Feast of All Saints, Year B, 31st October 2021

Think of the love that the Father has lavished upon us!

On this feast day we are reminded not only of those Saints who have gone before us, but also of the many inspirational people living saintly lives here on earth. The example of their lives of love and service inspire us on our own journey to the promise of eternal life.

In the First Reading we see John’s vision of heaven and the multitude rejoicing there. In the presence of God the Father and Jesus (here in the guise of the sacrificial Lamb of God), praise and glory and thanksgiving are offered.

The Psalm speaks to us of God’s gift of creation, the earth and everything in it. The psalmist reminds us of the blessings that will come to those who seek the Lord through living life with clean hands and pure heart.

In the Second Reading, St John’s letter speaks of the love lavished upon us by God the Father. As children of God, we may at times find ourselves at odds with the values of the world, but we are promised a future in which the mystery of God will be revealed to us.

Jesus’s teaching in the Gospel outlines the wealth of blessings that come from living our lives well, and serving others. We are again reminded that although being true to his example may lead to persecution and rejection, we will be rewarded in heaven.

This week, we ask the Lord’s help to be generous with our prayers, our time, and our possessions in responding to the plight of those in our world who experience the harsh realities of persecution, loss and injustice on a daily basis.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 24th October 2021

‘I will comfort you as I gather you and lead you back’

The readings this week challenge us to reflect both on the ways we might be blind, and on the gift of new vision that is freely offered.

In the First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah speaks of a God who gathers his people to heal them. 

The Psalm sings of these and other wonderful works: ‘The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy’.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews (Second Reading) shows that the high priest is one called by God to deal gently with the people, because he himself knows weakness.

And in the Gospel, Jesus calls Bartimaeus, a blind beggar of Jericho, to him into discipleship. Though blind, Bartimaeus already has insight into who Jesus is and, when he hears him pass by, shouts in desperation even when told to be quiet. For Bartimaeus, Jesus is now ‘Master’, and his relationship with him brings healing and new life.

Let’s pray, this week, that we might recognise the great things the Lord works for us, and that our hope lies in God, who calls to us through our weaknesses and limitations.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 17th October 2021

Christ: Priest and Suffering Servant

This Sunday, following the predictions Jesus gave of his suffering and death, we contemplate our Saviour and the implications for us, his followers.

The First Reading comes from part of Isaiah’s last song of the suffering servant. It foretells Jesus taking on our faults, and speaks not only of his Passion, but also his glory.

The Psalm sings of God’s love as he rescues those who hope in him.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus as human and weak like us, but also as the supreme high priest. We can be confident that he will always help us.

In the Gospel, James and John hope for privileged places in the kingdom, but learn that they, like Jesus, must go through suffering and death. They are asked to serve, not to dominate.

Perhaps this week we can deepen our understanding of what Christ has won for us, and express our gratitude through service of others.

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 10th October 2021

The word of God is alive and active!

The readings this week give us an opportunity to step back from the busy-ness of our everyday lives to consider more deeply the riches we have been given, and what it is we truly value.

In the First Reading, the spirit of Wisdom has come to the writer through prayer. Beside her, everything else that might be valued on earth seems worthless, and pales into insignificance.

The Psalmist revels in the joy that comes from knowing the love of God, and witnessing to God’s glory. It is through constantly pursuing wisdom of heart that we will be sustained in our service of the Lord.

In the Second Reading the author of the letter to the Hebrews likens the word of God to a sword that can penetrate every aspect of our lives. Living and acting in accordance with the word draws us ever closer to the God who knows and loves us through and though.

These themes of wisdom, selfless values, and service to the Lord are drawn together in the Gospel story of the rich young man, whose attachment to wealth prevents him from truly following Jesus.
Through this encounter, Jesus teaches that whatever we leave behind to follow him will be far surpassed by the treasures we will inherit in heaven.

During this week, we might pray for the gift of ever greater wisdom to help us recognise and seize every opportunity to show our love of God through the good we do each day.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time,Year B, 3rd October 2021

He put his arms round them and gave them his blessing’

The scriptures this Sunday teach us about the importance and centrality of loving relationships to the expression of our faith.

The excerpt from Genesis (First Reading) begins our salvation story with a vision of humanity in harmonious relationship with nature. We are formed of the same elements as the earth we live upon and share with creation. Women and men are helpmates for each other and tasked with caring for God’s creation.

The song of the Lord’s blessings upon us in the Psalm uses images of abundance to describe God’s relationship with creation.

The theology outlined in the Second Reading reveals the solidarity and compassion of the Lord with the world and humanity by sharing with us in suffering, death, and in leading us towards Resurrection.

The Gospel contrasts two different aspects of human nature. The Pharisees attempt to exert authority and power over Jesus by testing his understanding of contested aspects of the law. Jesus responds by reminding them that the law was only given to them because they had lost touch with the essential truth of loving relationship at the heart of creation. His response to the Pharisees and subsequent welcoming of little children is a stark challenge to the patriarchy of the time. Unlike them, Jesus views women and children as equals to men.

Let us pray that we will be blessed with the same compassionate spirit of Jesus to build a more just society that urgently focuses on restoring our harmony with nature.

Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, 26th September 2021

The Lord gave his Spirit to them all!

