Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B, 2 May, 2021

‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty.’

Today’s readings remind us that when, like St Paul, ‘we believe in the name of Jesus Christ’, we accept the intimate relationship to which God invites us. We become branches of the true vine, Jesus Christ.

The Gospel shows the amazing intimacy that Jesus offers through the wonderful image of the vine and branches. Having Jesus, the true vine, live within our hearts, we as his disciples, the branches, will bear fruit; cut off from Jesus, we can do nothing at all. Jesus reveals his Father as the vinedresser, tending to us with love, and sometimes pruning us so that we can produce more plentiful fruit.

In the Second Reading, John reminds us that by believing in Jesus Christ, and loving one another, we are doing what God wants, and that God lives in us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. He also reassures us that we have nothing to fear in God’s loving presence. We get an indication of the fruit that Jesus speaks of when John tells us that our love needs ‘not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.’

We see an example of this in the First Reading, where Saul proves his love for Jesus by preaching about him to the community. The apostles come to accept him and the local churches begin to put down roots and grow, drawing now from a new source of life: the Holy Spirit.

The Psalm, part of which we heard on Palm Sunday, and which Jesus prayed on the cross, closes today with words of the Lord’s love, generosity and faithfulness. We are all invited to worship and serve him.

During the week, I may like to ponder the relationship God longs to have with me, and the fruit he enables me to bear.

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B, 25th April 2021 (Good Shepherd Sunday)

‘They too will listen to my voice …’

This Sunday we are invited to deepen our awareness of the protective, caring love that surrounds us, holds us and sustains us. This love was made incarnate in Jesus the Good Shepherd.

In John’s letter (Second Reading), we are encouraged to meditate on the deep love that the Father lavishes upon us, by calling us his children.

Centring our lives on this reality will help us on our pilgrim journey — and this week’s Psalm is associated with pilgrimage, sung by those entering Jerusalem. For us it becomes a resurrection song. The one who was reviled and rejected becomes the cornerstone that our faith is built upon; Christ is our refuge and our strength, and the psalmist reminds us to place our trust in our loving Lord.

In the First Reading, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, quotes from this same psalm. Christ, who was rejected and condemned by the religious leaders of the time, is the source of Peter’s authority and his gift of healing.

In the Gospel, the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is used to draw out the depth of the love that God has for his people. Jesus lays down his life for us so that we might truly live. By describing himself in this way, Jesus is describing the close, intimate relationship we are each called to have with the living Lord. Although we are many, we are one flock, with one Shepherd who knows each one of us personally. Jesus trusts that we will listen to his voice.

As we pray this week, let us ask for the grace to truly listen with open and accepting hearts to the needs of our community, and to the needs of the earth. May we, too, may become loving shepherds to each other, and to the environment.

Third Sunday of Easter, Year B, 18th April 2021

In the midst of the joy and exuberance of Easter, this Sunday’s readings allow us to consider our sinfulness, our doubts and our weakness. This is not to weigh us down, but to bring us peace and encourage us to live the new life won for us.

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is gentle with those responsible for the death of the ‘Prince of life’. They must now turn back to God.

The Psalm is both a cry for help and a song of hope and trust.

John, in the Second Reading, speaks of Christ as our Advocate with the Father. Not only does he take our sins away, he fills us with God’s love.

Jesus appears to his doubting disciples in the Gospel. He reassures them by inviting them to touch him and by eating with them, before increasing their understanding and hinting at their mission.

Let us continue our Lenten journey this week, strengthened by the gift of Christ’s peace, and conscious of being his witnesses – even if, at times, we are confused and doubtful.

Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), Year B, 11 April 2021

Believers united, heart and soul!

We come together today like the first believers, praying for unity of heart and soul. With our fellow Christians, we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Lord of Life!

In the First Reading, we hear how belief in the resurrection bears fruit in the lives of the disciples: it brings them together as a community, united in faith and love in action. The witness of the apostles is the cornerstone of growth in the early church.

In the Second Reading, however, John needs to remind an early Christian community to value the incarnational nature of Christ, and the importance of a deepening, living faith. This has practical consequences in terms of love of God, and of our fellow human beings. It sometimes makes challenging demands on us.

The Psalm is a song of thanksgiving, and forms a grateful prayer that sits easily on the lips of the risen Lord.

The Gospel recounts Jesus’s appearance to the disciples, who are overjoyed at his presence. They receive through him the gift of
the Holy Spirit and are given their mission. A week later, the Lord appears again to the previously absent Thomas, eliciting his magnificent confession: ‘My Lord and my God’!

Today, on Divine Mercy Sunday, I pray to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, that I may daily surrender to God’s mercy.

Easter Sunday, Year B, 4th April 2021

Christ, my hope, has risen!

We have come, finally, to the season of joy and hope, following a long season of anguish and suffering. Many have struggled with the darkness of the past year. Many more have wept at tombs, asking ‘where?’, ‘how?’, ‘why’? We have all been asked to carry crosses. Some of them have been almost unbearably heavy. Now, though, alongside his own cross, we stand with Jesus victorious and risen in glory.

We might be coming to this new season hesitantly, like the younger disciple (Gospel), perhaps still hurting from the scars of the year and hardly daring to hope. Or we may find ourselves, like Peter, rushing headlong, eager to see and to believe.

In the Acts of the Apostles (First Reading), we hear that the first witnesses were to go out with this good news and proclaim it to all people. We are the messengers of the Gospel today.

And we are to bear witness by living ‘unleavened’ lives (Second Reading) full of truth, sincerity and humility.

As St Ignatius said, ‘Love is shown more in deeds than in words’. Haven’t we seen that this past year!

