Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B, 16th May 2021

‘My soul, give thanks to the Lord!’

The readings for this final Sunday of Eastertide remind us again of all the graces we have received through Jesus’s death and resurrection, and the joy which comes from knowing just how much we are loved by God.

In the First Reading, we hear of the election of Matthias, who takes the place of Judas, ‘the one who chose to be lost’. He joins the Apostles as one who gives witness to the wonder of the Lord’s Resurrection.

The short Psalm extract reflects the enormity of God’s love, and the boundless depths of his forgiveness – a theme expanded further in the Second Reading. Here, John’s letter reminds us that it is because God loved us first with such infinite love, that we must love one another. Through Jesus’s sacrifice, we are saved and can live as one with God, with Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus himself as he intercedes for the disciples and for us – asking his Father for everything he knows we need as he sends us out into the world.

During the coming week, let’s pray for the grace to recognise the gifts we have been given, and for a greater awareness of how we can use them in showing our love for others.

The Ascension of the Lord, Year B, 16th May 2021

‘Go out to the whole world!’

I come to pray the texts for the feast of the Ascension and ask the Lord for a deeper understanding of this mystery of Christ. Throughout the Eastertide readings, we have watched the disciples grow and mature in faith – I wish to do the same.

The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles marks the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry as he returns to the Father and promises to send the Holy Spirit.

The Psalm is a joyful prayer of praise and an acclamation of Christ’s victory. He is Lord of all people, of the universe.

St Paul describes the meaning of the Ascension – the Father has raised Jesus above all powers and made him Lord of creation. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the good of all, to lead us to full maturity in Christ. (Second Reading)

In the Gospel, Jesus ascends to heaven and continues to work with his disciples as they preach the Good News. The signs he works confirm their message.

This week, we might want to pray for the opportunity to proclaim the Good News to as many people as possible.

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B, 9th May 2021

God is love, and we show we know God when we act with generous love

God’s love is both profoundly faithful and utterly overwhelming.  This is what this Sunday’s readings reveal, with the First Reading showing a love that is also universal. The early disciples, at first limited in their mission, are now convinced that God’s love embraces everyone. 

It’s a theme taken up in the Second Reading where St John says that God is love and acts lovingly when he sends his Son to reveal what true love means. God’s outreach to the whole human race is what today’s Psalm sings of so joyfully.

In the Gospel, St John goes on to speak ever more deeply of God’s love for us.  He recalls Jesus’s teaching about his loving relationship with his Father and of his desire to make this relationship both known and available.  All are invited into that same intimate relationship!

Perhaps this week, I might ask for the grace to let that teaching sink into my heart and become a reality in the way I live and by the fruit I bear.  ‘Help me, Lord, to respond to your friendship by being a true friend to you through my loving relationships with my sisters, brothers and all of creation.  Amen.’

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B, 2 May, 2021

‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty.’

Today’s readings remind us that when, like St Paul, ‘we believe in the name of Jesus Christ’, we accept the intimate relationship to which God invites us. We become branches of the true vine, Jesus Christ.

The Gospel shows the amazing intimacy that Jesus offers through the wonderful image of the vine and branches. Having Jesus, the true vine, live within our hearts, we as his disciples, the branches, will bear fruit; cut off from Jesus, we can do nothing at all. Jesus reveals his Father as the vinedresser, tending to us with love, and sometimes pruning us so that we can produce more plentiful fruit.

In the Second Reading, John reminds us that by believing in Jesus Christ, and loving one another, we are doing what God wants, and that God lives in us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. He also reassures us that we have nothing to fear in God’s loving presence. We get an indication of the fruit that Jesus speaks of when John tells us that our love needs ‘not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.’

We see an example of this in the First Reading, where Saul proves his love for Jesus by preaching about him to the community. The apostles come to accept him and the local churches begin to put down roots and grow, drawing now from a new source of life: the Holy Spirit.

The Psalm, part of which we heard on Palm Sunday, and which Jesus prayed on the cross, closes today with words of the Lord’s love, generosity and faithfulness. We are all invited to worship and serve him.

During the week, I may like to ponder the relationship God longs to have with me, and the fruit he enables me to bear.

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B, 25th April 2021 (Good Shepherd Sunday)

‘They too will listen to my voice …’

This Sunday we are invited to deepen our awareness of the protective, caring love that surrounds us, holds us and sustains us. This love was made incarnate in Jesus the Good Shepherd.

In John’s letter (Second Reading), we are encouraged to meditate on the deep love that the Father lavishes upon us, by calling us his children.

Centring our lives on this reality will help us on our pilgrim journey — and this week’s Psalm is associated with pilgrimage, sung by those entering Jerusalem. For us it becomes a resurrection song. The one who was reviled and rejected becomes the cornerstone that our faith is built upon; Christ is our refuge and our strength, and the psalmist reminds us to place our trust in our loving Lord.

In the First Reading, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, quotes from this same psalm. Christ, who was rejected and condemned by the religious leaders of the time, is the source of Peter’s authority and his gift of healing.

In the Gospel, the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is used to draw out the depth of the love that God has for his people. Jesus lays down his life for us so that we might truly live. By describing himself in this way, Jesus is describing the close, intimate relationship we are each called to have with the living Lord. Although we are many, we are one flock, with one Shepherd who knows each one of us personally. Jesus trusts that we will listen to his voice.

