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the kingdom of God is near

Posted on January 21, 2018 at 5:30 AM

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

We are now in The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an important element in the life of the Church, because it is based directly on a command of our Lord Jesus himself that we all should be one, even as he and the Father were One; and it is a tenet of the Christian faith that Christ founded only One Church, as we remind ourselves each time we pray the Creed and affirm that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

Sadly, the unity of the Church is a spiritual rather than a material reality. This of course makes working towards ever greater ecumenical relations between the various traditions in the Church of great importance. The importance of working together and drawing ever closer has always been important. But there is an added dimension to this in the modern world because of the many threats faced by religion in this age – threats that face all traditions and expressions of faith; and threats that we can counter much better if we work together.

 

The Gospel reading we heard just moments ago – the same Gospel that will be read in all the Churches across this land on this Saturday evening and tomorrow on Sunday – suggests, I think, a matter on which we might do well to work together on. In it our Lord tells us that 'the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.' By this he means that heaven, in the person of Jesus, God and man, has come near to us. This ought remind us of several things. The first is that there is both heaven and earth, the material and the immaterial. The second is that there is more than just this life. And the third is that our behaviour in this life has consequences in the next.

 

 

We affirm this indirectly every time we pray or involve ourselves in some act of worship: why would we say words such 'our Father who art in heaven' if we did not more than believe but know in the core of our beings that we did indeed have a Father who dwells in heaven; why would we take part in the Mass or other Divine Services if we did know in our inner-most hearts that there was a God who is worthy of our praise and adoration? And we affirm this directly each time we say the Nicene Creed in which we state that we believe in God the Father who created all things, visible and invisible.

 

The idea that the true reality of existence consists of things seen and unseen would have been an uncontroversial one in most times and places. The vast majority of people in all the cultures of the world from the beginning of time down to the present age have regarded this as the most obvious of truths, something that they know not only by the use of their rational minds but also because it is something that their heart speaks to them. But our age is unusual in that it possesses a small but vocal minority who insist that what is not visible is effectively

some kind of mass delusion. We might regard them as the spiritually blind. And of our charity we must pray for them; for God calls us to love all people. But charity does not demand that just because they reject the spiritual realities, their often made demand that all others must lives as if the immaterial does not exist is one we must accede to.

 

How unreasonable what they ask is may be demonstrated by the following analogy. It is as if a person who was born blind refused to accept the idea that others could see; or, having been born seeing and lost their sight, decided that their memories of being able to see were a dream or mistake and the true reality was the darkness they now inhabited. Those who could see would, naturally, feel sorry for such as these and do all that they could do to help them. But they would regard it as ludicrous if they were to insist that all people should live as if sight were an illusion, never speaking of the things they could see, and wear blindfolds in public, and only remove them occasionally, and then in private and briefly, in order to indulge themselves in their fantasies of sight.

 

But ludicrous though it is, it is exactly this that the spiritually blind ask us to do when they argue that things unseen should be treated as being unreal when it comes to how we live in this world; that, for example, when it comes to educating our children we should agree to a secular model over a denominational one; or when it comes to matters of public debate, we should leave our faith at the door and discuss things solely in secular terms and particularly that we should vote only as if secular arguments were the only ones with any merits.

 

But we can not do that. Just as those who can see cannot reasonably be expected to live as if they were blind, neither can those who are aware of the spiritual realities be expected to lives as if they were not.

 

This is not to try and force religion upon others. It is simply that, just as it would make for a dangerous world indeed if the vast majority who could see tried to live as if they were blind, so too it would make for a dangerous world if those who understand the true reality of things seen and unseen were to allow themselves to be bullied and browbeaten into operating solely on the plain of things that are seen.

 

Indeed, so much of much of what is wrong with the world today has been caused by our reluctance to stand up for what we know to be true. We meekly yield ground when we are accused of trying to force our beliefs on others; and seem not to notice that in doing so they are demanding that we live our lives according to what they believe instead.

 

We owe it to God, ourselves, and also to those who do not believe not to allow this. The only sensible way to live in this world is in accordance with what we know reality to be; and not according to how some falsely regard it to be. This is something that Christians can work on together. This is something that Christians must work on together. And it is my prayer, during this week of prayer for Christian unity, that this is something that Christians will work on together, not just this week but always. Amen.

Castlecomer Union Pew News & Prayer Diary 21 Jan 2018: 3rd Sunday after Epiphany (liturgical colour â?? white/gold)

Posted on January 20, 2018 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Please remember to maintain Holy Silence both before and after the service

Congratulations to Noel Condell & Emelda Ward on recent noteworthy birthdays!

 

+Monday 22

The scribes … said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’And he called them to him ...‘How can Satan cast out Satan?' Mark 3.22,23

Reflection Jesus' words reminds of the reality of the demonic and his power over that realm. And we are also reminded that there are always among us those who feel threatened or challenged by Christ's Gospel and will attempt to portray it as evil.

 

+ Tuesday 23

Looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ Mark 3.34,35

Reflection Christ does not denigrate his mother in any way by these words; for we know from her 'thy will be done,' recorded in Luke, that she is the most obedient of all creatures to God's will. Rather he spoke that we might know the wonders await that those who faithfully follow Him.

