2019 - Our 90th Anniversary
The Society of Saint Gregory was formed in 1929, undertaking the task of providing formation to promote better understanding of liturgy in the life of the Church and to enhance the role and level of music in the liturgy. Through the years, hundreds of lay people, religious and members of the clergy have enthusiastically taken part in courses and summer schools.
To celebrate the Society’s 90 years of active contribution to the liturgical and musical life of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, an exciting year of formation and celebration has been planned, including a Pilgrimage to Rome in October 2019.
A souvenir book will commemorate the people who were part of the Society’s history and the events which contributed to the liturgical life of the Church in this land. Watch this space for further news!
To mark and celebrate the Society’s 90th Anniversary, a pilgrimage to Rome in October 2019 has been organised, to include; Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, Papal Audience and possible visits to other sites.
As part of our anniversary celebrations The Society of Saint Gregory has prepared a weekly gospel reflection. New reflections will be uploaded each month throughout the year. Please feel free to share these with friends and family.
April 2020 weekly reflections
By Martin Foster, Director Liturgy Office
I find myself watch dramas on television with the eyes of the new social norms of Coronavirus. Is that journey really necessary? Should be standing so close to one another? It is surprising how quickly our world view changes. As we see images of London or our local towns with the streets empty in the middle of the day it is perhaps even harder to imagine the turmoil caused by Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
The reading of scriptures, in particular the Gospels, have helped us to understand what the human appeal of reading is and in a related way it use in liturgy. Stories set up their own expectations. In a romance we can guess who will be bride and groom at the end – the interest is how do they get there. But we also choose to re-read books when we can remember the ending – then one of the pleasures is see how we get there. The Lectionary presumes that we are already on that second reading – that we have heard it before – but that the context of the Liturgy and our lives bring out new meaning. We are reading the Passion because we believe in the Resurrection but at this stage in the story the ending is not as obvious to the participants – even though Jesus has given them three spoiler-alerts in the course of Matthew’s Gospel. The disciples have given up believe in the ending and so they scatter. We, the Church, know the ending and so faithfully alongside Jesus in the coming days on the Triduum.
With Coronavirus we hope we know the ending – that normal life is restored (though perhaps changed?), that we can go out when and where we wish, that we can stand closer to people. But we don’t know the day or the hour – or more likely the month and so we hope and pray for those in healthcare, those who are suffering, those who are bereaved.
Christ is risen! But where is he? That may seem an odd question but go back and read the Gospel for Easter Sunday.
It is an odd feature of the nearly all of the Gospels for the Easter Vigil and Easter Day that Jesus is absent. (The exception is Matthew). In someways the editors of the Lectionary have only the raw material of the gospels to go with but a choice seems to have been made.
It has taken me a while to appreciate what the plan of the Lectionary is in the Easter Season. Next Sunday we will start the pattern of a reading from the Acts of Apostles, the second reading from the first letter of Peter in year A and the Gospel predominantly from John. Like the ’40 days’ of Lent there’s a discrepancy between the time given in scripture (the 40 days for the Ascension is only found in Acts) and the amount of material in the Gospels themselves. So many of the passages from John’s Gospel are taken from Jesus’ discourse after the last supper. And of course, Acts only begins with the Ascension so its content is nearly all post-Easter. Confused, well don’t worry too much the liturgy is not fundamentalist. What the liturgy recognises is that we have this event — the Resurrection — and the consequences of that need to reflected upon over a number of weeks. My stab at what the Lectionary in the Easter Season is exploring how the presence of the risen Jesus is sustained in the formation of the Church. So the readings are not just about the risen Lord but try to answer the questions ‘what is the Church for?’ and ‘what does the Church look like?’.
So before we answer our initial question can I suggest that if you have already read or heard today’s readings you open your Bible and turn to John, chapter 20 and read verses 11-18. If I am right that the decision to omit appearances of the risen Lord on Easter Sunday this is the casualty. Given the limited number of post-Resurrection texts it is interesting that this never appears on a Sunday. An encounter which has inspired countless works of art. I will leave it to the reader to wonder why.
So where is Jesus? He is risen and present among us, even if like Mary Magdalene we do not at first recognise him. At this time when many are suffering take some time to reflect on all those who are bringing the presence of the risen Christ into the world (whether they know it or not) and give thanks to God.
It is hard for us to imagine, whether Christian or not, the shift to Sunday as the day of worship. Sundays still have a different feel about them whether we worship or not. A sometimes overlooked aspect of today’s Gospel is that it starts on the first day of the week (Sunday) and ends of the eighth day (Sunday) again. It seems to me that John is making a point here. Sunday is the first day of the new creation and it is the eighth day beyond time itself. This is the day of the Lord when Jesus comes among his apostles. I suggested last week that the readings of the Easter Season are about how the presence of the risen Christ is sustained and here we have some of the tools of how this might happen. Most poignantly when Jesus tells Thomas that there will be believers who have never seen Jesus. Again obvious to us – we are those happy people – but may be not then. As in Luke’s accounts Jesus is beginning to draw the threads together – all that the apostles have lived and experienced is for a purpose – to help those who have not seen to believe.
The initial consequences of this are seen in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles which give us a vision of the early Church, actually it gives us a vision of the Church. What is the Church about? Well, teaching, community, liturgy and prayer. But these are not abstract things but have practical consequences. To celebrate liturgy, to break bread means also being aware of those who are in need, to share your bread with the hungry.
I pointed out last week that we are in a number of different time-frames in the Easter Season. This reading from near the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles happens after Pentecost. What makes it currently poignant is what has led to this moment. The Apostles have been in lockdown. So this could be read as a vision of what the world might be after lockdown. It is one thing to imagine a more caring society but the challenge, as it was in Acts, is the relationship between thought and action. What can we pray about? What can we do?
A group who may have been forgotten about by many are those who were preparing to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, at the Easter Vigil. Many will have been at their diocese’s Rite of Election in the Cathedral at the beginning of Lent when the Bishop heard the testimony of those who have journeyed with them that they are ready. Ready to receive the Sacraments of Initiation, ready to be elected by the bishop to go forward. Ready to enter that last stage of preparation as they journey with the Church through Lent. And then lockdown. Journeys which may been in progress for many years, a pathway begun well before they knocked on a church door. Now it may feel that the journey is like a plane circling the airport, waiting to land, due to a delay. But as plane crews remind us the airport is not our final destination it is a stopping point on our onward journey. Nor is Initiation an endpoint but a beginning.
I was led to these thoughts looking at the first reading and Gospel for this Sunday’s Mass. In Acts, Peter is preaching on Pentecost; in the Gospel, Jesus talks with 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus. The passages offer two different methodologies about how we engage people with faith. At Pentecost the crowd has witnessed something unusual – the apostle’s gift of tongues – and now Peter has an audience. Having captured their interest he gives a speech. The speech is perhaps even more remarkable than the languages. Jesus, who was crucified, has been raised by God to life.
Jesus, on the way to Emmaus, takes a different tack. He listens to the disciples’ hopes and fears, he answers their questions but also gives them a new perspective. Jesus then reveals himself to them in the gift he gives them to sustain and nourish them.
I don’t think the methodologies of apologetics and catechesis are at odds with one another – but they are different. It might be argued that the disciples on the road had previously received the apologia – but they had not understood it or been able to match what they had heard and what they had experienced.
