30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, 28th October 2018

Courage … Get up! Jesus is calling you!

Our readings this week tell of how God, our loving Father, yearns to save us and restore us. He never abandons us. Just as he restored an exiled people to their homeland, he restores sight and clarity of vision to courageous Bartimaeus.

The First Reading conveys the joy of the returning exiles as they are restored to their land. As the Lord gathers his people from far and wide, he cares for and consoles the most vulnerable: the blind, the weak, mothers giving birth; guiding them to restoring streams.

The Psalm also celebrates God’s marvellous delivery of his people from bondage. Tears are replaced by songs of joy and gladness. Now  God’s people can look confidently towards a joyful harvest.

The Second Reading presents Jesus as our compassionate high priest, chosen directly by God. In his priestly role he offers himself as the sacrifice, restoring us as sons and daughters of God.

In the Gospel, blind Bartimaeus irks the crowd with his loud shouting  until Jesus calls him. He then has courage to leap up and cast off his cloak, telling Jesus what he wants and needs. He, too, is restored and brought home, following Jesus in the new light of his faith.

This week we might ask: What needs restoring in my life?
Where do I need to take courage and respond to God’s call to me?
Let’s pray for ourselves and for one another, asking the Lord to help us hear his call clearly, as we go about our daily lives. May he give us the courage to respond joyfully and to encourage those around us.

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B, 21st October 2018

To you I call; for you will surely heed me, O God

In today’s readings, the themes of discipleship and suffering that we have been pondering in recent weeks are again repeated.

The ‘Suffering Servant’ text of the First Reading tells of the prophet Isaiah ministering to the captives in Babylon and proclaiming a message that was not well received.  The servant would be rejected and suffer because of it, but through his sufferings would ‘justify many’. It foreshadows the fullness of servanthood accepted by Jesus on our behalf. Through his suffering, he takes all our faults onto himself.

In the Second Reading, Jesus the high priest replaces the human priest of the Temple. Jesus is both priest and victim, and though without sin, he is like us in every way.  By his death and resurrection he justifies us in the sight of God, and the throne of grace and mercy is opened to all. We can call on him with great confidence whenever we need help, trusting that in his humanity, he knows all that we go through, including our temptations.

The Gospel shows two disciples approaching this source of grace and mercy – but for their own personal gain rather than for loving service.  It is the latter way that Jesus highlights as the true way, and the path he will walk as high priest.

As in today’s Psalm, we can offer our own prayer of praise for this way, which opens to us the gifts of mercy and grace. Let us continue to call on our loving God this week, confident that he will heed us.

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 14th October 2018

The Word of God is alive and active

As we ponder our readings this week, we may well consider what riches mean to us; what we really value in our lives, our work, our relationships.

The author of the Book of Wisdom, the First Reading, esteems wisdom as the greatest treasure – she is seen as a person closely identified with the Spirit, and the writer prefers her to any other value; everything else is as nothing.

The verses of the Psalm given to us are a prayer for that wisdom, and for love, joy and the favour of the Lord, so that we can live our short lives to the utmost.

In the Second Reading, the Word of God, in the Scriptures or in the person of Jesus, is a living force opening us to the Spirit of God. It continually challenges us: we have no other hiding place.

The Gospel describes the rich man who wishes to follow Jesus but is held back by his great wealth. However, God’s generosity will far outweigh any sacrifice we make.

As we look at the rich man of the Gospel this week, in the midst of our own busy lives, we may consider the quality, rather than the quantity, of our service in God’s Kingdom.

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27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 7th October 2018

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life

This week’s readings speak of our need for love and companionship. Whatever our vocation in life, we need other people.

In the First Reading, we see God our Lord creating a remedy for human loneliness by making both men and women to be helpmates for one another. Those who selflessly share their lives and their love, in whatever way they find themselves called by God, create a unity that witnesses to the love of God in creation.

