Second Sunday of Advent, Year C, 5th December 2021

‘Prepare a way for the Lord!’

Today’s readings offer the gift of joy, and the invitation to hear and respond to God who is reaching out to draw us ever closer.

In the First Reading, the Prophet Baruch reminds us that, despite all the challenges to our faith and hope in the Lord, we are called to follow God by the light of salvation.

Today’s Gospel puts this salvation of the Lord in a specific political, historical and geographical setting.  By firmly anchoring the ministry of John the Baptist to a particular point in history, St Luke also gives weight to the reality of Jesus in a time and place. (Some scholars have deduced from these historical references that Jesus was baptised in the October of AD 27 – just after his thirtieth birthday and was crucified on 3rd April AD 30). In addition, Luke introduces us to ‘the voice’ that will announce the Saviour with insistence and urgency.

The Psalmist heralds the marvels worked for us by the Lord.

St Paul (Second Reading), writing this letter of gratitude to the church at Philippi from prison, acknowledges his confidence in the one who, in us, will complete these good work of faith. 

In the coming week, how may I be a ‘voice crying in the wilderness’? How can I more fruitfully respond to Christ’s wonderful call? How will I continue to discern what is always best?

First Sunday of Advent, Year C, 28th November 2021

‘Stay awake, praying at all times’

Today marks the beginning of Advent, a time of watchfulness, waiting and renewed hope, as we get ready to welcome the Lord into our hearts and lives this Christmas.

The First Reading focuses our gaze on God’s promise to David to raise up a ‘virtuous branch’. God fulfils that promise by sending his only Son, Jesus, into the world: our Saviour and King in whom we can have total confidence, who rules with honesty and integrity.

The Psalmist recognizes the Lord as his Saviour, desiring to follow his ways of truth, love and faithfulness. We too join in the psalm refrain, ‘lifting up our souls’ in prayer as we wait for the Lord.

Jesus foretells the end times in the rather ominous-sounding Gospel,  telling his disciples to ‘stay awake’ and not get distracted by the ‘cares of life’. But he has a message of hope too: we don’t need to be afraid, for we will see the Son of Man coming to save us. God keeps his promises, so we can hold our heads high and stand confident in his presence. Meanwhile we can pray and try to lead good lives.

St Paul tells us how we can do this in the Second Reading. We are to live as Jesus teaches, ‘loving one another and the whole human race’, and putting Jesus and his values at the centre of our daily lives.

This week as I wait for the Lord, I may like to spend some time each day prayerfully taking stock of how ready I am to receive Jesus, however, wherever and whenever he comes to me.

Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year B, 21st November 2021

‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world’

The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, brings the Church’s year to a close, and calls us to celebrate again Jesus’s victory over suffering and death. As servants, we offer all that we are, and invite him to reign within our hearts, so that we can play our part in bringing God’s truth, love, justice and peace to the world.

Foretelling the coming of Jesus, the First Reading describes Daniel’s vision of a ‘son of man’ coming on the clouds of heaven to be crowned King, with everlasting sovereignty, ruling over an empire that will never be destroyed. Such is his glory that people of all nations and languages become his servants.

The Psalm rejoices in the glory of the Lord – the king with majesty enrobed. Through the verses, we are told of the eternal nature of the Lord’s power and the trust we can place in him.

Again in the Second Reading, Jesus is described as coming on the clouds and as ruler of the kings of the earth. The depth of his love for us has been shown by his sacrifice on the cross, and brings us ever closer to the God who is, who was, and who is to come.

In the Gospel, we witness the scene in which Pilate asks Jesus the question, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ In his reply, Jesus speaks of a kingdom in which those who seek the truth listen to his voice and follow his ways.

This week, we ask God for the grace to open our hearts and minds to the needs of those who do not yet know his voice. We pray that by the service of our lives we will draw others to his loving embrace.

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 14th November 2021

As the Church’s year draws to a close, the readings this Sunday speak both of endings and eternal beginnings.  All of them offer hope and direction to communities living in the midst of turbulent change and uncertainty.

The Prophet Daniel in the First Reading offers hope of resurrection to a people facing persecution for their faith.

The Psalm is a song of confidence in God as a refuge and shelter. It would have been sung and prayed by those facing sickness and death, and by their loved ones. These comforting words speak of a joyful life when we keep close to the Lord, even in the midst of our difficulties.

In the Second Reading, the early Christian community is taught that there is no longer a need for the ancient priestly practice of offering sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin. Christ is our one Eternal Priest and offers us a life of forgiveness and freedom from the burden of sin.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for a time of loss, tribulation, change, and ultimately the new life of Resurrection (Gospel). Although dramatic change will soon fall upon him and the disciples, Jesus’s teaching also reminds us that it is the nature of our world always to be facing moments of death and resurrection. The eternal words of Jesus will never pass away, and these are our comfort and refuge for the uncertain times we live through now.

This week, let us pray for each other, that we will forever keep the Lord in our sight. May we be living signs of Christ’s love and forgiveness in our world, and may we face these challenging times with confidence.

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 7th November 2021

‘Happy the poor in spirit’

Our readings this week explore the concepts of generosity, humility and self-giving. With the help of the Holy Spirit, they encourage us to live our lives as generously as Jesus did.  

The First Reading tells us of a poor destitute widow who shows great generosity in her willingness to share what she has with the prophet Elijah, even though widows were among the most vulnerable people in biblical times.

In the Gospel, too, it is a widow who wins the praise of Jesus as he observes her give everything she possesses to the Temple treasury.  He contrasts this woman’s action of deep faith and generosity with that of others, whose behaviour he roundly condemns. Jesus holds her up as a role model to his disciples.

