Weekly Reflections

Since 1929

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, we have prepared a weekly gospel reflection. New reflections will be uploaded throughout the year. Please feel free to share these with friends and family.

March 2024 weekly reflections

Reflections for February from Canon Patrick Hartnett. 

 

3rd March 2024 – Lent Sunday 3B

There are many false gods in our world today. Activities which promise happiness and offer solutions to life’s challenges. A pathway is presented to us by God’s word. The commandments are presented to us to show a way through life. These bring life and joy. The Temple was the place for worship. Jesus was furious that it became a place for commerce. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. As we journey through Lent let us use this time to reflect on our response to the Holy Spirit.

 

10th March 2024 – Lent Sunday 4B

St. Paul tells us today: ‘We are God’s work of art’. What a statement. I love looking at the classic paintings in art galleries. So often I see something new, something different. This is a pure gift. We are also reminded of God’s mercy. Pope Francis once said that we may tire of approaching the throne of grace in confession but God never tires of forgiving. Jesus in John’s gospel reminds us again of this special grace. Take time to reflect on today’s scripture readings.
 
 
 
 
17th March 2024 – Lent Sunday 5B
As we journey through Lent we are often told about the Covenant God has entered with his people. Scripture shows the many times the people turn their backs on this special relationship. God is patient and awaits his people to repent. The prophet Jeremiah tells us today: ‘Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts.’ The season of Lent is a time to put out into the deep and renew that Covenant. The big question is asked in the Gospel: ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus’. We need to be evangelisers. Revealing Jersus to the world.
February 2024 weekly reflections

Reflections for February from Mary Ryan.

4th February 2024 – 5th Sunday Ordinary Time B

One could be forgiven for thinking that Job has been struck with more than a touch of the mid-winter blues; his lament speaks of the monotony and drudgery of his daily life. Paul too, in the second reading could also be lamenting the burden of preaching the Gospel that has been placed into his hands, yet, although this task does have its challenges, he can also see the reward of bringing the Good News to others. Jesus too is busy with his own ministry of healing the sick, yet takes time to be alone and pray.
However much we delight in our day-to-day tasks, whether career or vocation or both, there may well be days when the role becomes difficult or even burdensome; times when, like Job, our work may feel like ‘pressed service’. It can be beneficial to step back on occasion and allow ourselves time to be refreshed and renewed, whether that be physically, emotionally or spiritually – perhaps all three. If our own well is empty, how can we begin to support others? St Paul spends himself willingly for others because he has a vision of the ultimate goal of the gospel. The Psalm too gives hope, reminding us of a God who ‘…heals the broken hearted…and calls each one of us by name…’
Questions to reflect on:
❓What led you into the service/ministry that you do?
❓Where/how do you find moments for healing and renewal?
 
 
12th February 2024 – 6th Sunday Ordinary Time
The theme of healing continues in today’s readings; with a particular focus on leprosy, an illness which, even today, makes those who suffer from it become outcast from their communities. Jewish Laws also required lepers to be declared ritually clean before being restored to the worshipping community. Other illnesses, from blindness to paralysis would be seen in the Jewish understanding as imperfect, a reminder of human failure, and unworthy of worshipping God. While the readings emphasise the importance of respecting the Jewish Laws, compassion for others must override traditions. Jesus’ compassion for the leper goes beyond the standard Jewish response as Jesus reaches out to touch the leper – unthinkable for most Jews. The leper, now on the brink of being restored to the community, cannot contain his joy and shares his good news with all he meets.
Questions to reflect on:
What can separate us from God’s love?
Do we set up barriers for others in our communities?
 
 
18th February 2024 – Lent Sunday 1B
We have two kinds of ‘wilderness’ presented to us in today’s readings; one familiar – Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil, and Noah, drifting on the waters of the flood is in another kind of wilderness; an echo of the waters of the first Creation. Something new is about to begin; the remnant of God’s Creation, saved from the Flood and held together in the hull of Noah’s Ark, like a seed, ready to be planted in fresh soil and grow once more.
The season of Lent invites us to a new beginning in our relationship with God and each other; St Paul connects the waters of the flood to our baptism and the renewal of our covenant with God. As we begin our journey through Lent, the Psalm invites us to look towards God for guidance for ‘…he will guide the humble in the right path and teach his ways to the poor…’
❔Questions to reflect on:
What does it mean for me to walk in the ‘right path’ this Lent?
What do I want to let go of this Lent?
 
