Tuesday, 15 September 2015

If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last... 19/9/15

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Seven Sacraments displayed above the door of an Irish church. 

Welcome back to a little liturgy.  Apologies for the short break  - I am hoping to resume blogging weekly now.  This week's picture of a church offering the Sacraments with open gates struck me as I was holidaying in Ireland.  I hope you can use it with your children this week. 

Summary of the Liturgy of the Word

First Reading 
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
People who do not follow God will try to put the "virtuous man" to the test.  They say "Let us condemn him to a shameful death since he will be looked after".  

Psalm 53
The Lord upholds my life.

Second Reading
James 3:16-4:3
James tells us that jealousy and ambition cause trouble and that we should follow the wisdom that comes down from heaven which is pure.  Kindness, consideration and compassion are recommended.  He tells us off for fighting between ourselves and says that when we pray we should not pray to indulge our own desires.  

Mark 9:30-37
Jesus predicts his death and resurrection but the disciples do not understand and are afraid to ask.  
Next the disciples start arguing about who is best.  Jesus says "If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all."  He also tells them that if they welcome him they are welcoming "the one who sent me".  

This week the readings tell us clearly to avoid focussing on ourselves and not to be arrogant.  Both James and Jesus' audiences have been quarrelling and arguing.  These texts are timeless, as we still argue amongst ourselves today.  By doing this, we are doing what the Book of Wisdom foretells by lying "in wait for the virtuous man".  Instead we should be following Jesus who will lead us to the father.  


Click here for the words of the hymn "Lord of the Dance".  These words tell the story of Jesus' life and death - just as we hear him telling them in today's Gospel.  
Draw a picture for each verse to show the pattern of Jesus' life.  
The hymn ends with "I'll Iive in you if you'll live in me".
What does it mean to live in Christ?
One of the ways we can help ourselves to live in Christ is to read the Bible and participate in the sacraments:
Holy Communion
The Sacrament of the Sick  
Make sure that you understand what each of these are and then choose one to research further.  

I hope you have found something to prompt discussion this week!


Saturday, 22 August 2015

We know that you are the Holy One of God 23.8.15

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Cross of the Scriptures, Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly

This week a little liturgy looks again at belief and our relationship with God.  This week's photo shows one of the more famous Irish high crosses which were often used to illustrate the Bible and as a teaching aid to help understanding of the scriptures; I guess we have the internet today!

Summary of the Liturgy of the Word

First Reading
Joshua 24:1-2,15-17,18
Joshua tells the people that they must serve the Lord or go and find another God.  They state their allegiance to the God who brought them out of slavery, saying "We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God".  

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Second Reading
Ephesians 5:21-32
St Paul tells us that the Church is Christ's body and "we are its living parts".  Christ loved the Church like a husband loves his wife and we must become one with him.  

John 6:60-69
Christ asks the twelve if they will stay with him.  They reply "Lord, who shall we go to?"  However, some others found his teachings too difficult and left.


All of these readings explore the relationship between God and humankind.  It is not always an easy one.  The Israelites complained just as the disciples complained.  In the Gospel some followers say "This is intolerable language.  How could anyone accept it?  
This question is an important one for us because some of the things we believe are very difficult to accept.  Jesus says that no one can come to believe in him "unless the Father allows him."  This is what we mean when we say that someone has faith; they are led to Jesus through the Father.  


A)  Consider the first section of the Creed.  Fill in the gaps below:

I believe in    ---       ---   , the Father    --------,    maker of    ------    and   -----   , of all things    -------    

and    ---------.

I believe in one    ----        -----    ------,        the    ----       --------    Son of God, 

born of the Father before    ---    ----   ,

God from God,    -----    from   -----,    true    ---    from    ----    God,

begotten, not    ----   ,    --------------    with the Father;

through him all things were made.  

B)  Now think carefully about what you are saying here.  Write out the passage in your own words.  Imagine that you have to explain this to someone who is not Christian.  How would you help them understand what you believe?

C)  Draw out the story of the Gospel today.  Use speech bubbles to show what the believers and the non-believers say and what Jesus said to them.  

D)  We did not read the previous section from the Gospel of John last week as it was the Feast of the Assumption.  Look back in your missal or Bible and find out what it was that made Jesus's followers so upset.

E)  Make a list of some things that you find difficult to believe.  Ask someone about them and try to do some research about why we believe these things.  

I hope you all have a good week!