 

+Wednesday 24

'Others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word.' Mark 4. 18,19

Reflection The things of this world can be temptations that lure us away from salvation. We need many of them (but not all) in order that we may live; but when they become the reason for our life then we run the risk of forfeiting eternal life for the sake of such as does not last.

 

+Thursday 25 (The Conversion of St Paul)

Jesus answered: Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or rather or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred-fold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19. 29

Reflection: St Paul gave up much to follow the Gospel life; & for all he suffered, he never regretted it. The Christian life does involve sacrifice; but what we are repaid for that sacrifice is beyond price.

 

+Friday 26 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'The kingdom of God, … is like a mustard seed ... the smallest of all the seeds ... yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs.' Mark 4. 30-32

Reflection Christ knew that the Church he founded would grow from its small beginnings to encompass the whole world. This wondrous growth also takes place in each individual; God will make great the seed of faith in the humble soul that meekly welcomes him in.

 

+Saturday 27 (Rector's day off)

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’  Mark 4.39,40

Reflection We face many dangers and worries in this life. We must not let them overwhelm us. Instead, we must bring them to Christ. If we have faith in him, there is nothing we need fear.

 

+Sun 28 January, 3rd after Epiphany – Liturgical colour White/Gold

4th Sunday of month; services according to usual pattern (see below)

 

Notes & Advance notices

Thur (25 Jan): The Conversion of St Paul – HC 11 am The Vestry, St Mary's

+29 Jan BOM meeting, WNS 7 pm

+13 Feb MU Annual Tea Party & Exchange of Prayer Partner Gift, Wandesforde Hall at 8pm

+14 Feb Ash Wednesday penitential service at noon in the Colliery Church and at 8 pm in Bilboa.

+Frugal Lunch in the Rectory, 1-2pm, Wednesdays in Lent (excluding Ash Wed & Holy Week); donations to Parish Poor Fund and local VdeP+Lenten Midweek Services, 8pm: Feb 21st Mothel; 29th Bilboa; April 7th St Mary's; 15th The Colliery; 21st Bilboa. These all are at 8pm and all are Wednesdays except on March 15th which is a Thursday.

+Diocesan magazine: if you get the diocesan magazine, whether through the parish or by post, and you have yet to pay your subscription please do so as soon as possible. Thank you.

+9 Feb 'Comer dinner dance, the Springhill Court Hotel. Pre-dinner punch reception 7.30, dinner 8.30 sharp. Music Liam Mannering and Maria Dance band. Sub €25

+14 Mar Bilboa Cookery Demonstration with Edward Hayden 8pm Lord Bagenal €15

+15 April Parish Confirmation date: preparation classes at 6.45pm the Vestry, St Mary's, Feb 21 & 29, Mar 7, 15, 21. Punctuality important!

 

Rector: Rev Patrick Burke: 056 4441677 [email protected]

Sunday Services:

The Colliery 9.15am / St Mary's 10.30 am;

Mothel noon 1st and 3rd Sun; 2nd Sun Evening Prayer 7pm;

Bilboa noon 2nd & 4th Sunday, & 10.30am on 3rd Sundays.;

5th Sundays 11am, as announced

 

Please use recorded giving (envelope, etc)! The parish gets 45c extra for every euro you give, if you pay tax, from Revenue (if you give €250 pa or more) if it is recorded!

Nathanael: one in whom there is no guile

Posted on January 14, 2018 at 5:30 AM

 

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Our Gospel reading today introduces us to the character of Nathanael. His name occurs only in the Gospel according to St John, and then only twice; here, and again in the final chapter, so what is there to be said concerning this early disciple of our Lord? Quite a lot as it happens. To begin with, it is a long-standing tradition of the Church that he be identified as someone who is far better known to us in the Gospels – the Apostle St Bartholomew.

 

Now there are some that consider this mere wishful thinking, a desire to give someone like Nathanael who plays such an important part in the early recognition of our Lord for who he really is a more prominent position in the Gospel narratives. However, there are in fact some good reasons for thinking that the tradition may in fact be correct.

 

The first is that the lists of the Apostles that we have in Scripture, such as the Gospel according to St Luke, the name Bartholomew is paired with that of Philip. Now it was common in these lists to pair together apostles who were associated with each other in some way – for example the brothers Peter and Andrew, and James and John. We can see from our passage from St John's gospel today that Philip held Nathanael in high regard – so much so that as soon as he suspected he had found the one who might be the promised messiah he went straight-away and found him. There much surely have been some close association between them; making it natural that if Nathanael was indeed to be numbered among the disciples then his name would be joined with that of Philip.

 

But what of the difficulty of the fact that this would mean that he is called by one name by John and another by the other evangelists? This is not so great a problem as it might appear if we take into account that Bartholomew is what is called a patronymic – a kind of a surname that identifies who one's father is. Bartholomew means 'son of Tolomeus', and it is quite certain he  would have had a proper first name. And it would, of course, have been well known to the evangelist St John as he was one of the Apostles himself. Also, the fact that when he appears in the last chapter of St John with the small group who see our Lord by the Sea of Galilee, all others of those present whose names we are given are apostles, making it likely that Nathanael also is to be considered as being among their number.

