Newsletter resources – March 2017

You are welcome to use these resources in any parish newsletter distributed free of charge. 

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

Click here to download and print our March Newsletter Resources.

For more resources from our March issue, click here. 

 

Sunday 5 March – First Sunday of Lent

Seeing your life through the lens of the Gospel

Matthew 4:1-11

  1. In today’s Gospel Jesus is enticed to gratify his own needs, or to perform some spectacular act in public. He rejects the temptation because he chooses commitment to his mission and to dependence on his Father over any immediate gratification. We can all be tempted to go for some immediate satisfaction, but is that where happiness lies? Have you found that sometimes there is more contentment in saying ‘no’ for the sake of some long-term goal? What are the goals, aims, values that inspire you in this way?
  1. One way of looking at this Gospel is to say that Jesus went into the desert to face his demons. We all have demons we need to face – compulsions, fears, prejudices, anger, and urges that lurk within. It is in facing our demons that we find a way to live a fuller life. Can you recall a time when you grew through facing a ‘demon’ in this way?

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

*****

 

MUSINGS

‘One does not live on bread alone …’

Our real hungers are fed by the meaning and the love of the word of God. One form of prayer is to allow ourselves to be addressed in the heart by the word of God. Let a phrase or word from this passage of Scripture echo in your mind today. That Jesus was tempted meant that he truly desired what the devil offered him. Of course he was hungry. His body desired what it needed. In what ways might the devil use my legitimate, real desires to lead me astray? Open my eyes, Lord, so that I can recognise temptation when it comes.

Sacred Space 2017 –Messenger Publications

*****

 

Deep Ends – He is the bread

Lent is a time of renewal and new beginnings. It is a time for us to enter into the suffering and death of Jesus, before celebrating the joy and hope of Easter. It is a time to reflect in a special way on God’s word. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that God’s words are nourishing – man does not live on bread alone.

Our focus should not only be on earthly things. Lent reminds us that there is more to life than the physical world. We are all guilty of getting caught up in the practicalities of life; it is only natural to work and rush and plan and worry. Lent offers us an opportunity to reflect on what is really important. The sacrifices we make or the extra effort we put in to become better people this Lent are all part of that spiritual journey.

‘We have everything in Christ … He is everything for us.

If you wish to heal a wound, He is the doctor.

If you burn with fever, He is the rising spring of refreshing water.

If you have need of support, He is your strength.

If you long for heaven, He is the way.

If you seek nourishment, He is the bread.’

St Ambrose

 

12 March 2017 – Second Sunday of Lent

Seeing your life through the lens of the Gospel

Matthew 17:1-9

  1. The transfiguration experience was one that, for Jesus, clarified his relationship with his Father and strengthened him for the future. It was also a moment of deep revelation for the disciples. What have been the experiences, the moments of insight, which for you have clarified your sense of who you are, and what is your relationship with God?
  2. On the mountain the disciples saw Jesus in a new way. His appearance changed. Sometimes in friendship there are moments of sharing in which we get to know a friend in a new and deeper way. Have you had that experience in human friendship, or in your relationship with Jesus and God. recall when that happened, and what it was like for you.
  3. The clear vision of Jesus with Moses and Elijah was followed by a frightening experience of being in a cloud and it was in the midst of the cloud that the disciples were instructed ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him’. Have you had the experience of learning the truth about life and about your relationship with God from moments of confusion as well as from times of special joy?
  4. After their special experience the disciples came down the mountain again. We cannot live each day at the level of special spiritual experiences, but the memory of them can strengthen us in difficult times. What memories encourage you in time of trouble?

John Byrne OSA
Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

*****

 

MUSINGS

‘Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John …’

Lent is indeed how God draws us home as individuals, but it is also a very communal journey. We never journey alone, no matter how lonely we may feel. We are always journeying together. If we can experience our journey in communion with others, it makes it so much clearer that we are on a journey together. When we can share our experiences with a close friend or our worship community, we can enjoy support that allows grace to flourish. Let us pray for one another on this journey, especially for those who need and desire a change of heart on this pilgrimage to Easter joy. Choosing and acting Lent are so important because we are body-persons. We experience things with our senses, relish them with our imaginations and we share in God’s own creative and loving activity when our hearts and hands work together for and with others.