Remember in your prayers at this time all those who are waiting for Sacraments – that their patience is fruitful.
March 2020 weekly reflections
Society of St Gregory readings for Sundays in March
by Dr. Gemma Simmonds CJ. Director, Religious Life Institute, Senior Lecturer in Pastoral Theology, Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology
First Sunday in Lent
In the book of Genesis the tree of knowledge of good and evil is enticing to look at. Knowledge is desirable, but also potentially dangerous. God respects our agency. In genuine freedom we can choose good or evil, but such choices carry consequences. Adam and Eve try to shift responsibility onto one another, denying their own agency and freedom.
In the Temptations, Satan tempts Jesus to misuse his human freedom, doing magical tricks that bypass his relationship with his Father in order to force belief on his followers. We see Jesus exercising the fullness of his and our human freedom in relationship with God. Lent is not a time of coercive punishment, but a time when we ask God to liberate us from all that could make us less than we are or could be. The grace of Lent is to discover where we need to be set free.
Second Sunday in Lent
Today’s readings are all about invitation and response. Abram is invited to begin a life-changing, history-changing journey. Paul writes that our journey in faith is not a performance-related activity, dependent on our good behaviour. Our pilgrimage towards holiness is undertaken purely through God’s grace. It is a grace that God intended us to have from the beginning of creation.
The Transfiguration is an encounter which runs contrary to Peter’s expectations. He cannot pin the moment down through ritual and liturgy. He cannot tie God down to his own perspective and projections. God is always greater than our imagination and is not subject to our purposes. Jesus reassures his disciples that even such extraordinary graces are only a part of that primordial graced relationship which God has intended for us since the beginning. All we need is hearts and minds open to listen and to grow beyond our self-chosen limitations.
Third Sunday in Lent
God’s grace is enough for us, but we have trouble in believing it. God’s generosity always outstrips our expectations, which are so small that God continually takes us by surprise. Today’s Gospel offers us a powerful illustration of God’s dealings with us. Jesus listens to the woman all with respect, drawing out her own responses and giving her time to come to her own conclusions. The dialogue is characterised by patience and by Jesus’s faith in the woman’s capacity to believe and respond. He allows her to come to faith by her own route, differing from his, as a Jew, but whose value he acknowledges.
This is the God of surprises at work, the God of patience, of generosity, the God who desires us infinitely more than we could ever desire him. This is the water of life springing up in the desert, if only we will ask for it.
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Religious smugness is a terrible and remarkably pervasive thing. We like to play by the rules, which give us the certainty that we can Get It Right. They leave no room for doubt, for the tentative journey of trial and error, of faith and doubt, hope and disappointment which constitutes discipleship. We follow him, not out of our own strength and righteousness, but by clinging to the dark faith that, despite all our vulnerabilities and mistakes, grace will always prove the stronger.
Many think it depressing and dispiriting to think that we are sinners. But having our eyes opened to the extent of our inner poverty can be an enormous liberation. We are liberated from the idolatry of believing in our own self-sufficiency. This develops within us a hope and humility that lead us to rely on Jesus and him alone, as light in our darkness and hope of the world.
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Jesus’ divinity does not prevent him from feeling the depths of human sorrow in the face of death. His grief comes as a surprise to those who witness it. Surely God’s power can ensure that we don’t suffer the bruises of everyday life and love? But the life of faith and God’s grace don’t make us superhuman. They lead us to become more deeply and radically human.
In this story we see Jesus in the full vulnerability of his human life. As one who loves with all his human heart, he is dependent on the love and the trust of his friends. He needs to know that Martha believes and understands. Even in his grief, he gives her time to understand what he is trying to tell her. God is patient with the slow development of our faith. God liberate us from all that prevents us from living life to the full.
February 2020 weekly reflections
Sunday 2 February – the Presentation of the Lord. By Ann Blackett. Former SSG Trustee, M&L Editor.
I love the way that the Advent-Christmas cycle begins and ends with people who have lived faithfully and long waiting for something. Zechariah and Elizabeth longed for a child and their hopes were fulfilled, and now here we are at Candlemas with another two elders waiting. Do they know what they’re waiting for? Or do they just see the family arriving and know?
It’s not just the waiting, it’s the recognising. Simeon has been waiting for something specific – the Holy Spirit has promised that he won’t die until he has seen the Christ of the Lord, and it’s the Spirit which prompts him to go to the Temple on this day, at this time, now. Seeing Jesus, he knows what to do, blessing the child and praising God who has made good his promise. Anna lives in the Temple, attuned to its seasons and rhythms. She too is prompted to come by as the family arrive, and she recognises and praises God for the child. We don’t have her words, but it could well be that they contrast: Simeon’s praise is a song of farewell, but Anna keeps speaking about this child to anyone who will listen.
Advent teaches us to wait. Christmas shows us what Simeon and Anna waited for, and today we see their hopes fulfilled. Today tells us that God keeps his promises. We live between the comings of Christ, although we mostly only remember that when the liturgy reminds us. It’s for us to remember that we’re waiting all the time, looking forward to Christ’s second coming, the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
Sunday 9 February – 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time. By Ann Blackett. Former SSG Trustee. Contributor to Music & Liturgy, journal of the Society
In year A, the Year of Matthew, the Gospel readings for this part of Ordinary Time are from the Sermon on the Mount: not only the Beatitudes (which we would have heard last week if they hadn’t been displaced by Candlemas), but some of the hardest things Jesus ever said to his followers. He looks at the Torah and interprets it strictly, with the result that he issues a series of challenges to the religious thinking of his time – and ours. Can we live up to the standard Jesus sets? Hang on to your hats for an uncomfortable three Sundays between now and Ash Wednesday.
On the other hand, it’s always seemed to me as though the readings set for these Sundays are actually trying to shape us up for Lent, as they remind us of our better selves, the people Christ calls us to be, the people we undertake to become because of our baptism. Take today’s first reading from Isaiah – God offers us a choice in simple practical terms. If you choose to do these things, living generously with your neighbours and with strangers, then you’ll also live well with God. But that’s not all. When we live consciously and actively among other people, taking account of their needs and making their lives better, then we create small patches of light in the darkness, the patches join together, and the light becomes visible in all sorts of ways. God’s love becomes visible, outshining anything the world can offer.
Not as easy as it sounds, but perhaps what we need to hear again, and to be reminded (as In the words of Paul) of the power of the Spirit and the power of God.
6th Sunday Ordinary Time, 16th Feb 2020. By Ann Blackett, Former SSG Trustee
‘If you wish, you can keep the commandments, To behave faithfully is within your power…’. Ecclesiasticus 15:15
The life of any Christian should be one of continuous conversion, not just during Lent, when we’ll see it emphasised, but all the time. The message of Jesus today is expressed strongly, even harshly, and he aims deep, below the surface into the heart. Stay on your guard, he seems to say, and don’t slide into rage or possessiveness or recklessness. It’s not so much about suppressing feelings and actions, so much as accepting responsibility, and understanding consequences, and stepping away from the edge.
It’s a message for our own times. We’re called to be our best selves, and if we pay attention to the Scriptures we find out that it’s not something God has only just thought of. Being fully human, being the best people we can be, is what God has always called us to be, and God continues to give us the choice.