The letter to the Hebrews explains how Jesus undertook an even greater sacrifice, and as the compassionate high priest, offered the gift of his own life for the salvation of humankind. (Second Reading)

The Psalmist encourages us to call on our innermost self, our ‘soul’, to give praise to God: our true God who has great concern for the poor, including widows and orphans.

Let us pray this week to the Lord who supports the vulnerable and poor for the grace to be his instruments on earth. We ask for his help to show our care for the outcasts and marginalised of our own day through our loving actions.

Feast of All Saints, Year B, 31st October 2021

Think of the love that the Father has lavished upon us!

On this feast day we are reminded not only of those Saints who have gone before us, but also of the many inspirational people living saintly lives here on earth. The example of their lives of love and service inspire us on our own journey to the promise of eternal life.

In the First Reading we see John’s vision of heaven and the multitude rejoicing there. In the presence of God the Father and Jesus (here in the guise of the sacrificial Lamb of God), praise and glory and thanksgiving are offered.

The Psalm speaks to us of God’s gift of creation, the earth and everything in it. The psalmist reminds us of the blessings that will come to those who seek the Lord through living life with clean hands and pure heart.

In the Second Reading, St John’s letter speaks of the love lavished upon us by God the Father. As children of God, we may at times find ourselves at odds with the values of the world, but we are promised a future in which the mystery of God will be revealed to us.

Jesus’s teaching in the Gospel outlines the wealth of blessings that come from living our lives well, and serving others. We are again reminded that although being true to his example may lead to persecution and rejection, we will be rewarded in heaven.

This week, we ask the Lord’s help to be generous with our prayers, our time, and our possessions in responding to the plight of those in our world who experience the harsh realities of persecution, loss and injustice on a daily basis.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 24th October 2021

‘I will comfort you as I gather you and lead you back’

The readings this week challenge us to reflect both on the ways we might be blind, and on the gift of new vision that is freely offered.

In the First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah speaks of a God who gathers his people to heal them. 

The Psalm sings of these and other wonderful works: ‘The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy’.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews (Second Reading) shows that the high priest is one called by God to deal gently with the people, because he himself knows weakness.

And in the Gospel, Jesus calls Bartimaeus, a blind beggar of Jericho, to him into discipleship. Though blind, Bartimaeus already has insight into who Jesus is and, when he hears him pass by, shouts in desperation even when told to be quiet. For Bartimaeus, Jesus is now ‘Master’, and his relationship with him brings healing and new life.

Let’s pray, this week, that we might recognise the great things the Lord works for us, and that our hope lies in God, who calls to us through our weaknesses and limitations.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 17th October 2021

Christ: Priest and Suffering Servant

This Sunday, following the predictions Jesus gave of his suffering and death, we contemplate our Saviour and the implications for us, his followers.

The First Reading comes from part of Isaiah’s last song of the suffering servant. It foretells Jesus taking on our faults, and speaks not only of his Passion, but also his glory.

The Psalm sings of God’s love as he rescues those who hope in him.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus as human and weak like us, but also as the supreme high priest. We can be confident that he will always help us.

In the Gospel, James and John hope for privileged places in the kingdom, but learn that they, like Jesus, must go through suffering and death. They are asked to serve, not to dominate.

Perhaps this week we can deepen our understanding of what Christ has won for us, and express our gratitude through service of others.

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 10th October 2021

The word of God is alive and active!

The readings this week give us an opportunity to step back from the busy-ness of our everyday lives to consider more deeply the riches we have been given, and what it is we truly value.

In the First Reading, the spirit of Wisdom has come to the writer through prayer. Beside her, everything else that might be valued on earth seems worthless, and pales into insignificance.

The Psalmist revels in the joy that comes from knowing the love of God, and witnessing to God’s glory. It is through constantly pursuing wisdom of heart that we will be sustained in our service of the Lord.

In the Second Reading the author of the letter to the Hebrews likens the word of God to a sword that can penetrate every aspect of our lives. Living and acting in accordance with the word draws us ever closer to the God who knows and loves us through and though.

These themes of wisdom, selfless values, and service to the Lord are drawn together in the Gospel story of the rich young man, whose attachment to wealth prevents him from truly following Jesus.
Through this encounter, Jesus teaches that whatever we leave behind to follow him will be far surpassed by the treasures we will inherit in heaven.

During this week, we might pray for the gift of ever greater wisdom to help us recognise and seize every opportunity to show our love of God through the good we do each day.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time,Year B, 3rd October 2021

He put his arms round them and gave them his blessing’

The scriptures this Sunday teach us about the importance and centrality of loving relationships to the expression of our faith.

The excerpt from Genesis (First Reading) begins our salvation story with a vision of humanity in harmonious relationship with nature. We are formed of the same elements as the earth we live upon and share with creation. Women and men are helpmates for each other and tasked with caring for God’s creation.

The song of the Lord’s blessings upon us in the Psalm uses images of abundance to describe God’s relationship with creation.

The theology outlined in the Second Reading reveals the solidarity and compassion of the Lord with the world and humanity by sharing with us in suffering, death, and in leading us towards Resurrection.

The Gospel contrasts two different aspects of human nature. The Pharisees attempt to exert authority and power over Jesus by testing his understanding of contested aspects of the law. Jesus responds by reminding them that the law was only given to them because they had lost touch with the essential truth of loving relationship at the heart of creation. His response to the Pharisees and subsequent welcoming of little children is a stark challenge to the patriarchy of the time. Unlike them, Jesus views women and children as equals to men.

Let us pray that we will be blessed with the same compassionate spirit of Jesus to build a more just society that urgently focuses on restoring our harmony with nature.