Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, (The Sunday of the Word of God), Year B, 24th January 2021

Lord, teach me your paths

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time marks the ‘Sunday of the Word of God’, instituted by Pope Francis in 2019 as an annual celebration of the gift of Scripture. It encourages us to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, shaping how we are called to live and to relate to each other.

In the same way, the readings for this Sunday call us to follow the Lord’s ways. This may involve some change of priorities and direction for us as we seek to move towards the kingdom of God ourselves.

In the First Reading, we see God show mercy to the people of Nineveh. They renounce their evil ways in response to Jonah preaching the word of God.

The Psalmist recognises the Lord as his saviour, a God full of goodness and mercy, who has always loved him. He asks the Lord, his teacher, to show him the true path.

At the beginning of St Mark’s Gospel, again we hear of people changing their ways. Jesus begins his ministry by finding and inviting the first disciples to leave their work as fishermen and follow him for greater things.

Although the Second Reading sounds challenging, its intention is to encourage us to live in a way that is guided by the love of Christ, and shows our faith and hope in the kingdom of God. We are called to live in open freedom and detachment – it is who we are, not what we have, that counts.

Perhaps during this coming week, I can pray for the grace to be open to any change the Lord asks me to make, so that I can respond better to his call and be ready to go wherever he is asking me.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 17th January 2021

‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening!’

Like the people in today’s readings, we, too, are called by Christ: called to spend time with him; to work with him; to offer our bodies, hearts and minds in loving service of God’s will.

The First Reading tells the delightful story of God’s initiative in the life of the boy Samuel, who is open to the call of the Lord despite his youth,  signalling the beginnings of a close relationship with God.

The Psalmist invites us to a personal knowledge of and intimate relationship with God. God desires ‘an open ear’, bidding us to make Samuel’s prayer our own: ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening’.

Writing to those in Corinth, a city notorious for its vice, Paul emphasises that both our bodies and our souls are meant for the glory of God. The physical body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and we come together in unity as the cosmic body of Christ (Second Reading).

John the Evangelist describes the call of the first disciples, where Jesus asks the searching question addressed to every reader of the Gospel: ‘What do you want?’ Here begins the journey of getting to know Jesus, as the disciples (and we ourselves) follow on the path of deepening faith towards an understanding of who Jesus Christ is.

This week, we, too, may ask for the grace of an open ear and an open-hearted response to Jesus’s invitation to ‘Come and see’. We also remember those of our sisters and brothers who, like Samuel, as yet have ‘no knowledge of the Lord’, and ask that they may come to know the safety and peace such knowledge can bring in an uncertain world.

The Baptism of the Lord, Year B, 10th January 2021

I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit

Today’s feast of the Baptism of Our Lord brings to an end the season of Christmas. Coming after the Epiphany of the Lord, it can be seen as a second manifestation of Christ, as the heavens are opened before the whole world. Through Christ’s baptism, in which the entire Trinity is present (Gospel), the world is made into a second creation.

In the First Reading, from Isaiah, we hear how God’s word will bear fruit in us. The one we see being baptised in the Gospel is the Word and, by carrying out the Father’s will perfectly, all creation is restored.

This is why we can join with the Psalmist: ‘With joy we shall draw water from the wells of salvation’!

St John develops this theme (Second Reading) when he says that because Jesus overcame the world by water and blood, so we, with the Spirit living in us, can be saved.

This coming week, let’s strive to deepen our trust in the Father, who is our salvation; to nurture our faith in the Spirit, who works in us to ensure we do not return empty-handed; and to strengthen our joy in the Son, through whose incarnation and baptism we are made into God’s children.

Christmastide, December 2020 to January 2021

St Beuno’s Outreach in the Diocese of Wrexham, UK, wishes you a blessed and holy Christmas, and a Happy New Year

What do we find ourselves thinking and feeling as 2020 draws to a close and another year approaches? Some months ago, we might have hoped that Christmas would see the light at the end of the tunnel, marked by ‘normal’ festivities and gatherings. But for many, this may still not be the ‘normal Christmas’ we’ve longed for, even if the temporary lifting of restrictions enables some of us to be with family and friends and to celebrate the birth of our Lord in church.

    But however we feel, we can trust that our faithful God is always present with us and around us, even in this year of pandemic. Perhaps we’ve even found ourselves grateful to have a little more time than usual to sit quietly with the Lord this year, pondering some of the things we may once have taken for granted … including the gift of simply being together with loved ones.

   As we look back over 2020, let’s ask God to show us anew how many of our ordinary daily human activities are linked with love … love for God, for one another, and for the whole of creation. With the Lord beside us, we try to notice some of the special gifts we’ve seen over these months: the bravery of those working on the ‘front line’; the kindness of neighbours or strangers; the gift of communication through technology; the hopeful news of a vaccine; and above all, the certainty that we are loved.

So we pray this Christmastide to know ever more deeply the truth of these words from a French song, on which our Christmastide Prego is based this year: ‘Because Christmas means love‘.

Your next Prego leaflet will be posted on Friday 1 January 2021

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, 20th December 2020

‘I am the handmaid of the Lord’

As we look forward to Christmas, quickly approaching, today’s readings speak of God’s plans: for the House of David … for Mary … and for us.

In the First Reading, David resolves to build a house for God, but God, who has journeyed with his people through all their ups and downs, has different plans. Speaking through the prophet Nathan, God promises to build a house for the people of Israel, establishing David as head of the dynasty and providing security to his people for generations to come. Jesus himself will eventually spring from this House of David, which will  continue to the end of time.

