Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, 27th September 2020

‘In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus’

In this week’s readings, we are invited to reflect on our need for a change of heart. We are called to follow the Lord‘s way, as we try to model our actions and words on his.

The Jews in exile complained that the Lord was unjust, but the prophet Ezekiel tells them they should look at their own behaviour rather than blame others. God will save those who are law-abiding and honest – those who follow his way. (First Reading)

St Paul encourages the Philippians to be united in love, purpose and mind, which they should model on the mind of Christ himself. Although divine and equal with God, Christ was humble enough to become as we are, and even then to die on a cross. (Second Reading)

The Lord is merciful and forgiving; he is always ready to show us the way and guide us to walk in his paths. (Psalm)

No matter which group in society we belong to, only a true change of heart, where we welcome the Good News, will open the way to the Kingdom of God. (Gospel)

This week, I may want to focus on trying to live according to Jesus’s values. I ask the Lord to help shape my mind to be like his, so that people around me will see that love is shown in deeds more than in words.

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Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 20th September 2020

Seek the Lord!

The justice and integrity of God flow throughout the whole of creation. God’s generosity knows no bounds, and sometimes – as Jesus shows us in today’s parable it is too much for human minds to comprehend. Quite simply, God’s ways are not our ways.

Isaiah, in the First Reading, calls us to turn back and seek out the Lord.
The Lord is near to us, and full of mercy and forgiveness.

The response to the Psalm declares that the Lord is close to all who call him. Our Lord is kind, full of compassion, and his abounding love is for the whole of creation. Such wonderful greatness cannot be measured.

Paul declares that life itself is Christ, and his evident enthusiasm encourages us to fully embrace a life centred on Christ. (Second Reading)

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus uses a parable of workers in the vineyard to challenge and stretch our thinking about those who are called to live and work for the Kingdom of God. We are all equal in God’s eyes, and there is no room for human ideas of hierarchy and self-importance. The first will be last and the last will be first.

As we come to pray together, with Christ at the centre of all that we are and do, how might we live out these radical Gospel values in a world that is in so much need of the kindness and compassion of God?

May we have the grace to listen to the cry of the prophet, and to seek the Lord with all our heart, mind and spirit. In this coming week, let us pray for each other with a generous love, recognising that we are all equal as we work together in the vineyard of the Lord.

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Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 13th September 2020

The Lord is compassion and love

The readings this week speak of forgiveness, urging us to forgive others just as God forgives us. God loves us unconditionally. There is no limit to that forgiveness, so long as we ourselves show forgiveness to others, and don’t hold on to any grievances.

The First Reading directs us to remember and live by the commandments, and especially not to bear any grudge against our neighbours. We are urged to let go of any anger, hate or resentment.

The Psalm is full of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. It tells of the strength of the Lord’s love for us as well as his mercy; there is no end to his forgiveness nor love.

In the Second Reading, we hear of how the way in which we live our lives affects one other. Through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, he has shown us that we belong to him both in life and death, unless we choose to turn away.

The parable of the unforgiving servant in the Gospel emphasizes the message of forgiveness. So long as we forgive others with complete sincerity, God will show compassion towards us. So long as we repent, he will forgive our sins an infinite number of times.

Over the week ahead, let’s pray for one another and welcome God’s gift of forgiveness, together with the healing, reconciliation and restoring of any broken relationship that it brings.

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Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 6th September 2020

‘Listen to his voice!’

The theme of listening runs throughout today’s readings: listening to the Divine Voice; to the voice of the prophet Ezekiel; to our community members; to the Church.

In the First Reading, God likens the prophet’s role to that of a sentry, who has the important job of warning people of approaching danger. Ezekiel must point out to the community both their sins and the consequences of them.

In the Gospel, Jesus advises us of our duty to do what we can when an individual’s behaviour is a threat to the community. Our community does not live separately from God: the Lord is active and present in the decisions and desires of his people and our prayer and action should reflect this.

The Psalm picks up the theme of listening and bids the people to heed the message of God and to be receptive to his love and gifts.

Paul emphasises to the Romans that the precious freedom bought for us by Christ also brings with it a responsibility and a debt: to love and care for each other and to live out the consequences of our faith. These words go to the heart of the Gospel message. Jesus has shown us how to love our neighbour by everything he said and did. He also shows us how to be fully alive as a human being. (Second Reading)

Amidst the distractions and bustle of daily life, we pray to be alert for the quiet voice of the Divine, and to be generous in responding to it. We beg for the awareness of our responsibilities as a church community, especially to those most at risk across the world at this time.

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Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 30th August 2020

Who do you say I am?

After Peter’s resounding proclamation of Jesus as the Christ last week, the readings this Sunday strike a more sombre note as we consider the suffering and sacrifice Jesus will face. This will also be the path his followers will choose.

Jeremiah cannot resist God’s call: he is overwhelmed by it, but his faithfulness brings insult and derision. (First Reading)

The Psalm echoes Jeremiah in speaking of our passionate desire and thirst for God. It is in clinging to God that we can face the crosses that will come our way.

