Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, Year B, 25th November 2018

‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world’

The last Sunday of the Church’s year is celebrated as the Feast of Jesus Christ, the Universal King.  We celebrate the resurrection victory of Jesus over suffering and death, a moment in historical time that has everlasting meaning, and look forward to the end of time when we will know fully the glory, holiness and peace of God’s kingdom.

The readings all bear witness to the glory of Christ Jesus.  The First Reading is a prophecy from Daniel that can be seen to foretell the coming of Jesus, when people of all nations and languages will become his faithful servants.

The Second Reading describes the love of Jesus for each one of us; a love that makes us not simply servants, but fills us with his glory even as we mourn his death.

We can trust all that Jesus has done and said; his majesty, power and holiness are unchanged to the end of time (Psalm).

The Gospel recounts the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus in the hours before the crucifixion. Jesus tells us that his kingdom has values that are not of this world.  If we seek the truth, we will listen carefully to his voice and live by his words.

This week, we pray that we may learn to know him more fully in our prayer and follow him more faithfully in our lives.

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Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 18th November 2018

“My words will endure forever” 

As the Church’s year draws to a close, the Gospel and First Reading in particular are full of vivid imagery of the ‘End Times’. These texts were written to offer solace and encouragement to people facing temporal and spiritual crisis in very different times and circumstances.

In the First Reading, we listen to the prophet Daniel concluding the last of his four apocalyptic visions. He offers hope to the Jewish people, who are facing persecution from a foreign king determined to stamp out their faith.

The Gospel sees Jesus preparing his disciples for the troubles they will soon witness. The Evangelist is also giving a message of hope to the early church as it faces persecution from the Emperor Nero. We are reminded always to be mindful of the signs of the times; but rather than being caught up in fruitless anxiety over ’End Times’ and the passing nature of life, we can take hope that the Word of God will endure forever.

The Psalm is a prayer full of confidence that God will offer healing and deliverance from death. Each verse is a prayer full of hope in God’s saving love.

In the concluding passages from the letter to the Hebrews (Second Reading), the Risen Christ is compared to the priests of the Old Covenant. There is no longer a need for constant animal sacrifices to atone for sin. Christ has conquered sin once and for all.

Christ is the fulfilment of God’s promise of love. His word will always be with us. Let us pray for the grace to be drawn deeper into the wonder of that love so that our lives can be a message of hope to our times.

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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 11th November 2018

The Lord upholds the widow and orphan

Our readings this week  encourage us to  live our lives not just for ourselves but for others, as Jesus did.

The First Reading tells us of a poor destitute widow who shows great generosity as she sacrifices her last scrap of bread for the prophet Elijah.

The psalmist urges us to call on our innermost self – on ‘[our] soul’ – to give praise to the God who has great concern for the poor, including widows and orphans (Psalm).

In the Gospel too, it is the widow who wins the praise of Jesus as he observes her give everything she possesses to the treasury in the Temple.  He contrasts her generosity to that of others and holds her up as a role model to the disciples.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews explains how Jesus Christ is the compassionate high priest who offers the gift of his own life for the salvation of mankind (Second Reading).

This week, let us pray for the grace to be the Lord’s instruments on earth, showing our care through loving action for the outcasts and marginalised of today.

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 4th November 2018

The Lord our God is the one Lord

Our readings this week  remind us that the love of God and of our neighbour is the foundation and the rock of our faith and life.

The text from Deuteronomy (First Reading) is the famous Shema Yisrael prayer, beloved by Judaism and used every morning and evening.  Israel keeps the law of God because she loves God with her whole soul.

In the Gospel, Jesus uses the same text to answer the scribe’s question as to which is the greatest commandment. However, Jesus takes it further by adding a second commandment, to love one’s neighbour.  These two commandments are inseparable.

The few verses of Psalm 17 (18) in our Responsorial Psalm are a song of love and praise to our God.  The Psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving to the God who has done so much for us and continues to do so.

St Paul, in the Second Reading, represents Christ as the ideal high Priest of the New Covenant.  He unceasingly intercedes for us with the Father.

This week may the command to love God with all that we are and in all that we do find expression in our awareness of all whom we meet.

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30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, 28th October 2018

Courage … Get up! Jesus is calling you!

Our readings this week tell of how God, our loving Father, yearns to save us and restore us. He never abandons us. Just as he restored an exiled people to their homeland, he restores sight and clarity of vision to courageous Bartimaeus.

The First Reading conveys the joy of the returning exiles as they are restored to their land. As the Lord gathers his people from far and wide, he cares for and consoles the most vulnerable: the blind, the weak, mothers giving birth; guiding them to restoring streams.

The Psalm also celebrates God’s marvellous delivery of his people from bondage. Tears are replaced by songs of joy and gladness. Now  God’s people can look confidently towards a joyful harvest.

The Second Reading presents Jesus as our compassionate high priest, chosen directly by God. In his priestly role he offers himself as the sacrifice, restoring us as sons and daughters of God.

In the Gospel, blind Bartimaeus irks the crowd with his loud shouting  until Jesus calls him. He then has courage to leap up and cast off his cloak, telling Jesus what he wants and needs. He, too, is restored and brought home, following Jesus in the new light of his faith.

This week we might ask: What needs restoring in my life?
Where do I need to take courage and respond to God’s call to me?
Let’s pray for ourselves and for one another, asking the Lord to help us hear his call clearly, as we go about our daily lives. May he give us the courage to respond joyfully and to encourage those around us.

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B, 21st October 2018

To you I call; for you will surely heed me, O God

In today’s readings, the themes of discipleship and suffering that we have been pondering in recent weeks are again repeated.

The ‘Suffering Servant’ text of the First Reading tells of the prophet Isaiah ministering to the captives in Babylon and proclaiming a message that was not well received.  The servant would be rejected and suffer because of it, but through his sufferings would ‘justify many’. It foreshadows the fullness of servanthood accepted by Jesus on our behalf. Through his suffering, he takes all our faults onto himself.

In the Second Reading, Jesus the high priest replaces the human priest of the Temple. Jesus is both priest and victim, and though without sin, he is like us in every way.  By his death and resurrection he justifies us in the sight of God, and the throne of grace and mercy is opened to all. We can call on him with great confidence whenever we need help, trusting that in his humanity, he knows all that we go through, including our temptations.

The Gospel shows two disciples approaching this source of grace and mercy – but for their own personal gain rather than for loving service.  It is the latter way that Jesus highlights as the true way, and the path he will walk as high priest.

As in today’s Psalm, we can offer our own prayer of praise for this way, which opens to us the gifts of mercy and grace. Let us continue to call on our loving God this week, confident that he will heed us.

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 14th October 2018

The Word of God is alive and active

As we ponder our readings this week, we may well consider what riches mean to us; what we really value in our lives, our work, our relationships.

The author of the Book of Wisdom, the First Reading, esteems wisdom as the greatest treasure – she is seen as a person closely identified with the Spirit, and the writer prefers her to any other value; everything else is as nothing.

The verses of the Psalm given to us are a prayer for that wisdom, and for love, joy and the favour of the Lord, so that we can live our short lives to the utmost.

In the Second Reading, the Word of God, in the Scriptures or in the person of Jesus, is a living force opening us to the Spirit of God. It continually challenges us: we have no other hiding place.

The Gospel describes the rich man who wishes to follow Jesus but is held back by his great wealth. However, God’s generosity will far outweigh any sacrifice we make.

As we look at the rich man of the Gospel this week, in the midst of our own busy lives, we may consider the quality, rather than the quantity, of our service in God’s Kingdom.

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