 

So much for who he might have been. But what can we say of his character? Our first thought might be to think that he was a man to come to hasty conclusions, someone who judges a book by its cover. He does, after all, when told where this person who might be the messiah is from, immediately respond by asking 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' But there is more to his response than might be gleaned at first reading. Nowhere in Scripture was there any indication that the messiah was to come that place. Indeed, we know ourselves that it was prophesied he would come from Bethlehem. Now we know that in fact that this was the place of our Lord's birth. But Nathanael had no indication of that. So it was not unreasonable that he might be suspicious of the idea of a messiah whose origins were elsewhere.

 

Indeed, his doubts may be said to do him credit, as they show he knows his scriptures well. And perhaps very well indeed. For we must also consider the implications of where it was that our Lord said that he was before Philip called him – under the fig tree. There is more significance to that location than may be immediately evident; for in rabbinic tradition a fig tree was considered to be a fitting place for a teacher to sit with his students and discuss the scriptures. This makes it likely that Nathanael was himself a rabbi, a man well versed in the scriptures – in other words, a man of great holiness, intelligence, and learning.

 

We also have a direct indication of what kind of a man he is from the lips of our Lord himself, who says he is 'a true Israelite, in whom is no guile.' High praise indeed; but Nathanael does not seem overly impressed when he first hears it. He naturally wonders what puts this man who has never laid eyes on him in a position to say such deeply penetrating things about his character. But he is very impressed indeed at what our Lord has to say next in answer 'I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.' He knows that this man was not there when his friend came and asked him to come and see the one who might be the messiah; and he understands at once that this knowledge could only be available to him by supernatural means. And he knows immediately the implications of this – that this man must be the Son of God and the King of Israel. In other words, he is indeed the promised Messiah.

 

This understanding changes his life. He at once becomes a follower of Jesus. And we know that he stays with him through all his ministry; because, as I have already mentioned, he was among those who met with him after his Resurrection on the shores of Galilee. And, presuming that he was indeed one of the Apostles, then he was faithful to the one he knew to be the Son of God unto death, suffering like all of the Apostles, save St John, a martyr's death.

 

There are implications, of course, for all of us in the life of St Nathanael, just as there are in the lives of all the great saints. But as I finish, let us just consider this. Here we have a man of intelligence and learning and holiness, a man whom Christ himself tells us in whom there is no guile. Such a man will not only not deceive others, he will not deceive himself. Once he knows the truth he will stick to it, whatever the cost, all his days. Such is the man Nathanael was on this earth and continues to be in heaven; and such a person we all must try to be and I pray all here will indeed try to be such as he and at the last join with St Nathanael and angels and saints in heaven. Amen.


Castlecomer Union Pew News & Prayer Diary 14 Jan 2018: 2nd Sunday after Epiphany (liturgical colour ??? white/gold)

Posted on January 13, 2018 at 1:00 AM

Please remember to maintain Holy Silence both before and after the service to allow others to pray quietly before the Lord

 

+Monday 15

Jesus said: 'The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.' Mark 2.20

Reflection

This is Jesus' first reference his passion. So close to Christmas, it reminds us of why the Word was made flesh … and that the wood of the Cross is foreshadowed by that of the manger.

 

+ Tuesday 16

Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.' Mark 2. 27

Reflection

The Lord's day was given to us as a time to rest and give glory to God. Our basic human needs are not to be neglected on that day; but neither should they be used as an excuse to neglect fulfilling our duties to the one who made us.

 

+Wednesday 17

Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?' Mark 3.4

Reflection

Jesus reminds us that compassion is not suspended on the basis of it being the Lord's day. Such legalisms are not part of Christ's way. But we must remember that doing good is also to be found in keeping the Lord's day holy by worshipping him.

 

+Thursday 18

Hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. Mark 3.8

Reflection

During his public ministry people flocked to Jesus. We too must seek him out: through prayer; the reading of Sacred Scripture; in our worship; & in the Sacraments.

 

+Friday 19 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And he appointed 12, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message,and to have authority to cast out demons. Mark 3. 14

Reflection

The authority Jesus gave the apostles they passed on to their successors, as we see by the appointment of Matthias to replace Judas in Acts. This is why we can believe, as it says in the Creeds, that the Church is 'Apostolic;' and trust in the truth she proclaims on behalf of the one who established her, our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

+Saturday 20 (Rector's day off)

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. Mark 3.19,20

Reflection

We often think of the sacrifices that Christ made at the end of his life; but how often do we think of those he made during his ministry? He endured much hardship from travelling in all weathers, being away from his home, as well as hunger and thirst. And all for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel. We also must be ready to give of ourselves for the sake of sharing his message.

 

+Sun 21 January, 3rd after Epiphany – Liturgical colour White/Gold

3rd Sunday of month; services according to usual pattern (see below)

 

Coming up this week

+17 Jan A meeting of the Select Vestry will take place Wednesday at 8pm in the Wandesforde Hall.