25th February 2024 – Lent Sunday 2B
Today’s Gospel of the Transfiguration leaves us in no doubt of who Jesus is; the symbolism of being close to God on the mountain, transfigured in dazzling white, in the presence of Moses and Elijah and finally affirmed by the voice of God himself. In the Second Reading, St Paul elaborates on the purpose of Jesus’ suffering and death as a sign of God’s love for his chosen people. The Father’s willingness to sacrifice his Son brings us back to the First Reading and the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. This is a challenging story; what kind of God would demand this kind of sacrifice? And what Father would be willing to kill his son? Abraham’s obedience to God is not blind – he does argue and plead with God – lines omitted from the reading; yet his trust and obedience to God and is rewarded with the fulfilment of the Covenant promises of land and descendants.
God keeps his promises to those who trust in him; are we ready to follow where God calls us to go?

 

January 2024 weekly reflections

Msg Kevin McGinnell leads up into the new year with reflections on the Responsorial Psalms used during January.

7th January 2024 –

The Epiphany of the Lord
Responsorial Psalm – All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.
Psalm 71(72) speaks of those foreign kings who come bringing gifts and tribute to worship God’s son.
It draws us to the wise people who journeyed to find the Christ child who themselves are drawn by a star to find the infant king of the Jews. This king, says the psalm, will have a care for justice and peace; he will respond to the poor and the needy, to the helpless, the weak and to all the poor who call on him. We know this was Christ’s mission and as Christians it becomes ours. How will we as individuals and as communities respond to this challenge? As we enter a new year and resolve to deepen our faith it will be good to think how our liturgy reflects the hopes and aspirations of the psalm we sing.
Reflect on what this Responsorial psalm means to the people in our liturgy today, to you as musicians, as cantor.
 
 
14th January 2024 – 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time B
Responsorial Psalm : Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.
Psalm 39(40) is deeply personal, describing the relationship of the individual believer with God. We need to wait on God in our times of prayer and reflection. We can be confident that he will hear our cry and give us the words we need to praise him. Our praise leads us to commit ourselves study his scriptures to discern his will for us. Then we can commit ourselves to do what he wants, to proclaim his justice and speak his praise openly before all people. In the liturgy we do this together as God’s people gathered in prayer. Each one of us needs to bring to our shared liturgy our personal commitment to faith and living it with integrity.
Reflect on what this Responsorial psalm means to the people in our liturgy today, to you as musicians, as cantor.
 
 
21st January 2024 – 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time B 
Responsorial Psalm​​​​​​​​: Lord, make me know your ways.
On this Sunday of the Word of God we are reminded of the power of the scriptures and their importance in our lives. As a prayer this psalm [24(25)] asks the Lord to help us see the way we should follow him, to walk in his ways. He will teach us his truth because that is the way we will be saved. Aware of our weakness we trust in his goodness and love towards us so that he will have mercy and forgive our failings. We believe that God is bothered about us, bringing us back when we stray, and deeply concerned for the humble and poor. The Liturgy of the Word, week by week, calls us to respond as a community of faith to Christ’s presence in his Word, and today more than ever we need to open our hearts to that presence with reverence and fear.
Reflect on what this Responsorial psalm means to the people in our liturgy today, to you as musicians, as cantor.
 
 
28th January 2024 – 4th Sunday Ordinary Time B
Responsorial Psalm​​​​​​​​Psalm 94(95):1-2,6-9
O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’
Psalm 94(95) is a real challenge to us as a liturgical community to reflect on how our celebration truly expresses our joy because God saves us; how our songs truly acknowledges and thanks our God as rock on whom depend. Our coming together in praise needs to show that we are truly humble in the presence of the God made us, who gives us all we have, who constantly care for us as his flock. We need to take heed of the lessons of the past where people became too comfortable and independent, rejecting the God on whom they really depended.
Reflect on what this Responsorial psalm means to the people in our liturgy today, to you as musicians, as cantor.
December 2023 weekly reflections

Reflections for November 2023 are from Paul Moynihan

 

3rd December 2023 – 1st Sunday Advent B

 

