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Happy Shavu’ot
1st June, 2017

To some it may come as a surprise to learn that Shavu’ot (Pentecost) is not originally a Christian festival.

The Hebrew word Shavu’ot means weeks. In Jewish tradition 7 is the perfect number (the number of creation) and 7 times 7, even more so. It is a week of weeks or 7×7 which is 49 days.

In ancient Israel, the number seven represented divine perfection. It was considered a powerful, unbreakable number because it could not be divided by common small numbers which people used to count on a single hand. The word for seven in Hebrew- sheva שֶׁבַע– is linked to shevua שְׁבוּעָה– an oath. When someone wanted to make a very strong promise, they would take an oath as though to say: “let the divinely perfect number seven be my witness that I…” (http://lp.israelbiblicalstudies.com)

This weekend we celebrate one of the three most important festivals on the Jewish calendar, Shavu’ot (The Festival of Weeks or Pentecost)—the other two being Pesach (Passover), and Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles).

At the time of Jesus, pilgrims would travel to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice on these three festivals. In fact, as we will hear in the first reading this Sunday, that’s why all of Jesus’ followers were gathered together in the upper room, to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavu’ot:

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” —Acts 2:1–5

To some it may come as a surprise to learn that Pentecost is not of Christian origin. The roots of Shavu’ot—both agricultural and historical—lie in ancient Israel.

Shavu’ot commemorates the time when God gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments, the way by which they were to live their lives. It is on that day that the Hebrews became a nation.

For the first Christians, Pentecost was the day they received the Holy Spirit, which dwells in the hearts of all believers, commanding the way they are to live their lives. Pentecost celebrates the unity of the first Christians and the birth of the Church.

adapted from http://www.massexplained.com

How do you celebrate Pentecost?

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Why the Ascension of the Lord Matters!
25th May, 2017

Bishop Robert Barron explains the Ascension of Jesus in this way:

The Bible  speaks indeed of “heaven” and “earth,” but it sees these two realms as interacting and interpenetrating fields of force.

Jesus’ great prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, which is constantly on the lips of Christians, is distinctively Jewish in inspiration:

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Notice  that this is decidedly not a prayer that we might escape from the earth, but rather that earth and heaven might come together. The Lord’s prayer recapitulates and raises to a new level precisely what the prophet Isaiah anticipated: “the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth, as the water covers the sea.”

The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit down through the ages, is meant to be the privileged place where this coming-together happens.

In good preaching, in great Christian art, in the architecture of our churches and cathedrals, in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, in the lives of the saints,
and perhaps especially in the liturgy, earth and heaven meet.

Bishop Robert Barron states that, “the Ascension of Jesus has nothing to do with a literal journey into the stratosphere, for that would involve simply a transfer to another position within “the world.” The Ascension is Jesus’ journey, not to another place, but to another dimension. But this dimension to which he has gone is not alien to us. It is instead a source of inspiration, power, and direction. And this is why the angels (denizens of heaven) who appear to the disciples just after Jesus’ departure say, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” What they are hinting at, none too subtly, is this: under the influence of Jesus’ spirit, get to work! Do all that you can to foster the marriage of heaven and earth! Get on with the mission of the church!”

www.wordonfire.org/

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Amen: an extraordinary word
23rd May, 2017

Pentecostal preachers shout it. Monks chant it. Most Christians end every prayer with it. But what does “Amen” really mean? Is it just a pious way to “log off” our dialogue with God?

Amen is the Bible’s supreme expression of assent. By saying amen, we mean much more than simple agreement. It is a remarkable word because it allows us to succinctly articulate “Praise the Lord” and “I agree”. For example, Jeremiah agrees with the words of Hananiah, a fellow prophet, by saying: “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied” (Jer. 28:6).

This powerful word comes from the Hebrew root אָמֵן (a-m-n) that is also related to the Hebrew word אֱמוּנָה (emunah) which means “faith”. Interestingly, Amen is classified as an adjective which describes states and moods. This word is not another “Yes” or “No”. When a person says Amen, they commit themselves to a state of conscious agreement, judgement and faith. In the Bible, having faith is not just a question of being spiritually awake, but of being firmly committed to one’s religious identity.

Israel Biblical Studies 

This implies, of course, that we are not just to accept God’s truth intellectually, but to build our life around it, to let our future depend on it, to make sure our actions flow from it. It implies that true biblical faith involves placing our trust in God and committing ourselves to living out what we claim to be our convictions.