7th Sunday OT 22nd February 2020. By Ann Blackett
‘You must be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect’ Matthew 5:48
The readings today tell us to be holy, to learn to be fools, and to be perfect. That’s some to-do list. The key phrase, though, may be what Paul says: ‘Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you?’ Everything has changed, and God invites you into this new world where what people have come to think isn’t necessarily the way God thinks. When God shows up, the rules have changed. Instead of success being expressed in power and vengeance, fullness of life now finds its measure in the outpouring of love.
Taken to its fullest extent this is world-changing, not only for relationships between people but also their care for the well-being of the earth and of all creation. It’s such a huge shift that we may not be able to hold it in our heads, or even begin to imagine it. But if we can trust enough to learn to be fools – for love – we may be taking small steps towards the Kingdom.
January 2020 weekly reflections
By Canon Pat Hartnett, All Saints Roman Catholic Church Thirsk, SSG Trustee
5th January 2020, Epiphany of the Lord
The Christian life is a journey of discovery. A journey too of encounters with the Lord through our liturgical celebrations. The magi were on a journey led by a star. They had to discern the direction to take and to discern which piece of advice to act upon. After careful reflection they follow the star which led them to the mystery of the Incarnation. Their gifts reflected the mystery they encountered. Their experience led them to take a different route back. As we celebrate the Epiphany may we through our worship be led to a renewed encounter and allow the promptings of the Holy Spirit for us to take the right path.
12th January, Baptism of the Lord
We encountered John the Baptist several times during the Advent season. John spent time and prayer reflecting on his mission. The scriptures were a source of understanding his mission. John’s role was bringing hope to a people who needed a fresh encounter with God. Jesus wanted to be part of this journey. Jesus’ Baptism marks the beginning of his ministry and receives confirmation from the Father with
the power of the Holy Spirit that the path is was on was the right one. By our Baptism we too are the beloved of the Lord.
After the seasons of Advent and Christmas we return to Ordinary Time. A constant reminder to us that we encounter God in the ordinary events of our lives. John the Baptist appears again in the Gospel. This time he points his disciples towards Jesus as the ‘lamb of God’. He displays great humility pointing the way to follow Jesus rather than take centre stage. He draws attention to what happened at Jesus’ Baptism. As we begin our journey through the Ordinary Sunday’s let too point others to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
This Sunday is ‘The Sunday of the Word’. Pope Francis wants us to reflect on the importance of the Word of God. It is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of God’s Word. What is God saying to you today? Listen to that Word with a disciples ear and ask the Lord to lead you to say: ‘Did not our hearts burn within us.’ Pray the scriptures and find moments of silence to allow God to speak to your heart.
December 2019 weekly reflections
ADVENT SUNDAY 1 By Monsignor Kevin McGinnell VF Episcopal Vicar for Education and Formation. Current SSG Chair
During Advent we will do well to reflect on the response to the psalm as our daily meditation. GIRM tells us that the psalm “has great liturgical and pastoral importance, since it fosters meditation on the Word of God.” [n.61] On this first Sunday we respond in Psalm 121 with these words – “I rejoiced when I hear them “Let us go to God’s house”. So as we begin Advent this response reminds us that the season is not just preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ but also looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ. On that day, hopefully, he will indeed led us rejoicing into the Kingdom. Now we must ensure that every time we come to celebrate the liturgy in God’s house we see it as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, and celebrate in a way that reflects our hope for heaven. It is also challenges us to live lives here on earth that will make us worthy of rejoicing as we go to God’s eternal house.
Advent Sunday 2- 8th December 2019. The psalm today tells us that when God’s chosen one comes, then justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails (Ps 71).
How is this to be achieved today? We need to take seriously for us to respond to the prophet’s call to prepare a way for the Lord. We will do this at a personal level by following Paul’s simple advice; to be tolerant with each other and treat each other as friends as Christ treats us.
At another level, the challenge is to see how we can seek and work with the gifts that the Spirit gives to God’s chosen one – Spirit of wisdom and insight, counsel and power, knowledge and fear of the Lord is there. These are the gifts of our baptism and confirmation, gifts for us to use for the good of the Church and the world.
As we move to vote in a general election, let that Spirit, our choice, let us pray that those who assume power will cooperate with the gifts of the Spirit for the good of all people.
That’s why we need to sing that psalm again and again, praying that – In his days Justice shall flourish and Peace till the moon fails.
ADVENT SUNDAY 3A, 15th December 2019. The psalm today asks, Come Lord and save us. Psalm 145.
John prompts Jesus to identify himself as the one who embodies, not just fulfils, all the hopes of the prophet : the faint hearted, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the dumb, the ransomed – all shall rejoice at the Lord who saves them, each in their own way. No wonder we are told to rejoice and sing for joy. What better mission statement could the Society of St Gregory need? So as we celebrate Gaudete Sunday let make sure there is true rejoicing and joyful singing everywhere, and not just today – but every day! . . . #gaudete #rose #rosenotpink #advent #heiscoming #preparethewayforthelord
ADVENT SUNDAY 4A 22nd December 2019. Let the Lord enter! He is the King of Glory. Psalm 23
The story of the birth of a child is always moving and powerful. People look on and wonder what will be their future. With Christmas we know the future of the child, who is already the Lord, and the King of Glory. That is something we must not miss or forget as we sing carols. They are not lullabies, rather they acclaim that the promise has been fulfilled – we have God-with-us, Emmanuel, conceived by the Holy Spirit, of the Virgin Mary. Let’s look at and sing our carols with renewed vigour SSG comes enters a ninety first year!
November 2019 weekly reflections
90th Anniversary Year, Weekly Reflections – By Paul Moynihan, Former SSG Treasurer and Trustee, Master of Ceremonies at Westminster Cathedral
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – 3 November 2019
The liturgical year (and the three-year cycle of Lectionary readings) draws to a close. And following the celebration of those who have gone before us – All Saints and All Souls – the readings for these final Sundays invite us to reflect on the last things, our own death and on eternal life to come. The familiar story of Zacchaeus as well as the other two readings call us to a profound conversion of heart. Jesus chose to stay at his house. What a change in Zacchaeus as a result. How are we changed by the Lord’s presence? Note, too, that Zacchaeus did not invite Jesus to come to his house – the Lord invited himself. He seeks us out, even though we may feel unworthy. Our union with him brings us the joy of coming down from our own trees of individualism and giving over ourselves to the one who loves us and cannot do otherwise.
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 10 November 2019
The issue at the heart of today’s readings is the Resurrection, which in the Gospel, the Sadducees, elite keepers of the temple, deny. In response to their questions (ie: a trap) Jesus interprets salvation history to them as just that – salvation. His understanding of life and death are in the knowledge of God, ‘not a God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive’. We live surrounded by a ‘culture of death’, which simply cannot see life beyond the grave and force others to abide in its shadow. But we are also believer in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and
therefore our resurrection too. As Paul tells the Thessalonians, God ‘has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace.’ We will find strength just as countless martyrs throughout the ages have done, who die for the truth. As we testify in the Eucharist, God keeps his promises for ever.
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 17 November 2019
Gloom and doom might seem to be the key message from today’s Gospel. But the core message is actually more positive. Jesus gave us the grace to persevere so that we might be diligent in seeking God’s justice until he comes again in all righteousness. That desire places us right at the core of hope, which the prophet Malachi says will come, together with the Lord himself. Until then, we keep our lamps burning by stoking the fires of justice in our families, friends and workplace. It means we walk away from gossip. It means we cultivate an individual relationship with Christ alone at different times during the day. It means we are zealous for doing good. It means we stand up for civil and religious rights when others are persecuted. This is what we do ‘meanwhile’ until the coming of the Lord and all his saints.
