Wednesday February 21st 2018

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST February 18th, 2018

We have already started the holy Season of Lent, with a wonderful attendance at all our Masses on Ash Wednesday. By the time you read this we will also have begun our special series of Lenten Novena, where we are focussing on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. Lent is truly a time of grace for all of us, if only we open our hearts to God. Each year, Pope Francis writes a special message for Lent, and over the next couple of weeks I would like to share his message to us. It certainly gives us much to ponder.

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS FOR LENT 2018

“Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in his providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”. Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.

With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).

These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.

False prophets

Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.

They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!

False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end, they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.

A cold heart

In his description of hell, Dante Alighieri pictures the devil seated on a throne of ice, in frozen and loveless isolation. We might well ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?

More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.

Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration. The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.

Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal”.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST February 11th, 2018

To me at least, it only feels like a few days since we were celebrating the great feast of Christmas. And yet today, we are suddenly being drawn into the Sacred Season of Lent. Time truly flies! On Wednesday we begin this holy time in the life of the Church, which offers each of us an opportunity to focus more deeply on the love of God, and a spiritual opportunity to become more reflective about our personal relationship with Our Most Holy Redeemer, and his journey towards death, all done freely for the sake of the salvation of the world, and for each one of us.

I would like to invite each of us to make use of this special time of grace, to grow deeper into our own understanding of the nature of the love of Jesus for us all, and for His call to manifest our faith through our love for one another.

It is a deep tradition for us, as Catholics, to mark the period of Lent as a time of sacrifice and opportunity to repent from our sin and to experience a conversion of heart. We often see this simply in giving up things for Lent; such as doing without chocolate or alcohol. But perhaps we can see this in a more positive light too. We might, for example, think of giving up gossip and harshness of heart towards others. We might actively try to be more forgiving and accepting of one another. These are real and lasting conversions of the heart, that will draw us closer to the nature of the love of Jesus.

In terms of the spiritual aspect of Lent, here at Holy Redeemer parish, we do all that we can to make opportunities available for each and every person. In particular, I would like to offer an invitation to each of you to attend our Lenten Novena service, which will take place each Thursday evening at 7.30.p.m. we have built up a wonderful tradition of the Lenten Novena over the past years. This year our focus will be on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. I am absolutely delighted that our Confirmation candidates for this year have committed themselves to attending. I hope that they will be supported by their parents and sponsors. But this is a spiritual opportunity for all of us, where we can express in a practical way our desire to grow deeper into prayer.

We are presented with another opportunity each Friday evening when we celebrate the Stations of the Cross at 7.30.p.m. I have to confess that, since the time that I have been here, I have a little disappointed that so few of our parish members make the effort to attend this time of prayer. I urge all of us therefore to make use of this further opportunity of grace. May we all be blessed in this Sacred Season.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST February 4th, 2018

Last Sunday we had a wonderful celebration of Mass to celebrate the beginning of the catechetical year. My thanks to all those who attended. It all went very smoothly, and my thanks in particular go to our catechists, who did so much to ensure that all went well. On Sunday, 11th February, we will also celebrate the baptism of some of our babies and children. Each of these acts are of the greatest significance in our life of faith. It is a time when parents and families present their children to God. It is an offering of each life to God, asking for the gift of ever-growing faith, hope and love.

On Friday we also celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This marks the day when Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus up to Jerusalem, in order that Jesus be presented and offered to God, according to Jewish religious tradition. After the event took place, two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, were given the gift of recognising that this little baby, was destined to be the Redeemer of the world. We should take great hope from this wonderful feast, and recognise that, after the example of Jesus, each of us is dedicated to God, and called to serve Him in our daily lives. I would like to offer, for your reflection, some words from Pope Francis, which he preached at the Feast of the Presentation last year:

“Today’s liturgy tells us that in that rite, the Lord, forty days after his birth, “outwardly was fulfilling the Law, but in reality, he was coming to meet his believing people. This encounter of God with his people brings joy and renews hope.

