Praying Holy Week, 2018

‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’

In New Testament Greek, the word for ‘holy’ is hagios, which means ‘set apart, reverent, sacred, and worthy of veneration’. Throughout this Holy Week then, we may want to set some time apart to be with Jesus as he lives his Passion.

The reflections this year are built around a well known Afro-American spiritual, ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’. You can listen to it here.

Here are some other suggestions you may like to use during this week to help you be even closer to Jesus:

  • Find an extra 10 minutes in your day, perhaps early in the morning and ponder: it’s Holy Week.
  • Copy short phrases or one-liners from the Scripture texts of the daily reflections and stick them on your fridge door or your car dashboard. Change them each day.
  • Change your phone ring tone to ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’
  • Put Lenten graphics and the words ‘Were you there …?’ on your computer or phone.
  • Every time you’re reminded it’s Holy Week, send a short prayer to the Lord, and tell him how much you want to be there to support him.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
But I so want to be there.

WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED MY LORD? (version to read online)

WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED MY LORD? (booklet version to print)

 

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Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B, 11th March 2018

We are God’s work of art

The readings for this ‘Laetare (‘Rejoice’) Sunday’ reveal the Lord’s desire to save his people.

In the First Reading, the exile of the people, and later their release through the pagan king Cyrus, are understood in terms of God’s judgment and mercy.

Today’s Psalm speaks of the desolation that is experienced when the Lord’s goodness is no longer felt. In exile, the people could not be joyful. They could recall the presence of the Lord, but only with regret at its apparent loss.

The gift of the Lord’s presence is given, ultimately, through God’s loving gift of his Son to the world (Gospel). God loved us so much that he has led us back from the exile of sin, and in bringing us to life in Christ, he has made us a ‘work of art’. Jesus is the means by which we are saved, so that we might live ‘the good life’ of grace in return (Second Reading).

Let’s pray, this week, for a greater awareness of the Lord’s wonderful gift, full of grace, that frees us from the darkness of exile to the light of joyful living.

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This Sunday, the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent in Year A may be used as an alternative (please click here).

Third Sunday in Lent, Year B, 4th March 2018

Christ, the power and the wisdom of God

We continue our Lenten journey and join Jesus this week as he goes up to Jerusalem. Our readings offer us the wisdom of God’s law in the commandments, and Jesus’s forceful action regarding the true meaning of God’s Temple.

The ten commandments in the First Reading from Exodus present the Law as a freedom charter – we have been freed from slavery to serve our God.

Psalm 18 (19) is a joyful poem of praise for God’s precepts. It links the teaching of the commandments to their personification in Jesus – wisdom, truth and light.

St Paul in the Second Reading preaches a crucified Christ. This is an obstacle to some, but for Christ’s followers, through his death and resurrection, he is the power and the wisdom of God.

In the Gospel, Jesus ejects the buyers and sellers from the Temple and in doing so reveals himself as the true Temple. Like the Temple, he too, will be destroyed in his body, but will rise again.

As we journey with Jesus, may we find in him the true sanctuary, and perhaps the wisdom to know when to disturb the peace.

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This Sunday, the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent of Year A may be used if preferred (please click here).

Palm Sunday, Year A, 9th April 2017

“Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy!”

As we begin this greatest of weeks when we solemnly remember God’s loving mercy for us, we ask for a greater trust in that love.

Today’s first reading (from the prophet Isaiah) foretells of the humiliation of the ‘suffering servant’ but also of his vindication. Because he trusts, the servant knows that ultimately he will be safe.

The psalm response has us repeating the cry of the suffering Christ from the cross. Yet the last verse is a proclamation of trust and hope in the Lord who is ever near, and who will have the last say.

In the second reading, St Paul wants to reveal to us that it is through the self-emptying of Christ that true love is shown. By allowing himself to be made low through humility and trust, and by accepting suffering and even death, Christ is raised to the highest height.

Finally, the long Passion account from St Matthew’s Gospel gives us the detail of what loving to the end really means. It deserves to be read in its entirety.

Let’s pray, this week, that whatever trials we face, we might do so with ever greater trust in the Lord, who knowing suffering at first-hand, does not leave us to face them alone.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A, 2nd April 2017

Unbind me, Lord; Let me be free!

The readings for this week invite us to anticipate the joy of Easter and to have faith in the promise of a new way of life, made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Lord speaks through the prophet Ezekiel (First Reading) to confirm that he will lead the people of Israel back to their own land, promising that “I will put my spirit in you, and you will live”.

St. Paul (Second Reading) confirms that this same gift of the Holy Spirit, made possible by the resurrection of Jesus, will remove the effects of sin and give us life through the Spirit living within us.

The Psalm echoes this promise that “with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption”.  The Lord does not treat us according to our guilt; he redeems us from all our sinfulness.  We can count on his promise; he will hear our voice when we call to him.

The Gospel tells of the raising of Lazarus from death.  Jesus responds to the need and the grief of Martha and Mary, and demonstrates his power over death and sin by bringing Lazarus back to life.

As we pray this week, we ask the Lord to deepen our faith in him.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A, 26th March 2017

“I was blind and now I can see!”

God’s loving vision is a light that guides us out of darkness and heals our spiritual blindness. God sees the potential in us through his loving gaze. His judgements are based on compassion and love, and not on our human standards.

In the first reading Samuel is surprised that God chooses the simple shepherd boy David to be the King of Israel, when his brothers all seemed so much more suitable. In time, David’s descendant Jesus will become the true Good Shepherd: the Servant King who opens the eyes of the blind.

Psalm 22 (23) is the “Good Shepherd” Psalm. Its words of comfort describe how God tenderly cares for his people, giving them rest, guiding them through darkness, and richly anointing them with love.

St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians calls us to wake from our sleep so that we can see ourselves as God sees us. We are children of light! Darkness no longer has a hold over our lives, and as children of light we are called to share fully in the life of the Risen Christ.

Today’s Gospel describes the healing of a man from lifelong blindness. It shows how his eyes are opened not just physically but spiritually too, so that he can see who he truly is. He is now able to recognise Christ and declare his belief in Him. Just as Samuel was surprised at God’s choice of a king for his people, the Pharisees cannot believe that Jesus chooses a “sinner” to be healed. Their judgements make them blind.

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3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A, 19th March 2017

Living Water

Continuing on my Lenten journey, I take time to pray and ponder the Scripture texts offered for this week.

In the First Reading we meet another of the leaders of the Old Testament – Moses, leading his people in the desert.  The people, losing their trust in God, complain to Moses.  God listens to Moses’ appeal and grants them water from the rock.

Psalm 94 is a direct response to this incident.  It is one of the invitatory psalms, inviting us to come into  God’s presence and pray.  We may pray that our hearts are not hardened by lack of trust.

In the Second Reading St Paul speaks of the wondrous gift that Jesus has won for us  –  the love of God that is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

The long Gospel from St John deserves to be read in its entirety.  Jesus meets a Samaritan woman, and beginning with a request for a drink of water, leads her gently to accepting him as Messiah.  We see her spreading the word immediately and bringing others to know him.

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