Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C, 2nd June 2019

I will come back to you and your hearts will be full of joy!

As we come close to the end of the season of Easter, our readings are full of joy and the hope that comes from trust in the Risen Lord Jesus.

The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells of the martyrdom of Stephen after he speaks of Jesus as Lord, at God’s right hand.  Even as he is being stoned, Stephen cries out with words of forgiveness for his executioners and asks, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’.  Saul, who will become Paul, witnesses Stephen’s faith in the face of death.

Towards the end of his life, John receives a revelation of God that he sets down in writing, as he is told to do.   He writes of Jesus’s invitation to us all to receive from him and his promises that he will be with us always.  (Second Reading)

The Gospel recounts part of the prayer of Jesus for all believers, made at the Last Supper before his Passion and death.  Jesus prays for a unity among us that mirrors the oneness of Father and Son, and that his love may always be the foundation of our sharing of the life of God with others.

We respond with joy in the words of the Psalm because the Lord is King.  We pray too that our lives may be filled with joy and trust in our Risen Lord, especially in our most difficult struggles.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C, 26th May 2019

My peace I give unto you; let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid

As we progress through Eastertide, the readings turn towards the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In the First Reading we see its influence on the discussions to resolve the conflict between the early Christians during the Council of Jerusalem.

The Second Reading from the Book of Revelation describes the heavenly Jerusalem with the Lord and the Lamb in its midst, fulfilling all the hopes of Israel.

The Psalm is a song of thanksgiving for the blessings the Lord has given us.

In the Gospel, Jesus promises that he, together with the Father, will come to dwell in all those who keep his word, and announces the coming of the Spirit. He bestows on us his gift of peace, bringing us comfort and reassurance.

This week, we might want to pray for all those who do not accept the Word of God, or who do not know it in all its forms in their life. We may also ask that the love we feel for the Lord shows itself in loving deeds in our everyday life.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C, 12th May 2019

‘I know them and they follow me’

This Fourth Sunday of Easter is always kept as Good Shepherd Sunday, when we hear from the tenth chapter of St John’s Gospel. This image of Christ the Shepherd caring for his followers has been used since the earliest years of Christianity. In the biblical way of shepherding, the shepherd leads the flock, calling each sheep by name. The sheep know and trust the voice of their shepherd, following him wherever he leads: a fine model for the love of Jesus for his disciples – and for each of us.

Paul and Barnabas (today’s First Reading) in the face of jealousies, and expulsion by the Jews, reach out to the Gentiles with the good news of salvation.  Those who accept the good news will find joy, and the Psalm praises God the Shepherd, the source of this joy.

John, in the Second Reading, describes a vision of God, as Lamb, shepherding the saved from every nation and he reveals (in the Gospel) the manner of that shepherding – with a great and tender care.

This week, perhaps I can place myself ever more deeply under the great care of God who, for me, is both Shepherd and Lamb.

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Third Sunday of Easter, Year C, 5th May 2019

‘It is the Lord!’

We are still in the season of the full joy of the Resurrection, and our scripture readings lead us to a deepening of our faith and an understanding of this great mystery.

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Peter speaking boldly to the high priest, confirming the faith of the early Christians, witnesses of the death and resurrection of Christ, and declaring their firm obedience to their Lord.

We can pray the Psalm with the risen Christ as he praises God for rescuing him from death and restoring him to life.

St John, in the Second Reading, takes us up with him into his vision of the Lamb being praised by all the heavenly hosts.

The Gospel gives us the wonderful account of Jesus’s appearance by the Sea of Tiberias. It is rich with the reactions of the disciples, and with echoes of their earlier relationship with Jesus. It also looks forward to their apostolic and pastoral ministries.

May the readings this week help us to discover the risen Lord in our daily lives and lead us to witness to him.

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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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Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B, 13th May 2018

God Is Love

As the joyous season of Easter comes to a close, this Sunday’s Scripture brings our focus onto Christ’s loving relationship with us.