Solemnity of Jesus Christ, the Universal King – 24 November 2019
The Gospel for this final Sunday is from Luke’s account of the Passion, where Jesus is mocked by those who fail to recognise him as the Messiah. But the Good Thief, crucified with him, does, repents and begs to be remembered when he enters his Kingdom. His prayer is answered as Jesus assures him that he will be with him in Paradise that very day. That same assurance is ours too – we also will be there one day when the Lord calls us to his side. In Luke’s Gospel we have been on a journey on which Jesus and his followers faced a series of conflicts with those in power in
Jerusalem. It now reaches its conclusion – the cross. Put yourself in the place of the Good Thief and recognise that, with repentance, Christ is king and where we have a place. In the traditional closing chant of SSG Summer Schools, ‘Christus Vincit, Chritus Regnat, Christus Imperat.’
October 2019 weekly reflections
90th Anniversary Year, weekly reflection from Mary Rouse, parish catechist and musician, SSG trustee
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
In today’s gospel, the apostles say to the Lord “Increase our faith.” Is that possible? Surely, we either have faith, or we don’t? And yet how many times do we lack the courage to do what we know is right? Yes, we have faith, but it’s somehow stifled by self-doubt and fear.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus talks of uprooting a mulberry tree – a big tree with deep roots – and planting it in the sea. The Gospels of Mark and Matthew talk in more familiar terms about faith strong enough to move mountains. Jesus is telling his disciples that they already have faith strong enough to uproot trees or move mountains; they just need to trust in God and start using it.
Lord, increase our faith. It’s a good prayer, but we mustn’t sit and wait for something to happen. Have courage and act, and God will help us – for with God, anything is possible. Were our faith the size of a mustard seed, we could say to the mulberry tree: “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey us.
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today’s readings are all about gratitude and remembering to give thanks. Naaman, offered a gift in grateful thanks after being cured of leprosy. In Luke’s Gospel, of the ten lepers who were cured, only one, the Samaritan, returned and, throwing himself at the feet of Jesus, praised God at the top of his voice.
Today, in Rome, Saint John Henry Newman has been canonised. Newman was a great theologian and poet. On thankfulness, he wrote:
“The spirit of humble thankfulness for past mercies […] is a grace to which we are especially called in the Gospel.
Such thankfulness, I say, is eminently a Christian grace and is enjoined on us in the New Testament. For instance, we are exhorted to be “thankful”, and to let “the Word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts.” (from the sermon on remembrance of past mercies)
Newman’s message, repeated in today’s readings, is to remember God’s mercies shown to us, and to give thanks for them. And, what better way to give thanks than to praise God? As Newman wrote, and as many of us will have sung today:
“Praise to the Holiest in the height, and in the depth be praise: In all his words most wonderful; most sure in all his ways.’’
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!
This wonderful hymn, written by Joseph Scrivens in the 1800s, should be sung more often! I wish I’d remembered it when we were planning the music for this Sunday. If you’re a parish musician, try singing it to the tune ‘Scarlet Ribbons’. It transforms it, I think.
God has our back. If we have faith, we know this. But the readings today remind us that God expects us to pray to him, to ask for his help. A bit of effort on our part is required. Praying persistently is not about trying to change God’s mind – because that would mean that God didn’t want to help us. No, it’s we who need to change and we have the chance to do that through prayer.
God poured out his love for us when Jesus died on the cross to heal and save us all. This was God’s gift to us and, in return, he asks for faith and love from us through our prayer. And God will answer; we know it.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, Take it to the Lord in prayer.
30th Sunday in Ordinary time, Year C
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner” is the prayer of the tax collector in Sunday’s Gospel. The tax collector recognised need for God in his life. In contrast, the Pharisee was completely self-absorbed.
A good or right relationship with God and with others is less about who we are or what we do, and more about the spirit in which we do it; God isn’t impressed by self-righteousness.
The message of the readings for this weekend can be distilled down to the need to leave enough room in our lives for God’s grace to work in us.
When we pray, we’d do well to remember our need for God in our lives, and to make space for that amazing grace to do its work in us and through
September 2019 weekly reflections
Sunday 1st September (22nd Sunday in Ordinary time)
Mary Ryan – SSG Trustee and School Chaplain
Humility is at the heart of today’s readings; in the Gospel, Jesus’ parable is a response to his observation of the Pharisees, ever conscious of their social status in Jewish society, picking out the places of honour at a meal, while the first reading from Ecclesiasticus reminds us of the importance of true humility, not a false modesty but a willingness to listen and reflect on the Word of God. In contrast, the Psalm speaks of God’s justice, with the second reading giving us a glimpse of the Kingdom, where ‘…everyone is a first-born son and a citizen of heaven.’
What does humility mean? While an excess of humility can become an inverse expression of pride, negating ourselves until someone has to tell us how wonderful we are. On the other hand, it can also be all too easy to slip into the trap of the Pharisees, resisting anything that might damage our reputation as skilled, experienced ministers. Are there subtle (or not so subtle) hierarchies within our parishes and communities? Humility is about recognising that we may not have all the answers – we need to be open to God’s Word and willing to move in a new direction if that is where we are called to be. September is often a new beginning for many as people return after the Summer break. It could be a valuable time to reflect on the purpose of our ministry; are we truly focused on drawing people towards the mystery of God rather than the glory of our own gifts.
Sunday 8th September (23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time)
‘Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.’
Martin Luther King’s quote seems apt for today’s readings. The First Reading speaks of the mystery of God’s wisdom, far beyond human understanding, with the Psalm responding to this and acknowledging God as our protector and shelter through all ages. The Gospel throws us a challenge; discipleship has a cost and a true disciple must be willing to give up everything – friends, family even one’s own life. We see a small example of this in Paul’s letter to Philemon – today’s Second Reading, where Paul, ageing and in prison, gives up his companion, Onesimus so that he might return to his former master, Philemon as a ‘…brother in the Lord.’
What challenges have we had to face in our faith journey? Few of us will have faced the kind of choices mentioned in the Gospel, but persecution for religious belief still exists and there are those who have had to face rejection by their families and friends because of their beliefs. For all of us, we might simply reflect on the direction our journey of faith has taken us; the Wisdom of God may have taken us along roads we would never have thought to travel and may still lead us to places that challenge our faith. For all the turmoil this may cause, we have to place our trust in God, who has and always will be our refuge.
Sunday 14th September (24th Sunday In Ordinary Time)
Mercy, particularly the effects of mercy, are at the heart of this week’s readings. In the First Reading, Moses pleads with God to forgive the people, in the Second Reading St Paul writes of the effects of God’s Mercy towards himself, and finally, the Gospel recounts the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the joy of seeing it returning to the fold.
Paul speaks of God’s mercy from his own experience as someone who did all he could to discredit the faith. Having received God’s mercy, he becomes a living example of Jesus’ purpose – to call sinners. In his letter there is a real sense of his delight and gratitude for the mercy shown to him, that a great burden has been lifted from his shoulders.