It all seems so strange. The high streets have had their Christmas decorations out for some time now, tv channels have been showing Christmas films, and yes, I have already heard some Christmas carols. And yet, only today have we reached the First Sunday of Advent. To add to the mix, because Christmas Day is a Monday, this Advent will be the shortest it possibly can be – a mere 3 weeks. Perhaps there is something we could learn from the ancient Ambrosian Rite, still celebrated today in the Diocese of Milan, and have a six-week Advent season every year, six Sundays on which to contemplate the wonder that is to come in the second coming of Christ and reflect on his first coming over 2,000 years ago. But guess who we have to thank for our Advent season of four Sunday? Yes, our very own Pope Saint Gregory the Great. In the 4th century we find Advent being kept by the Church in Gaul and Spain It was only in the sixth century that the Church in Rome began to celebrate Advent as a preparation for Christmas, a season that lasted for six weeks. St Gregory reduced it to the four Sunday season we know to this day.
So as we begin today our own Advent, our own preparation, here are some words to reflect on that, for me, summarise well our spiritual and liturgical journey to Christmas.
 
 
10th December 2023 – 2nd Sunday Advent B
The Gospel for this new liturgical year is that of St Mark, and is reckoned to have been written before the other three Evangelists had composed theirs. This Sunday’s passage come from the very beginning of Chapter 1. But there are no infancy narratives for Mark. No, instead he opens with John the Baptist.
Strange man, John: clothed in camel’s hair and eating locusts. He is certain not your typical religious leader, and yet he proclaimed a world-changing prophecy: the Mighty One is coming; prepare the way! It is easy to imagine people judging John as unworthy of respect, similar to how many judge people today after one glance at ragged clothes, dirty face or the colour of skin. What lessons get lost amid such judgement?
John’s mission to prepare the way is our mission too, and his words of about getting our hearts ready hold true today. We all have something to be sorry for and want to change. So make that happen and in doing so, we can prepare to receive our Lord and Saviour.
 
 
17th December 2023 – 3rd Sunday Advent B
The 3rd Sunday of Advent is often known as Gaudete Sunday after the initial word of the latin text of the Entrance Antiphon, ‘Gaudete’ meaning rejoice. We are one with the prophet Isaiah who says ‘I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God …’ . But there is an important point to understand, especially today. We are not awaiting an event that has yet to occur, but celebrating and shouting ‘gaudete’ because we have already been clothed in baptism. The second Preface for Advent and used this Sunday echoes this when it acknowledges John the Baptist’s role of proclaiming Christ’s presence when he came in history and therefore ‘it is by this gift that we already rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity, so that he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise’. It is our very gift in Christ that, to echo St Paul, enables us to ‘Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and in all things give thanks to God.’
 
 
 
24th December 2023 – 4th Sunday Advent B
There is something very future orientated about this morning, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, perhaps expectedly so. David is promised a house as a dynasty that will endure. Paul contemplate the ‘revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear’. From Luke we learn that the angel Gabriel announces that Mary’s Son ‘will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ The liturgy directs us to look to the heavens as we await the Just One.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent is not a countdown to Christmas, but a journey into the expectation of the Saviour. If there is one emotion that sums up the church’s attitude this Sunday morning, that feeling is holy desire, a longing for the Promised One. As the Prayer after Communion puts it, ‘… as the feast day of our salvation draws ever near, so we may press forward all the more eagerly to the worthy celebration of the mystery of your Son’s Nativity.’
 
 
25th December 2023 – Christmas Day B
‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.’
🎺Thus the angels sang to the shepherds announcing the good news of the birth of Jesus. He came into this world, he took on human form, he came to dwell among us and with us. Christ is not choosy. He loves all, infinitely. This is what the word ‘Saviour’ means. This is what the angels sang ‘Glory’ about. This is why the shepherds were awe-stricken. The ‘good news of great joy that will be for all people’ is that a ‘Saviour has been born’. May he bring us that peace to a world which today so urgently needs it.
🎺Some words, then, to reflect on during the Christmas season: vindication, shine, dawn, victory, burning torch, glory, a new name, glorious crown, diadem, delight, espoused, bridegroom, bride, angel, dream, virgin, conceive, give birth, name, fulfil, son, Emmanuelm Wonder-Counsellor, Prince of Peace, dominion, peaceful, judgement, justice, shepherd, grace, justly, devoutly, swaddling clothes, manger, glad tidings, goodwill, lavished, justified, caravans, gold, frankincense, gentiles, prostrate, homage, water, beloved, favour, baptism.
 