+13 Feb MU Annual Tea Party & Exchange of Prayer Partner Gift, Wandesforde Hall at 8pm

+19 Jan Cloydagh Dinner Dance, the Lord Bagenal, 8pm (tickets €25)

Notes & Advance notices

+Diocesan magazine: if you get the diocesan magazine, whether through the parish or by post, and you have yet to pay your subscription please do so as soon as possible. Thank you.

+9 Feb 'Comer dinner dance, the Springhill Court Hotel. Pre-dinner punch reception 7.30, dinner 8.30 sharp. Music Liam Mannering and Maria Dance band. Sub €25

+14 Mar Bilboa Cookery Demonstration with Edward Hayden 8pm Lord Bagenal €15

+Parish Confirmation date: 15 April 2018. Please give names to the rector

 

Rector: Rev Patrick Burke: 056 4441677 [email protected]

Sunday Services:

The Colliery 9.15am / St Mary's 10.30 am;

Mothel noon 1st and 3rd Sun; 2nd Sun Evening Prayer 7pm;

Bilboa noon 2nd & 4th Sunday, & 10.30am on 3rd Sundays.;

5th Sundays 11am, as announced

Please use recorded giving (envelope, etc)! The parish gets 45c extra for every euro you give, if you pay tax, from Revenue (if you give €250 pa or more) if it is recorded!

the pondering of Mary

Posted on December 31, 2017 at 5:00 AM

May my words be in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Amen.

 

In our Gospel reading today we here of the visit of the shepherds to the Holy Family in Bethlehem. And an interesting detail is slipped into the account - the reaction of the Blessed Virgin Mary to their reports as to what the angels had told them concerning her new-born Son. And that is that she 'treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.'

 

These words should resonate with us in relation to other occasion related to us concerning the conception, birth, and childhood of our Lord as told to us by St Luke. The first concerns the annunciation to the Blessed Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel. He greets her, saying 'ave, plena gratia' or 'hail, one full of grace.' And she is troubled by his words and considers them in her mind. Next comes the visit of the shepherds. After that, there is the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, where Mary and Joseph together marvel at the words spoken by St Simeon when the old man takes the child in his arms and speaks the words we know today as the Nunc Dimittis – where the holy man declares that he may now depart in peace because he has seen the Salvation of the Lord, a light for revelation to the gentiles and the glory of his people Israel.

 

Finally, there is the Finding in the Temple, when the boy Jesus, having gone up to Jerusalem with his parents for the Passover, remains behind when they begin the journey home with their travelling companions, causing them to return to the city to search for him. The Blessed Virgin, as any mother would, asks him why he has caused them such anxiety. And he gives a reply that, from the lips of any other boy might have seemed somewhat out of order, but coming from the Son of God is instead indicates his understanding of who he is and what he was born into this world for: 'How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?' And the evangelist tells us that his mother kept all these words in her heart.

 

There are two points I would like to make about these passages. The first is that they record more than just factual detail – they report the internal reaction of the Blessed Virgin to external events. We know how she thought, how she felt about the incidents that St Luke is giving us his account of. This is strongly suggestive of something that has long been thought – which is that the Blessed Virgin Mary herself was the source of the information we have about the details we have of the early life of our Lord.

This in many ways makes abundant good sense. We know from the New Testament that the mother of our Lord was a close companion of the Apostles. And tradition has always told us that she lived for many years after the Ascension. So why would not his disciples, particularly the evangelists have gone to her, looking for the information they needed to fill in some of the gaps they would have had concerning our Lord's life that they did not know from their own direct experience? Indeed, St Luke tells us at the very beginning of his Gospel that he has undertaken to set forth a narrative of the things that had taken place and that he is basing his account on the testimony of those who were from the beginning eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. And there was none better placed to be an eyewitness to what had taken place from the beginning than the mother of our Lord herself.

This is very important as it assures us that the gospels passages concerning the birth of our Lord are very trustworthy indeed. Sceptics, of course, like to cast aspersions; but it should be noted that as time goes on that careful examination of the documentary and archaeological record again and again has bolstered the gospel account of events. Sceptics may like to throw around phrases such as 'blind faith'; but open-minded scholarship shows that they are the ones placing blind faith in their sceptical ideology.

And the other point concerning these passages I would like to raises is the what they have to tell us about the mother of our Lord. We can get so caught up in thinking of her in her role as mother, especially at this time of year, that we can forget that she was also a great saint, a woman of supreme holiness. That is what we mean when we refer to her in the Christmas collect as a 'pure virgin' – the purity that comes from being perfectly aligned with God's will.

And the lives of greats saints are not simply set before us as some form of a historical record or to be wondered at by lesser mortals such as ourselves but to be emulated. They are given to as an example of holy living which we must strive to copy. And what example is set before in these passages I have mentioned? The Blessed Virgin, encountering the great things that God is doing, is troubled and perplexed. But in the face of these challenging events what does she do? Does she simply shrug her shoulders and say that these are things too great for me to try and comprehend and do her best to ignore and forget about them? She does not. She treasures them in her heart. She considers them in her mind and ponders them in her heart. And, we may be sure, she tells others of the wondrous things that God has done.