Jesus experienced human life as we do, even to accepting death. He understands our weaknesses, but labours to bring us to glory with God through his suffering (Second Reading). He calls us his sisters and brothers in holiness.

The Gospel tells of Jesus being challenged by the Pharisees in an attempt to trap him. Jesus is uncompromising in upholding the intention of God that married persons should remain together in a union blessed by God, while accepting fully the human weakness and sin that can lead to divorce. He encourages the little children to come to him, laying his hands on them and blessing them. He invites his followers to welcome the kingdom of God with child-like trust and faith.

We respond in the Psalm by asking the Lord to ‘bless us all the days of our life’. We rejoice in the gifts that others bring to our lives.

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Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, 30th September 2018

“Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

God’s Spirit is offered to all. The power of God’s transforming love has no boundaries and is at work in all things.

In the First Reading Moses instructs Joshua not to set limits on how God’s love is shared with the community. Joshua thinks that God’s Spirit is only for the chosen few. Moses expresses a more inclusive vision for the community, imagining what it would be like if all people were filled with the Spirit of God.

In a similar way, Jesus teaches John that his healing power is not only for his close followers (Gospel). He has to remind them that God’s power is not limited by the rules and authority that the disciples may want to set upon it. The Spirit will blow wherever it likes. Jesus reminds his disciples of their need to care for the least powerful in society and not let their actions cause harm to anyone. This message speaks powerfully to our times.

The Psalm meditates on the heart of God’s law. The truth and wisdom of God’s law of love will be our guide.

The Second Reading warns of the dangers of material wealth and is a call to act justly and with fairness. It reminds us that we are in relationship with those less fortunate than us. Our wealth impacts on the needs of the poor.

May we have the grace to recognise God’s Spirit moving in our life and throughout the world. Let us pray for each other that we will remain open and faithful to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

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Twenty-fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, 23rd September 2018

Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me

Our readings this week explore what it means to live by the wisdom of God, where we recognise Christ Jesus not in ambition and worldly status, but rather in the helplessness of a little child.

In the First Reading from Wisdom, the ‘godless’ ones who live only for themselves yearn to be rid of those who live by truth and goodness. The virtuous are an unwelcome challenge to the wicked, whose cruel words recall the taunts Jesus himself suffered on the cross.

The Psalm reflects the confidence of one who calls on the Lord with great trust, whatever insults or difficulties they face.

In the Second Reading, James speaks of ‘the wisdom that comes from above’, which shows itself in peace-making and compassion, rather than in the jealousy and ambition that so often fill the human heart. We are reminded how important it is to counter our own self-seeking desires through prayer.

In the Gospel, Jesus takes a little child in his arms, reminding the disciples that loving service has nothing to do with the kind of worldly ‘greatness’ they’ve just been arguing about, but rather with humility and powerlessness. Christ invites us, too, to put our own needs last, welcoming him in those who may outwardly have nothing to offer.

This week, let’s ask for the wisdom to see Christ more clearly in all the ‘little ones’ we encounter, praying that in this way we might love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly, day by day.

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Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, 16th September 2018

Who do you say I am?

The servant of today’s First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah, who suffers for the people, is promised God’s help. He may well have sung today’s Psalm, praising God for his salvation.

The Gospel presents Jesus as the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah, and Jesus speaks about his Passion and death for the first time here. St Mark places this scene at the centre of his Gospel. It is the turning point. He shows Jesus being met with confusion, misunderstanding and non-acceptance. The Christ (the ‘anointed one’) will not be the Messiah of popular expectation, but one who also embraces rejection.

Likewise, the true disciple is one who demonstrates his or her faith through good works (Second Reading). And of course, faith also calls for commitment, as we, too, try to follow the way of the cross.

Let us pray for the strength, this week, to embrace the ultimate ‘good work’ by doing out best to imitate Christ’s loving sacrifice in our own lives, even in small ways. We ask, too, for the assurance of God’s help, as we try to take up our own crosses day by day.

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