 
31st December 2023 – Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph B
Our Gospel passage this morning recounts the event of the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple by his parents, and how Simeon recognises him as ‘a light … to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’ The challenge to families today is to recognise that Light and to follow that Light, no matter the cost. Our younger generation however cannot follow that Light if they haven’t been shown the Light. We are called every day to die to ourselves so that Christ’s light might shine in our world. This is no small challenge.
‘Actions speak louder than words’, we are taught, and it’s true. But if adults don’t live in Jesus’ light, then there is no model for young people to choose living in the Light.
November 2023 weekly reflections

Reflections for November 2023 are from first time contributor Canon Brian McKinley, Dean and parish priest of St George’s and Our Lady Queen of Peace in Worcester.

 

5th November 2023 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Those I invite to return to Sunday Mass often reply: “I would return to church father, but those who attend are hypocrites.” To which I am very tempted to say (but never do!) “Well, there’s always room for one more!”.
The condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees by Jesus brings to mind the public discourse about the Church in recent years. This has highlighted the failures of church people to live up to the values of the Gospel. In other words, we fail to practice what we preach.
When our actions match our words about gospel values, then our words carry more weight. The world needs to SEE sermons as much as HEARING them. The gospel ends with a paradox. Those who exalt themselves wil be humbled and vice-versa. For Jesus the way to greatness and fullness of life is through service of others i.e feetwashing.
 
 
 
12th November 2023 – 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time A
A candle was presented to us at our baptism with the words:
“This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ, they are to walk always as a child of the light. When the Lord comes may they go out to meet Him.”
Jesus tells us that there is a right time and a time when it will be too late. We ask God’s help that we may realise what it is we might do now, how we might recognise the approaching bridegroom and welcome Him.
The lamp of faith is given to us by God and our prayer, good works and our time given to God is the oil. All of God’s action in our lives is His gift, but it needs our openness and welcome. Prayer tops up our supply of oil which can give light and fragrance to the rest of our lives.
There is a time for preparation and a time for action. There is no time for carelessness. We need wisdom and to avoid foolishness.

 

19th November 2023 – 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time A

The Gospel tells us clearly that God distributes his gifts among us as he wills, and he entrusts each one of us with a mission. He gives us what we need to produce fruits for his kingdom and he expects us to use those gifts
responsibly and diligently.
No two people are exactly alike, and God treats each one individually as a unique person made in his image.
We need to live before God and respond to him sincerely by using to the full the talents he has given us. I believe it was one of the saints who said: “Pity for the person who can sing to die with all their music still inside them.”
Are we making the best use of all that God has given us? Might we be committing a sin of omission with regards to some of our talents?
The master did not expect a return of five talents from the servant to whom he gave only one. He would have been happy with a return of one more but the lazy servant closed heart in fear (FEAR aka FalseEmotionAltersReality!)
We must resolve ot use our God-given talents wisely to net him a significant return.
 
 
26th November 2023 – Christ the King A
In the Gospels we see how often Jesus identifies himself with others, especially with those without status or honour, such as children. Once, he said: “Who ever welcomes such a child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus identifies himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and imprisoned. He seems to be saying that he come to us in a special way through the brokenness and vulnerability of others. He is also saying that he comes to others through OUR own brokenness and vulnerability. Both sheep and goats in the gospel today were assessed very differently but each group asked the same question; “When did we see you hungry?…” One group was serving the Lord without realising it and the other group was neglecting the Lord without realising it.
Today’s gospel invites us to become more aware of the Lord’s presence in weakness, vulnerability, failure and distress. On the cross, the throne of our King, Jesus himself was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned. As Risen King he now identifies with all those who are in a similar situation and who ultimately will man the turn stiles at the heavenly gates!
🧡 “In the evening of life we wil be judged on love alone.”
St. John of the Cross
October 2023 weekly reflections

Reflections for November 2023 are from first time contributor Canon Brian McKinley, Dean and parish priest of St George’s and Our Lady Queen of Peace in Worcester. 

