they be one in the Church of your Son. May all those who have not yet recognised Jesus as the Son of the Father be drawn by his light. May all those who have been seized by Christ proclaim the Good News by their whole life. Our Lady of Africa, Queen of Peace, obtain the gift of peace for all nations torn apart by hatred, resentment and racism. May your Son’s law of Love win over and unite all hearts, so that together we may sing the Glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen’
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Our Lady of Kazan, Russia
Russian orthodox Icon (Kazan 16 Century)
Fatima Prayer – ‘By your pure and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, obtain the conversion of Russia, Spain, Portugal, Europe and the whole world! Sweet heart of Mary, be the salvation of Russia and the whole world’
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Our Lady of Vailankanni, India
(Vailankanni, India – 16 Century)
‘O Most Holy Virgin! You were chosen by the most adorable Trinity from all eternity to be the most pure Mother of Jesus. O Tender Mother of the afflicted, grant me under my present necessities a special protection. O Mother of God accept my salutations in union with the respect with which the angel Gabriel first hailed you ‘full of grace’. Amen’
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Our Lady of Knock, Ireland
‘Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to our people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to your divine Son, remembering his promise ‘Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find’. Help me to remember that we are all pilgrims on the road to heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me.  Comfort me when I am sick or lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever more reverently in the holy Mass. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death. Amen’
 

Evangelii Gaudium: Pope Francis on our Blessed Mother, Mary

Posted on December 9, 2013 at 7:41 AM Comments comments (2)
 
‘Jesus left us his mother to be our mother. Only after doing so did Jesus know that “all was now finished” (Jn 19:28).
At the foot of the cross, at the supreme hour of the new creation, Christ led us to Mary.’
Pope Francis
 
 
Here is what Pope Francis says about Mary:
 
‘With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization.
 
Jesus left us his mother to be our mother. Only after doing so did Jesus know that “all was now finished” (Jn 19:28).
At the foot of the cross, at the supreme hour of the new creation, Christ led us to Mary.
 
“…Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul”. Blessed Isaac of Stella
 
As she did with Juan Diego, Mary offers them maternal comfort and love, and whispers in their ear: “Let your heart not be troubled… Am I not here, who am your Mother?”
 
We implore her maternal intercession that the Church may become a home for many peoples, a mother for all peoples, and that the way may be opened to the birth of a new world.
 
 
With Mary we advance confidently towards the fulfilment of this promise, and to her we pray:
 
Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Filled with Christ’s presence,
you brought joy to John the Baptist,
making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy,
you sang of the great things done by God.
Standing at the foot of the cross
with unyielding faith,
you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,
and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit
so that the evangelizing Church might be born.
Obtain for us now a new ardour born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.
Virgin of listening and contemplation,
Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.
Star of the new evangelization,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith,
justice and love of the poor,
that the joy of the Gospel
may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world.
Mother of the living Gospel,
wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
pray for us.
Amen. Alleluia!’
 

Dwelling on the Word of God: The Annunciation (Monday 9th December 2013)

Posted on December 9, 2013 at 7:29 AM Comments comments (1)
 
Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38):
 
‘The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.’
 
 
The faith of Mary is astounding; simply astounding.  She trusts completely in God’s will and His plan for her life.  There must have been all sorts of things going through Mary’s mind at this time yet all she asks is….how is it possible.  No hint of anger or frustration, no selfish thoughts.  Just a genuine curiosity as to how this could come about.
 
And as soon as the angel offers an explanation it is accepted with reverence and trust as Mary declares ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord….let what you have said be done unto me.’ 
And so it is with us.  We are all handmaids of the Lord.  Do we, like Mary, trust God sufficiently to let his Will be done unto us?
 

Evangelii Gaudium: Pope Francis on Women and the Church

Posted on December 3, 2013 at 8:07 AM Comments comments (0)
Our Blessed Mother, Mary
 
‘The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess. I think, for example, of the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood. I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. Because ‘the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace’ (from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures.
 
Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power [as John Paul II says]: “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”. The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”
 
Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops.’
 

Pope Francis Suggests Praying the Rosary is the Best Medicine

Posted on November 18, 2013 at 11:51 AM Comments comments (12)
 
During his Sunday Angelus Pope Francis offered some medicine to the 80,000 strong crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square.  Holding up a small medicine box upon which an anatomical drawing of a human heart could be seen, the Pope said: “I want to recommend some medicine for all of you.  It’s spiritual medicine.”
 
He then confirmed that the medicine box didn’t contain any pills but that it actually contained a set of rosary beads and said, “Don’t forget to take it.  It’s good for your heart, for your soul, for your whole life.”
 
Around 20,000 of the little medicine boxes containing a rosary, prayer card and medical instruction sheet were then handed out to the faithful.  The information sheet confirmed that ‘no negative side affects have been reported’ and recommends daily use of the rosary beads, though it also states that repetitive use is permitted.
 
So if you haven’t already done so, remember to take your medicine today!