We see how the very early Church decided that the person who was to replace Judas needed to be someone who had known Jesus personally from the very start of his ministry, and had witnessed his suffering, death and resurrection. (First Reading)

We can pray with great joy the Psalm of thanks for all the blessings of God’s love – a love that is calling all of us into a deeper personal relationship.

John’s letter (Second Reading) is like a summary of the Good News and the mystery of the Resurrection. We are encouraged to love one another. It is through our loving relationships that we will come to know God more fully. God is love, and God shares the Spirit of love with us when we die to self and give ourselves fully to love.

In John’s Gospel we hear Jesus praying to the Father for his followers. Jesus wants us to share fully in his joy. It is in this spirit of Easter joy that we are sent out into the world to draw all people into that relationship of love of which each and every one is invited to be a part.

Let us pray for the grace to be able to live out the joy of the Gospel of love in every part of our life!

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B, 6th May 2018

God is Love!

The central theme of today’s readings is God’s unfailing and overwhelming love for humanity.

In the First Reading we hear of an incident at the house of the centurion Cornelius that marks a turning point for Peter and the whole church. The Holy Spirit shows that the Christian message is for the whole human race – Gentiles as well as Jews.

The Psalm is a song of joy and wonder at the salvation offered by the Lord to all nations; a psalm Cornelius would have gladly sung.

The Second Reading gives the best definition of God to be found in the Bible: God is love. This is the very nature of God: he acts in love and sends his Son to reveal the fullness of his love.

In St John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us of the centrality of his loving relationship with his Father. Throughout his life, he is responding to the Father’s love and making it known to us. Jesus invites his followers into the intimate relationship that exists between Father and Son. As his friends and disciples, he invites us to go and bear fruit and to love one another.

This week, I pray for the grace to recognise that I can bear fruit in my life – and to respond in unique ways to God’s love. I ask the Lord to help me live my life through loving relationships with my brothers and sisters, and with the living planet.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B, 29th April 2018

The one who lives in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit

Today’s readings remind us of the amazing intimacy that God offers us.  Jesus himself invites us to make our home within him – for if we can allow him to live within our hearts, God will make us truly fruitful.

St John’s Gospel shows us this closeness through the wonderful image of the vine and branches. Only when we remain connected to Jesus, the vine, can we bear fruit; cut off from him, we can do nothing at all. As ‘branches’, we may sometimes need pruning – but that process can help us produce more plentiful fruit.

St John similarly reminds us in the Second Reading that God dwells within us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we dwell in him. We are urged to be real and active in our loving, for our goal is quite simple: to believe in Jesus and try to love one other as he taught us.

The Psalm of lament Jesus prayed on the cross concludes today with verses of praise and love to God’s faithfulness. We and all nations are invited to worship the Lord joyfully.

Though Saul’s (Paul’s) preaching still upsets the Greek-speaking Jews, the disciples gradually come to accept him, and the local churches experience consolation as they begin to grow. (First Reading)

As I ponder the relationship God yearns to have with me, and the fruit he enables me to bear, perhaps I can pray with St Ignatius: ‘Lord, I want and I choose whatever better deepens your life within me.’

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Third Sunday of Easter, Year B, 15th April 2018

Christ, our Advocate with the Father

We are celebrating the Easter season with joy. This week’s readings remind us how much Jesus has won for us, and that his forgiving love is always there for us all.

In the First Reading, Peter clearly puts the responsibility for the death of Jesus onto the Judaean people, who had received so much. Yet they can still turn to the risen Christ and repent.

They, and we, may well use Psalm 4 (5) as our cry and prayer for mercy. The Psalm is at the same time full of confidence and trust.

The Second Reading, from St John’s letter, speaks unambiguously of sin, but reminds us that we have the remedy – Jesus Christ, our Advocate with the Father.

The Gospel offers us another of the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection. He meets the fear and agitation of the disciples by offering peace, allowing them to touch him and share a meal with him.

Our readings also underline our role as witnesses. May we go forward this week, confident in God’s love for us, and eager to witness to him.

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