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).