If Paul looks at mercy from the recipient’s point of view, the Gospel looks at mercy from the giver’s vantage point; the shepherd who is willing to leave ninety-nine sheep in search of one who has strayed and rejoices when the sheep is found. Jesus’ mission is to reach out to those, like Paul, who have lost their way.
Mercy should be a characteristic of all Christians; the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to ‘forgive those who trespass against us.’ Yet when someone has caused serious damage it can be hard to truly forgive someone, to let go of the hurt and allow reconciliation to take place.
Sunday 22nd September (25th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
These Sundays in September could be said to follow a broad theme of the qualities of discipleship. So far there has been a focus on humility, faith mercy and today, love of neighbour.
In the First Reading, Amos reminds those who cheat the poor that God sees what they are doing and remembers. The Second Reading continues Paul’s letter to Timothy, advising the younger disciple to offer prayers that all may live in harmony. The Gospel is quite short and concludes with the challenging message that one cannot be the slave of both God and money.
Christian teaching on wealth has been interpreted in different ways; while wealth in itself is not a problem as long as it has been earned honestly, it is the love of money and material goods that can become a problem.
It is difficult to exist in our society without money – we need to eat, pay bills, provide for our families and much more. However, we have many choices about how we use our money; using it to provide for our own needs but also consider the needs of others. As consumers, we have much more information about who is producing the goods we buy and whether every person involved is paid a just wage. The choices we make can help to ensure labourers are not exploited and also encourage sustainability and care for our common home.
Sunday 29th September (26th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
This week’s readings follow a similar theme to last week; Amos is critical of the wealthy who enjoy all the comforts that money can provide for them yet have closed their eyes to the needs of the poor. In contrast, the Psalmist tells of God who cares for the oppressed and upholds the widow and orphan. In the Second Reading, St Paul advises Timothy to live a life filled with love, to be faithful and saintly. The Gospel of the Rich Man (Dives) and Lazarus, echoes the first reading. Dives walks past Lazarus, sitting at his gate every day, yet chooses to do nothing to help ease his suffering. When both die, their roles are reversed and Dives begs to send a warning to his brothers.
Dives, along with the wealthy in Amos’ time, would have been well aware of the Mitzvot, the Jewish Law (of which the Ten Commandments are only a small part), yet Dives chooses not to see the suffering of Lazarus until it is too late. This selective awareness is not unfamiliar in our own time. St Paul’s advice to Timothy could apply to us too. Following the commandments is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple. At the heart of the commandments is to love God and love our neighbour.
August 2019 weekly reflections
Sunday 4th August, 18th Sunday in ordinary Time
The readings this weekend offer us a ‘stop and think’ moment. What is the meaning and purpose of life, after all that hard work, wisdom, skills and gathering of knowledge, if in the end, we have to leave it all behind? Where is our ‘true north’, the compass direction for our daily journey? Paul in the letter to the Colossians reminds us that our ‘true life’ or centre is hidden with Christ. We hold on to what we acclaim at the summit of the Eucharistic Prayer, Through Him, with Him and in Him…, and we trust that God is our dwelling place now and for eternity. God’s unfailing love surrounds and fills and renews us constantly, so that we can live out this love through all the relationships and choices we make in our lives.
Jesus in the passage from the Gospel of Luke echoes something of the substance of the first reading, and something of modern culture of decluttering: life is about so much more than ‘stuff’! At very best, it’s about love and relationships, and the inner voice of the heart is constantly calling us to be aware and respond. Do we notice the often surprising ways God communicates, through people, places, spaces, creative conversations, helping us change and grow in our attitude and response to our circumstances and problems? What we experience as difficult, and sometimes even heart-breaking, can lead us into a response that is more radical and fulfilling than anything we could have imagined. This ‘letting go’ and trusting in God’s promise to be with us at all times, often without our knowing how, giving us his peace, and guiding and fuelling our response to life. This can become our contribution to kingdom-building.
Ponder: I wonder, how can I let go of anxiety, and be more trusting of God? What would be my ‘prayer’?
What can I begin to put aside in a decluttering process? What would be in my definitely ‘Yes’, ‘No’, or ‘Maybe’ piles of ‘stuff’? What are the good things that I have that I would like to share share with others?
Sunday 11th August, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
What does it mean for us – the Christian community – to ‘live by faith’? There is something today’s readings that could inspire our response to that question. The author of the book of Wisdom seems to say, ‘Trust, seek God’, and let’s agree to live the dangers and blessings together, remembering that the mercy of God extends to everyone! And for musicians and singers, the psalmist too exhorts us to hope in God’s unfailing love, ‘play skilfully’ and ‘shout for joy!’
The second reading, is from Chapter 11 of the letter to the Hebrews. In this chapter the author uses the words ‘by faith’ eighteen times, rather making the point! To live by faith, and be on the lookout for signs of the kingdom in what we can see and touch, is to courageously believe in what we hope for – the promised kingdom is in and around us!
Jesus in the Gospel for this Sunday says what he so often says: “Do not be afraid!” And he continues, ‘for your father,’ note Your Father, not my Father, ‘has been pleased to give you the Kingdom’! And you will discover this Kingdom in surprising ways. It’s not found in money – we know love of money or power can cut us off from others and from God. No, this kingdom is in your hands and voice and heart, and around and among you in goodness, beauty and truth. Just be aware and look out for it. Tune in and give your love in service to those in need around you, and receive the treasure they are, for this mutual enrichment is the Kingdom!
Ponder: Who are the ‘poor’ God has given me to love today? What goodness, beauty and truth do I find in them? How can I approach this holy ground and offer the little I have to serve their goodness? Looking back what have been some of the ‘kingdom-sharing’ moments for me?
Sunday 18th August, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah the prophet took very seriously his responsibility to urge people to turn back to God. Nobody listened! He was extremely unpopular. He was poor, and had given everything. In this first reading, he is threatened with death, and thrown into a waterless muddy well. In God’s eyes Jeremiah is faithful. The king orders his men to pull Jeremiah out of the well and save him from death. The psalmist echoes the challenge of long-suffering, patient, waiting to be lifted out of despair – and in the waiting time, to ‘sing God’s song’ by keeping on loving and serving as best one can.
In the letter to the Hebrews we hear the classic exhortation: keep on running the race you have started and don’t lose sight of the goal. We have a cloud of witnesses urging us on from the gallery. Any suffering we endure can make us stronger and more mature in the Christian life. In the Gospel Jesus warns us about the inevitable pain to be endured. These are strange and unsettling words. Jesus has come to bring fire! In the ancient world fire was a symbol or channel for the presence of God or for communicating with God. (We can think of the experience of Moses, and the burning bush denoting the sacred ground and the conversation with God, or the burning of offerings to rise to God through the flames.) Today, Jesus wishes the earth was blazing already! Could that be the purifying blazing of the spirit of God? Could it be that Jesus demands a response, and some families and groups may be torn apart when some say ‘yes’ and others ‘no’ to following him? There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground with Jesus here. We have to choose what is life-giving, and choices can cause pain, division and conflict, and loss of approval of others. We can’t avoid conflict and suffering, but we have to know that somehow, without our knowing how, God is with us in the pain. We are not alone, and it’s not the end of the story!
Ponder: What has caused pain and division in your own following of Christ? What helps you endure the pain and challenges as you ‘run the race’? Who are the ‘witnesses’ who give you courage?