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Two Roads – Master or Disaster
4th May, 2017

Through the Door

If we knew the future, very few of us would make foolish decisions. But very few of us make decisions in the first place. Many people prefer to be carried along by other peoples’ decisions and by the circumstances of life.

But wise people make decisions.

And they make these wise decisions without knowing the future.

Instead, they look at their past, their present, and where they would like to end up.

And then they choose.

This choice does not have to be a leap…sometimes it is just a step.

When making decisions, it is rarely wise to “leap”.

It is much wiser to take a step, assess, and discern the next step.

What is your experience of this process? Is it too complicated…too simple?

God in Real Life

 This week, make decisions with wisdom by asking whether a decision is good, open, wise, and one you want.

To the Heart

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.” ~James 1:5

adapted from:bulldogcatholic.org

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How to do Holy Week
12th April, 2017

path through the woods

Holy Week is a solemn week of extra prayer and fasting. It involves the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. During those three days we recall—and through our prayer participate in—Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, his arrest, trial, and execution, the long day of silence (Holy Saturday) while his body rested in the grave, and his Resurrection on Easter. The many readings of Scripture surrounding the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ give us a lot of material for reflection and prayer.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not stop or slow down to give us extra time for all this liturgy and church attendance.  But daily life continues, and our minds spin with scores of other stories that threaten to obscure the Jesus story.

How can we maintain some realm of holy quiet?

How to “do” Holy Week, especially if we will not be participating in all the special church liturgies at this time?

Here are just a few suggestions from Ignatian Spirituality . I hope you’re helped by at least one or two of them.

Spend a little time each day listening to music that helps you slow down. It doesn’t matter what kind of music—hymns, jazz, folk song, symphony pieces, songs with meaningful words, or pieces that are instrumental only—as long as the listening helps you breathe more slowly and go to a place deeper in your spirit.

Prepare at least one meal with special care for the people in your home (or, if you live alone, for you and a guest or two), and make certain all of you sit down together to eat it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Maybe there’s a  recipe from Great-Grandma, or a certain homemade bread that sets the tone by sending fragrance through the house.

Choose one of the Passion narratives—from any of the four Gospels—and read it aloud to yourself over the course of the week. Don’t try to learn anything new or have a profound experience; simply read the story, asking God to help this story live in you better this year than it ever has before.

While you’re sitting—maybe at the end of the day, trying to unwind in front of the television or in a favorite chair—try drawing aspects of Holy Week. Use whatever paper and pen(cil) is available and express something about symbols that are meaningful to you: cross, lily, bread, chalice, table, garden, hands, faces, a road…

 

Finally, you might find some time this week to reflect on  the video below.

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Week Three Lent -Reconsidering the Samaritan Woman – John 4
20th March, 2017

Because the first dialogue in John 4 contains a single reference to the woman’s unlawful marital status (w. 16-18), most exegetes have restricted their understanding of this woman to this single clue. As a result, she has been evaluated in a less than positive light, with
commentators apparently ignoring numerous other hints included in the narrative regarding her character and allowing their interpretation to contradict these details.

A closer look at the details,however, reveals that Jesus himself did not regard the woman from a negative perspective.

While the Samaritan woman had been married five times, the text never informs the reader why the marriages were dissolved. Perhaps the woman was a five-time divorcee, as most commentators seem to believe, or perhaps there might be another explanation for her many marriages.
Perhaps some of the marriages may have ended with the death of a husband. Furthermore, it is generally acknowledged that divorce in that
era was the sole prerogative of the male.

What the narrative details of John 4 seem to portray is an intelligent woman with a keen mind, who has pondered the theological and political
realities of her day and culture. Furthermore, the progression in the dialogue reveals Jesus’ desire to bring this woman to faith. The narrative implies that he did so with the assurance that her mind could grasp theological verities.

Jesus did not regularly speak this directly regarding himself in Israel or even to his disciples.

This woman is not ignorant and base, nor is she the town prostitute. Rather, the Samaritan woman is a well-informed, politically savvy person to whom people listen when she speaks.

An entire village believed her testimony regarding the identity of the Jewish man at the well and went to find the one who revealed himself to be the promised Messiah.

The Gospel of John records that the Pharisees despised the simplicity of Jesus, ignoring his miracles and demanding a sign that he was the Son of God
(Jn 4:48). But the Samaritans, by contrast, did not ask for a sign, and Jesus performed no miracles among them, except in revealing to the woman the
secrets of her life (v. 41). Many in Samaria, however, believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah. In their newfound joy, they said to the woman: “Now we believe, not because of your saying; for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (v. 42).

Thus they gave unassailable confirmation of the influence of this woman’s testimony.

