Pentecost Sunday, Year A, 31st May 2020

‘Peace be with you!’

Pentecost, seen as the birthday of the Christian Church, is the culmination of Eastertide. It is the day when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the start of the Church’s mission to the world – a mission to bring people to God. We hear of this in the Gospel, when the risen Jesus comes to the disciples in the locked room bringing peace. He shows them his wounds, encouraging them to believe that he is indeed risen from the dead, and sends them out.

In the First Reading the disciples receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, bringing them courage and the ability to speak different languages. Now they can reach out to all nations, telling the peoples about God.

The Psalm praises God’s greatness, celebrating all the riches and goodness that the Spirit freely gives to ‘renew the face of the earth’.

The Second Reading speaks of the gifts that God’s Spirit gives to each one of us. Working together in different ways towards a common aim, Paul compares us to a human body – each part working towards the well-being of the whole.

As we celebrate Pentecost and the birthday of the Church, we might like to reflect on the particular role that God has for each one of us. This week, I might ponder the contribution that I myself can make to the mission of the Church, and to all those around me.

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Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A, 24th May 2020

All these joined in continuous prayer …

In this time of worldwide fear and uncertainty, we are called to a deepening faith in our Lord, our stronghold and hope. As Christians, we also try to be a beacon of light for our fellow human beings.

The First Reading picks up the early Christian story immediately after Jesus’s ascension: Mary the mother of Jesus, his disciples and extended family gather in the upper room to await in prayer the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel also takes us back to a special place, the room where the Last Supper took place. Here Jesus prays, making known to his disciples – and to us – the name and teachings of the Father. Eternal life is to know the Father and Christ and their intimate relationship together.

The Psalm exudes trust and confidence in the God of the living; it inspires us to seek the Lord’s face and get to know him.

In the Second Reading, Peter gives his community encouragement as they endure challenges and hard times. He assures them of a special blessing if they live the values of Christ.

As the Easter Season draws to a close, we might pray together:
‘Lord, we believe you are indeed our light, help and stronghold in these dark times. May your Holy Spirit comfort us all; and may our relationship of loving trust with you deepen.’

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The Ascension of the Lord, Year A, 21st May 2020

The Lord goes up with shouts of joy!

With the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, we come to the end of Jesus’s earthly life. For the Apostles, it has been a journey from suffering and death to the joy of the Resurrection. The Ascension is another huge step in experiencing the Lord’s presence as they continue his work.

The First Reading gives an account of the Ascension from the Acts of the Apostles. Having been instructed by Jesus for forty days, they now witness his Ascension and are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Psalm exults in praise for the Lord, who is raised on high and is acclaimed as king of all the earth.

St Paul, in the Second Reading, prays that we may fully realise our own glorious hope. God our Father, in raising Jesus high, bestows on us the hope of sharing in his glory.

The Gospel is short and to the point. The eleven receive Jesus’s blessing, as they are sent out to spread his word throughout the earth. They are also given the promise that Jesus will be with them always.

Following some very hard, demanding and painful months, we too are reminded that the Lord is always with us as we are being continuously sent out in his name.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A, 17th May 2020

Speak out with a voice of joy … the Lord has set his people free!

Even though we remain conscious of the real trauma that many continue to struggle with today, there is a sense of joy in this week’s readings. We hear of it arising from the marvellous acts of the apostles (today’s First Reading), and also in the Psalm, a hymn rejoicing in the great things the Lord has done for his people.

In the same way, we have a taste of this joy in the Gospel promise: the Spirit will be given to us, and the Lord will be in us and we in the Lord.

Even the sufferings meted out to the followers of Christ (Second Reading) could not diminish their gratitude for the Lord. This was bound up in the hope of the Resurrection which gave them, as it today gives us, the reason to respect one another and to reverence the Lord.

This week, let’s pray that the trials we have faced over the past months, and the sufferings we continue to endure, will not hold back the life of the Spirit in us. In all things, may we speak with joy of the good things the Lord has done and continues to work in our lives.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A, 10th May 2020

Ring out your joy to the Lord!

This week’s readings speak powerfully of faith, hope and trust in God. During the coming week and for the weeks ahead, God’s word inspires, sustains and encourages us as we continue to live with the impacts of current events.

We learn how the early church devised a way to ensure the fair sharing of food and material necessities among all the faithful, so that the apostles could continue preaching and teaching about Jesus (First Reading). They accomplished this task with prayer, seeking wisdom from the Holy Spirit in their decision-making.

St Peter (Second Reading) speaks of the difficulties of living without faith, and rejoices that those who are believers can be close to Jesus and become a holy people living in the light of God.

We are reminded that our hope is in God who is faithful, who loves justice and right, and who seeks to rescue the people who hope in his love (Psalm). I am invited to remember God as the source of my hope in difficulty, and to offer praise and thanksgiving with joy.

The Gospel is part of Jesus’s farewell to his disciples. Although he will leave them physically, he asks them not to be troubled, to trust in God. He invites us also to trust. We will not be left alone, but will know our Risen Lord as the Way, the Truth and the Life, and be enabled to live the way, truth and life of Jesus for others.

I may like to ponder how am I making my decisions during this difficult time? Perhaps I am called to try to spend some time each day with Jesus, growing closer to him and his values.