As we pray this week, let us ask for the grace to truly listen with open and accepting hearts to the needs of our community, and to the needs of the earth. May we, too, may become loving shepherds to each other, and to the environment.

Third Sunday of Easter, Year B, 18th April 2021

In the midst of the joy and exuberance of Easter, this Sunday’s readings allow us to consider our sinfulness, our doubts and our weakness. This is not to weigh us down, but to bring us peace and encourage us to live the new life won for us.

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is gentle with those responsible for the death of the ‘Prince of life’. They must now turn back to God.

The Psalm is both a cry for help and a song of hope and trust.

John, in the Second Reading, speaks of Christ as our Advocate with the Father. Not only does he take our sins away, he fills us with God’s love.

Jesus appears to his doubting disciples in the Gospel. He reassures them by inviting them to touch him and by eating with them, before increasing their understanding and hinting at their mission.

Let us continue our Lenten journey this week, strengthened by the gift of Christ’s peace, and conscious of being his witnesses – even if, at times, we are confused and doubtful.

Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), Year B, 11 April 2021

Believers united, heart and soul!

We come together today like the first believers, praying for unity of heart and soul. With our fellow Christians, we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Lord of Life!

In the First Reading, we hear how belief in the resurrection bears fruit in the lives of the disciples: it brings them together as a community, united in faith and love in action. The witness of the apostles is the cornerstone of growth in the early church.

In the Second Reading, however, John needs to remind an early Christian community to value the incarnational nature of Christ, and the importance of a deepening, living faith. This has practical consequences in terms of love of God, and of our fellow human beings. It sometimes makes challenging demands on us.

The Psalm is a song of thanksgiving, and forms a grateful prayer that sits easily on the lips of the risen Lord.

The Gospel recounts Jesus’s appearance to the disciples, who are overjoyed at his presence. They receive through him the gift of
the Holy Spirit and are given their mission. A week later, the Lord appears again to the previously absent Thomas, eliciting his magnificent confession: ‘My Lord and my God’!

Today, on Divine Mercy Sunday, I pray to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, that I may daily surrender to God’s mercy.

Easter Sunday, Year B, 4th April 2021

Christ, my hope, has risen!

We have come, finally, to the season of joy and hope, following a long season of anguish and suffering. Many have struggled with the darkness of the past year. Many more have wept at tombs, asking ‘where?’, ‘how?’, ‘why’? We have all been asked to carry crosses. Some of them have been almost unbearably heavy. Now, though, alongside his own cross, we stand with Jesus victorious and risen in glory.

We might be coming to this new season hesitantly, like the younger disciple (Gospel), perhaps still hurting from the scars of the year and hardly daring to hope. Or we may find ourselves, like Peter, rushing headlong, eager to see and to believe.

In the Acts of the Apostles (First Reading), we hear that the first witnesses were to go out with this good news and proclaim it to all people. We are the messengers of the Gospel today.

And we are to bear witness by living ‘unleavened’ lives (Second Reading) full of truth, sincerity and humility.

As St Ignatius said, ‘Love is shown more in deeds than in words’. Haven’t we seen that this past year!

So let us rejoice and be glad, and give thanks to the Lord (Psalm) this coming week.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of our Lord, Year B, 28th March 2021

 ‘Hosanna in the highest. Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy!’ 

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the climax of Jesus’s mission. Today we see him enter Jerusalem on a donkey, as the cheering crowd joyfully proclaims ‘Hosanna’, waving palm branches.

As the story of the Passion unfolds in the Gospel, the mood soon changes. Viewing Jesus as a threat to their religious authority, the chief priests plot to bring about his end. The crowd now turns on Jesus, shouting ‘Crucify him’. Then we accompany Jesus in his suffering to his last breath, hearing those desolate words, ‘My God, my God why have you deserted me?’

We respond with these same words to the Psalm, which describes the humiliation that Jesus will suffer in order to save us. In the last verse, however, the mood changes from dejection to praise and glory.

Though the First Reading also touches on suffering, the servant takes strength from God’s presence with him, even in the worst circumstances.

Paul urges the Philippians to be more Christ-like in their behaviour. Jesus came amongst us in humility as a servant, showing his great unconditional love for us by dying on the cross. (Second Reading)

As we accompany Jesus through Holy Week, no matter what trials we may be facing, let’s pray for confidence in God’s presence, that we may be strengthened by it and filled with hope as we look forward to Easter.

Praying Holy Week with St Beuno’s Outreach 2021

From his Passion to this day, Jesus, the Compassionate One, suffers with us

During this last year, all aspects of our lives have been dominated by the Coronavirus pandemic. But as Pope Francis said in a homily given at St Peter’s Basilica on Palm Sunday 2020,

‘Jesus himself experienced total abandonment in a situation he had never before experienced, in order to be one with us in everything. He did it for me, for you, to say to us: Do not be afraid, you are not on your own. I experienced all your desolation in order to be ever close to you.’

This coming Holy Week, we suggest you spend some time each day meditating on the compassion of Jesus (from the Latin compati – ‘to suffer with’). That compassion is for us all, whatever our age or walk of life. Each reflection in this resource, supported by Scripture, images, and poetry, invites us to remember how Jesus in his compassion responded to human need.