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Of all women you are the most blessed. 16/8/15

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Statue of Our Lady at Knock Shrine Co. Mayo

This week in a little liturgy we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption (moved from 15th August).  I have always found the passage from the Apocalypse a difficult one and remember being mystified and somewhat horrified by it as a child.  I hope that you are able to explore it in a fruitful way with the resources below.   

Summary of the Liturgy of the Word

First Reading
Apocalypse 11;19; 12:1-6,10
This reading tells of a vision where a woman appeared in the heavens, standing on the moon with stars for a crown.  The woman gave birth to a son but a seven headed dragon was waiting to eat him.  However, the child was taken up to heaven away from danger.

Psalm 44
On your right stands the queen, in garments of gold.

Second Reading
Corinthians 15:20-26
Paul reminds us that death came to the world through Adam but Christ came to conquer death.

Luke 1:39-56
Luke tells of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth; when Mary arrived the child Elizabeth was carrying in her womb leapt for joy.  (This was John the Baptist.)  Elizabeth recognised that Mary was blessed and carrying the Lord.  Mary says a prayer that we now know as "The Magnificant", praising God.


The Book of the Apocalypse (also known as the Book of Revelation) is quite different from other books in the New Testament.  It was written in order to encourage early Christians who were suffering persecution.  It is in line with the Jewish tradition of using rich imagery to sum up mankind's situation in the world and the relationship with the world to come.  We might look at the writings as a puzzle to be solved and indeed, if we look back to the Old Testament, much of the imagery and many of the references are apparent.  The passage in today's First Reading highlights Mary's role in the birth of the Saviour and hence her part in the redemption of the world.  
The Gospel shows a more human and practical side to Mary, as a cousin visiting her cousin.  When she is greeted and recognised as blessed she praises the Lord.  
These two Biblical accounts encapsulate the diversity of Mary's role, showing the simplicity of her everyday life combined with her special calling to be the mother of God.  


1.  Read again the passage about the seven headed dragon.  Draw a picture of it and then consider what this might represent.  

2.  Elizabeth says to Mary "Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."  Which prayer do these words remind you of?

3.  Look back at the words Mary says from Today's Gospel starting,  "My soul proclaims..."
Write down other words or phrases that could be used instead of the words listed below to give the same meaning:


4.  Mary's prayer is often referred to as a canticle and has its roots in Jewish tradition.  Look, for example, at the Song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2.  

5.  Click here for a rendition of the Magnificat with pictures and here for the beautiful Taize version.  

I hope you have enjoyed thinking about Mary this week.  

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Anyone who eats this bread will live forever (9.8.15)

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

Welcome to a little liturgy.  If you have not visited the blog before please click here to find out what it's about.  This week I thought we might begin to address transubstantiation and explore how we think about everlasting life.  There is also a brief reference to the current debate about assisted suicide at the end of today's blog, as I think it is important to discuss ethical issues from a young age.  However, I have put it at the end as I am aware that some children may not be ready for such a discussion.

Summary of Liturgy of the word

First Reading
Kings 19:4-8
Elijah is fed up and wishes that he were dead. He says "Lord, I have had enough.  Take my life."  God responds by sending an angel and giving him bread and water.

Psalm 33
Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Second Reading
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
St Paul urges us to be kind to each other and not to hold grudges.  We must treat each other as God treats us with forgiveness and love.

John 6:41-51
People were complaining about Jesus and said that he was boasting because of his words "I am the bread that came down from heaven".  They said that he was Jesus, son of Joseph and could not have come from God.  Jesus tells them that people are drawn to him by the Father and that "everybody who believes has eternal life".  He says that he will give his flesh as living bread for the life of the world.


There are some very complex ideas presented to us in today's Gospel.  Jesus says "the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world".  The apostles found it difficult to accept the idea that the bread Jesus offered was his own flesh.  Certainly, it seems an extraordinary claim and even a little unpleasant.  Over the last two thousand years, there has been much debate about how these words should be interpreted.  Catholics believe that the bread and wine offered at Mass actually becomes Christ's flesh and blood and that in receiving Holy Communion we receive the body and blood of Christ.

Perhaps even more difficult to understand is Jesus' promise that anyone who eats his flesh and drinks his blood will live forever.  We know that one day we will die but we believe that there is a better life to come which we can experience with God.  To be Christian is to believe that Christ died and rose again so that we can enjoy a life with God after death.  It is not easy to understand how this might happen because we have a very limited view of our existence.  One way that we can grow in understanding is to focus closely on Biblical passages, like this one from St John's Gospel, and pray and discuss things with our friends and family.