Andy Alexander SJ & Maureen McCann Waldron, Praying Lent.
Sacred Space 2017 –Messenger Publications

*****

 

The Deep End – A light in the darkness

‘Stand up. Do not be afraid.’

The disciples will need to remember this advice from Jesus. There are much darker days to come for them, and they will need every bit of courage they can muster. As Jesus moves ever closer to death, they will be scared and will desert Jesus, Peter even denying him. We will make this journey alongside the disciples on Good Friday.

But they will remember the brightness of this day. When Jesus is transfigured before them on the mountain, his face shines ‘like the sun’ and his clothes are ‘as white as the light’.

White is the colour of heavenly garments – it is a sign that it is God who is speaking. It is this light that will carry them onwards, during their time with Jesus and through the dark hours leading up to his death.

The Transfiguration is recalled later in Matthew’s Gospel, after Jesus rises from the dead. When the women go to the tomb, they are greeted by an angel whose appearance is ‘like lightening’ and his clothing ‘white as snow’. The disciples are once again directed to a mountain location, where Jesus appears to them to pass on their mission and assure them of his presence with them always.

So we have two mountain tops, and two reassuring messages from Jesus. ‘Do not be afraid.’ ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

 

17 March 2017 – St Patrick, Bishop, Principal Patron of Ireland

 

The Deep End – Begin again

‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’, a powerful prayer traditionally attributed to our patron saint, Patrick, is bursting with hope and positivity. reciting this prayer every morning would surely propel us up and out of bed, ready to face a new day!

‘I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation …

‘I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon’.

Contemporary Irish poet Brendan Kennelly expresses a similar sentiment in his poem ‘Begin’. The beauty of the world summons the writer from his sleep, imploring that he ‘forever begin’.

‘Begin again to the summoning birds
To the sight of light at the window …’

Our Christian faith, the same faith passed on to us through Patrick, encourages us to greet each day with hope. This is the gift we celebrate today.

In our second reading, St Paul urges us to proclaim the Good News, to be strong and persistent, and to ‘fight the good fight’. Let us be inspired by St Patrick’s ‘mighty strength’ to meet the challenges of each new day.

Tríona Doherty

Athlone, Co Roscommon

Email trionad@gmail.com

 

19 March 2017 – Third Sunday of Lent

Seeing your life through the lens of the Gospel

John 4:5-42

  1. Jesus leads the woman along a wonderful journey towards a deeper, fuller human life. You can enter the story from the perspective of the woman. recognise her resistance to growth, her complacency, her evasions, and her eventual acceptance, partial though it was, of Jesus. When have you, or others, made a similar journey in your relationship with God? With others? With your own self?
  2. The woman is attracted by what Jesus is saying, but from very human motives: the thought of having water in such a way that she did not have to come and draw it from the well. We too are attracted to Jesus by very mixed motives, some of them matters of personal interest – belonging, community, security. What have been the human motives that have attracted you to faith, prayer, religion, church and which have been stepping stones to a deeper personal relationship with Jesus? Perhaps we can also see the same movement in the growth of some of our human relationships.
  3. You can also enter the story with Jesus, the ideal leader, parent, teacher, or spiritual guide. Notice how he meets the woman where she is, needing her assistance; how he is patient with her, but also challenges her to grow to what she is capable of.

John Byrne OSA
Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

*****

 

MUSINGS

‘A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink” …’

Who are your friends? What makes you say that they are your friends? You tell them things about yourself that you would not tell a stranger. You know that they will not tell others the secrets you share with them, that they will not hold against you what you tell them or hold it over your head as a threat. At the deepest level, you trust that they will remain your friends even when they know some of the less savoury aspects of your past life and character. You also trust that they will stick with you through thick and thin, through good times and tough times. And at least some of these characteristics will also be true of the relationship God wants with you. What is the most important characteristic I look for in a friend? Can I also find this characteristic in my friendship with God?

