Second Sunday of Easter, Year C, 28th April 2019

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

We are Easter people, and in the Spirit of Easter, we are sent out to share the joy of the Resurrection throughout the world.

In today’s familiar Gospel story, the risen Christ appears to the disciples in the upper room on the day of Resurrection. Jesus breathes his spirit on them, sending them out to spread his message of love, forgiveness and peace. Thomas is not with them on this day, and cannot see beyond his own loss and grief. But eight days later, Jesus returns to the same room and reveals the reality of his Resurrection to Thomas in an intimate way. Thomas is liberated from his fear and doubt, and exclaims ‘My Lord and my God!’

In the First Reading from Acts, the Early Church is filled with the same Easter spirit that Jesus breathed upon the disciples. The growing Christian community gathers together in a public place, and people are amazed at the signs and wonders worked by the apostles through the Holy Spirit. Praying together and praising God, the community would have been familiar with today’s Easter Psalm, which  continues the song of gratitude, joy and celebration which we prayed on Easter Sunday.

In the Second Reading from the Book of the Apocalypse, John, possessed by the Holy Spirit, tells of his vision of the Universal Christ: the First and the Last, the Living One who has overcome death for ever.

Let us pray that our hearts may be open to recognising the Risen Christ present amongst us. May his words of peace drive out all our fear and doubt, and may we have the confidence to go out joyfully, transforming the world through the love of Christ.

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Easter Sunday, Year C, 21st April 2019

Christ, my hope, has risen!

Today we arrive at the oldest of the Church’s Feast Days, and the pinnacle of the liturgical year: the wonder-filled celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Psalmist joyfully foresees the resurrection of Jesus and recognises it as the work of God Himself.

The Gospel records how Peter and the unnamed ‘beloved disciple’ (and then later in the same chapter, Mary Magdalene) slowly come to realise that Jesus has risen from the dead. The relationship between Jesus and the ‘disciple he loved’ is a model for all faithful Christians, as God invites us into a loving, intimate relationship with Christ.

The First Reading demonstrates that one of the fruits of the Resurrection is to break down barriers between peoples: in this case Peter, a Jew, stays in the home of Cornelius, a Gentile. This goes beyond what is culturally permitted: Peter is risking defilement by having contact with a non-believer.

Paul, too, emphasises the consequences of the Resurrection for the followers of Jesus, and appeals to the Early Church in Colossae to be aware of the mystery of true life with Christ. He calls them to live the sort of life fitting for those raised to new life in Christ (Second Reading).

On this Easter Day, we may pray to recognise the dignity that belongs to us as Christians and for the grace needed to live it out in practice doing good as Jesus did, in our daily, ordinary lives.

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Palm Sunday of the Passion of our Lord, Year C, 14th April 2019

O Lord, do not leave me alone

This Sunday we begin the prayer of Holy Week as Jesus enters Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, accompanied by crowds shouting joyfully ‘Hosanna!’ and waving palm branches. Very soon, the mood of the people changes and their cry is ‘Crucify him!’ (Gospel). We accompany Jesus as he goes to his death.

The other readings help us to understand what is happening.

We see that Jesus fulfils the Old Testament prophecies of the suffering servant from Isaiah; in the face of his Passion, he knows and trusts that the Father will help him (First Reading).

Psalm 21 (22) moves from utter dejection: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ to praise and trust in God: ‘Give him praise … revere him’! You may wish to read the whole psalm from your Bible during Holy Week to understand the prayer that Jesus prayed from the cross.

St Paul’s explanation of the meaning of Jesus’s incarnation, death and Resurrection ends with a firm declaration of faith that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Second Reading).

Even as we walk in sorrow with Jesus this Holy Week, we look forward to Easter joy in the Resurrection.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C, 7th April 2019

‘Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you.’

Having journeyed through Lent for four weeks, I may well feel in need of the reassuring words of Isaiah (First Reading). Just as the Lord promised to give abundant water to sustain the exiles from Babylon on their journey home, he will also guide me through the rest of Lent, supporting me with spiritual food and drink.

In gratitude, I pray the response to the Psalm: ‘What marvels the Lord worked for me, indeed I am glad’, recalling the joy of the exiles as they returned to their country.

