The beginning of the good news
The second Sunday of Advent turns our attention to John the Baptist. John was an interesting individual. We are told he dressed a bit strangely and spent a lot of time in the desert, ‘the voice of one crying out in the wilderness’. Yet it seems he was very popular with ‘all the people of Jerusalem’ went out to hear him. John must have been a dynamic speaker and one in whom people found hope and inspiration. In John the Baptist’s time, the people lived under the oppression of the Roman Empire and were waiting for someone who would liberate them. John points to one that is greater than he, he points the people to Jesus.
When Pope Francis released the encyclical Fratelli Tutti in October this year he noted that dark clouds hang over our world and he urged everyone to embrace a spirit of friendship, kindness, compassion and solidarity as we move forward, to help ensure the dignity of every person and a more sustainable world for all. We have certainly experienced a type of wilderness this year as we continue to battle the effects of COVID19 and find a way forward. Our communities need messengers, like John, who bring good news, hope and a vision for the future, who point us towards a new way forward.
As we prepare to welcome Christ into our lives once more, let’s make the most of this advent time, the most of this waiting time. May we use this space to reflect on what type of world can be born out of this wilderness we find ourselves in. May we reach out to those who are crying out for hope during these difficult months, like John the Baptist, offering a positive vision for the future.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Restrictions from 27 November 2020 The NI Executive has agreed new restrictions designed to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 within the community, these restrictions will apply from 00.0lam on 27 November for a period of two weeks. During this period, Churches will be required to remain closed, except for the following reasons:
• To broadcast an act of worship.
• For funerals, limited to 25 persons present.
• For weddings, limited to 25 persons present.
• To allow for visits for private prayer
Fr Mc Glynn will still continue to say Mass from behind closed doors . Mass will be celebrated for the intentions of all our parishioners, and anyone who has a Parish Radio please tune in. The Church will be open for private prayer from 10.30am-2pm each day with social distancing in place. All those attending St. Agnes’ must wear masks/face-coverings.
See below St Agnes’ Mass times for the next week . ALL BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Friday 4th December no 10am Mass due to funeral at 2.30pm
Saturday 5th December 6.30pm Vigil ( NO 1pm MASS)
Sunday 6th December 9.30am ( NO 12.30pm MASS)
Monday 7th December 10am
Tuesday 8th December MASS 10am HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION ( The Immaculate Conception of The Blessed Virgin Mary )
Wednesday 9th December 10am
Thursday 10th December 10am
Friday 11th December 10am public Mass depending on the guide lines form NI Executive
SVP CHRISTMAS CARDS and Trócaire “Gifts of Love” - Will be on sale again after the Church opens on the weekend of 12th /13th December. However, you can still purchase the Trocaire gifts at 50 King Street Belfast, Online www.trocaire.org/gifts or call 0800 912 1200. Please support again this year.
PRAYER INTENTIONS: We extend our sympathies to the families of those who died recently and those whose month’s mind and anniversary occur at this time.
Sat: Vigil 6.30pm: Tommy Kelly
Sun: 9.30am: Margaret Hackett, Mary & Henry Mc Keown
Mon: 10am: Annie Mc Callin
Tue: 10am: Holy Day of Obligation
Wed: 10am: Anna & Patrick Tohill & Family
Thurs:10am: Michael & Eddie Mallon
Fri: 10am: Margaret & Charles Mallon
Sat: 6.30pm: Margaret & William Burgoyne & Family
In the event of a funeral, the assigned intention will be offered privately by the priest at his first available mass.
Recently Deceased: Stacey Toner, Patrick Mc Keown, Gerard Mc Alister.
Those whose anniversaries occur at this time: Gerard Quinn, Sarah Mc Varnock, Bridget & Bernard O’ Kane & son Barney, Pat & Isobel Higgins & family
POPE’S INTENTION FOR DECEMBER For a Life of Prayer We pray that our personal relationship with Jesus Christ be nourished by the Word of God, and a life of prayer.