Sunday 25th August, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
At the outset, we can highlight the tiny psalm! It’s the shortest chapter in the bible. Blink and you miss it, but listen and savour its beauty, and it will speak powerfully to you. ‘Come!’ it seems to invite. ‘Come and know the strong, enduring love God has for everyone. Believe that God believes in you!’
A little more from Hebrews this week too, offering a word of encouragement not to lose heart. As God’s children we can support one another in facing challenges. The reading offers reflection on how the ‘discipline’ of the Christian life can help us endure. The word ‘discipline’ appears after the word ‘disciple’ in the dictionary, with a connection in the Latin roots of both words – as a learner and a method of learning. This ‘discipline’ might just be the effort of putting one foot in front of the other on particularly dark days. At other times, it might be a desperate calling out to God in prayer, ‘Help! I just can’t do this on my own… but with your strength I will hang on in there!’ And later, as the letter says, there will be a harvest of peace for those who have been trained by or learnt from this ‘discipline’. Importantly, discipline is not just about ‘me’ and ‘my survival’. The point of discipline is to give gentle, encouraging witness to others in following Christ, in ‘discipleship’ – keep going, this is a path towards healing and new life!
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the narrow door through which we enter the kingdom. The good news: there is a door! The challenge: you might need to get off the camel, remove the excess baggage, and with some humility and concentrated effort, get on your knees to go through it!
Ponder: What does the ‘discipline’ of the Christian life mean to you personally? What sort of things come along and threaten to derail you in following Jesus? How do you keep on track or get back on track? What or who helps your efforts?
July 2019 weekly reflections
7th July – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 66:10–14c / Ps 66:1–3, 4–5, 6–7, 16, 20 / Gal 6:14–18 / Lk 10:1–12, 17–20 or 10:1–9
The seventy two sent out by Jesus doubtless felt vulnerable and exposed – sent out into the world with lots of ‘withouts’ – no sandals, no purse, no haversack, no letters of recommendation. They know themselves now to be entirely dependent on those they went among.
And they become agents of change
When they are welcomed and when they themselves ‘welcome the welcome’, guests and hosts receive from each other the gift of community, and are able in this to experience the nearness of the kingdom.
When they are rejected, if peace and hospitality are refused, then they can learn and show how easy it is to move on: to name the evil, reject the evil, and move on, still at peace, still free.
And in each case Satan falls. In the glare of truth he is revealed powerless, and from peace, generosity, service, sacrifice, freedom he flees.
14th July – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dt 30:10–14 / Ps 69:14, 17, 30–31, 33–34, 36, 37 or Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11 / Col 1:15–20 / Lk 10:25–37
Be yourself – limited, contingent, dependent – and be the best you can be in whatever the circumstances you find yourself in. Don’t try to be what you are not, but be yourself.
That seems pretty much to summarise the teaching offered in the readings this Sunday. It is also the lesson that Tubby the Tuba had to learn in Tubby the Tuba at the Circus – a childhood favourite and an enduring source for confidence.
The lawyer of the Gospel seeks to justify himself, but that’s God’s work. The lawyer need only (?!?) be a good neighbour.
Israel need only (?!?) live the Law, observe what God has written in their hearts, and made them able and capable to do.
Christ Jesus is all perfection, and he is for us, helping us to be ourselves, to be the best of ourselves for the common good and the glory of God.
21st July – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gn 18:1–10a / Ps 15:2–3, 3–4, 5 / Col 1:24–28 / Lk 10:38–42
It is good to be a good host. When we are we imitate the Lord and share in his hospitable love.
But we are not the Lord, and though we have much to give and much to share, we also need to be able to receive.
Sarah laughs at the promise of the gift of a son. She and Abraham are old and resigned to being childless, to God’s not delivering on the covenant. She has a surprise coming. Martha is challenged to be less busy, less officious. The good news is there is better news for Martha than yet she knows.
And there is surprise and good news in store for us too. We are to be perfect in Christ – the Lord, and St Paul, are on our case! Thank God. In the presence in the Lord, we will live!
28th July – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary time
Gn 18:20–32 / Ps 138:1–2, 2–3, 6–7, 7–8 / Col 2:12–14 / Lk 11:1–13
We have a tendency to politeness in our prayer. Indeed many hear obsequiousness in the prayers of the Mass in their current English translation.
Lament and argument, dispute, are colours of Semitic dialogue and prayer that need to be part of our on-going relationship with God too.
For there are many times we ask, search and knock and the Lord remains silent, or at the very least we do not hear him.
God is loving Father, caring Son and inspiring Spirit – and we need to learn that and learn to trust in that through giving full expression in our prayer with God to squabble, hissy fits, moans and complaints, hurts and disappointments. If these are less common in, or even absent from, the liturgy itself, we need to help ourselves and others to be fully comfortable with giving expression to them in our personal, private prayer
The living and only true God cherishes us and calls us to maturity in our relationship with him, so he can raise us to fullness of life in him.
June 2019 weekly reflections
June 2 7th Sunday of Easter
When we hear people saying things like “I can see heaven thrown open”, we tend to dismiss them as being deluded. Stephen certainly paid the price for being a visionary!
People probably had the same sort of reaction when they heard John’s Apocalypse for the first time. The visions described in today’s 2nd reading are not the most extraordinary in that book by a long way, but they would still be considered bizarre in our rationalistic society.
Jesus’s vision is a different kind of extraordinary. Not content with praying to his Father for unity among his followers, he says “May they be so completely one that the world will realise that it was you who sent me.” Is he deluded as well, asking for the moon? The factions and divisions in the Church today might well make us think so, and make us wonder what on earth we think we have been doing for the past two millennia.
And yet, even though we are faithless, we are told “I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known.” That’s a promise we can cling on to!
June 9 Pentecost Sunday
It’s hard enough to understand another language, harder still to speak it, and as for speaking a translation at the same time as listening to the next chunk to be translated, well, the people who can do that appear almost superhuman!
When we hear today about what may be the first-recorded occurrence of simultaneous translation on a large scale, we can rightly be filled with awe. And yet in this case the translator was not the apostles but the Spirit of God.
Paul echoes this when he tells us that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” unless the Spirit is working through that person. A translator is needed! And as the Sequence reminds us, the Spirit can also translate our feeble efforts to live good lives, turning us into strong people who heal, converting our dry cynicism to refreshing counsel, warming our frozen personalities, guiding our wandering steps, setting our hearts aflame, and bringing us to eternal life.
May the Great Translator, the Lord of Light, transform our lives!
June 16 Trinity Sunday
The image of God tracing a ring on the face of the deep in the book of Proverbs always reminds me of perichoresis, the “circle dance” of the persons of the Trinity.
This has been depicted in many ways, notably in Celtic carving and in the windows of Gothic cathedrals where the triskele is often found. This circle dance is not only about motion but about interdependence and, like the construction of the Gothic window, the interplay of the three elements is a source if immense strength.
The lesson for me is that, although it may be harder in terms of effort, collaboration is always worthwhile because it ultimately brings forth great fruit than simply doing things on one’s own. We, too, can be integrated into God’s act of creation by allowing ourselves to be drawn into a “Trinitarian” way of working.
June 23 Corpus Christi
Today, of all days, we should all be receiving under the form of bread and wine. The solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, is the obvious occasion for reminding us of that great statement in paragraph 281 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), derived from Eucharisticum Mysterium (1967), para 32:
“Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clearer expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the connection between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Kingdom of the Father.”
