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You are welcome to use these resources in any parish newsletter distributed free of charge. These resources, along with The Deep End, may be downloaded from the Intercom pages on the Veritas website: www.veritas.ie and from www.intercommagazine.ie

Items included in the Liturgy Preparation pages may also be used (e.g. short summaries of the readings, homily thoughts, etc.) Please give credit to the author and this magazine. — Ed

Sunday, 2 December 2018

 

SEEING YOUR LIFE
THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

1.  This passage can be taken as a metaphor for personal experiences when it seems that your world is collapsing around you: plans thwarted, deep disappointment, something out of your control altering the course of your life, etc.? When have such experiences been a prelude to something new? Allow the dramatic language of the passage to remind you of this experience, making sure that you recognise the double movement of collapse and liberation.

2.  Jesus himself is the model in this gospel story as he taught his disciples the spirituality of ‘waiting in joyful hope’. What difference has watchfulness (in the sense of being watchful in prayer) made to you in facing difficult situations?

3.  Advent is a time that calls us to be alert to the signs of the hidden presence of God in our world. What reminds you of this presence of God? Have there been occasions when something woke you up in an unexpected way to the presence of God in the world, e.g. through love, beauty, nature, etc.?

John Byrne osa

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

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THE DEEP END: Be prepared …

Have you ever heard the story of the ant and the grasshopper? It tells the tale of a grasshopper who has spent the summer singing and so is not prepared when winter comes, whereas the ant has been working hard all summer and has stored up enough food for winter. Like many of Aesop’s Fables, it has a stark moral lesson, in this case about the virtue of hard work and being prepared for the future.

     Of course, Advent is about looking forward to Christmas and our celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is a special time of preparation to welcome him anew into our lives. But today’s readings remind us that Advent is also about looking ahead to another time, the second and final coming of Jesus at the end of time. ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning ‘coming’.

     The problem, of course, is that we have no idea when this will happen. Unlike the ant and the grasshopper, we have no way of knowing when the seasons will change. We don’t even know when the sun will set on our own individual lives. All we can do is to be prepared and to ‘stay awake’ – to live now in such a way that when we meet Jesus, we will be ready. This readiness is less a practical skill than a condition, or a way of life. Look at how St Paul describes it: he talks about increasing our love for one another, and continually making progress in living the life that God wants. That is how we store up treasures here on earth to make sure we are ready for the heavenly things to come.

Tríona Doherty

Athlone, Co Roscommon

Email trionad@gmail.com

 

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Sunday, 9 December 2018

 

SEEING YOUR LIFE
THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Luke 3:1-6

1.  The manner in which Luke identifies in detail the time when John the Baptist started his preaching shows that Luke regarded this as a historic moment. Perhaps you can recall in detail the time and the circumstances of particularly significant moments in your life?

2.  John called people to give expression to their desire for a change of heart by a symbolic baptism in the Jordan. When have you found it helpful to symbolise your desire to change for the better by some symbolic gesture, e.g., burning a packet of cigarettes, sending a card, making a phone call, etc.

3.  Behind the quotation from Isaiah lies the practice of preparing festival routes for religious celebrations. Isaiah visualises such a celebration to celebrate the return of the Israelites to Jerusalem. Can you recall a particularly memorable Advent? What happened? Think of what you can do this Advent.

John Byrne osa

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

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THE DEEP END: Make his paths straight

Preparing for the arrival of someone important takes care and attention. Think of a family preparing to welcome a loved one home from abroad, perhaps a son or daughter who lives in Australia or someone who has been off traveling the world. They get their bedroom ready, buy their favourite foods, perhaps put up banners or even organise a ‘welcome home’ party. It is all done with great excitement and love, and is a way of easing the path home for the traveller. Or imagine new parents preparing for the arrival of a baby. There are practical considerations such as buying nappies and clothing and getting a cot ready, and of course the nerves and excitement as they prepare to welcome the new arrival.

     On a larger scale, when an important dignitary visits a venue or a country there is also a flurry of activity in preparation. We saw it in the painstaking arrangements made for the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland earlier this year. Such high profile visits often involve a literal preparation of the way – organising a welcome reception, planning the best route from the airport, clearing the streets of traffic, as well as much chatter and anticipation.

     Today’s Gospel brings these two types of welcome to mind. During Advent, we prepare for the coming of Jesus by our actions, when we are generous with our time, patient with our families, and help those in need. And we do all these things with excitement and love, so that Christ will find the warmest of welcomes and a clear route into our hearts.

Tríona Doherty

Athlone, Co Roscommon

Email trionad@gmail.com

 

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Sunday, 16 December 2018

 

SEEING YOUR LIFE
THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Luke 3:10-18

1.  ‘What should we do?’ The common thread in John’s answers was to encourage his questioners to be other-centred rather than self-centred, each in the context of their own circumstances. In your experience, what difference has it made for you when you changed your attitude in this way?