PASTORAL MESSAGE FROM BISHOP NOEL TREANOR
KINDLING HOPE IN TIMES OF FEAR AND ANXIETY
Advent 2020 is upon us. For the coming year on Sundays we shall listen for the most part to extracts from St Mark’s gospel. On occasion we shall hear variations on Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid”! (Mk 6.50) in regard to events before and after the resurrection. Fear and its cousin, anxiety, have stalked all ages of humanity.
If COVID-19 has disrupted life worldwide, its impact has increased anxiety levels for many. In different ways, people feel fearful and anxious like the disciples in the storm-tossed boat with the wind blowing hard against them (Mk 6.48).
As we enter this Advent in lockdown, fear is in the air. There is the fear of becoming infected with COVID-19, or of infecting others. We are fearful for family and loved ones, for those who work in our Heath Service, Hospitals and Care Homes. Such fear is genuine.
Channelled creatively in response to the facts about our extraordinary situation, such fear can be transformed at least partially into personal choices and forms of public action which respond to the threat and open furrows of hope.
Beyond and below our fears, many also feel a deep-down anxiety about life and the future. Uncertainty, compounded by the pandemic, seems to hover around us and even within us. What will the future be like? Who is shaping our destinies as persons, communities, societies in this cyber age? What is the future of work for our children in this rapidly developing digital age and culture? What economic, political and societal impact will COVID and BREXIT unleash? Can the democratic system, political parties, systems of public governance, adapt and respond to the emerging culture? Have they the capacities to pursue their service of justice, human rights and peace in an ever more intertwined and interdependent world confronted with existential challenges for justice, the survival of life itself and for human identity and dignity? In the face of such concerns for the human condition, fear for the future, and the deeper malaise of anxiety, can cripple, if not paralyse, the ability to hope.
Evidently, easy, ready-made answers to these crucial issues do not exist. Yet, we also see efforts and so much public investment in trying to address global challenges, rectify failure, injustice and to promote the public good. In the face of such efforts it is of course easy and sometimes tempting to choose cynicism, to see ‘smoke and mirrors’, where such is not the case, and thus to demoralise unjustifiably rather than promote a healthy and constructive civic spirit.
Throughout history, in the face of momentous crises and moral failures, even and alas on the part of Christians, our faith communities have seen the light of hope in the lives of prophetic figures and martyrs. They have witnessed to hope through endurance, resilience inspired by their faith in Christ, the Son of God. In every generation such beacons of integrity and hope remind us that ‘God places his eye’ in our hearts (Sir 17.8).
That eye empowers us to rise to the hope that St Paul writes of in his letter to the Romans: ‘so then, now that we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; it is through him, by faith, that we have been admitted into God’s favour in which we are living, and look forward exultantly to God’s glory. Not only that ; let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us’ (Rom 5.1-6).
Over recent months many have put these words of faith into action in countless ways: those who have assisted the dying, those Hospital Chaplains who have prayed with the sick and dying, those who have launched, supplied and worked in Food Banks, those who have delivered food to housebound and vulnerable neighbours and friends, the sports clubs and their members who have organised outreaches of care.
As we enter the season of Advent, let’s take to ourselves the deep import of those words of St Paul so that hope may sprout and grow resilience, endurance and care for others in our hearts. The circle of the Advent wreath, evocative of the eternal, and bearing green foliage in anticipation of new life, invites us into a process of re-discovering the ever-rejuvenating dynamic of Christian faith. The dynamic of the new life of faith in Christ is presented to us in the Scriptures, celebrated in the Eucharist and the sacraments and lived out in our care and respect for others and creation.
This God-given hope unleashed in history in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a delicate blossom of surprising power. Of this hope Charles Péguy, a French poet, wrote lines1 we might also contemplate as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Saviour:
What surprises me, God says, is hope
And I can’t get over it
The fledgling hope who seems like nothing at all
This little girl hope
It is hope that is difficult
And the easy way – the tendency to despair
That’s the great temptation …
Hope loves what will be
In time and for eternity
In the future, so to say, of eternity itself …
The faith I love best, God says, is hope
May this season of Advent kindle that ‘little girl’, hope, in our hearts, so that we may see life with that eye placed in our hearts by God, Creator and Redeemer.