And this is what I pray all here will do. That, following the example of the Mother of God that they would be challenged by the Gospel, that they would treasure it in their hearts and ponder it daily; and that they would proclaim the good news it contains to all the world. Amen.

 

 

 

Amen.

Castlecomer Union Pew News & Prayer Diary 31 Dec 2017: 1st Sunday of Christmas (liturgical colour â?? white/gold)

Posted on December 30, 2017 at 1:35 AM

Please remember to maintain Holy Silence both before and after the service to allow others to pray quietly before the Lord

 

 

Monday 1 Jan – New Year's day Day (The Naming & Circumcision of our Lord)

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2.21

Reflection

Again we see the obedience of the Holy Family to God's law, for as the Son of God he had no need for the mark of the covenant to be placed upon his flesh; yet as the Son of Mary he did so, so that all righteousness might be fulfilled. Remember the obedience of Christ when next you think yourself above what the Church that Christ established asks of you.

 

+ Tuesday 2

The Word became flesh and lived among us. John 1. 14

Reflection This is the central mystery of our faith. From it all else flows. God himself became man for our sakes. If you truly know this in your heart, then obedience to his will in every aspect of your life is the only response you can make.

 

+Wednesday 3

When they had finished everything required of the Law of the Lord they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Luke 2. 39

Reflection Mary and Joseph were obedient to God in every aspect of their life, including the observances required by God of people of faith. So too must we be.

 

+Thursday 4

'I am the voice of one crying aloud in the wilderness “make straight the way of the Lord.”' John 1. 23

Reflection

The words of the prophet concerning John the Baptist apply also to all who follow Christ. We all dwell in the wilderness of this world; and we are all called to proclaim him so that all may find the true path to him.

 

+Friday 5 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

John said: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.' John 1. 29

Reflection

Christ was made flesh, suffered, and died to save you from your sins. Knowing that, you must now play your part in bringing that Good News to all people, so that they also may behold the Lamb of God.

 

+Saturday 6

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them 'What are you looking for?' John 1. 37

Reflection

What are you seeking as you follow Christ? Think what the disciples who followed him that day found: a hard road, the challenge to spread the Gospel to all the world, and a martyr's death. God calls you to such a life also – and in return offers life everlasting.

 

+Sun 7 January, 1st of Christmas – Liturgical colour White/Gold

Epiphany Carol Service, Mothel, 4pm. Please note that the bishop will be in attendance and will act as organist at this service. Many thanks to Mary Bradley for her suggesting that he do so. The only other service in the Union that Sunday is that of Holy Communion at 10.30 am in St Mary's (at which the bishop will preside)

 

Coming up this week

+1 Jan The Naming and Circumcision of Jesus 11 am HC St Mary's (followed by the Wellie Race in Castlecomer)

+6 January: Rectory Christmas Party 7-9pm – the rectory family's way of saying 'thank you' to all on the Select Vestry and others in ministry in the parish.

 

Notes & Advance notices

+Diocesan magazine: as it is close to the end of the year, the time to re-new your subscription is now! And if you don't have one already perhaps you would consider getting one? I highly recommend this publication … although, since I am the editor, perhaps that is only to be expected!

+9 Jan MU ' Dementia awareness' 8 pm the Wandesforde Hall

17 January A meeting of the Select Vestry will take place Wednesday at 8pm in the Wandesforde Hall.

+19 Jan Cloydagh Dinner Dance, the Lord Bagenal, 8pm (tickets €25)

+Parish Confirmation date: 15 April 2018. Please give names to the rector

 

Rector: Rev Patrick Burke: 056 4441677 [email protected]

Sunday Services:

The Colliery 9.15am / St Mary's 10.30 am;

Mothel noon 1st and 3rd Sun; 2nd Sun Evening Prayer 7pm;

Bilboa noon 2nd & 4th Sunday, & 10.30am on 3rd Sundays.;

5th Sundays 11am, in rotation

 

Please use recorded giving (envelope, etc)! The parish gets 45c extra for every euro you give, if you pay tax, from Revenue (if you give €250 pa or more) if it is recorded!

Christmas 2017 - the Christmas gift

Posted on December 25, 2017 at 5:00 AM

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Amen.

 

And so we have arrived at another Christmas morning! No doubt many of the children here were up early, exited to see what Santa had to bring them … and I hope all were good through the year and received a nice present or two … and not lumps of coal as a reward for bad behaviour … and no doubt later many here, having consumed a delicious Christmas feast will sit around a nice fire, with a hot cup of tea in their hand, or maybe even something stronger and exchange gifts with their families …

 

And a child pointed out something interesting to me the other day about gift giving. People don't really expect children to give gifts in return at Christmas. Oh, they might give a few small presents to immediate family … a little something for mum and dad, and their brothers and sisters … but if an auntie drops by with a bale of pressies for all the family, mom and dad will surely have something nice ready to give her, but auntie won't really expect the childer to have something for her. All grown ups really expect in return for the large selection box full of tasty treats or the new game to load into the x-box or whatever it is that they have brought is seeing the excitement on the faces as they tear open the wrapping paper, the smiles and the happy voices as what is within is revealed, and the enjoyment as the present is taken out and eaten, played with, or perhaps even put on.