 

5th November 2023 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Those I invite to return to Sunday Mass often reply: “I would return to church father, but those who attend are hypocrites.” To which I am very tempted to say (but never do!) “Well, there’s always room for one more!”.
The condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees by Jesus brings to mind the public discourse about the Church in recent years. This has highlighted the failures of church people to live up to the values of the Gospel. In other words, we fail to practice what we preach.
When our actions match our words about gospel values, then our words carry more weight. The world needs to SEE sermons as much as HEARING them. The gospel ends with a paradox. Those who exalt themselves wil be humbled and vice-versa. For Jesus the way to greatness and fullness of life is through service of others i.e feetwashing.
 
 
 
12th November 2023 – 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time A 
A candle was presented to us at our baptism with the words:
“This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ, they are to walk always as a child of the light. When the Lord comes may they go out to meet Him.”
Jesus tells us that there is a right time and a time when it will be too late. We ask God’s help that we may realise what it is we might do now, how we might recognise the approaching bridegroom and welcome Him.
The lamp of faith is given to us by God and our prayer, good works and our time given to God is the oil. All of God’s action in our lives is His gift, but it needs our openness and welcome. Prayer tops up our supply of oil which can give light and fragrance to the rest of our lives.
There is a time for preparation and a time for action. There is no time for carelessness. We need wisdom and to avoid foolishness.

 

19th November 2023 – 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time A 

The Gospel tells us clearly that God distributes his gifts among us as he wills, and he entrusts each one of us with a mission. He gives us what we need to produce fruits for his kingdom and he expects us to use those gifts
responsibly and diligently.
No two people are exactly alike, and God treats each one individually as a unique person made in his image.
We need to live before God and respond to him sincerely by using to the full the talents he has given us. I believe it was one of the saints who said: “Pity for the person who can sing to die with all their music still inside them.”
Are we making the best use of all that God has given us? Might we be committing a sin of omission with regards to some of our talents?
The master did not expect a return of five talents from the servant to whom he gave only one. He would have been happy with a return of one more but the lazy servant closed heart in fear (FEAR aka FalseEmotionAltersReality!)
We must resolve ot use our God-given talents wisely to net him a significant return.
 
 
26th November 2023 – Christ the King A 
In the Gospels we see how often Jesus identifies himself with others, especially with those without status or honour, such as children. Once, he said: “Who ever welcomes such a child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus identifies himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and imprisoned. He seems to be saying that he come to us in a special way through the brokenness and vulnerability of others. He is also saying that he comes to others through OUR own brokenness and vulnerability. Both sheep and goats in the gospel today were assessed very differently but each group asked the same question; “When did we see you hungry?…” One group was serving the Lord without realising it and the other group was neglecting the Lord without realising it.
Today’s gospel invites us to become more aware of the Lord’s presence in weakness, vulnerability, failure and distress. On the cross, the throne of our King, Jesus himself was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned. As Risen King he now identifies with all those who are in a similar situation and who ultimately will man the turn stiles at the heavenly gates!
🧡 “In the evening of life we wil be judged on love alone.”
St. John of the Cross
October 2023 weekly reflections

Reflections for October 2023 are from Msg Kevin McGinnell.

1st October 2023 – 26th Sunday Ordinary Times A

In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus. In the gospel Jesus praises the son who at first refused to work for his father but in the end did. His obedience shows he listened. We can be like that too.
The Synod at the moment is a time for the Church to listen to what God is saying to us. When we celebrate the liturgy we are in a privileged relationship to God and to one another in the Church. How do we listen as we celebrate the liturgy to the voice of God? Having listened do we put it into practice?
Christ is the perfect example of listening always to the Father and then obeying his will. Our prayer needs to ask to have his openness to God’s will, and his strength to make that will a reality.
 
 
8th October 2023 – 27th Sunday Ordinary Times A
Jesus and Isaiah both challenge us as God’s people to be fruitful because we have been given so much on trust. God looks for integrity and justice, for us to produce a rich harvest. Paul tells us what this looks like: everything that is true, noble, good and pure, all that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise. Our liturgy is where we reflect on God’s generosity and can find the strength to live out this call. As we celebrate together may we strengthen one another to produce good fruit, to build up the kingdom.
 
