31 May 2014

1st June - Gifts - The Ascension of the Lord (Year A)

On this morning's programme we reflect on the many great gifts that God has blessed us with.  We have our usual Gospel reflection for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and we briefly mention our celestial guides and local notices.  The full programme is available HERE.


We began by reflecting on the uniqueness of the human being as the only visible creature on earth able to know and love God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 356; cf. Gaudium et Spes 12).  Human beings are not just some thing, but some one (cf. CCC 357), persons created out of love by God.   

As Pope Benedict XVI said during the homily of his inaugural Mass of his pontificate: "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".

Sometimes, it can be hard to keep this in mind, but we each have an intrinsic dignity which comes not from what we have achieved or what we own or how we look, but because we are created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:27).  As the psalmist prays to God in Psalm 139: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" (Ps 139:13-14).

God loves us so much that He would not turn His back on us. As soon as we had turned away from God, He put into place His plan to save us and would not refuse us His only Son: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).  Not only does God restore us to His friendship, but He elevates us through Baptism to the status of children of God, where we become 'co-heirs with Christ' (CCC 1256; Rom 8:17).

We reflected on the many God-given gifts that God has given each one of us, the gifts of Baptism, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the charisms that are given for the building up of the Body of Christ.  You can listen to our reflection on gifts HERE.

Gospel - Matthew 28:16-20

"The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.  When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them.  He said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptised them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.'"

On this beautiful solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, we reflect on Jesus' commandment to make disciples of all nations, to baptise and to teach.  In particular, we reflected on two themes: (1) the call to be a disciple of the Lord and (2) how we can preach the Gospel.

The Carmelites have a great reflection on this week's Gospel HERE.  In particular, they distinguish the difference between a disciple and a student:

"To be a disciple is not the same as being a student. A disciple is in relation to the master. A student is in relation to the teacher. The disciple lives with the master 24 hours a day; the student receives lessons from the teacher for a few hours then goes back home. The disciple presupposes a community. The student presupposes being present in a classroom for lessons. The state of discipleship in those days was marked by the expression to follow the master."

We can each ask ourselves this morning, 'Am I a disciple of the Lord? Or do I minimalise my faith to going to Mass on Sunday and saying the odd prayer? Jesus wants to share His whole life with us... will we respond to His call to discipleship?

As baptised Christians, we are all called to evangelise, to spread the Good News, in whatever situation we find ourselves.  Pope Francis explains how each of us can respond to the baptismal call to preach the Gospel in Evangelii Gaudium:

127. Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbours or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.

128. In this preaching, which is always respectful and gentle, the first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs. Only afterwards is it possible to bring up God’s word, perhaps by reading a Bible verse or relating a story, but always keeping in mind the fundamental message: the personal love of God who became man, who gave himself up for us, who is living and who offers us his salvation and his friendship. This message has to be shared humbly as a testimony on the part of one who is always willing to learn, in the awareness that the message is so rich and so deep that it always exceeds our grasp. At times the message can be presented directly, at times by way of a personal witness or gesture, or in a way which the Holy Spirit may suggest in that particular situation. If it seems prudent and if the circumstances are right, this fraternal and missionary encounter could end with a brief prayer related to the concerns which the person may have expressed. In this way they will have an experience of being listened to and understood; they will know that their particular situation has been placed before God, and that God’s word really speaks to their lives.

Reflections on this week's Gospel:

Word on Fire
English Dominicans
Centre for Liturgy
Sunday Reflections

Liturgical odds and ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 3; 7th week of Easter

Saints of the Week

June 2nd - St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, martyrs
June 3rd - St. Kevin
June 4th - St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, martyrs
June 5th - St. Boniface, bishop and martyr
June 6th - St. Jarlath, bishop
June 7th - St. Colman of Dromore, bishop


The Meaning of Religious Freedom
The Iona Institute and the Irish Catholic are co-hosting a talk on 'The Meaning of Religious Freedom' by Bishop Brendan Leahy (Chair: Professor Eamonn Conway) in The Strand Hotel, Limerick at 8.00pm on Tuesday, June 17th.  Admission is free.  If you would like to attend, please email bconroy@ionainstitute.ie or phone 01-6619204.

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