Wondering questions:

I wonder in my relationships with other people if I can think of a time when I looked past a person’s current situation to focus rather on what they may become?

I wonder how hard or easy is this to do?

I wonder if I, like the Samaritan woman, can take my enthusiasm of knowing Christ and share it with other people this Easter?

adapted from: Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol. 43, No. 1, 159-168.  2005 Andrews University Press

lectio divina, Praying the Scripture in Lent 2017, Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay

 

 

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International Day of Happiness – March 20
20th March, 2017

The International Day of Happiness is a quirky celebration.  

Happiness Day reminds us that happiness is a gift. We long for it and are grateful when we receive it. But as is the case with all gifts, we cannot buy it. Nor can we lock it away in a safe to ensure that we do not lose it, or successfully sue people if they make us unhappy. It is not an entitlement.

But our desire for happiness is itself a gift. The longing makes us restless with what we have, makes us want more, while knowing that nothing can ever fully satisfy us. It encourages us to reflect on our lives and to ask what are the better gifts we should hunger for. When we realise that nothing can ever make us perfectly happy we are free to be thankful for the gifts we do have, especially our close relationships, and to be thankful for them.

That explains the surprising fact that many poor people are happy.

Material poverty is not a good thing.  But it does help us to focus on the surprising blessings that each day brings us and to be thankful for them. 

And thankfulness has a great deal to do with happiness.

Although we cannot make people happy, we can  certainly create the conditions under which they may be happy.

Ultimately happiness comes from good relationships – to ourselves, to others and to the world in which we live. It is a gift worth desiring and a privilege to encourage.

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Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ is an editorial consultant at Jesuit Communications

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It’s Lent! Questions posed and reflected upon.
8th March, 2017

Who or what is  Lent?

Derived from the word lencten, which is Anglo-Saxon for springtime.Lent is the 40-day season of preparation prior to Easter which begins on Ash Wednesday.

Why is it 40 days?

Next to the number seven, the number forty occurs most frequently in the Bible. It represents a period of testing or judgment. Lent’s duration of 40 days reflects other times of trial, testing and hardship found in the Scriptures:

  • The story of Noah tells of rain falling on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.
  • Both Moses and Elijah fasted for 40 days before beginning their missions.
  • The Hebrews wandered for 40 years in the desert after leaving Egypt.
  • It took the spies 40 days to search out the promised land and bring back fruit.
  • Goliath taunted the Israelite army in the morning and evening for 40 days.
  • Jonah warned the Ninevites they had 40 days until God would overthrow the city.
  • Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days before beginning his ministry.

 

My parish prays the Stations of the Cross during Lent. How did this custom originate?

The Stations of the Cross originated during the crusades when it was popular to visit Jerusalem to follow the steps to Calvary. After the Holy Land was captured, pilgrimages became a very dangerous affair. A desire arose to reproduce these holy places in other lands as a substitute pilgrimage.

It soon became popular to have outdoor markers indicate not only the scenes in Christ’s path to Golgotha, but also the actual distances from location to location. Crude markers eventually gave way to elaborate artwork depicting the events of Jesus’ trial, torture and execution. By the mid 18th century, the Stations were allowed inside the church and served as a focus for Lenten devotions.

The Stations help the participant make a spiritual pilgrimage to the major scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death. Prayers are said until the entire route is complete, enabling the faithful to more literally take up their cross and follow Jesus.

 

http://www.massexplained.com/think-fast-its-lent/ By Dan Gonzalez

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What is Lent?(and Make this one Awesome)
28th February, 2017

Lent means “springtime” and Springtime is an awesome time!

Andy Lesnefsky explains more about this liturgical time of lent and how we can participate more fully.

Here are 5 additional tips to help you focus on the why and the who of Lent:

  1. Aim for consistency in prayer. Consistency is key in growing any relationship. Grow in your love and knowledge of Jesus this Lent by being consistent.
  2. Make your prayer more honest. That might sound strange to you, but honesty in prayer means not holding back from God. God knows you perfectly. Honesty in prayer allows for intimacy. It’s about letting God love you and receiving that love.
  3. Give something up that distracts you from your relationship with God or others.
  4. Disconnect from technology for 1-2 hours. Turn your phone off. Connect with people. Connect with God. Technology is a great thing, but can so easily distract us.
  5. Give this Lent. Often times we don’t connect our wallet and our checkbook to our spiritual disciplines. Make an effort to give weekly to a charity making a tangible difference to help the poor.

February 21, 2017 by

http://redeemedonline.com/lent-tips/

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