Today we hear the story of Elijah.  Draw a picture for each part of the story:

1.  Elijah sat exhausted under a furze bush.

2.  Elijah complained to God.

3.  An angel appeared and gave Elijah bread and water.  

4.  Elijah ate and drank.

5.  Elijah was strengthened and walked a long way to reach Horeb.

Now consider the Jewish people at the time of Jesus:  

1.  They felt oppressed by the Romans.

2.  They grumbled and were waiting for a Messiah to set them free.

3.  Jesus was born into the world.

4.   He gave his flesh and blood at the Last Supper and on the cross.

5.  The early apostles followed Jesus and built his Church.

Now consider ourselves:

1.  We can get disheartened by life and doubt our faith.

2.  We can grumble and complain about the Church and our lives.

3.  We are baptised and become part of the Church.

4.  We take part in the sacraments and receive Holy Communion.

5.  We are encouraged and strengthened to follow Christ to eternal life.

Extra materials

This week we hear that Elijah is fed up and wants to die.  God does not let him; he still has a plan for him.  This reading provoked me to think about the current debate around assisted suicide and to introduce the topic in family discussion.  

The article below might be a helpful starting point but please vet it first before reading with your child as it addresses some sensitive issues.

Kids Britannica article on Euthanasia

For adults, there are some informative views about the debate expressed here and here.

I hope you have found something helpful in this week's a little liturgy.


Saturday, 1 August 2015

I am the bread of life. (2.8.15)

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Welcome to a little liturgy.  This week we focus on bread.  We see the links between the Old and New Testament and consider our expectations about God.  
Summary of Liturgy of the Word

First Reading
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
The Israelites were hungry and complained to Moses.  They said he had led them into a wilderness with no food.  They even said that they would have been better as slaves back in Egypt.  The Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread for you from the heavens."
When they woke in the morning the Israelites saw a powdery substance on the ground.  Moses told them that it was the bread that the Lord had provided.

Psalm 77
The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

Second Reading
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
St Paul warns us that we should not live aimless lives but should ignore false desires and listen to Christ.  He says that we should undergo a "spiritual revolution" and start a new life.

John 6:24-35
Jesus tells us that we should not look for food that cannot last but work for food that will last for ever.    He says that just as Moses and his people received bread from heaven, we too can receive everlasting bread.
He then says, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst".


Jesus says "I am the bread of life".  Bread is something crucial for most people.  He is saying that without him we cannot survive.  As Christians, we are hungry and thirsty, just like the Israelites in the desert.  They were released from slavery but freedom was not as easy as they had anticipated.   We were released from the slavery of death when Christ died for us but we do not always find this freedom easy or what we might have expected.


Make a list of all the different types of bread you have eaten this week.  Do a little research about how bread is made how different cultures and places have different bread according to their needs.  

Draw a storyboard of the Israelites complaining and then waking up to find manna on the ground.  Write in what they might have said to each other.

Jesus said "I am the bread of life."  Many people found this difficult to understand.  Look at the parts of the Mass that talk about bread and discuss what he means by this.  

Have a good week!


Friday, 24 July 2015

You open wide your hand, O lord, and grant our desires. 26.7.15

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

The basilica in Lourdes

Welcome to a little liturgy.  This week we talk of miracles.  As I write, I am thinking of my friends in Lourdes on the Ampleforth Pilgrimage.  As everyone knows, it is a place of many miracles; as everyone who has visited knows, the miracles are not always of the conventional kind.  It is a place where it seems natural to follow the advice of St Paul to "bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience."   

Summary of Liturgy of the Word

First Reading
Kings 4:42-44
Elisha gives food to his servant to distribute to a hundred men.  His servant remarks that it is not enough but Elisha tells him that the Lord has said, "They will eat and have some left over".

Psalm 144
You open wide your hand, O Lord, you grant our desires.

Second Reading
Ephesians 4:1-6
St Paul tells us to be charitable, selfless, gentle and patient.  He also reminds us to be together always, since there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all".