Oh, and of course, a big thank you. The saying thank you for what has been received, the heart-felt expression of gratitude is very important. There's nothing quite like seeing a happy face looking up at you saying 'thank you – oh, thank you' and knowing that they really mean it to warm your heart and make you feel that the trouble you took was not only worth it, but as nothing in the face of the joy that present has brought.

 

But why do we give gifts at Christmas? It is something I have often wondered about. There are various theories. One of the most popular is that the idea for doing so comes from Scripture, from the account St Matthew gives us of an event that took place not long after the birth of our Lord. In his gospel, the evangelist tells us of the wise men who came from the East, believing that a new King has been born to the Jews, a great king who will rule over all the earth in fulfilment of ancient prophecies that were widely known through all of the Ancient World, a prophecy they believed had finally come true because they had seen his star in the East, and they wanted to be the first to pay him homage.

They went first to Jerusalem, to the court of King Herod – for where else would one expect to find the new born king of the Jews to be except in the palace of the king? But as we all know he wasn't there. In fact their visit and the reason for it troubled the people of Jerusalem greatly – and no one more than the wicked king Herod who thought this new king might be a threat to his own power. But the chief priests and the scribes told these wise men that the expected king, whom the Jews referred to as the Messiah or the Christ, because he was the anointed one of God, was to be born in Bethlehem.

 

And so they went to Bethlehem. And the star they had seen in the East went before them and guided them to the place. And, as I said before, it was some little time after the Birth of our Lord, for the Holy Family were no longer in the stable where he had been born, but they were now in a house. And the wise men went into this house the star rested over and the paid homage to the Christ-child, the one they knew to be the new born king.

 

And, as we know, they did more than worship him. They gave him gifts – gifts worthy of a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, because gold, of course has always been highly prized in all times and in all places and aromatic spices like frankincense and myrrh were probably worth more than their weight in gold in the Ancient World. And so the thinking goes that because the wise men gave gifts to the Christ-child that first Christmas, the custom arose of all Christians giving gifts to each other at this time … especially to children!

 

But, of course, it might be for another reason. For a far greater gift was given at that time that gold and precious spices; and that gift was not given to the Christ-child – that gift was the Christ-child and he was given to the whole world, a gift to all the people alive then and to all the people who would be born afterwards, generation after generation until the end of time itself – literally the gift that goes on giving! And this gift was a gift beyond all price – it was God himself entering into the world so that all men and women could be saved and have eternal life – a gift so precious that if it were lost all the world and all it contains would not be enough to compensate any man or woman for so great a loss.

 

It is a gift that God gives to us. And he asks nothing in return. Indeed, what gift could we give to the one who created the universe and all that is in it? No, like a loving Father he expects nothing in return for his gift; nothing but our excitement at receiving it, our happy voices raised in praise of so great a gift, our joyful faces looking up to him in heaven as we embrace the wonder that has been given to us. That and, of course, our thanks; the thanks that tells him that it was worth it to send his Son into world for us; a thanks we have gathered here today to give him; and a thanks that I pray all here will give him always. Amen.

Sermon for the first Eucharist of Christmas 2017: the joy of the angels

Posted on December 24, 2017 at 2:00 PM

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Tonight is the night that we, along with the angels, rejoice in the birth of the Christ-child. Indeed, the scene that St Luke describes of the angels breaking forth from heaven to join with the one sent to the shepherds and sing praises to God at the great event is surely one of the most beautiful in Scripture – that of the night sky filled with a multitude of the heavenly host.

 

Their presence reminds us that the events of this night extend beyond the human realm and that they are part of great cosmic battle against the forces of evil. A battle, we must remember, in which the angels have played a part from the very beginning. Before the beginning of time, God first created the angels, being who were, like him, pure spirit. But war broke out in heaven when God revealed to them his plan to create man – matter and spirit combined. Some found this idea offensive and led by Satan they rose up in rebellion against their creator.

 

They could not win, of course; and the heavenly host, led by the Archangel Michael, defeated them and they were driven from heaven and cast down into hell where they remain now as demons. But their great loss has given them an implacable hatred not only against God but against what they view as the cause of their fall – man.

 

And so in the garden where our first parents dwelt Satan approached Eve, our first mother, in the form of a serpent and tempted her to commit the same evil that he himself was guilty of – disobedience against the creator. And alas for all mankind she gave in to that temptation; and having yielded brought that same temptation to her husband as well. And so sin entered into the human realm and the damage it has caused continues down to that very day.

 

We can well imagine the sorrow that day caused among the angels in heaven. No doubt the metaphorical hearts of these wholly good and pure spirits were broken to see this terrible evil being brought into the world that God had not only created but called good; and particularly that the evil of what we now call original sin had been visited upon mankind, the beings that God, when he created them, had declared very good.

