Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 11th February 2018

‘If you want to, you can cure me …’    ‘Of course I want to, be cured!’

In the Roman Catholic Church, 11 February is the 26th World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Pope Francis invites us to pray for all who are isolated and marginalised by ill health:

The image of the Church as a ‘field hospital’ that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality … The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’s gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion.
(Message for the 26th World Day of the Sick 2018, issued Nov. 2017)

It is this same compassion the Lord shows towards the leper in today’s Gospel, by breaking down all the social and cultural barriers of his time.

As the Jews around Jesus were observing the same guidelines for self-preservation concerning lepers prescribed in the Old Testament (First Reading), lepers could not have been among the sick brought to Jesus in last week’s Gospel (Mark 1: 29–39). So in this case, the unfortunate man has to come himself and beg Jesus for a cure. Once healed, however, the leper cannot stop himself sharing his news with others – and in this way, Jesus himself is now considered ‘unclean’, and also becomes isolated.

We too, in praying the Psalm, can ask the Lord to cure us from all that separates us from others, by acknowledging our failings.

In the Second Reading, Paul similarly encourages us not to separate ourselves from those who do not know Christ. We should avoid behaving in a way that might shock them, and instead model ourselves on the Lord.

This week, then, I may want to pray especially for all those around me who are suffering and feel isolated, asking the Lord to cure them in body and mind.

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5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 4th February 2018

‘Lord, everybody is looking for you!’

This Sunday we see all manner of people seeking out Jesus, both for his healing touch and for his message of Good News. He is constantly in demand, and constantly responds with love to those in need.

Job (First Reading) knows great suffering, and is bewildered by his situation: he grieves and frets. But even in his distress and confusion he cries out to God in prayer, trusting that he is still there.

The Psalm has a message of great comfort. God loves us, healing the broken-hearted, binding up our wounds and raising the lowly.

St Paul (Second Reading) talks of the generosity and humility needed to share the Good News; indeed, he tries to be ‘all things to all people’. We, too, can better reach out to others by accepting our own weakness, and so stand more easily with those who are weak.

The Gospel shows us the depth and breadth of Jesus’s ministry, as he preaches throughout Galilee and heals all kinds of human suffering until late into the evening. He is constantly sought out by others, even when he rises very early to be alone in prayer with the Father. But he never loses sight of his mission to move onwards to the next place, spreading the Good News to all.

This week I might pray for renewed commitment – not only in my own search for Jesus – but also in helping others find him too, especially those who are hurting.

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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 13th November 2016

The Lord comes; he comes to rule the earth

As the liturgical year draws to a close the Church invites us to consider the last things—future time and the end of the world.  I pause before I pray, asking the Lord to be with me and to speak to me through these texts.

The prophet Malachi, in the First Reading, speaks of the great day of the Lord— evil will be punished but the just will know the Lord like the healing rays of the sun.

Psalm 97 is a joyful invitation for all creation to praise the Lord who is coming and who rules with justice.

In the Second Reading to the Thessalonians Paul reminds us that waiting for Christ’s return does not mean being anxious, nor does it mean sitting in idleness.  We are to live conscientious lives.

Jesus, in the Gospel, warns of the future destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  His disciples will face persecution and hostility, but catastrophe does not mean the end of the world.  The Lord will care for them and they will bear witness to their faith through their perseverance.

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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 6th November 2016

He is God not of the dead but of the living

This week , the readings ask us to consider that God is close to us at all times.  He is God , not of the dead, but of the living.

The First Reading tells of the steadfastness of seven brothers who are prepared to endure torture rather than break the Law, secure in their belief in the resurrection.

The Psalmist shows the same trust in the Lord, hinting at a time when we shall see the face of the Lord in all his glory.

Paul asks the Thessalonians, in the Second Reading, to pray for him and with him, confident that the Lord , who ‘has given such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope’, will be faithful and support them in their mission to spread his word.

In the Gospel, Jesus answers questions from the Sadducees on the resurrection; like them, he uses Scripture to show that through the resurrection we are sons and daughters of God.  He is the God of the living as for him all men and women are in fact alive, on earth or in heaven.

This week we might want to focus our prayer on those we know who have died in the peace of Christ, that they may enter his Kingdom for all eternity.

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 30th October 2016

The Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost

The readings this Sunday are full of encouragement. Our compassionate God loves us so much that he looks beyond our sins to see the people we can become. However unworthy we may seem, God seeks us out and calls us to him.

The First Reading celebrates God’s compassion and mercy for the whole of creation. Everything belongs to him in love, and his desire to spare us helps us make amends for our misdeeds.

In the same way, the Psalm helps us to praise our God who is slow to anger, lifting us up when we fall.

In the Second Reading, the Thessalonians are encouraged to focus on their call in the here and now, rather than becoming distracted by rumours about the Second Coming. The author’s constant prayer is that the name of Jesus might be glorified in them.

The familiar Gospel rejoices in salvation of the lost. Jesus actively seeks out the unpopular tax collector Zacchaeus, branded a sinner by others. Zacchaeus responds with joy to Jesus’s urgent call, eagerly seeking to make amends for his former life.

This week, then, I might pray to become ever more aware of God’s compassionate gaze on me, a loved sinner, and to hear and respond to his call with a joyful heart.

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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 23rd October 2016

‘The prayers of the humble pierce the clouds!’

In today’s First Reading we are consoled: God hears the prayer of the poor ones, the humble ones, and is not slow in responding.

The Psalm continues to comfort: the Lord not only hears and answers but is also close to the broken-hearted.

St Paul’s confidence in the God who is close enables him to persevere in faith (Second Reading).  His strength comes from his trust in the saving power of God.

Many Gospel stories reveal something of the Kingdom paradox (the weak becomes the strong and the last becomes the first) and today’s is no different.  Those who admit their need before God are heard and answered.  Those who boast arrogantly of their own worth leave prayer unchanged.

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 16th October 2016

Pray continually and never lose heart

As we come towards the end of the church year, the readings for these weeks invite us to ponder the on-going conversation with God that is our prayer, to ask God to deepen our faith and our trust.  This week, we are encouraged to continue to lift our minds and hearts towards God even when our lives are difficult or God does not seem to give us the answers we are seeking.

As examples of perseverance, even when life is difficult, the Gospel and First Reading can help us if we take time to ponder their deeper meaning.  Jesus uses the story of an unjust judge to point out that if a person who has no respect for God or his fellow human beings can be influenced by one who is persistent, how much more will God hear the prayer of those who pray continually and never lose heart.

The example of Moses praying for the Israelites as they were attacked by their enemies shows us how much we need our friends to help and support us.  Without his companions, Aaron and Hur, Moses would not have had the strength to persevere in his prayer.

St Paul writes to Timothy (Second Reading) to encourage him to keep faithful to all that he has been taught and knows to be true. Like Timothy, we too can trust that the scriptures we read and pray are inspired by God to guide us and teach us to be holy.  Then we can share the Good News with others as Paul and Timothy did.

This week, it may also help to pray the Psalm, listening in trust to its promises that “my help shall come from the Lord”, “the Lord will guard you from evil… both now and forever”.

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