Paul reminds us that ‘nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus’. He is aware that he needs not try for perfection by his own efforts. I take comfort in this, and forgetting the past, look forward to what is still to come (Second Reading).

Jesus defuses a tense and potentially violent situation by forgiving the woman who sinned, and then turning the tables on her accusers:
‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’ (Gospel). Although he does not condemn her, she is to ‘go away and not sin any more’.

Perhaps this helps me in these last days of Lent to pray to the Lord that he be ‘my Saviour again and renew my joy’. I may also want to pray for all those people around me who still feel in exile, that the expectation of new life at Easter might help them to come home.

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Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C, 31st March 2019

Rejoice! This child of mine was lost, and is found!

Laetare (‘Rejoice!’) Sunday is a day of joyful celebration in the middle of our Lenten journey. Today we rejoice in God’s outpouring of compassion and forgiveness for us, as we remember that we are loved sinners.

In the First Reading the Israelites celebrate Passover in the Promised Land. Though they no longer need the manna they ate in the wilderness, they are still totally dependent on the God who provides for them.

The Psalm invites us to taste and see the Lord’s goodness – to glorify the One who hears us, frees us and rescues us from our distress.

St Paul tells how God has reconciled himself with the whole of humanity through Christ, who has taken on our sinfulness so we might show God to others. Our task now is to be ambassadors – to continue God’s great work of reconciliation by sharing the good news. (Second Reading)

In the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus gives a wonderful picture of that same loving reconciliation in action, as we see the height and depth of a father’s compassion for his penitent child. This is how much God loves us, too: so much that he yearns and waits to welcome us home with joy when we turn to him in repentance. Today’s leaflet stops at v. 24, but we should take time to read on to the end of the story. Perhaps we, too, can sometimes respond a little like the aggrieved elder brother?

As Lent continues, let’s pray that we might become increasingly aware of God’s compassionate gaze on us, and to ask for his help in seeing others with that same generous, loving regard, regardless of who they are.

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Third Sunday in Lent, Year C, 24th March 2019

‘My eyes are always on the Lord, for he rescues me’

The Hebrew slaves in Egypt have forgotten the Lord’s goodness to them.  But Moses, going about his ordinary business, is attentive enough to notice the Lord drawing near and willing enough to ‘go forward to look’, when he is called (First Reading). He is then sent by God to remind the people of Israel that the Lord is compassion and love (Psalm).

St Paul uses this Exodus story as the basis for his homily (Second Reading) to the church community based at Corinth.  Corinth is a bustling, cosmopolitan city with a reputation for indulgence and temples aplenty, but Paul isn’t intimidated and makes it his headquarters for the mission to the west. However, it does explain the stern tone of his letter.

Jesus, too, gives us a warning in today’s Gospel.  He calls us to repent, telling us that God desires that we bear fruit, promising us every opportunity to work with his grace.

In the coming days, let’s listen to the Lord who is faithful in both word and name (‘I Am’) as the One who acts in our lives.

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Second Sunday of Lent, Year C, 17th March 2019

‘This is my Son. Listen to him!’

We continue our Lenten journey this week, deepening our faith as we ponder Abraham’s example and enter into the revelation contained in the Transfiguration of Jesus.

The First Reading tells us of the Covenant God made with Abram.  Abram had no son, but he put his faith in God and trusted that his descendants would dwell in the land given to him.

The Psalm is a confident prayer that the Lord will lead the psalmist, whose prayer will be heard and answered. He has no fear, but seeks the Lord and hopes in him. It is also a prayer for Christ as he turns his face to Jerusalem.

The passage from St Paul in the Second Reading links all these themes: of homeland, of being glorified in Christ, and of trusting in him and remaining faithful.

On this Second Sunday we always have an account of the Transfiguration in the Gospel. The disciples had a physical journey and a time of prayer before encountering this mystery.  Seeing Jesus transfigured, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, and hearing the voice from heaven all struck them forcibly, even if they only understood in hindsight.

Perhaps this week we can ponder the possibility, by the power of Christ, of transformation in our own lives this Lent.

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