2.  John told the people in a direct and honest way what they should do. Perhaps you have had friends who did not beat about the bush but have told you honestly what they thought about your behaviour when you asked them? In gratitude, recall such friends.

3.  The humility of John comes out in this passage, happy to acknowledge that he only had a minor role to play in relation to the Messiah. At the same time he was enthused by his mission to ‘proclaim the good news to the people’. What difference has it made for you when you were able to see the good in yourself, and use your gifts without having to score by portraying yourself as greater than someone else?

John Byrne osa

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

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THE DEEP END: The reason for the season

In his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis issues a warning that might resonate with us as we continue our Advent journey. Caught up in consumerism, he says, it is easy for us to forget what is truly important:

‘The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.’

In the lead-up to Christmas we often get caught up in a flurry of ‘interests and concerns’. True, much of the joy of Christmas comes from giving to others, but there is so much focus on material goods and spending money that it can be difficult to remember the good news at the heart of the season. It is so easy to become distracted by the bright lights and advertising.

     This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday – Gaudete means ‘Rejoice’. It’s the perfect time to recapture some of the ‘quiet joy’ that Pope Francis talks about. ‘The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,’ he reminds us. It is this personal encounter with Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas, God becoming man, the Good News announced by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. This is the reason for our joy – the reason for the season!

Tríona Doherty

Athlone, Co Roscommon

Email trionad@gmail.com

 

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Sunday, 23 December 2018

 

SEEING YOUR LIFE
THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Luke 1:39-44

1.  The greeting of Elizabeth to Mary, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb,’ is a joyful welcome of the child to come. Bringing new life into the world through pregnancy and birth is one of the most awesome human experiences. How have you experienced this for yourself or in someone close to you?

2.  The image of the pregnant Mary going a distance to visit her cousin is a symbol of willingness to look beyond one’s own needs to the needs of others. When have you witnessed that kind of generosity in others, or have been able to act in this way yourself?

3.  Mary is praised for her faith, because she believed the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled. In what ways have you experienced blessings from your faith and trust in God’s promises?

John Byrne osa

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

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THE DEEP END: Reaching out

Have you ever wondered why Mary travelled to visit Elizabeth? At first it is the excitement that comes through. Caught up in her wonderment at being pregnant and the news that her cousin is also expecting, Mary hurries off as quickly as she can. Perhaps the journey gives her time to reflect on everything that is happening. The precious moment when Elizabeth greets her is a lovely glimpse of the close friendship between the two women.

     We know that Elizabeth is advanced in years, and that she and her husband Zechariah had not expected to ever have a child. After this encounter, we are told that Mary stays on with Elizabeth for three months; as a younger woman, it is fair to assume that she is there to help and support her cousin.

     Pope Francis has described the visit as a lesson in service and joy, as well as demonstrating great courage. ‘Being of service and reaching out to others both require going out from themselves: going out to serve and meet others, to embrace another person. Through Mary’s service towards others, through that encounter, our Lord’s promise is renewed and makes it happen now, just as it did then.’

     With just two days to go until Christmas it is a busy time. But it is also a time that offers many opportunities to reach out, whether it is to build bridges with family members, offer our time to someone who is lonely, or support a friend or neighbour who finds this time of year difficult.

Tríona Doherty

Athlone, Co Roscommon

Email trionad@gmail.com

 

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Sunday, 30 December 2018

 

SEEING YOUR LIFE
THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Luke 2:41-52

1.  Luke’s skill as a storyteller comes through in the details of the story in a way that many people can identify with: the loss of a child, the frantic search, the seemingly offhand speech of the teenager. Let the drama of the story speak to you. Where do you find good news in it?

2.  In Luke’s Gospel this story serves to give a glimpse of the future greatness of Jesus, the teacher of his people. Sometimes we can look back over our own life, or the lives of others, and with hindsight can see in childhood or teenage years a glimpse of gifts and talents that were later to blossom. Where have you seen this?

3.  ‘Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ This seemingly insensitive reply by Jesus to Mary serves to highlight that in his life the mission given him by God would take precedence over family ties, painful though this would be. Perhaps you have known situations in your own life where there was pain for family members as you followed your own destiny? Where in the midst of the pain was the good news?

John Byrne osa

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

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THE DEEP END: When Jesus was small

In primary school we used to sing a song about Jesus’ childhood. I don’t recall the exact words, but the chorus went something like this:

Jesus was a happy child

When he was small like me

He used to laugh and run around

And sometimes climb a tree

Running here, running there

Having fun like you and me.

There was a verse about his mother bringing him to school on his first day. The aim was clearly to remind us that Jesus was a real child who did all the things that other children do. In theological terms, it impressed on our young minds the humanity of Jesus, even as we heard the stories of the healings and miracles that expressed his divinity.