In this passage from his letter to the Romans, St Paul encourages the people to offer themselves as a living sacrifice, ‘truly pleasing to God.’ (Second Reading)

In the Gospel we have the first foreshadowing of Jesus’s passion and death. Peter cannot countenance this, but Jesus points out that, for his disciples, the way of the cross is inevitable.

As we go on our way this week, let us try to be of one mind with Christ and to accept each day as it comes, remembering the psalmist’s words ‘For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.’

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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 23rd August 2020

‘The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly’

Today’s readings give thanks to God who, though from on high, looks to the lowly.

The Gospel reveals a God whose choice of the very human Peter shows that the wisdom of God is indeed unfathomable.  By reflecting on the way God builds on the faith of this ordinary man, whose name would be similar to ‘Simon Johnson’ in English (‘bar Jonah’), our own faith can be deepened allowing us to proclaim, along with Peter, ‘You are the Christ’!

The prophet Isaiah (First Reading) appears to foretell this choosing of Peter.  The Lord will entrust a servant with authority, and this servant will become as a father to the nation and as a throne of glory for the kingdom.

The Psalm continues this theme of choice: through the Lord’s faithful love for us, we are indeed chosen and our strength increased.

St Paul (Second Reading) speaks of love and wisdom, the motives behind God’s choice, the depths of which are impossible to comprehend.  And our response to that?  Simply to be grateful for that all is freely given and to trust God’s choice of us.

Let’s do that this week, both in our prayer and in our joyful response.

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 16th August 2020

Let all the peoples praise you, O God!

God’s plan of salvation is for all people. The loving Spirit of God is poured into the whole of creation and rests within everyone. This truth is revealed throughout Scripture and is a message of hope for all times.

The prophet Isaiah (First Reading) calls us to act with integrity and justice, recognising that a time will come when true faith in the Lord of love and compassion will find expression in people of all faith and none.

This universal vision is echoed in both the response and the verses of the Psalm. The light of God’s love shines upon all people of every tribe and nation. This is a text that speaks to our times, reminding us of our common humanity, bound together by the love and blessings of God.

In the letter to the Romans (Second Reading), Paul teaches that God is faithful to his promises and will never take back the gifts he has so lovingly and freely given to all people. God’s mercy is for all of humanity.

In the Gospel, we witness what at first seems an uncharacteristically harsh response from Jesus to a desperately worried mother. In this exchange, a foreign pagan woman with a daughter troubled by an evil spirit approaches him directly for help. She has so much faith in Jesus that she even reveals a truth about him that his own disciples have yet to recognise. Jesus’s initial rebuff to her cry for help, and her unwavering faith in him, offers an opportunity for him to teach his disciples that God’s healing love is available for all people, no matter what their race or religion may be.

Let us, too, pray for an outpouring of the kind of faith the woman reveals to us. May we be able to recognise the spirit of God in all people, and may we unite in living out God’s covenant of love and justice in all that we do.

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Year A, 16th August 2020

‘Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.’

The glorious taking up of Mary into heaven, though not mentioned in Scripture, has been celebrated since the sixth century and is now part of recognised Roman Catholic doctrine. The feast of the Assumption is celebrated in mid August in the Catholic church, and some other denominations also keep this day as a special Feast of the Virgin Mary.

The readings for today’s celebration are all triumphant in tone.

In the First Reading, a woman, in whom we can see either Mary or the Early Church, defeats the evil dragon with the help of God, bringing the Messiah safely to birth.

Verses from Psalm 44 (45), originally part of a wedding song for a king, are also applied to Mary in today’s liturgy. She takes her place, in triumph, in the palace of the King, her Son.

In the Second Reading, Paul tells the Corinthians that Christ, raised from the dead, has put all his enemies under his feet, including death. In today’s feast we celebrate the fact that Mary, mother of Jesus, also enjoys the fruits of the Resurrection.

The Gospel recounts Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, where she voices her triumphant hymn of praise, the Magnificat, as she proclaims: ‘The Almighty has done great things for me.’

This week, like Mary, we might also wish to praise the Lord for the great things he has done for us, and for the people around us.

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 9th August 2020

‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’

In the readings this week, Elijah and Jesus both seek out quiet places to pray alone. They reveal an ever-present God who reaches out to us and brings peace, especially amidst the storms of our own lives.

The First Reading sees a dejected Elijah finding a place of solitude. There he recognizes and responds to God’s still, small voice in the gentle breeze, rather than in the more dramatic events of wind, earthquake and fire.

The Psalmist asks for the Lord’s saving help as well as listening to his voice – one that speaks of justice and peace, mercy and faithfulness.

In the Second Reading, St Paul shows his love for his fellow Jews, agonizing because most of them reject Christ. Paul is ready to be cut off entirely from Christ himself, if that would help his Jewish kinsfolk recognise Christ as their Lord.

The storm in Elijah’s life is echoed by the storm in the Gospel. We see the disciples overcome their fears and doubts as they eventually recognize Jesus. Seeing the power of his presence, they proclaim their belief in who he is: ‘Truly, you are the Son of God’.

The events of recent months may have made us more aware of God’s presence in times of chaos. As we continue to move through these uncertain times, we pray for the grace always to be aware of God’s presence in our lives, and confident in the peace he offers us.

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