+ Noel Treanor
Bishop of Down and Connor
A Personal Penitential Prayer in preparation for Christmas
Advent is a time when we seek a change of heart that we may truly celebrate Christmas. In preparation for this great feast many celebrate this “change of heart” in the Sacrament of Penance. Confession to a priest is an essential part of the Sacrament of Penance but what are we to do this year, when because of coronavirus, it is so difficult to come to the parish church? Pope Francis has spoken about this situation. He said that we should do what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says. The Catechism reminds us that the confessor is not the master of God’s forgiveness, but its servant. Only God forgives sin and God, who is the Father of tenderness, waits for the return of the sinner, and always welcomes with a loving embrace – God’s forgiveness is immediate! In our present uniquely difficult situation, when it is not possible to come to the Church for Confession, speak to God from your heart; acknowledge truthfully what you have done or failed to do, and with all your heart ask forgiveness with a sincere Act of Sorrow, confident that God always forgives the contrite. Later, when coronavirus has released its grip, we can return to the Church and avail of Confession, and celebrate the forgiveness that has been so freely given. You may find this Penitential Prayer in preparation for Christmas helpful.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Almighty and merciful God,
I come in the name of your Son
to receive your mercy and grace in my time of need.
Give me a new heart to love you,
so that my life may reflect the image of your Son,
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 8:12; 15:9-10;12
“I am the light of the world;
anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark
but will have the light of life.”
Again, Jesus said: “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me.
Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love – This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.”
A time of reflection.
A world of darkness is a world of confusion
So many are confused about life.
So many are lost in darkness.
So many are searching for happiness but cannot find it.
So many are overwhelmed by loneliness.
I ask myself, “Am I living in darkness?”
Darkness in in my selfish choices.
Darkness in my constant complaining.
Darkness in my unreasonableness.
Darkness in my refusal to forgive others.
Darkness in my hurtful comments.
Darkness when I abuse the goodness of others.
Darkness in peace disrupted.
Darkness in violent words and actions.
Darkness in my jealousy.
Darkness in my self-deception.
Darkness in my anxiety and fear.
Darkness when I am bad news for others.
Darkness in love corrupted
Darkness in self-absorption and empty pleasure.
Darkness in the digital world.
Darkness in the exploitation of others.
Darkness in addictions.
Darkness when I shut out the light.
Darkness in the hungry people.
Darkness in the homeless people.
Darkness in the sad faces I see.
Darkness in waste.
Darkness in lack of care for the environment.
Darkness when I shut God out of my life.
A time for an examination of life – followed by a general confession of sin, saying:
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers, and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore, I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers, and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God. Amen.
The Act of Sorrow
O my God, I thank you for loving me.
I am sorry for all my sins,
For not loving others and not loving you.
Help me to live like Jesus and not sin again. Amen.
Proclamation of praise and thanksgiving.
O give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
R/. Great is his love, love without end.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
R/. Great is his love, love without end.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
R/. Great is his love, love without end.
To the God of heaven give thanks.
R/. Great is his love, love without end.
Lord our God,
You made the light that scatters all darkness.
Let Christ, the light of lights, shine on us
and free us from the darkness of sin.
We ask this in his name,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Christmas Homeless Shoebox Appeal The Catholic Chaplaincy at Queen’s, together with the University’s Order of Malta branch, is supporting this year’s Christmas Homeless Shoebox Appeal. Every year, individuals and families experiencing homelessness face the festive season alone. QUB students want to reach out and offer concrete supports. We appeal to you to give a small gift and some hope to a homeless person (or someone struggling and at risk of becoming homeless). We ask that you decorate a shoebox or gift bag for either a male or female (adult) and include items such as: Gloves, Socks, Toothpaste/brush, Sanitary items, Shower Gel, Shampoo, Sweets, Tinned food, Christmas card and anything else you can think of that might be helpful. Boxes can be left securely at the Catholic Chaplaincy QUB, 28 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast during opening hours (see qubcatholic.org) before 5 December in time for distribution before Christmas. We thank you for your support of this worthwhile initiative. *(Remember to wrap the box and lid separately so we can add extra items to boxes)*