Third Sunday in Advent, Year C, 16th December 2018

The Lord is near!

This week, ‘Gaudete Sunday’, we are called to rejoice, for the coming of the Lord is near. At the same time, we are invited to live out our preparation in the details of our daily lives.

The First Reading from Zephaniah is a joyful exultation, because the Lord is bringing back Zion, his people.  God is in our midst and he dances for joy in his love for us.

The Responsorial Psalm does not come from the Psalter, but is a Song of Joy from the Book of Isaiah.  It is a joyful canticle of trust in the Lord and of thanksgiving for all that he has done for us.

St Paul, in the Second Reading, speaks of his desire of happiness for the Philippians.  The Lord ‘is very near’, so we need not worry –but trust in God who will grant us the peace of his Son.

In the Gospel this Sunday we meet John the Baptist again.  But this time we hear his direct teaching and advice to the different groups among his followers.  He also tells them of the One who is to come, who will baptise us with the Holy Spirit and fire.

This week, may we remind ourselves that the Lord is very near, in our midst, and that this is our joy.

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Second Sunday of Advent, Year C, 9th December 2018

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad!

The beginning of the Church’s New Year, the Season of Advent, is a good time to look back as well as forward. We begin our prayer in the present moment with God, but we are not the same people as we were a year ago. Our journey of life with God has changed us, sometimes in surprising ways.

We may be able to sing with the Psalmist of the marvels of God, our hearts filled with laughter and gladness. Or it may be that our experience has been one of tears and, like the exiled Israelites, we need the words of encouragement from the First Reading to remind us that sorrow can be transformed by God into joy.

St Paul (Second Reading) remembers the faithfulness of the Philippians and prays that they may continue to grow in holiness and knowledge of God. We, too, might pray to have their faithfulness and to continue to grow in the love of God during the coming year.

John the Baptist hears the word of God in the wilderness and emerges to proclaim our Lord’s coming (Gospel). His promises are anchored in a particular moment of history.

Here, in our own time and place, we listen to God’s word knowing that we, too, are invited to “Prepare a way for the Lord” in our own lives and in our world.

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First Sunday of Advent, Year C, 2nd December 2018

As I wait, to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

On this First Sunday of Advent, we are reminded that we are waiting for the Lord’s coming not only at Christmas and at the End of Time, but also in our hearts.

Many centuries before the birth of Christ, the prophet Jeremiah reassures the people that God will fulfil his promises. Honesty and integrity will arise from the line of David. The Messiah will come. (First Reading)

St Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, urges them to grow in holiness and in love for one another as they await the Lord’s return. (Second Reading)

Luke describes in striking language the day of the Lord’s second coming. He exhorts us all to be ready for his arrival. This way, we can hold our heads high and survive all that will happen. We can then meet the Lord with confidence. Our liberation is near at hand. (Gospel)

While we wait, as the psalmist suggests, we can pray to the Lord that he will teach us his ways, his faithfulness and his love. (Psalm)

As I begin my waiting for the Lord this week, I may like to decide to spend a little time each day in his presence, telling him how much I long to welcome him anew in my heart.

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Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, Year B, 25th November 2018

‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world’

The last Sunday of the Church’s year is celebrated as the Feast of Jesus Christ, the Universal King.  We celebrate the resurrection victory of Jesus over suffering and death, a moment in historical time that has everlasting meaning, and look forward to the end of time when we will know fully the glory, holiness and peace of God’s kingdom.

The readings all bear witness to the glory of Christ Jesus.  The First Reading is a prophecy from Daniel that can be seen to foretell the coming of Jesus, when people of all nations and languages will become his faithful servants.

The Second Reading describes the love of Jesus for each one of us; a love that makes us not simply servants, but fills us with his glory even as we mourn his death.

We can trust all that Jesus has done and said; his majesty, power and holiness are unchanged to the end of time (Psalm).

The Gospel recounts the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus in the hours before the crucifixion. Jesus tells us that his kingdom has values that are not of this world.  If we seek the truth, we will listen carefully to his voice and live by his words.

This week, we pray that we may learn to know him more fully in our prayer and follow him more faithfully in our lives.

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Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 18th November 2018

“My words will endure forever” 

As the Church’s year draws to a close, the Gospel and First Reading in particular are full of vivid imagery of the ‘End Times’. These texts were written to offer solace and encouragement to people facing temporal and spiritual crisis in very different times and circumstances.

In the First Reading, we listen to the prophet Daniel concluding the last of his four apocalyptic visions. He offers hope to the Jewish people, who are facing persecution from a foreign king determined to stamp out their faith.

The Gospel sees Jesus preparing his disciples for the troubles they will soon witness. The Evangelist is also giving a message of hope to the early church as it faces persecution from the Emperor Nero. We are reminded always to be mindful of the signs of the times; but rather than being caught up in fruitless anxiety over ’End Times’ and the passing nature of life, we can take hope that the Word of God will endure forever.

The Psalm is a prayer full of confidence that God will offer healing and deliverance from death. Each verse is a prayer full of hope in God’s saving love.

In the concluding passages from the letter to the Hebrews (Second Reading), the Risen Christ is compared to the priests of the Old Covenant. There is no longer a need for constant animal sacrifices to atone for sin. Christ has conquered sin once and for all.

Christ is the fulfilment of God’s promise of love. His word will always be with us. Let us pray for the grace to be drawn deeper into the wonder of that love so that our lives can be a message of hope to our times.

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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 11th November 2018

The Lord upholds the widow and orphan

Our readings this week  encourage us to  live our lives not just for ourselves but for others, as Jesus did.

The First Reading tells us of a poor destitute widow who shows great generosity as she sacrifices her last scrap of bread for the prophet Elijah.

The psalmist urges us to call on our innermost self – on ‘[our] soul’ – to give praise to the God who has great concern for the poor, including widows and orphans (Psalm).

In the Gospel too, it is the widow who wins the praise of Jesus as he observes her give everything she possesses to the treasury in the Temple.  He contrasts her generosity to that of others and holds her up as a role model to the disciples.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews explains how Jesus Christ is the compassionate high priest who offers the gift of his own life for the salvation of mankind (Second Reading).

This week, let us pray for the grace to be the Lord’s instruments on earth, showing our care through loving action for the outcasts and marginalised of today.

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 4th November 2018

The Lord our God is the one Lord

Our readings this week  remind us that the love of God and of our neighbour is the foundation and the rock of our faith and life.

The text from Deuteronomy (First Reading) is the famous Shema Yisrael prayer, beloved by Judaism and used every morning and evening.  Israel keeps the law of God because she loves God with her whole soul.

In the Gospel, Jesus uses the same text to answer the scribe’s question as to which is the greatest commandment. However, Jesus takes it further by adding a second commandment, to love one’s neighbour.  These two commandments are inseparable.

The few verses of Psalm 17 (18) in our Responsorial Psalm are a song of love and praise to our God.  The Psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving to the God who has done so much for us and continues to do so.

St Paul, in the Second Reading, represents Christ as the ideal high Priest of the New Covenant.  He unceasingly intercedes for us with the Father.

This week may the command to love God with all that we are and in all that we do find expression in our awareness of all whom we meet.

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