Not only does this mean that Communion received in this way has a greater symbolic power when we do what the Lord asked us to do — take and eat, take and drink — but it also incorporates a complete theology of the New Covenant: the past (the Blood of the Lord in Jesus’s dying on the Cross), the present (the Eucharistic banquet that we are celebrating now) and the future (the heavenly banquet at the eschaton, the last times).
June 30 Ss Peter and Paul
Two very different personalities: some similarities, many differences. One a Baldric-type figure, an impetuous, hot-headed bumbler who yet became an articulate apologist for the Christian faith; the other a more focused, even obsessive person but an analytical theologian who set the infant Church firmly on its path. Both imprisoned at different times, both attacked by those who felt threatened by them. One who took care of his mother, the other who seems to have hated women.
Which one do you identify with more? Peter, whose rock-like faith (“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”) did not stop him being fallible (denying his Master three times, insisting on circumcision for new Christians) ? Or Paul, equally unswervable in his faith and with a brilliant mind, but a little self-righteous with it?
Perhaps, like Martha and Mary, the epitomes of action and contemplation, the truth lies somewhere in between. The Church venerates Peter and Paul together, reminding us that the ideal is a combination of the best aspects of both their personalities.
May 2019 weekly reflections
5th May: 3rd Sunday of Easter
After the Passion, the disciples, disheartened, have resumed their daily occupation, and are returning empty-handed from another night’s fishing. In the dawn light, a man on the shore calls out, directing them to cast out their nets once again. Suddenly, everything changes: there is fish in abundance, and it is the Lord who stands there, and breaks bread and shares a meal with them and forgives Peter to send him as the one who will bring a multitude to the shore of the heavenly banquet.
At times, we find it difficult to discern the Lord’s guiding voice amidst our daily occupations. May we attune our ears and our hearts to his call, and to the praise of the multitude at the Lamb’s high feast.
12th May: 4th Sunday of Easter
Last week, we saw how the disciples, responding to the Lord’s call, found bread broken for them, and how Peter experienced Christ’s mercy, calling him to his mission. This week, the theme of the voice returns: the Good Shepherd’s call resonates within us and our response is the faith and trust we place in his promise of eternal life, safe in his care. Then, we too will stand in front of the throne and the Lamb, purified, fed and consoled.
During this season of paschal joy, may we renew our trust in Christ’s promise of our own resurrection, and constantly strive for the same unity with each other and with him that he enjoys with the Father.
19th May: 5th Sunday of Easter
This week, the readings offer visions of a new future and tell us of the necessary passage through death that Jesus must experience to be glorified by the Father. John’s narrative and the apocalyptic vision both point to the same direction: not only are we renewed by the death and resurrection of Jesus, but the world itself is part of God’s plan for making all things new.
Strengthened by the hope of Christ’s return and of our own resurrection, may we embody amongst ourselves the love of Christ for us, sign of his presence in the world.
26th May: 6th Sunday of Easter
As we continue our journey through this joyful paschal season, we hear Jesus preparing his disciples for his return to the Father. Yet, in this absence will come the fullness of his presence with the promise of the Spirit, the Defender and Teacher, who will guide the disciples and the Church as it brings Christ’s word to the whole world.
Bearers of the Word and of Christ’s peace, may we fulfil our baptismal mission. As we continue our journey through this joyful paschal season, we hear Jesus preparing his disciples for his return to the Father. Yet, in this absence will come the fullness of his presence with the promise of the Spirit, the Defender and Teacher, who will guide the disciples and the Church as it brings Christ’s word to the whole world.
Bearers of the Word and of Christ’s peace, may we fulfil our baptismal mission, empowered by the Spirit and renewed by the hope of resurrection.
April 2019 weekly reflections
5th Sunday Lent
‘No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before. See, I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to light; can you not see it?’ (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Sin can hold us prisoner. Awareness of past wrongdoing can leave us powerless to change, trapped by what we have done and who we have been, rather than open to realising who we truly can be. God invites us to believe we can change. This is the ‘new deed’ that Isaiah speaks of this week: the offer of a new beginning.
When we accept that offer, we are met with love and compassion, just as the prodigal’s father meets his wayward son with the finest robe and the fatted calf. We are not condemned; we are forgiven. Then we are challenged: ‘go away and do not sin any more’. But we are not sent away to earn forgiveness; we are sent away because we are forgiven.
Jesus, at his most human, searches for an understanding of his Father’s will: if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet he willingly embraces it: your will be done, not mine. In the darkness, his final words avow trust: into your hands I commit my spirit. And in all this, he does not desert humankind: Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing. My friend indeed.
He was not there. Just cloths on the ground and an empty tomb. Later, a companionable stranger on the road, and the risen Lord glimpsed in the breaking of bread.
Christ is risen! The unfathomable wonder of the Paschal Mystery: that because we are baptised, we have risen with him, dead to sin and alive for God. This is what the Lord has done, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
And this is the day.
2nd Divine Mercy
My favourite apostle: poor doubting Thomas, looking rather foolish as Jesus makes him realise he should have believed those he loved. Faith and love are closely bound up. For many, perhaps most of us, we believe because someone we love believed before us, and shared with us not so much the things they believed, as the life they led because of it. The handing on of faith in this way, through loving example, must stretch all the way back to the first witnesses to the empty tomb or the risen Saviour. I wonder who mine began with?
‘Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ The Catechism says this about divine revelation: the Father’s self-communication through his Word in the Holy Spirit remains present and active in the Church. Sometimes, as with Jesus baring his wounds, this can be through the most bold and graphic of signs. At other times we see though a glass, darkly. But Jesus reassures us: like Thomas, we are forgiven if sometimes we doubt.
March 2019 weekly reflections
The 8th Sunday of Ordinary time’s gospel is very helpful in preparing us for the season of Lent. Jesus begins with a parable about two blind men, how can one lead the other if they cannot see where they are going? The liturgy we celebrate is like a guiding light leading us to encounter Christ. Our journey of faith is enabling us to follow the master and learn from him. As we prepare to celebrate Lent it is a time of renewal, an opportunity to see ourselves as others do. Let us ask for the grace to see the plank in our own lives in order to deepen our relationship with Christ and bear fruit for his greater glory.
1st Sunday Lent
Lent is a time of renewal, a journey to bring about change. A time of reflection. Jesus shows the way. The Spirit hovered above him at his Baptism and it is the same Holy Spirit which leads Jesus to the wilderness. Time for him to spend in solitude with his Father. A time for him to reflect on what he has been sent to do. That solitude is disrupted by the devil who has come to tempt him away from the task at hand. We can all identify with that as try to enter our own ‘wilderness’ in order to reflect on our own mission. The liturgy we celebrate provides an oasis of prayer and reflection. As we begin our journey of Lent let us be led by the Spirit and not be led away from our task in the world today of bearing witness to Christ.
2nd Sunday lent
I am sure we can all think of moments in our lives when we were left speechless. Those are moments when we reflect on what has happened and tried to make sense of the event. The disciples were no different. Peter, James and John were chosen for the important moments of Jesus’ ministry. The gospel tells us that Jesus took with him those three disciples and went up the mountain to pray. Whenever we read in the scriptures of climbing up a mountain we know that it means an encounter and experience with God. Moses and Elijah appear and Peter speaks without really knowing what he is saying. The disciples are afraid and yet hear those important words: ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ The liturgy of the Word and Eucharist are moments of encounter and our task is to lead people to ‘Listen to him.’
