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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Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord, Year B, 25th March 2018

Oh Lord, do not leave me alone, my strength, make haste to help me.

We have journeyed with Christ through Lent, from the silence of the wilderness, to the dawning realisation that his whole life has been a preparation for the events that will unfold on Good Friday.

This Sunday, we see the contrast of Jesus’s joyful yet humble procession into Jerusalem. We witness how the same crowd turn against his message of love and compassion and now call for his death. (Gospel) 

The First Reading from Isaiah is a prophecy of the suffering servant.
It tells of the willingness with which Jesus enters into his Passion, confident that the Lord will give him strength.

The Psalm continues to describe the insults and humiliation that Jesus took upon himself in order to set us free from sin. The response draws on the words that Jesus cried out as his earthly life drew to a close.

In the Second Reading, St Paul reveals the hidden truth of Christ.
Jesus embraced the frailty and mortality of humanity, so that we could be drawn into the circle of the Trinity, and acclaim with the whole of creation that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.

Let us pray for each other as we enter into this Holy Week, that we will each make time to sit in silence with Jesus.
Let us be willing to journey with Jesus through his Passion, death and Resurrection.
We may choose to be with him when he is anointed with oil in Bethany, as he eats the Passover meal with his friends, as he prays in earnest in Gethsemane, and during his arrest and betrayal; or we may walk alongside him as he carries the cross, and then stand with him at its foot as he gives up his spirit.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B, 18th March 2018

‘If anyone serves me, they must follow me …’

As our Lenten journey brings us ever nearer to Jerusalem, this week’s readings promise us the hope of forgiveness and eternal life as we try to stay alongside Jesus in his suffering.

However the people of Israel have behaved in the past, God’s new covenant, written on their hearts, will overlook all their sins. They will now know their merciful God as he truly is (First Reading).

The Psalm invites us to bring all our guilt to our compassionate God, in trust that he will utterly blot out our sins. We rejoice to know that God will renew our hearts and keep us steadfast.

The Second Reading recalls the lonely suffering of Jesus as he might have prayed in Gethsemane. But even here, Jesus is deeply humble and obedient, trusting that the Father is working through him, making him the source of salvation for all who love him.

In the Gospel, Jesus describes the grain of wheat that dies and is buried before it bears fruit. In the same way, Jesus himself will die and rise again, drawing all of us to him. Like Jesus, we, too, are made for eternal life, and are united with him as we serve him.

This week, let us ask the Lord for strength as we try to follow him in love and obedience. We pray that he will keep us safely by his side when our own path leads us to share in his suffering.

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

Third Sunday in Lent, Year B, 4th March 2018 [updated]

Christ, the power and the wisdom of God

[This version of the post has the correct version link to Year A at the foot of this page]

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).

Second Sunday of Lent, Year B, 25th February 2018

Listen!

The readings for this second Sunday in Lent invite us to listen and to trust that God will lead us in ways that are life-giving.

Abraham learns that he can trust God with the life of his precious son, even though what he is asked to do seems contrary to all God’s previous promises. His obedience and faithfulness are blessed by God (First Reading).

St. Paul reminds us that, since God gave up his only Son as his gift to us, we can be certain that he will not refuse us anything that we ask. God is on our side! We can trust him for our needs (Second Reading).

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus ask for a different kind of trust from Peter, James and John. After seeing Jesus transfigured in all his glory on the mountain top, they are asked to listen and believe in him, but to wait for the right time to speak of all they have seen and heard.

The Psalmist sings a song of rejoicing. Even when sorely afflicted, he has trusted in the Lord. Now he gives thanks for the ways in which the Lord has freed him, and becomes a joyful witness before all God’s people.

We pray for the grace to listen and to trust more fully in Jesus this Lent so that we, too, may “walk in the presence of the Lord”.

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First Sunday of Lent, Year B, 18th February 2018

Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love

As we begin Lent, we are invited to follow Jesus into the silence of the wilderness and join with him in prayer and fasting.

Throughout Lent, the Old Testament readings guide us through the history of our salvation. This Sunday we begin with God’s Covenant with Noah and his descendants (First Reading). The rainbow in the sky is a reminder of that loving Covenant, which foreshadows the promises God will later make to Abraham.

The first letter of St Peter (Second Reading) teaches that just as the waters of the flood in Noah’s day led to a new life and Covenant with God, the waters of our baptism lead to new life in Christ.

In the Gospel, after Jesus has been baptised and received the Holy Spirit, he is drawn by the Spirit into the desert. After forty days of fasting and testing in the wilderness, he immediately returns to Galilee and begins to spread the Good News, calling people to repent and turn back to God

The story of both God’s Covenant with Noah and today’s Psalm would have been well known to Jesus. Perhaps we can imagine him praying the psalm and taking comfort from its words: “Lord make me know your ways. Lord teach me your paths. Make me walk in your truth.

Let this be our prayer, too, as we begin our Lenten journey. May Jesus be our guide as we learn to follow his path to salvation. We begin as Jesus did by entering into silence …

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