     This hymn came to mind as I reflected on today’s Gospel. The story of the finding in the Temple is the only one we have from Jesus’ childhood, so it takes on greater significance. It is both an ordinary and extraordinary family story, highlighting a typical family incident while also setting the scene for Jesus’ future mission. What parent hasn’t felt the panic of discovering their child is missing, and then been overcome with relief when they were found? But the story ends with the realisation that Jesus is far from ordinary. His parents don’t understand his cryptic reference to ‘my Father’s affairs’, but Mary stores up ‘all these things’ in her heart, accepting the mysterious workings of God.

     We are left, with Mary and Joseph, to ponder who this child really is.

Tríona Doherty

Athlone, Co Roscommon

Email trionad@gmail.com

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Sunday, 6 January 2018

 

SEEING YOUR LIFE
THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Matthew 2:1-12

1.  The magi came from the east, hoping to meet Jesus and guided by a star. On your life’s journey what are the hopes that inspire you, and what stars guide your steps? Name them for yourself.

2.  The magi travelled together. Who have been your companions on life’s journey? What has it been like when you have realized that you had companionship along the road? What made you conscious of that companionship? How was it demonstrated?

3.  The magi lost sight of the star for a while. What clouds obscure the star that guides your life? Think of those to whom you have turned to get a renewed sense of direction. Perhaps some, like Herod, gave bad advice, but others were wise guides. Remember with particular gratitude those who warned you about dangers on the road and helped you set off with confidence on the right road again.

4.  Eventually the magi had the joy of meeting Jesus. In the Epiphany we celebrate God made visible to all humanity. What encounters have you had in life that left you with the sense that God was in what had happened? How did these meetings help you as you, like the magi, ‘returned to your own country’?

John Byrne osa

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

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THE DEEP END: ‘We observed his star at his rising’

The Wise Men were probably astronomers and philosophers, but most importantly they were ‘seekers’, looking to the skies for something that would bring them closer to God. They would have been familiar with the prophecy about a new King who would be a very powerful leader, and they may have been watching the skies for years, waiting for the right astronomical sign which would foretell His birth. Many astronomers have since tracked the skies from that period, to try to identify what ‘star’ the Wise Men could have seen. Some have identified Jupiter, not a star, which in 6bc was following that correct trajectory across the sky over many months. One must admire the faithful and determined journey that these Wise Men set out on, a journey which involved many risks. The Wise Men represent all peoples of all cultures and faiths who make such journeys in search of God.

     We often look for signs in our own lives, especially when we are looking for answers. Let us have the courage to move out of our comfort zones in search of Jesus, just as the Wise Men did. They had no idea of what awaited them, but the Gospel speaks of their delight and joy when they arrived to that place.

 

‘We often make do with looking at the ground … I wonder if we still know how to look up at the sky? Do we know how to dream, to long for God, to expect the newness he brings, or do we let ourselves be swept along by life, like dry branches before the wind?’

Pope Francis

Jane Mellett

Email mellettj@gmail.com

 

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Sunday, 13 January 2018

 

SEEING YOUR LIFE
THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

1.  The people were searching and John pointed them in the direction of Jesus. On your life’s journey who have been the John the Baptist people for you, people who have pointed you in the right direction?

2.  The Baptism of Jesus was a very special moment for him that affirmed him in his identity as Son of God and in his mission. Recall the experiences that affirmed you – either in your sense of who you are, or in relation to the direction you were taking in life.

3.  The Baptism of Jesus marks a transition point in his life, and the start of his public ministry. Recall the transition points in your own life. Where did you see the grace of God at work in those times?

4.  This experience of Jesus occurred when he was at prayer. What part has prayer played in opening you to being aware of God in your life? What part has prayer played in helping you through a transition point in your life?

John Byrne osa

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

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THE DEEP END: The Baptism of the Lord

Today’s Gospel tells us that the people were ‘filled with expectation’. It sounds like a very exciting time as they wonder who this prophet John could be. John must have been a very dynamic and inspiring preacher as the people speculated if he were the one they had been waiting for. He uses all of this attention for one purpose: to point people to Jesus. There are many people in our own lives who have pointed us towards Jesus, perhaps by an invitation to an event or a retreat or by sharing a reflection with us at just the right time. In them, we see something special and interesting that makes us wonder in our hearts and seek a little further. They are the John the Baptists in our lives, pointing us towards the Lord like signposts along the way.