John 6:1-15
The Gospel tells us the familiar story often known as "the feeding of the five thousand" or the "miracle of the loaves and fishes".  Jesus notes that the people who had gathered to listen to him might need feeding and asks the disciples to distribute food to them.  There are only "five barley loaves and two fish".  The disciples are incredulous but after Jesus has said the blessing, they gave out as much as was wanted and there were twelve basketfuls remaining.


Miracles are difficult to comprehend and perhaps even more difficult to distinguish from magic.  Certainly, it is easy in this Gospel story, to imagine Jesus' words of blessing acting as some kind of multiplying spell and, hey presto, there were many more loaves and fishes.  It may be more helpful to consider what the miracle signifies.  

Paragraph 547 of the Catechism says, "Jesus accompanies his words with many "mighty works and wonders and signs", which manifest that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah."

Some people believe that everyone present became aware of the needs of their neighbour and that they followed the example set by the young boy and Jesus and all shared.  This is exactly what St Paul asks of us in his letter to the Ephesians today; we should be "charitable" and "selfless".

Pope Francis talks about this kind of charity below: 

"When we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them—some food, a place in our homes, our time—not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched. I am well aware that when someone needing food knocks at your door, you always find a way of sharing food; as the proverb says, one can always ‘add more water to the beans’! Is it possible to add more water to the beans?…Always?…And you do so with love, demonstrating that true riches consist not in materials things, but in the heart!"(Pope Francis, Address during Visit to the Community at Varginha, 7/25/13)


The events described in the Gopsel today can be linked to the Last Supper and the fact that in the Eucharist God provides food for his people.  

Below is the start of the blessing used in Jewish households before eating bread:  

"Blessed are you Lord King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth."

Find the similar words in the text of the Mass you are following.  
Continue the words of this blessing to write your own grace before a meal.  

The link below shows a modern Jewish family blessing and sharing bread.  How is this ritual similar to what the priest does at Mass?  What makes our Eucharist different from this?  

Jewish blessing for eating bread

I hope you all have a good week and enjoy the challenge of considering miracles.  

Friday, 17 July 2015

They were like sheep without a shepherd. (19/7/15)

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Welcome to a little liturgy.  This week we return to thinking of ourselves as sheep.  I hope you find something thought provoking below.  

Summary of Liturgy of the Word

First Reading
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Jeremiah tells us of God's message about his sheep.  God says that his sheep have been scattered and not cared for properly but that he intends to gather them back together.  He says that he will also raise a new king who will practise "honesty and integrity".

Psalm 22
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Second Reading
Ephesians 2:13-18
St Paul tells us that Christ brought unity amongst people and also peace.

Mark 6:30-34
The apostles were tired from preaching so Jesus took them by boat to a quiet place to rest.  However, word spread and their followers had already arrived ahead of them.  There was now a large crowd.  Jesus took pity on them because "they were like sheep without a shepherd".  He spent time teaching them himself.


Sheep without a shepherd lack a purpose and any sense of direction.  From very early days, as shown in today's reading from Jeremiah, the idea that the people were like sheep in relation to God was familiar.  This imagery is taken up in the New Testament and confirms for us the relationship between God the Father and God the Son who are both cast as shepherds.
Today we cannot see the shepherd but are familiar with his words and directions.  Being led by a shepherd also makes us one of a whole flock.  Sometimes this can be troubling; indeed it is not a great compliment to be called a "sheep."   Even though, as members of Christ's church, we have many essential things in common, we do not always have to behave in exactly the same way.  

Paragraph 1776 of the Catechism notes:  "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."

This voice calling could be rather like a shepherd.  It is interesting to think about what exactly we mean by conscience and how we develop a conscience.  Of course what ultimately makes us part of the flock is our willingness to follow the Good Shepherd and trust in him.  

Activities during the homily

Look again at the Psalm - it is probably the most well loved psalm.  Draw out the images below:

1.  fresh and green pastures
2.  the right path
3.  a banquet
4.  an overflowing cup
5.  the Lord's house

Match these pictures with the verb phrases below:

A.  drinking from
B.  reposing in
C.  dwelling in
D.  being guided along
E.  eating  

All these activities are pleasant and comforting.  They are associated with caring and giving protection.  The psalmist says that even if he had to walk through "the valley of darkness" he would not be afraid.  This is what Jesus gives us as the Good Shepherd.  He gives us a confidence that we will be cared for and that with him we should not fear evil.  

Extra Resources

For a lovely rendition of Psalm 23 click on to youtube here. The more traditional version can be sung along to here.  

I hope you have a good week.