Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year C, 24th November 2019

Jesus is the image of the unseen God

This Sunday brings the Church’s liturgical year to its conclusion. Today we celebrate our King whose wealth lies in his love for all, and whose authority is exercised through the service of those who are often considered the least in society.

Through his life and death, Jesus reveals the wondrous and challenging nature of his kingship. Luke’s Gospel, in particular, emphasises that God’s universal love and forgiveness are revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Even in his dying moments, Jesus was more concerned with saving others than saving himself.  (Gospel)

The First Reading tells of the people of Israel anointing David as their king. The Lord asks him to be both shepherd and leader of his people.

The Psalm is a pilgrim song, sung on arrival to Jerusalem; the city to which David moved after his anointing as King at Hebron.

St Paul strongly asserts the primacy of Jesus Christ who is both the first-born of all creation and the first-born from the dead. Christ is the image of the invisible God, whose authority and power far exceeds that of any human king. There is no other force at work on earth that compares with him. (Second Reading)

This week, we might join with Pope Francis in praying to share the Church’s Universal Mission, that we and all Christians might strengthen and grow God’s mission through the Church by our own prayer and action.

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Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 17th November 2019

Acclaim the King, the Lord!

As we come towards the end of the Church’s year, the readings encourage us to look at our world with open eyes, without pretence;  to be filled with hope because God is faithful, working always for good. Even if we have to suffer, God is with us.

The prophet Malachi, in the First Reading,  promises that arrogant evil-doers will not always prosper.  The day of the Lord is coming when evil will be punished but those who know the Lord will experience healing, like the warming rays of the sun.

The Psalm is a joyful invitation for all creation to praise the Lord, who is coming to rule with fairness and justice.

St Paul reminds us we should work quietly and humbly at our daily tasks while waiting for Christ’s return. Without anxiety, we are to contribute to our families and community (Second Reading).

In the Gospel, Jesus warns of the future destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. His disciples will face persecution and hostility, illness and famine, but these catastrophes do not mean the end of the world. God will care for them and give them the words to speak to those who persecute them.  By enduring, they will give witness to their faith and receive all that he has promised.

This week, I may like to pray for trust and gentle perseverance in following Jesus, so I am able to live according to his values.

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Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 10th November 2019

Being children of the resurrection, we are sons and daughters of God.

This Sunday’s readings focus on God being at our side at all times. Through our belief in the resurrection, we are his children. Our God is the God of the living.

In the First Reading it is this belief in the resurrection that gives strength to a mother and her seven children to endure martyrdom, rather than prove unfaithful to the Law.

The Psalm is a prayer of trust in God who answers the petitioner’s cry.

Paul prays for the young church in Thessalonica that they may remain strong and faithful to Christ Jesus in the sure hope of his coming again. The Lord is always faithful, so they can be confident and turn their hearts towards the love of God. (Second Reading)

In the Gospel, Jesus answers a treacherous query from the Sadducees. They try to ridicule his belief in the resurrection, but he explains that they have not understood at all the transformation which will take place at the time of resurrection. He does this by using arguments from the Pentateuch which, being Sadducees, they have to accept. Jesus is the God of the living.

This week, perhaps, we could reflect on the arguments and the words we use to explain our faith to non-believers, and try to encourage others above all through our example.

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Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 3rd November 2019

Hurry to help me, Lord, my Saviour!

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, I 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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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 27th October 2019

God be merciful to me, a sinner!

As the end of the Church’s year approaches, we renew our commitment to the Lord who desires to draw ever closer to those who are humble.

The First Reading shows how the Lord hears the petitions of the poor, while the Psalm echoes this by showing the closeness of the Lord to the broken-hearted and the downtrodden.

In the Second Reading, Paul encourages the new followers of Christ to hold firm to the life God gives, even through sufferings and struggles.  He uses the analogy of a runner whose eyes are fixed firmly on the prize.

In all his years of ministry, Jesus rarely speaks harshly. Indeed, the only group he seems to condemn are the Pharisees, perhaps because their pride and self-reliance make them hard to reach. The Pharisee in today’s Gospel certainly thinks he has a monopoly on God. In contrast, however, Jesus holds up the tax collector as an example, not because of what he does, but because he is sincerely asking for forgiveness. He knows his sin and his need of God, and so goes home at one with God.

This week, I endeavour to entrust myself ever more keenly to the compassion of the Lord, that it may open me more and more to his love and care.  May his closeness empower me to go out to stand alongside anyone I know who is in need of help.

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Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 20th October 2019

Pray continually!

The qualities required for faithful prayer and the inner disposition that we need to pray run throughout our readings this Sunday.

The First Reading gives us the image of Moses, arms upheld by Aaron and Hur, as he prays all day that Israel might win the battle against Amalek.