 

And their sorrows have surely been added to again and again down through the millennia. God, as we know, appoints a guardian angel to each of us at our birth; our very own spiritual being to watch over us – every man, woman, boy, and girl – all the days of our lives. How it must wound such utterly pure spirits, devoted as they are to doing the will of God, at having to witness all the sin and evil there is in the world; to see, despite their best efforts to protect and guide, to see the human soul they have been set by the Almighty to watch over fall again and again into disobedience against the one who created them, who created us.

 

And, of course, being good and pure they are full of love. Love first and foremost for God; but also full of love for all that he has made, the world and all it contains, most especially for all of us. And naturally, just as we are greatly troubled when those whom we love take great risks – risks whose consequences may well lead to death and destruction – so too are the angels troubled when they see the terrible risks undertaken by men and women – risks that may one day end with them being denied joining with them in the joys of heaven, the place that men and women were created to be, just like the angels.

 

But even as the sorrow was great, their joy must have been greater the night the Christ-child was born. They would, of course, have rejoiced to see the will of the Father being carried out. For that is simply the nature of those who are love God and obedient to his will are. But they would have rejoiced also because of the great love they have for us. Our disobedience had up until that point closed the gate of heaven to humanity. Because God is infinitely good that makes every sin, every action that is not in accordance with his will, infinitely offensive to him. And there was no way we could make amends for our wrong doing, no way to redeem ourselves for all we had done wrong; no way of achieving salvation, no way of gaining entrance to heaven.

No way until Christ came into the world to pay the price for our sins himself. And his saving work began with his incarnation, when the Holy Spirit over-shadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary and the one who was both God and man was conceived within her; and that saving work was continued with his birth, in the humblest of circumstances … in a stable, with no witness but her husband Joseph, and with no crib but the very manager that the ox and the ass would feed from, with the hay they would feed upon for his bedding.

 

How could they not burst forth out of heaven to sing their joy on such an occasion? Angels are the messengers of God; and God's word made flesh had come into the world to offer salvation to all those living and who would ever live! A joyful night for the angels; and a cause of joy to man ever since … which is why we join with them to sing God's praises this night … and will, I pray, cause you to give thanks to God not just now but always. Amen.

 

 

Sermon for the fourth Sunday in Advent - the Blessed Virgin Mary

Posted on December 24, 2017 at 6:00 AM

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent. But given that it is also Christmas Eve I am sure most will appreciate if I try to keep things brief today. So my few words will be more of a reflection than a homily.

 

This Sunday in Advent, the final one, traditionally has the Blessed Virgin Mary as its focus; hence our Gospel reading from Luke describing the scene generally referred to as the Annunciation. It is natural to think of the Mother of our Lord at this time; for she is a very important part of the story of his first coming. And where better to do so than in this church which bears her name ? A church built on a site that has has borne her name as a place of Christian worship for most certainly the best part of a thousand years … and most probably for a great deal longer.

 

The importance of the role the Blessed Virgin played in that first coming can not be over-stressed. I am sure all here have heard it said on many occasions how important her freely given 'Fiat', as it is in the Latin, or 'thy will be done' in older translations, is. Mary is, as it is made clear in Scripture, to be seen as a second Eve; and just as the first Eve by her own free-will action sinned and brought about the Fall that has caused so much anguish to humanity ever since, so too the second Eve of necessity had to be able to consent of her own free-will to play her role in God's plan for the redemption and salvation of all mankind.

 

And as I was preparing these few words, it occurred to me to wonder if whether or not free-will and our Lady's role as the second Eve did not also play a part in one of the areas of theological reflection that has surrounded the Blessed Virgin down through the ages. I am speaking here of the teaching concerning the Immaculate Conception, a very early tradition of the Church that puts forward the idea that she was from the very first moment of her existence protected from the stain of original sin.

This teaching is a doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is not commonly held in the Orthodoxy, based on their different understanding of the effect of original sin from that of the Western Church. Neither is it a doctrine of Anglicanism, in the sense of being a teaching one is bound to hold, such as the doctrine of the Trinity or the doctrine that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. However, it a teaching one may piously hold to if one is convinced of the truth of it. I am, for my own part, I am sure no one will be surprised to learn, persuaded by the logic of the idea that when God chose to be born of a woman, he would chose to do so only in circumstances where the human being who was to be his mother would be free of the stain of all sin, whether original or actual.

 

Now that argument is essentially Christological in nature in that it concerns the theology of the person of the second person of the blessed Trinity. But a thought did occur to me on this topic that relates rather more directly to the Blessed Virgin and her role as the second Eve. And it concerns the status of the first Eve when she made her free-will decision to disobey God. My thought is a rather simple one – and that is that Eve, when she rejected obedience to God's will having been tempted to do so by Satan in the form of a serpent, did so free not only of the stain of any actual sin, never, of course having sinned in any way prior to this occasion; but also free of the stain of original sin as well. This is only logical, as original sin did not exist before her act of disobedience.