Simeon’s canticle is the hymn of the believer, who at the end of his days can exclaim: “It is true, hope in God never disappoints” (cf. Rm 5:5).  God never deceives us.  Simeon and Anna, in their old age, were capable of a new fruitfulness, and they testify to this in song.  Life is worth living in hope, because the Lord keeps his promise.  Jesus himself will later explain this promise in the synagogue of Nazareth: the sick, prisoners, those who are alone, the poor, the elderly and sinners, all are invited to take up this same hymn of hope.  Jesus is with them, Jesus is with us (cf. Lk 4:18-19).

We have inherited this hymn of hope from our elders.  They made us part of this process.  In their faces, in their lives, in their daily sacrifice we were able to see how this praise was embodied.  We are heirs to the dreams of our elders, heirs to the hope that did not disappoint our founding mothers and fathers, our older brothers and sisters.  We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the courage to dream.  Like them, we too want to sing, “God does not deceive; hope in him does not disappoint”.  God comes to meet his people.  And we want to sing by taking up the prophecy of Joel and making it our own: “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (2:28).

 

We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire.  Dreams and prophecies together.  The remembrance of how our elders, our fathers and mothers, dreamed, and the courage prophetically to carry on those dreams.

Let us go back to the Gospel passage and once more contemplate that scene.  Surely, the song of Simeon and Anna was not the fruit of self-absorption or an analysis and review of their personal situation.  It did not ring out because they were caught up in themselves and were worried that something bad might happen to them.  Their song was born of hope, the hope that sustained them in their old age.  That hope was rewarded when they encountered Jesus.  When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing of his dreams.  Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter joy.  For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality.  Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where he belongs, in the midst of his people.

Let us accompany Jesus as he goes forth to meet his people, to be in the midst of his people.  Let us go forth, not with the complaining or anxiety of those who have forgotten how to prophesy because they failed to take up the dreams of their elders, but with serenity and songs of praise.  Not with apprehension but with the patience of those who trust in the Spirit, the Lord of dreams and prophecy.  In this way, let us share what is truly our own: the hymn that is born of hope.”

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST January 28th, 2018

In my homily at Mass last Sunday I told a story about my niece’s three-year-old son, whose name is Ciaran Gerard. When I was at home last year he wanted to tell me what he wanted to be when he grew up. Of course, I was naturally curious as to what was going on in his little mind. He told me that he first wanted to become a doctor and then become a hairdresser. I just had to laugh at this, and then asked him why he would want to become a hairdresser after becoming a doctor. He told me that he would then make lots of money. Obviously, he is a Scottish child! I am sure that all of our families have similar stories to tell about their children. They provide us all with happy memories.

Today, as we celebrate Kick Off Sunday, our minds turn to our children and young people who this year will be involved in our catechetical programmes. My prayer for each of them is that it will be a time of blessing in their lives; a time when they continue to grow in their understanding and love of God.

I would like, in anticipation, to offer a word of thanks to the parents of their children for their commitment to ensuring the presence of their children at Holy Mass each Sunday, and also to their attendance at catechism classes. It is important to remember, as has been stressed before, that the role of parents is of primary importance in teaching, by their example of hope, faith and love within the family, of the presence of God amongst us. This includes the obligation not simply to make sure that the children attend Mass each Sunday, but that the parents attend Mass too. It also includes an obligation to be loving parents, and to ensure that they pray with their children each day. Such a good example will inspire our children and young people, and help them to grow in their understanding that our faith is real gift that needs to be treasured.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of our catechists in the parish; from those teaching baptism classes to those who teach catechism each week and to our Life Teen leaders. I am continually inspired by their commitment and the hard work that they do in the service of the Lord. Our whole parish owes them a huge debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they make in order that our children and young people come to the full knowledge and understanding of their faith.  Today, as they are commissioned to continue to serve as catechists throughout this year, let us each keep them in prayer, that God may bless them for all that they do on our behalf.

I would like too to inform you that all of our catechists and Redemptorist community members, and all those involved with our children and young people, received police clearance last week. This is a sign to everyone that our parish should be a warm, safe and welcoming place for all our children.