This perseverance in prayer, in the form of faithfulness to the scriptures, is part of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy in the Second Reading. It leads us to find wisdom and salvation in Christ Jesus.

The pilgrim in Psalm 120 (121) puts all his trust in God. God is faithful; he is our guardian and he never sleeps.

This trust and confidence is needed when our God seems to be silent, as shown in the Gospel. Jesus’s parable of the widow and the unjust judge is an encouragement to be unwearied in prayer.

However we feel this week, let us entrust ourselves in prayer to Christ, who continually intercedes for us.

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Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, 13th October 2019

Give thanks to the Lord!

Longing for healing and expressing gratitude are threads that pull together all of the scripture we pray this Sunday.

In the First Reading, Naaman, commander of a foreign king’s army, cannot use his power to escape the ravages of leprosy. Yet with a spirit of humility and hope-filled faith, he goes in search of healing from the God of Israel. Though not an Israelite, his life is transformed and changed forever by God’s healing power.

The Psalm is a rapturous song of praise, expressing very much how we imagine Naaman might have felt after being healed.

St Paul, in the Second Reading, writes a letter of encouragement from his place of imprisonment, proclaiming that the good news of Jesus Christ risen from the dead cannot be chained up. Faith in Christ will bring us freedom from our hardships.

The physical healing of leprosy is also at the heart of the Gospel story, but we are encouraged to look deeper by reflecting on the questions that Jesus poses after ten people with leprosy are healed. It is only a Samaritan who returns to give thanks to Jesus. Perhaps even after being healed, he is no longer welcome in his fellow group of non-Samaritans? He remains a social pariah, but Jesus welcomes him and demonstrates that the spirit of God’s healing love is for all people, not just the chosen few.

This week, let us be especially grateful that we belong to a community united in love and prayer – and let us pray for each other that we may be a source of God’s healing to those who are rejected today.

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Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 6th October 2019

The disciples said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’

Today’s readings demonstrate our need for the gift of faith and the patience of faithfulness, to give us a new vision and understanding of the world.

In the First Reading the prophet Habakkuk looks at the evil all around him and the suffering of innocent people. He asks God, ‘What’s the point of praying?’, when God does not appear to hear. The Lord offers no direct answer, but simply reassures him that the just person lives by faith in God – the One who sees the whole picture.

The Psalm urges us: ‘O that today you would listen to his voice!’ For us, ‘today’ means our own lives, as they are lived in the present moment.

Despite his imprisonment, Paul is confident in the Lord and dares to speak without fear. He reminds Timothy that faith is never possessed definitively but must be continually aroused. He also needs the power of God: the gifts of the Holy Spirit must be the driving force in his life (Second Reading).

The disciples are keen to learn and to grow, and ask Jesus to increase their faith (Gospel). However, it is very clear that the way of the disciple is hard. It involves dying to ourselves and our self- promoting needs. Jesus’s parable reminds them that faith is ultimately a gift from God.

Let’s pray this week to deepen our faith and our faithfulness; knowing that it is not based on our own efforts, but on our growing surrender to the gifts of the Holy Spirit within.

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Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 29th September 2019

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever

This week’s readings remind us that we are called to share our gifts and possessions with those who have less than we do. Our faith in the promises of Jesus is demonstrated by the way we live.

In the First Reading the prophet Amos speaks forcefully to those who enjoy a life of luxury and leisure but ignore what is happening in the world around them. He tells them that God deplores the way they are living.

The Gospel story illustrates how those who want to follow God’s values must take care of the poor and those in need. Jesus points out to his hearers that he is not saying anything that Moses and the prophets have not already told them.

The Psalm is a hymn of praise to the Lord who is on the side of those who are oppressed, who gives food to the hungry and sets prisoners free, who raises up those who are bowed down. In our day, we can help to fulfil these promises for those in need.

Paul exhorts Timothy to live as a man dedicated to God should live (Second Reading). By doing so he will be a witness for Jesus, speaking up for the truth.

This week we pray to live even more faithfully as Jesus’s disciples.

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Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 22nd September 2019

Praise the Lord, who raises the poor

This week’s readings challenge us to reflect on our attitude towards money. It should never displace our generous and just God from being at the centre of our lives.

In the First Reading, Amos attacks those who take advantage of the poor and attempts to enslave them. God will remember their evil deeds.

The Psalm calls us to praise the Lord who from the height of his throne in heaven bends down to lift up the lowly and set them in the company of princes.

The Second Reading stresses that God wants everyone to be saved. So we are to pray for all, especially for those with authority over others in business or government.

In the Gospel extract, Jesus tells us to be careful with money. Riches can rule us as a master would a slave, preventing us from using our God-given freedom to love and serve the Lord. Being faithful in small things helps us to focus on the ‘genuine riches’ in our lives.

This week, I might ask God to help me be more aware of the real riches in my life, and better able to love and serve the Lord through that.

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