Today’s readings sound a note of warning against the small-heartedness that seeks to limit God’s love, or reject the action of God’s Spirit in the world. They proclaim the indwelling of the Spirit in the lives of all. 

Moses rejoices that two elders absent from the Tent for the official ‘enrolment’ could still receive the Spirit, and he reprimands those who oppose this. Like Jesus in today’s Gospel, Moses upholds God’s freedom to communicate freely where he wills. (First Reading) 

In this collection of sayings about Christian discipleship (Gospel), Jesus challenges his followers to pay attention to their attitude and inner motivation. The true disciple will be the one who knows how to rejoice in good, whatever its source. Jesus also gives powerful warnings to ‘anyone who is an obstacle … to the little ones who have faith’. 

The Psalm meditates on the qualities of God’s law, which reflect the characteristics of God himself. This is a ‘model prayer’ that helps safeguard the one who prays from both conscious and unconscious sin.  

The Second Reading emphasises that those who are attached to riches at the expense of the poor are utterly un-Godly. They will be held accountable for their selfish actions in the next life.  

This week, I may bring to prayer our local and national leaders, that they may allow service and humility to inform their inner attitude and motivation. I ask too that I may grow in awareness of my own God-given potential to influence life around me, in little ways and maybe even greater ones, as God wills.

Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, 19th September 2021

‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me.’

Our readings this Sunday speak about wisdom, but from different perspectives.

We can see the First Reading as a prophecy of the Lord’s Passion, where the ‘godless’ regard with contempt those who listen to and follow God’s voice, condemning them to cruel death.

The Psalm also speaks of those who have no regard for God. Seeking God’s protection from surrounding threats, the psalmist prays with certainty: ‘I have God for my help. The Lord upholds my life.’

The Second Reading points out that jealousy and ambition cause division and rivalry, in contrast to the wisdom that comes from above. Such wisdom, which desires humility and not glory, brings us to peace with ourselves and can be attained through prayer. It is ‘essentially something pure … is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good.’

Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection to the disciples, who fail to understand what this means (Gospel). They have been arguing which of them is the greatest, but Jesus teaches them that true greatness lies in being the servant or slave of all, especially the weak and the helpless, symbolized by the child he embraces and places in their midst. By welcoming and serving the ‘little children’ we are welcoming God.
Let’s ask this week for the wisdom to see Christ in all the ‘little children’ we encounter, and pray for a spirit of humility and peace.

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 12th September 2021

‘You are the Christ!’

This Sunday we contemplate Jesus, who is, as Peter declares, the Christ, the anointed one of God. Our readings help us to understand the journey Jesus takes to show his love for us.

The First Reading from Isaiah is part of the song of the Suffering Servant. He is to suffer much but he retains his complete confidence and trust in God.

The section of the Psalm given today complements this reading. The psalmist suffers greatly but gives thanks because the Lord has heard his cry and saved him.

James, in the Second Reading, underlines the practical consequences of our faith: the loving response the faithful follower must give.

In the Gospel, Jesus questions his disciples about what people are saying of him. When Peter declares that he is the Christ, Jesus reveals the suffering ahead of him and also, that we his disciples, are to follow the same path.

In our prayer this week, perhaps we can be conscious that we are disciples of Jesus, living out our lives in his name.

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 5th September 2021

Say to all faint hearts, ‘Courage, do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming to save you!’

God’s word is always calling out to us anew, inviting us to ways of seeing more keenly and hearing more deeply. What are today’s readings bringing to my attention?

Isaiah, in the First Reading, offers a theme as he calls us to see what needs to be seen, to hear properly, to move lithely and with purpose, and to speak honestly and with joy. 

The Psalm, also, speaks of profound attentiveness as it invites us to notice the Lord’s priorities – the oppressed and needy come before all else. I might ask how this sits with today’s culture and with my own daily life-choices?

In both Second Reading and Gospel, we are left in no doubt about those whom God chooses. Through today’s word, the Lord is making an appeal to me – to notice, to be moved and to imitate.

Let’s pray, this week, that we ourselves might be opened to the wonders of the Lord and also to his challenges as we try to resist being closed to the plight of those whom God raises to first place.

Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, 29th August 2021

‘You must do what the word tells you’

Our readings this week encourage us to pay attention to the ways in which the word of God truly influences how we live our lives.  Although we all too often fail to live up to the example set for us, we are none the less assured of an abundance of gifts, because of God’s infinite love for each and everyone.

In the First Reading, Moses explains to the people that it is by obeying the laws given to them in the commandments that they will have life in the land, as promised to them by the Lord. 

The importance of actively living our faith is further emphasised in the Second Reading. Here the author exhorts Jewish Christians not just to listen to the word, but to do what the word tells them, by caring for those in need, and living good and honest lives.  

In the Gospel, Jesus describes the lip-service of the Pharisees, who, as foretold in the words of Isaiah, offer ‘worthless worship’. Their adherence to human traditions and values takes their hearts far from God.

This week, we may want to spend some time reflecting, with the Lord’s help, how closely our own lives reflect the ideals described in the Psalm, which speaks of the just dwelling in the presence of the Lord. We can then ask with confidence that the Lord will show us the path that will draw us ever closer to his presence.