3rd Sunday Lent
How often in our lives have people given us a second chance. Mistakes are made in life and yet there are people who love us who are willing to give us another chance. Equally I am sure we can think of the people we have given them a second chance. The God we come to worship is the God of the second chance. He never lets us down. He is willing to trust. Like the fig tree in the 3rd Sunday of Lent we have an opportunity to reflect on where we need pruning and dig around in order to be more fruitful. Let us use this time of renewal to see where we need to change in order to bear fruit for Christ. Like the gifts of bread and wine which are brought to the altar and are transformed to become Christ’s Body and Blood so our lives can be transformed too by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
4th Sunday Lent
The parable of the prodigal son on the 4th Sunday of Lent is well known to us. It is a parable of journeys. The younger son moves away from home in order to search for something he longed for. He soon realised that the searching would lead him to the place he left in the first place. His father never stopped watching for his return and his elder brother journeyed further away from the love of his father and brother. It is a story of discovery. Where am I in that scene? Have I wandered away from the Father’s love? Am I a jealous person? Am I resentful? As we continue to journey through Lent may we discover the love that God the Father has for me and enjoy his presence and bask in his love.
February 2019 weekly reflections
3 February — 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year C in Ordinary Time starts with a series of Old Testament ‘highlights’. Last week we had Ezra reading the word to the people, this week we have the calling of Jeremiah, next week the spectacular calling of Isaiah. Apart from allowing us to hear these key passages they are chosen because they reflect the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s Gospel. In the Gospel we have the aftermath of Jesus reading Isaiah in the synagogue. We see the changeability of the crowd. At the beginning of the passage Jesus has won the approval of all; at the end they want to throw him off a cliff. Jesus, here, is seen as a prophet in the mould of Jeremiah — the teller of uncomfortable truths. In a society which seems increasingly divided and where there is an inability to listen where might we find the voice of the prophet today.
10 February— 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The relationship between Jesus and Simon Peter is interesting. Even at the very beginning there is a to and fro. First of all Jesus just asks Simon to do a him a favour — put out his boat from the shore so that Jesus can speak more easily to the crowd which has gathered. Then Jesus does Simon Peter a favour with the huge net of fish. Simon backs away saying ‘Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man.’ Jesus both reassures and turns his life around: ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Simon Peter is one of those people who makes big gestures, he is an all-or-nothing type of guy and so his response is to leave everything and follow Jesus. The excitement and the challenge of following Jesus is that by responding to the small things we can begin a journey that might lead us to places beyond our imagination.
17 February — 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
What does it mean to be a disciple? Today’s Gospel picks up the calling of the apostles from last week and Jesus saying that a ‘prophet is never accepted in his own country’ from the week before. People will hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal for this was how the prophets were treated. But though this might sound a little bit like a sulking and self-pitying teenager, the reason for this suffering is because it is about someone else. It is because the disciple follows the Son of Man and the proper response to all this is to dance for joy! This may sound facile but the first reading (and psalm) have this beautiful image of the disciple who has deep roots which are fed by the flowing stream. The disciple is fed and nurtured by Jesus so that even when we do not perceive his presence (in the year of drought) we have the resources to thrive, face the negative and dance for joy.
24 February — 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Remember the Year of Mercy? Unlike some of these ‘years’ where it seems at the end, we can tick the box and put everything away again the purpose of the Year of Mercy was to encourage the transformation the Church. Or more simply — are we now more merciful as a Church? (And by Church I don’t just mean institution; I mean me and you.)
Today’s Gospel tells us that mercy and compassion are not a soft option. This is, I think, the purpose of the first reading. It is not just that David is merciful to Saul but that the exercise of mercy is complex. At this stage of the story of David and Saul are enemies. David has Saul in his power, but he has both an unfair advantage and he also recognises that Saul is the Lord’s anointed. His action is both merciful and also righteous. The command to be compassionate as your Father is compassionate is a reminder, as the psalm says that it is God who forgives and heals. To do the work of mercy is to cooperate in the works of God.
January 2019 weekly reflections
January 1 – A message for the New Year
The New Year of 2019 brings us as a Society into our ninetieth year. We look forward with hope. It is a hope that reflects the words of the gospel for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God: “As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,” [Luke 2:20]
Our Society has tried to be like both Mary and the shepherds – and still is engaged in both responses to the Christ event. We are people who treasure and ponder the works of the Lord so that we can truly help others to glorify and praise God with us in the liturgy of the Church. In this anniversary year we want to thank God for all who have done the same for us in the past, while committing ourselves to ensure the Society will be equipped to continue that work for future generations.
January 6 – Epiphany
It would be fascinating to imagine how the baby Jesus responded to the gifts the gospel tells that the Wise Men brought. Their mystic meaning was perhaps lost on the infant, but he may have been attracted by their glitter and gold. Their giving just as the carol imagines us giving our heart is what is key to the Christian life. We have been given so much that our response must be gift too. For the Society that means we must value all who share their gifts in the liturgy with us and the whole Church. At the same time we must be glad that we have gifts to share too which help others and ourselves give worthy praise to God.
January 13 Baptism of the Lord
If the feast of the Baptism of Jesus brings Christmas time to a close it also draws us back to the beginning of the Christmas story. After the Baptism the voice from heaven announces that Jesus Is the Father’s Son, the Beloved. God’s favour rests on him. Those words parallel the angel’s greeting to Mary at the Annunciation, for there she is indeed highly favoured, for the Lord is with her. Mary’s response is to see herself as the handmaid of the Lord, who will do God’s will. She indeed listens to the voice of God, and becomes the true disciple. As the Society we must recognise the way God has favoured us with so many gifts, gifts for his service in the liturgy, doing his will.
January 20 2nd Sunday ordinary time
O sing a new song to the Lord, says the psalm. The new song is that the Lord has changed water into wine, the ordinary into what is special. That is our mission as the Society to bring people, who think they are ordinary, to recognise their giftedness in the service of the Church’s liturgy. Their gifts are part of the kaleidoscope of talent that the Spirit distributes to different people just as he chooses. Helping people do this is the gift the Society offers to the Church in her worship today, and has done so for the last ninety years.
January 27 3rd Sunday ordinary time
We belong to the great procession of those who have worshipped God through the ages from Ezra gathering men, women, and children old enough to understand, to the synagogue gathering that heard Jesus, to the community with whom you worship today. Our ninety years, as a Society dedicated to the liturgy, span just part of that amazing history of God’s people at worship. At every
stage people have been conscious of how they are different parts of Christ’s body, as Paul says, each with a different part to play. May our work as the Society continue to develop the harmony for which Christ longs.
Anniversary chalice and paten
To commemorate its 90th anniversary, the Society wishes to acquire a special chalice and paten for use at Society Eucharists. We invite you to make a contribution towards their purchase. You may donate online here, or send a cheque, payable to The Society of Saint Gregory (please write 90th Commemoration Fund on the reverse). Please send to: Membership Secretary, The Society of Saint Gregory, 38, Robert Road, Exhall, Coventry, CV7 9GU.
Find out how the Society began, back in 1929
Why was Saint Gregory adopted as our patron?