     John humbly responds to the people by saying: ‘One who is more powerful than I is coming.’ He emphasises that it is He who will really set their hearts on fire. While the words concerning ‘winnowing forks’ seem harsh, we might interpret them as speaking of God’s power to transform our lives through Jesus. When Jesus enters into the narrative, Luke emphasises that He is at prayer, and it is then that this powerful experience of God occurs. A nice meditation for today is to repeat the last sentence of today’s Gospel, imagining God speaking these words to you: ‘You are my Daughter/Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

Jane Mellett

Email mellettj@gmail.com

 

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Sunday, 20 January 2018

 

SEEING YOUR LIFE
THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

John 2:1-11

1.  The story is a story of abundance, the abundance of the blessings God gives us. How have you been aware of the abundance of God’s blessings? Let the memories lead you to prayer of thanks and praise for the times in your life when that joy and fulfilment have been very real to you.

2.  John uses a number of images (marriage, wine, feast, etc.) to symbolise the abundance of God’s love. Do you have a favourite image, or metaphor, that reminds you of the abundance of God’s love and blessings?

3.  The hour of Jesus had not yet come when the glory of God would be fully revealed. Even so, something of the glory of God was revealed in the sign that took place. For us, also, the revelation of the full glory of God lies in the future, but we do get glimpses along the way. Recall some of the signs that have revealed to you something of the glory of God, e.g., nature, art, friendship, etc.

4.  Mary/Jesus. It is interesting to note that despite the apparent rebuff, Mary is the first person in the narrative to show (at the level of the action of the story) that the correct response to the presence of Jesus is to trust in him. When have you trusted in the word of Jesus like that? What relationships do you have that you can trust like that? Do you recall times when your trust was rewarded even when you had initially been disappointed?

John Byrne osa

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

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THE DEEP END: ‘The First of His Signs’

This is a familiar story, rich in symbolism. It is the first ‘sign’ recorded in John’s Gospel. These ‘signs’ in John’s Gospel are miracle stories but John prefers to use the term ‘sign,’ as they point to something far more than just the miracle itself. John used these signs to encourage belief in his readers but they are also an invitation for us to understand something more of how God operates in our lives.

     Jesus transforms the water which would be used for the Jewish purification rite. He takes something used to give life to people, and transforms it into something which brings joy, celebration and new life to the party. There are many messages we can take from this account: the ability of God to transform our lives, to transform that which is dead and stale. The abundance of wine (approx. 700 litres!) is a significant reminder of the abundance of God’s love for us, beyond our comprehension.

     We could also focus on the role of Mary in this Gospel – she is the one who notices, she is attentive to the needs of those around her and brings this concern to Jesus. We might pray today that we too may be able to notice, to see, to intervene when we are faced with situations that need attention. This may be a situation of injustice or it may be a situation where something in our own lives or in our church has become dead and stale and is in desperate need of new wine.

Jane Mellett

Email mellettj@gmail.com

 

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Sunday, 27 January 2018

 

SEEING YOUR LIFE
THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21

1.  The scene in the synagogue marks the launch of the public ministry of Jesus in Luke. Read the quotation from Isaiah slowly. Reflect on each line carefully. Which of these images captures something of what Jesus and his message has meant for you?

2.  Jesus was filled with the Spirit and sent. He came bursting with a message to communicate. When have you had the experience of being enthused by something in that way? Who have been the people you met who had that kind of enthusiasm?

3.  His message was addressed to those who were poor, oppressed, blind, or captives. Who are these today? In what ways have you been, or are you, among these? How has the message of Jesus been good news for you, freed you, given you new sight, or revealed God’s favour to you

4.  The message Jesus had was one of liberation and he told his listeners that it was being fulfilled even as they listened. It is being fulfilled even as we hear it now. If this does not resonate with you right now, when has the gospel given you an experience of liberation?

John Byrne osa

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

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THE DEEP END: ‘So that you may know the truth’

There is something about the opening sentences of Luke’s Gospel that grabs one’s attention. He is the only Gospel writer to give us information about his purpose and sources. He writes for Theophilus, whose name in Greek suggests ‘lover of God’. Theophilus may have been a patron of Luke’s, but we can also take this name to mean that Luke writes for all lovers of God, i.e. all of us.

     Jesus, ‘as was his custom,’ attends the service at his local synagogue. It is clear that Jesus was a faithful Jew even though he is about to have some serious run-ins with the Jewish religious leaders. This moment is one of the most powerful passages in the New Testament, as Jesus sets out his manifesto for ministry. Reading from Isaiah, Jesus tells the crowd that this passage is being fulfilled as they hear it, his ministry would be one focused on freeing people from various types of oppression. This passage is as relevant in our world today as it was for Jesus’ time: people still await liberation, the oppressed are not free. This is not a passage read in the past: it is very much alive, a vision for all to have as Christians and to work out of. Just as the scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus, they are also fulfilled in each of our lives.

 

‘Although they heard you, Lord, they failed to listen. They heard only what they wanted to hear. The truth hurt them, you made them feel uncomfortable, and they rejected you … Show us how we may seek your Kingdom and help to bring peace to a troubled world.’

Tony Singleton

Jane Mellett

Email mellettj@gmail.com

 

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