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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Praying Holy Week

Praying Holy Week through the prism of the Mass

The Greek word for Church “ekklesia” means “gathering” and so when we go to Mass, we gather together and remember Jesus, Word made flesh, gathering his disciples at the Last Supper. It was the night before he died when everything around him seemed to be disintegrating. Judas had betrayed him, Peter would deny him. His friends were about to run away .

Every time we go to Mass, we bring to mind Jesus gathering his friends and asking them to sit with him and listen to his words; we also recall his sacrifice for us on the cross.

Throughout the next few days we shall focus on different parts of the Mass and reflect on the way they connect with the Passion events which will unfold during this Holy Week.
When the priest and his altar servers solemnly process into the Church, we are reminded of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, which we celebrated last week on Passion Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.

I pray that every day this week I will be able to find a quiet place to come close to Jesus and spend some time with him.

(There are two versions of this leaflet: the booklet form for those who wish to print it for use off-line, and the single page version for those who wish to read on a ‘phone, tablet or computer.)

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Palm Sunday, Year C, 20th March 2016

‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’

The sudden transition from ‘Hosanna’ as Jesus enters Jerusalem to the proclamation of the Passion prepares us for the profound journey of Holy Week. Jesus loves the world so much that he willingly embraces the cross, gaining forgiveness for all of us.

Both Old Testament readings bring to mind Jesus on the cross. The ‘suffering servant’ of Isaiah is enabled to face his tormentors by his total reliance on God’s presence (First Reading). The Psalmist’s trust is similarly unshakeable, to the extent that his cry of anguish can become a cry of praise.

In the Second Reading, Paul contrasts the divine nature of Jesus with his readiness to endure human suffering on the cross. But now that God has exalted him, all should proclaim him Lord.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus not only accepts the humility of crucifixion, but also forgives his executioners, promising even the ‘good thief’ a place in heaven this same day.

As I pray the Passion this week, I ask the Lord to help me stay close as I journey with him to the cross, and to show me what his unconditional love and forgiveness mean for this world, and for me.

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