We hear Jesus’s name spoken at the beginning of the Gospel, where Luke describes how the angel comes to Mary with good news. Gabriel tells of God’s plan: through Mary, a virgin, the son of God will be born; a successor to the House of David, whose reign will never end. Mary shows her faith and trust in God by responding with an unconditional yes.

The Psalmist begins by expressing his joy in God’s everlasting love and support, then speaks of God’s faithful and enduring love. He echoes the promise God makes to David (First Reading).

St Paul gives praise to God, whose plan, hidden for so long, has now been revealed in Jesus. Through Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection, we are offered salvation. Paul urges us to share this news with as many as possible. (Second Reading)

Perhaps I can pray this week, especially in these unusual times, to be always aware of God’s faithful presence and love. I ask for the graces of humility, trust, and openness to God that we see Mary herself express.

Third Sunday of Advent, ‘Gaudete’ Sunday, Year B, 13th December 2020

Rejoice! The Lord is near!

As we draw near to Christmas, the readings for this ‘Gaudete’ Sunday are full of rejoicing. We light a pink Advent candle to focus our attention on that spirit of joy. Perhaps this year, more than any other, our hearts are longing for news of joy and happiness. Though it may not be possible for us to worship today with those we long to gather with, Christ shares in our longing, standing among us and within us wherever we come to pray.

At this time we are like the people of whom the prophet Isaiah speaks in the First Reading; a people who long for the One who will bring good news and proclaim liberty to captives.

In the Responsorial Psalm we pray the words that Mary proclaimed as she rejoiced when visiting her cousin Elizabeth. Her joyful prayer of thanks celebrates God’s saving promise to us all.

In the Second Reading we are encouraged to pray at all times with a spirit of gratitude, never dampening the flow of the Spirit in our lives.

The Gospel introduces John the Baptist as a messenger for the light. Hidden within a challenging dialogue with the priests and Levites, John reveals a deep truth: Christ stands among us and is truly Emmanuel – God with us – even when we are ignorant to his presence.

Let us remember each other, and the needs of the world in our prayer this week. We remember also that we belong to a loving community of prayer that longs for and trusts in the light of Christ, even in the midst of the dark winter nights and difficult times in which we live.

So may our hearts and lives proclaim with every fibre of our being …
Rejoice! The Lord is near!’

Second Sunday of Advent, Year B, 6th December 2020

Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord

The call to repentance lies at the heart of the Advent season. Like the people in today’s readings, we, too, are called to a change of heart, as we long for a better world where injustice will cease.

Today’s First Reading is full of hope and consolation for a nation weary of suffering. God is seen by the prophet Isaiah both as a warrior who fights for his people, and as a shepherd who nourishes and guides them to rest.

The Psalm reveals God’s inner ways and intentions; he is a God of peace, mercy, faithfulness and justice, who longs to help us.

One of the themes of Advent is that of looking forward to the second coming of Jesus. St Peter advises us to wait patiently. We are to live in a way worthy of our Christian calling; living lives that please God as we allow his peace to fill us. (Second Reading)

The Gospel underlines how radical John the Baptist was in his calling, just like the Old Testament prophets. His focus was on the need to repent, for people to change their world view and live accordingly. In this way, they will be more open to the teachings of Jesus, so that the glory of the Lord shall be revealed’ (Isaiah 40: 5).

This week, we might ask for the grace of trust, and to receive the deep love of God into our hearts. God is offering us new life in Christ, empowering us to be his instruments for change in a world torn apart by self-serving actions and fear. Perhaps we can make this our prayer:
‘Lord, make us channels of your peace and justice. Amen.’

First Sunday of Advent, Year B, 29th November 2020

Waiting for the Lord

As we begin another liturgical year, we focus on the coming of Christ. We wait for his coming in our own lives; we wait for his coming at Christmas; and we await his second coming.

In the First Reading, the exiles, freshly returned from Babylon, plead with God to return to them to help them rebuild their land. They are weary with waiting for him.

The psalmist too pleads with God, ‘the shepherd of Israel’, to come once again to help, protect and show his power.

In the opening words of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul thanks God for all the graces they have received. He is confident that God will keep them faithful while they wait for the Lord Jesus Christ to be fully revealed (Second Reading).

In the Gospel, Jesus clearly warns his disciples to stay awake, to be on their guard, to be like the doorkeeper … ever alert, because he does not know when his master will return.

Let us enter this new season with confidence, knowing that the Lord will give us, and our world, the graces we need, because ‘God is faithful’.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year A, 22nd November 2020

As royal shepherd, Christ is leading us into the Kingdom of his Father

Today’s solemnity of Christ the King ends the Church’s liturgical year on a high point.  Perhaps, after the year we have had, we need, more than ever, its full title: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe’. 

So that God ‘may be all in all’ (Second Reading), Christ is, indeed, king over the whole universe.

Though we may have felt – and perhaps still feel – ‘scattered, during the mist and darkness‘ of 2020, God keeps the flock always in view (First Reading) and will show us where to rest.  We are not abandoned. 

Rather, the care of the one, true, kingly shepherd means we really shall want for nothing (Psalm).

The call of this Shepherd King is heard in the Gospel, inviting us to a share, both in his service of others, especially to the very least, and in his very life.

This week, let’s try to be open to that call and respond with joyful and generous hearts.