Sacred Space 2017 –Messenger Publications

*****

 

The Deep End – Cracked

‘Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything …
that’s how the light gets in.’
Leonard Cohen

No one is perfect. This might seem like the most obvious statement in the world, but it’s important to remember. We live in a time when people’s thoughts and actions are more widely recorded and open to scrutiny than ever before. A small mistake can cost someone their reputation or livelihood. An opinion expressed, particularly online, can invite a world of insults. It appears to be easier than ever to take the moral high ground, and to dismiss a person entirely based on one thing we know about them.

This is not the way Jesus treated people, and it is not how he sees us. The Samaritan woman Jesus meets is all too aware of what the Jews think of her. She is nervous when approached by Jesus at the well. But he sees beyond the label to the person, the woman with a life story and a context of her own. He engages her in intellectual conversation, listens to her, and wins her over.

Jesus could tell the woman everything about her life, and he knows each one of us just as intimately. He knows our past and our faults, our ‘cracks’. That is why he is able to speak to us, if we resolve to try and listen. It is also an important lesson in how we should treat others.

Tríona Doherty
Athlone, Co Roscommon
Email trionad@gmail.com

 

26 March 2017 – Fourth Sunday of Lent

Seeing your life through the lens of the Gospel

  1. A long story like the one we have today provides many different points of entry for prayer. read the story and stay with what resonates with you. Some possible points of entry are:

a. The blind man was healed. Can you recall occasions when some blindness of yours was taken away and you could see in a new way? What was that experience like for you?

b. The Pharisees claimed to be the ones who could see, who knew where God was to be found, when in fact they were blind. It was the man born blind who showed himself open to see the hand of God at work in what happened. There can be some of each in us. What has helped you to be open to seeing the hand of God at work in your life? Who have been the Jesus people who have led you to this point?

c. There are many characters in the story: Jesus, the blind beggar, the disciples, the neighbours, the blind man’s parents, and the Pharisees. Put yourself in the position of each one and see what you learn from identifying with them.

John Byrne OSA
Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

*****

 

MUSINGS

‘As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth …’

The opening question of the disciples was, ‘Who is to blame?’ This is a common question in the media today; perhaps it is part of my own vocabulary. Jesus reminds his disciples, and us, that sometimes no one is to blame but that difficult situations present an opportunity for us to be drawn into God’s presence.

Lord, there were times I was lost and found, was blind and then could see. Thank you. The man’s blindness is cured, but the blindness of those who won’t believe in Jesus remains. I think of how I grope, stumble, and am unsure of my direction unless I can rely on Jesus, the light of the world.

Sacred Space 2017 –Messenger Publications

*****

 

The Deep End – We are not blind, surely?

What a convoluted Gospel we have today. The healing of the blind man unleashes a chain of chaos and confusion. His neighbours are dumbfounded, the Pharisees are suspicious and at war with one another, and the Jews are cynical, even calling in the man’s parents as witnesses.

The character of Jesus, and of the blind man, are called into question as everyone tries to figure out what has happened. Jesus and the man who has been healed are both accused of being sinners. The interrogators even ridicule the man, asking, ‘Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and through?’

But things are simple for the man who has experienced Jesus’ healing. He knows what he has witnessed, and is ready and willing to attest to it. ‘If this man were not from God,’ he says, ‘he couldn’t do a thing.’ He understands that his encounter with Jesus was extraordinary.

Jesus finally clears up the confusion, turning everything on its head, as is oen his way. It is the man who had been blind who sees who Jesus is: ‘Lord, I believe.’ The Pharisees who think they see things clearly are the ones who are really blind to the truth. ‘We are not blind, surely?’ is the question facing all of us as we advance through Lent. Are we open to the Good News and the healing power of Jesus?

Tríona Doherty
Athlone, Co Roscommon
Email trionad@gmail.com

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