33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 19th November 2017

The Lord gives us talents and asks us to use them in his service

Today’s readings are for us – we who live in the ‘in-between times’ between the Lord’s Resurrection and his Second Coming.

Convinced that the Last Day would occur within their own lifetime, the first Christians are counselled by St Paul (Second Reading) always to be prepared, since they cannot know the hour.

Similarly, St Matthew (Gospel) encourages those same early Christians, who wondered how best to live in the days before Jesus’s return in glory. Both writers urge them simply to wait, confidently, in the light, while being faithful to their daily responsibilities.

Today’s Psalm reminds us of the joys that come from such faithful service, while the author of the First Reading, using the analogy of a good wife, shows that the book of Proverbs is the best place to look for advice on using one’s talents in a fruitful, practical way.

Let us pray, this week, for greater devotion to the Lord, and the awareness that, already, we have a share in the Master’s happiness.

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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 12th November 2017

Stay awake! Be ready!

As we draw near to the end of the liturgical year, the readings are concerned with the end of time when Christ Jesus will return again and God’s kingdom will reign. We are reminded to stay awake, to be ready to notice when and where God is present among us now.

The First Reading describes the beauty of Wisdom who seeks to comfort, strengthen and console those who look for her help in troubles and anxiety.

When God may seem distant, we cry out to the Lord with the Psalmist. We recall with praise the glory and strength that has helped us, and rejoice in the shelter of his loving presence.

The Second Reading tells us we can be quite sure that those who have died are risen with Jesus, so that we can be comforted by this hope, for them and for ourselves. At the end, we will all be with the Lord forever.

The Lord Jesus will come again but we must be patient, keeping the flame of our love and faith alive in our hearts. We may tire of waiting for him, but must be ready to wake up quickly to answer his call. We do not know the day or hour of his coming (Gospel).

This week I pray to stay awake, ready to notice the presence of the Lord. In keeping close to him, I may lead others to a sense of the hope and faith we have, both in joy and when our lives are difficult.

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 5th November 2017

Keep my soul in peace before you, O Lord

Our readings this week are both a harsh criticism of how some aspects of established religion can lead us to pride, and also a gentle teaching on simplicity and humility.

In the First Reading, Malachi has hard words for the priests who have strayed and led others to stumble.

Jesus, too, in the Gospel criticizes the leaders who lay heavy burdens on the people – those who only think of their own importance, rather than of teaching God’s word and care for others.

However, the words of St Paul to the Thessalonians in the Second Reading are in great contrast. He reveals a maternal affection for his people, and is willing to give up everything for them so as to spread the Good News. He is full of thanksgiving for God’s work in them.

The Psalm is a beautiful prayer of humble trust in the Lord, with the image of a child resting in his mother’s arms. We are encouraged to hope in God whatever comes.

Perhaps this week, awareness of our closeness to God will lead us to humble prayer rather than empty practice.

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 29th October 2017

‘Open our heart, O Lord, to accept the words of your Son’

Let the Gospel acclamation above be our invitation to prayer this week.

The true meaning of God’s Law proclaimed by Moses and the prophets is revealed to us in this Sunday’s readings.

The First Reading from Exodus describes how God’s law of love is to be applied in daily life. God wants his people, who were liberated from slavery in Egypt, to be people of justice, kindness and compassion; both to strangers and to their neighbour.

The Psalm is a litany of love for God … our strength, shield, saviour, and the very rock of our existence. Surely it is from this refuge of compassion and help that we are given strength to come to the aid of others.

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians (Second Reading) describes how their faith has changed the communities where they live. Their life lived in the Holy Spirit has encouraged others to believe in the Gospel message.

In the Gospel, Jesus teaches that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. We are commanded to put God’s law of love into practice by loving our neighbour as ourselves.

Let us pray for each other throughout this week that we will have the grace to want and to choose only that which will deepen our love of God. With God at the centre of our lives, we will have strength to love others. May our hearts be open to respond actively to the need of our neighbour.

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 22nd October 2017

There is no other God besides me … apart from me, all is nothing

The readings this week all focus on the one God who rules the whole world.

In the First Reading, the Jews, who believed in one God, are shown how God is able to use unexpected people to do his work – even the pagan king Cyrus.

The Psalm is a call to worship God as the true King, ruler of Israel and of all the world: ‘The Gods of the heathens are naught’.

St Paul, in the Second Reading, also focuses on the one God, the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. It is through God’s love that the people of Thessalonica have received the Good News. They worked and persevered in hope, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, in the Gospel, we find the Pharisees (traditional nationalist Jews) and their unlikely allies, the Herodians (who accepted Roman rule), attempting to trap Jesus. Which one – God or the Roman Emperor, Caesar – was the greater? To whom should they pay their taxes? Jesus’s answer was likely to upset one party or the other; however, he knows how to defuse this explosive situation. ‘Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God’.

Perhaps this week, we might reflect on the rulers of our world, the good and the bad, and pray for them – remembering that God can work through them as he worked through Cyrus and Caesar.

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 15th October 2017

Come the Lord has prepared a banquet for us!

This week’s readings remind us that God desires to be generous to us. He not only invites all to share in his great feast of life, but also fills us with his strength – the power of Christ at work within each one of us.

Isaiah (first reading) describes the banquet the Lord has prepared for all people on his holy mountain – a place where death is destroyed, and all can rejoice in God’s saving power.

The psalm also reassures us of the great feast spread for us by the Lord, our Shepherd, the one we can trust to guide and comfort us.

St Paul, writing from prison (second reading), similarly tells how lavishly God meets our needs, in the way that only God can. Though Paul has experienced all sorts of hardships, he knows God has equipped him to deal with absolutely anything, both good and bad. This amazing strength comes from Christ, whose empowering grace is greater than anything we can desire or imagine.

In Jesus’s parable of the wedding banquet (Gospel), many of the invited guests refuse to come: some just continue with their business; others kill the messengers. But the king then commands that all are invited – good and bad  – to fill the empty places. In the same way, God invites us all to share in his kingdom – can we respond positively?

This week, I might ask God to help me say  a confident ‘Yes!’ to that invitation, and to pray for even greater dependence on his power working within and around me.

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27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, 8th October 2017

God is the master of all creation and the giver of all gifts

The First Reading, from the prophet Isaiah, likens the house of Israel to the Lord’s vineyard which he loves.

The Psalm shows how the Lord protects this vineyard planted by his own hand.

The apostle Paul, in the Second Reading, takes up this theme.  He encourages those at Philippi to be confident that their security can only be found in the Lord’s nurturing care of them.

The parable of the wicked tenants (Gospel) shows that even when the Lord’s plans are seemingly thwarted, God can turn all to good.

This week, we are encouraged, despite our worries, concerns and troubles, to remain in the peace of God, which is so much greater than we could ever understand.  It will guard our hearts and minds.

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