So let us rejoice and be glad, and give thanks to the Lord (Psalm) this coming week.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of our Lord, Year B, 28th March 2021

 ‘Hosanna in the highest. Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy!’ 

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the climax of Jesus’s mission. Today we see him enter Jerusalem on a donkey, as the cheering crowd joyfully proclaims ‘Hosanna’, waving palm branches.

As the story of the Passion unfolds in the Gospel, the mood soon changes. Viewing Jesus as a threat to their religious authority, the chief priests plot to bring about his end. The crowd now turns on Jesus, shouting ‘Crucify him’. Then we accompany Jesus in his suffering to his last breath, hearing those desolate words, ‘My God, my God why have you deserted me?’

We respond with these same words to the Psalm, which describes the humiliation that Jesus will suffer in order to save us. In the last verse, however, the mood changes from dejection to praise and glory.

Though the First Reading also touches on suffering, the servant takes strength from God’s presence with him, even in the worst circumstances.

Paul urges the Philippians to be more Christ-like in their behaviour. Jesus came amongst us in humility as a servant, showing his great unconditional love for us by dying on the cross. (Second Reading)

As we accompany Jesus through Holy Week, no matter what trials we may be facing, let’s pray for confidence in God’s presence, that we may be strengthened by it and filled with hope as we look forward to Easter.

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B, 21st March 2021

‘I will draw all people to myself’

As we journey through Lent and approach Holy Week, our Sunday readings draw us deeper into contemplating Jesus fulfilling the new Covenant by his sacrifice and death.

The First Reading from Jeremiah reveals God’s love, as he promises  to make a new covenant with us, written on our hearts.

The verses chosen from the Psalm reflect this: ‘A pure heart create for me, O God’. We pray for a heart that will receive this covenant of love.

The letter to the Hebrews (Second Reading) reveals the cost of this covenant to Jesus, in all his humanity. His obedience is through suffering, becoming our salvation.

In the Gospel Jesus spells out the necessity for the grain of wheat to die. His soul is troubled, but he is One with the Father. Through the cross will come glory.

As his disciples we must follow him, and so, like Jesus, may we turn to the Father in all our troubles, striving to draw others with us.

Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B, 14th March 2021

God loved the world so much …

God’s love for humanity is proclaimed throughout the liturgy this Sunday. The readings shed light on our story of salvation, and reflect the depth of eternal love that God expresses for all people.

The First Reading describes how, for centuries, prophets had proclaimed the truth at the heart of God’s covenant with Israel. The people turned away from this wisdom. They became captives, not only to hostile invaders, but also to their sinful ways. But even though the hearts of the people turned away from God, God’s love remained. In time this love would become flesh in the person of Jesus.

The Psalm is a song of lament and of deep longing for freedom from slavery and captivity. Following the long months of restrictions from the virus, we, too, truly know the pain of this loss and yearn for freedom.

In the Second Reading, Paul describes the depth of God’s love and his understanding of the suffering of humanity. Paul explains how the incarnation, life and death of Jesus restore us all to the life we were always meant to live.

Today’s Gospel links Israel’s story of exile with the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus. The deep truth at the heart of God’s covenant is revealed to Nicodemus, who represents the ancient knowledge and law of Israel. Jesus brings light and love to a meeting that takes place in darkness and ignorance.

Let us pray that our own hearts, and the hearts of all humanity, will turn towards the light of God’s love. May we, in the way we live our lives, each make manifest God’s love for the world.

Third Sunday in Lent, Year B, 7th March 2021

The power and wisdom of the crucified Christ

Today, we dedicate ourselves anew to keeping God’s commandments, as we celebrate the mystery of God’s love for us, shown through the wisdom and power of Christ.

Having rescued his people from slavery, God gives them the Ten Commandments. These offer guidance for liberation and right-living, rather than oppression and burden (First Reading).

The Gospel, however, indicates that many have not remained faithful to God’s commandments. In their greed they have turned God’s house into a marketplace. As Jesus ejects the buyers and sellers, we are reminded that salvation will come about through the death and resurrection of Christ, the true temple of the Divine.

The Psalm is a hymn to the life-giving qualities of God’s Law. It shows the precepts and commands of God himself: God’s own essence.

Paul reflects on Jesus’s death, which is interpreted by many as a sign of weakness or foolishness. But it is in fact a demonstration to the world of God’s power and wisdom.  (Second Reading).

This week, we pray to hear the Word of God afresh in our own being. As we try to offer the Word hospitality and space to take root within us, we ask with the psalmist that it might revive the soul. We also pray for the freedom of our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are victims of modern-day slavery.

Second Sunday of Lent, Year B, 28th February 2021

‘This is my Son, the Beloved.’

Trust in the Lord is the theme that links all this week’s readings.
As we continue our Lenten journey, we are reminded of the extent of the Lord’s love and generosity – if we but listen to his voice and place our trust in him.

In the First Reading we see the depth of Abraham’s trust in God as he is asked to sacrifice his beloved son. Abraham’s faithfulness is rewarded with more blessings than he could ever have imagined.

The Psalmist gives thanks and praise to the Lord who has freed him, reminding us that he trusted God even when sorely afflicted. Like him, we can rejoice as we walk in the presence of the Lord.

In the Second Reading, echoing the story of Abraham and Isaac,
St Paul challenges us to recall the enormity of God’s love for the world in giving up his Son. With Jesus standing at the right hand of God pleading for us, we can have confidence in placing all our trust in him.

In the Gospel, Jesus asks Peter, James and John to trust him and not speak of the wonder of what they have witnessed on the mountain top.

This week we pray for the grace to trust and to listen ever more closely to the voice of the Lord, so that we too might walk in his presence.