Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’

As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

At beginning of his public ministry Jesus sought to gather those who would proclaim and bear witness to the Good News and to help build up the Kingdom of God. This call to discipleship was accepted by those who experienced a metanoia i.e. a conversion of heart, enabling them to see in Jesus a model for a new way of living, and thus they readily accepted his invitation to come and ‘follow me’.
In each of the synoptic Gospels Jesus called his disciples two by two, perhaps signifying that from the very beginning Christian living was to be communal and that those charged with the responsibility of evangelization and Christian witness would be comforted and strengthened by the support of others.

Just as Jesus called them two by two he also sent forth his followers in pairs (Mark 6:7), commissioning them to go out and preach the Good News. As they set out on their mission they were to take nothing with them for they placed complete trust in the Lord in the very same way that Simon and Andrew and James and John had responded to their first encounter with him.

We too are called to repent and believe in the Good News. This invitation challenges us to new way of living, enabling us to love God and others more so that our own, sometimes selfish desires, lose hold on ourselves. By accepting Jesus invitation, “follow me” and the demands of Christian discipleship we come to live life to the full (John 10:10).

 

As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.

Jn 1:35-42

Throughout the Gospels we read of how people’s lives were changed by their encounters with Jesus, perhaps none more so than his disciples who came to the realisation that Jesus was far more than a Rabbi, he was the Messiah.

Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples reflects our own relationship with him. While we may seek to know and love him, it is Jesus who invites us into a deeper and more intimate relationship. He is both the giver and the gift.

How do we respond when he invites us to ‘come and see’? Do we place our trust in him, or are we like the rich young man (Mark 10:17-22) who goes away saddened, unable to accept the invitation and the challenges of Christian discipleship?

True Christian discipleship is not only about nurturing a personal relationship with Jesus. Rather it requires us to lead others to Jesus in the very same way that Andrew shared his new-found joy ‘we have found the Messiah’ with his brother Simon, and then took him to meet the Lord.
Pope Benedict reminds us “Jesus takes nothing away. Rather, he gives us everything. When we give ourselves to him we receive a hundredfold in return.”

Christmas – Year B

In the beginning was the Word:
the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.
A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.
The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.
The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John appears as his witness, He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me
ranks before me
because he existed before me.’
Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

Jn 1:1-18

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). The opening of John’s Gospel takes us back before the dawn of Creation and reveals that the Word not only existed but enjoyed a dynamic relationship with God the Father. John proclaims the Word and Jesus Christ to be one and the same. Jesus shares the same essence, the same divinity, with God the Father but is a distinct person.

The Good News we hear on Christmas morning acknowledges the Incarnation of the Word. Proclaiming “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (Verse 14) makes us witnesses to the Revelation of the divine in the human story. Jesus as the only Son of God makes known to us God the Father. According to John, the Christmas story is the dynamic of the Word of God taking on human form in Jesus Christ, who reveals the heart of God to humankind.

Christmas, celebrated by the Church on December 25, is a joyful celebration because God brings us hope and joy by sharing in our humanity. It is the greatest expression of love. Jesus is the light that brings enlightenment. Through the Incarnation, and truly believing in it, we are now able to share, to partake in the divine nature as children of God. God claims us as God’s own.

Dennis Kurtz

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year B

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.

Lk 1:26-38

As we approach the Feast of Christmas and ready ourselves to receive family and friends throughout the festive season, it is worth pausing a moment to reflect on what the Feast is really celebrating. The birth of Jesus, in which Christians believe that God took on human form and came amongst us in the person of Jesus. It all began with a simple faith filled response from Mary. ‘Yes!’

David Ivers

Third Sunday of Advent – Year B

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked, ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not,’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied:

a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.’

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.

Jn 1:6-8. 19-28

John the Baptist, a Levite and cousin of Jesus (Lk 1:5 and 36) was considered a prophet by many Jews and even by Jesus himself (Lk 11:9). Yet when he was questioned, John denied being a prophet, seeing himself only as “a voice that cries in the wilderness”. This is a reference to Isaiah’s oracle who will prepare the way of the Lord (Is. 40:3). All four Gospels connect Isaiah’s words with John’s ministry (cf. Mk 1:3; Lk 3:4; Jn 1:23).

Mystery surrounded John’s true identity. Some wondered whether he may have been Elijah, who was expected to return before the Messiah (Mal. 4:5) to begin restoring the tribes of Israel (Sir. 48:10). John’s very appearance was similar to that of Elijah, for he “wore a garment of haircloth, with a belt of leather about his loins” (2 Kgs 1:8). Some even believed that John may have been the Messiah for whom the people had been waiting. However he assured them “I am not the Christ”.

In each of the Gospel’s we are presented with the testimony of John the Baptist, central to which is his role in preparing the way of the Lord. John distinguishes himself from the one who follows him, saying that he is unfit to even undo his sandal strap. John also distinguishes himself from Jesus in their practice of Baptism. John’s was a visible token of repentance and preparation for the Messiah where the pouring of water was only a sign of purification. While Christ’s baptism infuses the Holy Spirit, bringing both forgiveness and regeneration (Acts 2:38) and leading one into God’s family.

John was sent by God to prepare the people for coming of the Jesus and to be a witness to him. As Christian disciples we are called to do the same.

Anthony Cleary – Director, Religious Education and Evangelisation

Feast of All Souls

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

Mt 11:25-30

The feast of ‘The Commemoration Of All The Faithful Departed’, also known as ‘All Souls’ Day’, finds its origins in the monastic communities just prior to the tenth century. It was common practice for monks to set aside a day of prayer for their deceased. By the turn of the tenth century, this had become common practice in the wider church and today it is a major feast day in the Church’s liturgical calendar. The readings for this Sunday are those proper to the feast, not those for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A).

The feast itself follows on from another significant feast in the Church’s liturgical calendar, that of the feast of ‘All Saints’. This feast, again with its origins in the eighth century, celebrates all deceased ‘Holy Men and Women’ now in glory with Christ, known or unknown. A saint by definition is a person who has died and is now with Christ in glory. This includes canonised Saints such as St Peter, St Paul, St Francis of Assisi, St John Baptist De La Salle. It also includes those that, whilst not canonised are still with Christ. They may well be your grandparent, an uncle or aunt, your mother or father, a sibling or a friend. God alone knows who they are. Indeed this day is also a commemoration of our own communion with the saints.

This brings us to the feast of ‘All Souls’ Day’. On this day, the Church prays for the Holy Souls that, after undergoing further purification (purgation), will enjoy glory with Christ.

Over the years, some have thought the notion of Limbo and the Catholic Church Teaching of Purgatory were the same thing. They are not. Limbo was a notion proposed by St Augustine and was not, and is not Church Teaching. The Catholic Church Teaching on Purgatory on the other hand is crystal clear and well explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The teaching represents some of the most ancient of teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. The passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is set out below.

What this feast of “All Souls” clearly celebrates is the hope of new life in Christ and the love of God for all. It is a day in which we are rightly called to remember those that have gone before us, saints and sinners alike. We should of course hope that when it is our turn to be born into eternal life, that the prayers of our faith community will indeed go with us. The feast of ‘All Saints’ and the feast of ‘All Souls’ are strong reminders of the constant call to conversion and the call of Baptism, to be a faithful and a faith-filled disciple of Christ.

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them” 

David Ivers – Education Officer: Religious Leadership, Learning and Development