I ask Jesus for the grace to live this week in hope, trust and joy.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A, 3rd May 2020

Good Shepherd Sunday

Today is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, for the Gospel is always taken from St John, where Jesus speaks of himself as the ‘Good Shepherd’. A shepherd leads his flock and Jesus is the shepherd who leads his followers. The sheep know his voice, trust him, and will follow only him. In the same way, we also keep today as Vocations Sunday, when the Church prays for new ‘good shepherds’ to lead our Christian communities, especially at this difficult time.

In the First Reading, Peter proclaims to the crowd that Jesus is both Lord and Christ. They are invited to have faith in Christ, and by repenting and being baptised, they will be forgiven. Peter reminds them that God’s promise is for everyone.

This familiar Psalm demonstrates the hope and trust of the psalmist in the Lord who is my shepherd, and who cares for me providing guidance, comfort and rest.

In the Second Reading, Peter continues encouraging the people to follow Christ’s example and to put their trust in God, particularly when times are difficult or unjust. By dying on the cross he has healed us and brought us back to God.

Jesus tells his disciples – and us – that he is the gate of the sheepfold; it is in following him that we can have the fullness of life. (Gospel)

In my prayer this week, I may want to take time to speak to Jesus as my shepherd and reflect on what that means for me. On this Vocations Sunday, perhaps I can also consider how I am responding to the way Jesus is calling me, and pray that others also hear his invitation.

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Third Sunday of Easter, Year A, 26th April 2020

Did our hearts not burn within us …?

Our readings this Sunday are full of the firm faith in the resurrection of Jesus, both in the teachings of St Peter and in the witness of the disciples in Emmaus.

The First Reading gives us the first part of Peter’s rousing address to the crowd at Pentecost.  Filled with the Spirit, he tells them about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and how all of this was a result of God’s plan.

He quotes Psalm 15 (16), our Responsorial Psalm, in which the resurrection of Jesus is fulfilled – you will not leave my soul among the dead.

The Second Reading, St Peter again, is a reminder that we have been ransomed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.  Our faith and hope are based in the God who raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory.

The Gospel gives us the moving story of the two disciples who meet the risen Jesus on the way to Emmaus.  They only recognize him in ‘the breaking of bread.’

Like the disciples, may we find the Lord this week in whatever difficult circumstances we experience.

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Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), Year A, 19th April 2020

His love has no end!

At the heart of today’s Easter liturgy, we witness God’s unending love and mercy at work in the midst of very human doubt and weakness.

In the Gospel, the risen Christ appears amongst the disciples in their hiding place. Blessed with the Holy Spirit, they are sent out to spread Christ’s message of love, forgiveness and peace. Thomas is not with them and cannot believe what they tell him, but eight days later, Jesus returns and the reality of resurrection is revealed to Thomas in a personal way.

The Second Reading reminds us that the resurrection has reclaimed our birth-right as children of God. We are encouraged to be mindful and joyful at this reality. This changes us and everything forever. Even in the trials and anxieties of the times we are living though, faith will always be enough.

The First Reading shows how the Early Church, filled with the Spirit of the risen Christ, lived out its faith. Its members are united in the breaking of bread, communal prayer, a spirit of shared generosity, and in compassionate acts of love. This is the life we are called to live too, even as today we face the challenge of maintaining our bonds of fellowship when we can no longer safely gather as a community.  Christ is with us totally in the suffering of our longing to be  together again.

United  with Christians everywhere, and against a tide of doubt and scepticism, our faith-filled actions, expressed in small acts of kindness will declare with the Psalmist: ‘His love has no end’.

At one with the Easter spirit of the Early Church, let’s pray for each other, and especially for those facing trials because of their health or isolation. May we remain joyful in the certain knowledge of God’s great mercy that has made us his children.

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Easter Sunday, Year A, 12th April 2020

May the risen Lord breathe on our minds and open our eyes.

On this Easter morning, we stand with the first believers at the empty tomb, full of wonder and awe at the enormity of what has taken place. Today we can trust that our whole life lies with Christ.

In the First Reading, we hear Peter addressing a group of Gentiles within the household of the centurion Cornelius. His speech is significant: God wants the salvation of all peoples.

The Psalmist joyfully foresees the resurrection of Jesus and recognises it as the work of God Himself.

St Paul, in contrasting earthly and heavenly realities, urges the Colossians to set their gaze on heaven, where Christ is seated. Now we have been brought back to true life with Christ, we will share in his glory when he is revealed. (Second Reading)

The Gospel records how Peter and his unnamed companion slowly come to realize that Jesus has risen from the dead. This disciple, ‘the one Jesus loved’, symbolises where all faithful Christians are invited to be: in a loving, intimate relationship with Christ.

On this Easter Day, we may want to pray to recognise the dignity that belongs to us as Christians. We ask also for the grace we need to live out that dignity in practice, even when our daily lives have been unexpectedly upset in times of uncertainty and confusion.

 

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Praying Holy Week 2020 with St Beuno’s Outreach

Praying Holy Week 2020 with our Five Senses

This year, our reflections for Holy Week are inspired by the paintings of the French artist Arcabas (Jean-Marie Pirot), the ‘painter of the soul’ who died in 2018.  Each day offers an image by Arcabas chosen to go with the theme of the Biblical text set for that day, and a related reflection based on one of the five senses. We are very grateful to Isabelle Pirot, daughter of the artist, for allowing us to reproduce the images here.

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