Kick Off Sunday is one of the significant days in the life of our parish. May we celebrate it today with great joy and gratitude. And may each of us be inspired to live our daily lives as faithful witnesses to the love of God in the world.

I would just like to end with some news regarding our Redemptorist community. Fr Scott is presently on holiday at home in Kwa Zulu Natal. We wish him restful days. Fr Sean Lunney remains in good spirits despite some health issues. Fr Duncan Blackie had a severe stroke a few months ago. He is now living in Nazareth House in Cape Town. I am sure that we would all like to keep him in our prayers. If any of you would like to visit him, may I suggest that you call Nazareth House first, to ensure that he is able to have visitors on the day that you would like to visit. Otherwise, all is well. We are happy to have our two postulants back with us. And we look forward to Br Richard’s return from the UK at the beginning of February. Our Redemptorist community have greatly missed him.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST January 21st, 2018

We are already back into the full swing of things with the schools open again, and life getting back to normal after the Christmas season. Already this year we have lost some good and beloved parishioners, who have gone home to God. Each death of a parishioner brings sorrow to me, but I also know the joys of baptisms and weddings. Such is the rhythm of life. I would like today to reflect a little on the gift of married love. Despite the difficulties faced in any marriage, our parish is sustained by so many loving married couples and their families. Marriage is always built around faith, hope and love. It is Jesus who sustains all human love. As I do so frequently, I would like to offer you some words from Pope Francis on the gift of married love. This is not because I am being lazy, but because his teaching is always grounded in a deep spirituality. Here are some of his reflections on the married life:

Make Time For One Another, Even If You’re Busy

“Love needs time and space; everything else is secondary. Time is needed to talk things over, to embrace leisurely, to share plans, to listen to one other and gaze in each other’s eyes, to appreciate one another and to build a stronger relationship. Sometimes the frenetic pace of our society and the pressures of the workplace create problems. At other times, the problem is the lack of quality time together, sharing the same room without one even noticing the other.”

Sometimes, Just Listen

“Instead of offering an opinion or advice, we need to be sure that we have heard everything the other person has to say. … Often the other spouse does not need a solution to his or her problems, but simply to be heard, to feel that someone has acknowledged their pain, their disappointment, their fear, their anger, their hopes and their dreams.”

Accept Your Partner’s Shortcomings

“It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act or think, or if they are not everything I want them to be. Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like.”

Be Generous With Their Imperfections

“We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows. The other person is much more than the sum of the little things that annoy me. Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it. The other person loves me as best they can, with all their limits, but the fact that love is imperfect does not mean that it is untrue or unreal.”

Never Go To Bed Angry: Hugs Can Help

“My advice is never to let the day end without making peace in the family. And how am I going to make peace? By getting down on my knees? No! Just by a small gesture, a little something, and harmony within your family will be restored. Just a little caress, no words are necessary.”

Try To Find Your Partner Beautiful And Lovable … Even When They Make It Hard

“Loving another person involves the joy of contemplating and appreciating their innate beauty and sacredness, which is greater than my needs. This enables me to seek their good even when they cannot belong to me, or when they are no longer physically appealing but intrusive and annoying.”

Don’t Hold Grudges

“Irritableness or resentment is a violent reaction within, a hidden irritation that sets us on edge where others are concerned, as if they were troublesome or threatening and thus to be avoided. To nurture such interior hostility helps no one. It only causes hurt and alienation.”

Trust Is Key

“This goes beyond simply presuming that the other is not lying or cheating. … It means we do not have to control the other person, to follow their every step lest they escape our grip. Love trusts, it sets free, it does not try to control, possess and dominate everything. This freedom, which fosters independence, an openness to the world around us and to new experiences, can only enrich and expand relationships.”

Remember: Love Takes Work

“It is not helpful to dream of an idyllic and perfect love needing no stimulus to grow. A celestial notion of earthly love forgets that the best is yet to come, that fine wine matures with age. … It is much healthier to be realistic about our limits, defects and imperfections, and to respond to the call to grow together, to bring love to maturity and to strengthen the union, come what may.”

We ask God’s blessings on all our married couples and their families throughout this coming year.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

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