Is it not reasonable that the second Eve should be in the same state as the first, free of all sin, when placed in the position of making the free-will decision that would save mankind from the consequences of the free-will decision of the first? Indeed, given the rather difficult circumstances that saying 'yes' to the will of God on this occasion would place the Blessed Virgin in, the idea that she would be given special graces from God in order to allow her to be better able to chose to obey his will is compelling, to my mind at least; and this argument is bolstered by the words spoken to the Blessed Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel on this occasion – often referred to as the Angelic Salutation – Ave, gratia plena, as it is rendered in the Vulgate; or Hail, you who are full of Grace in English.

 

However, I said I would be brief and therefore have perhaps already spoken for too long and so I will leave it there. But as I finish, one final thought: is it really so inconceivable that the God who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that we might be saved would also give extra graces to the young woman he intended to be the second Eve that she might be at least well equipped to obey him as the first? But whether you think it so or not, we will all agree that on this day, of all days, the day before Christmas, that it is right to give thanks to God for the 'yes' spoken by the Blessed Virgin on the occasion of the Annunciation and all that he did for us in the sending of his Son into the world when she freely consented to his will on that day. Amen.

Castlecomer Union Pew News & Prayer Diary 24 Dec 2017: 4th Sunday of Advent (liturgical colour ???¢?????? violet)

Posted on December 23, 2017 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Please remember to maintain Holy Silence both before and after the service to allow others to pray quietly before the Lord

Christmas Eve Services : 7pm Bilboa, HC; Christmas Eve: 9pm The Colliery, HC

 

Monday 25 – Christmas Day

10 am Mothel, HC; 11.30am St Mary's HC

 

+Tuesday 26 (St Stephen's Day)

St Stephen's Day (Red)

Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.  Acts 7. 58

Reflection

It may seem strange that our Church calender goes from celebrating the birth of Christ one day to the death of the first martyr the next. But it reminds us the child in the manger was born for the wood of the cross – and that we are all called to take up our own cross and give witness to Christ.

 

+Wednesday 27 St John the Evangelist (White)

(The disciple whom Jesus loved) was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper … this is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. John 21. 20-24

Reflection: The writers of the Gospels give witness to what they saw and knew. Understanding and accepting this is vital; for on this truth depends the salvation of all mankind

 

+Thursday 28

When they had finished everything required of the Law of the Lord they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Luke 2. 39

Reflection

Mary and Joseph were obedient to God in every aspect of their life, including the observances required by God of people of faith. So too must we be.

 

+Friday 29

The Word became flesh and lived among us. John 1. 14

Reflection

This is the central mystery of our faith. From it all else flows. God himself became man for our sakes. He loved us that much. How do you respond to that love?

 

+Saturday 30 (Rector's Day Off)

'I am the voice of one crying aloud in the wilderness “make straight the way of the Lord.”' John 1. 23

 

Reflection

The words of the prophet concerning John the Baptist apply to all who follow Christ. We all dwell in the wilderness of this world; and we are all called to proclaim him so that others may find the path to him.

 

+Sun 31 Dec, 1st of Christmas – Liturgical colour White/Gold (& New Year's Eve) 10 am HC The Colliery (pls note time)

 

Coming up this week

+Tuesday (St Stephen's) 11 am St Mary's, The Vestry, HC

 

Notes & Advance notices

+Please contact your treasurer to see if you need to 'top up' your giving before 31 Dec. And please consider giving a little extra this year – costs, after all, are only going up!

+Diocesan magazine: as it is close to the end of the year, the time to re-new your subscription is now! And if you don't have one already perhaps you would consider getting one? I highly recommend this publication … although, since I am the editor, perhaps that is only to be expected!

 

+31 Dec Sunday (& New Year's Eve) 10 am HC The Colliery (pls note time)

+1 Jan The Naming and Circumcision of Jesus 11 am HC St Mary's (followed by the Wellie Race in Castlecomer)

+6 January: Rectory Christmas Party 7-9pm – the rectory family's way of saying 'thank you' to all on the Select Vestry and others in ministry in the parish.

+7 Jan: Epiphany Carol Service, Mothel, 4pm. Please note that the bishop will be in attendance and will act as organist at this service. Many thanks to Mary Bradley for her suggesting that he do so. The only other service in the Union that Sunday is that of Holy Communion at 10.30 am in St Mary's (at which the bishop will preside)

+9 Jan MU ' Dementia awareness' 8 pm the Wandesforde Hall

17 January A meeting of the Select Vestry will take place Wednesday at 8pm in the Wandesforde Hall.

+19 Jan Cloydagh Dinner Dance, the Lord Bagenal, 8pm (sub €25)

+Parish Confirmation date: 15 April 2018. Please give names to the rector

 

Rector: Rev Patrick Burke: 056 4441677 [email protected]

Sunday Services:

The Colliery 9.15am / St Mary's 10.30 am;

Mothel noon 1st and 3rd Sun; 2nd Sun Evening Prayer 7pm;

Bilboa noon 2nd & 4th Sunday, & 10.30am on 3rd Sundays.;

5th Sundays 11am, in rotation

 

Please use recorded giving (envelope, etc)! The parish gets 45c extra for every euro you give, if you pay tax, from Revenue (if you give €250 pa or more) if it is recorded!


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