 
16th October 2023 – 28th Sunday Ordinary Time A
At the World Youth Day in Lisbon in August this year, Pope Francis said to the million-plus gathered there for mass:
“The Lord is clear – The Church is for everyone – the sick, the elderly, the young, old, ugly, beautiful, good and bad.”
He asked the people to say after him – TODOS – everyone in Spanish. He made them repeat it several times.
Isaiah tells us – the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food. Not only that – he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, he will wipe away the tears from every cheek.
It is echoed in the gospel we heard on sunday – “The wedding is ready.” The King tells his servants: “Go to the cross-roads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out onto the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike.
It’s what Francis is saying to us clearly – The Church is open to everyone – because God invites us all to get to heaven and the feast is an image of heaven.
But invitations need replies…. and not everyone will reply appropriately. Do we? Will everyone, good or bad, get the invitation?
So first – how are we replying to such a generous invitation? To mass? To prayer and sacrament, and finally, to the kingdom of heaven.
Secondly – how are we offering the same generous invitation to everyone in God’s world?
 
 
22nd October 2023 –  29th Sunday Ordinary Time A
Despite moving into a cashless society, we can still grasp the meaning Jesus gives to his use of a coin. Augustine puts it like this:
“If Caesar claims his image imprinted on the coin, would not God ask man for the divine image sculpted in him?”
“As the money is given back to Caesar, so the soul, enlightened and impressed by the light of his face, is given back to God… Christ in fact dwells in the inner man.”
Paul tells his first Christians in Thessalonica what that image looks like when he thanks them because: “you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.” We need to check whether the image of God in us is true to what God wants of us. As we contemplate the tragedy of Israel and Gaza, among so many conflicts across the world, are we a people of peace in faith, hope and love?
 In our liturgy do we seek to reflect that call to bring those virtues to fruition in our mission to the world?
 
 
29th October 2023 – 30th Sunday Ordinary Time A
Have you noticed how things come in threes – especially in the way we pray:
-We begin our mass in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
-We then turn to God for pardon and sing three times to Christ the Lord – eleison – have mercy on us.
-At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer the Great Amen is our response to: Through him, With him and In him – in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours Almighty Father…
There’s something about three …
Last week Paul spoke of how we must
put faith in action, work for love and persevere through hope. In today’s opening prayer that is what we pray for – for God to increase our faith, hope and love. And it’s three again today when Jesus gives us the Golden Rule of love as it is called. To love God and our neighbour – with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
So it is love with all your HEART, SOUL, MIND
And it is all your mind, heart and soul – no one else’s. So how do we do that? It’s a total commitment – everything is covered – HEART, SOUL, MIND. Your emotions, your spirit, your thoughts – everything that makes you do anything needs to be love. It is not just rule keeping – it’s about the total me, you – all of us.
Am I a Christian 100% HEART, SOUL, MIND?
Which needs more work this week – and how will I do this in practice?
September 2023 weekly reflections

Reflections for September 2023 are from Deacon Peter Tibke.

 
3rd Sept 2023 – 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time A
The reading this Sunday from Jeremiah outlines how difficult it is to be a believer in God in the modern age. Jeremiah says that being in a relationship with God is overpowering, God loves his people so much but our willingness to say we have a belief in God often leads to us being seen as a laughingstock or a butt of people`s humour.
With God`s help we can rise above it, and we know we have the last laugh. This last laugh is not in a triumphant sense but a sense of confidence. Paul supports this by saying we have, by our knowledge and understanding, the opportunity of discovering what the perfect way of being in this world should be. The way of the will of our God.
The understanding of God`s way is something we must work at daily. When Jesus outlines what is going to happen to him in human terms, Peter`s response leads to Jesus calling him Satan. This happens just after Peter is declared as the Rock of the Church. Peter might have been feeling triumphant at that point but not now.
So, Jesus tells us it is tough to follow him. Link that to the reality that to have a religious belief of any kind these days is seen as not politically correct, maybe soft. Jesus makes it clear that taking up the task each day is non-negotiable to those who accept the love of God and the reward at the end of the journey is wonderful but, “each one according to his behaviour.’
In this month of September Pope Francis has declared a Season of Creation and reversing human-caused climate change is one of the most difficult things this generation must attempt. As individuals and collectives, we must work to make the right decisions to improve humanity`s lot in the modern age. Pray for the strength to do our bit and to carry our cross and follow Jesus.
 
10th Sept 2023 – 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time A
Ezekiel reminds us that we are responsible for each other. That if one person dies without appropriateness in his behaviour then it is all our responsibilities.
That is how much we need to love our neighbour as God loves us that much. Jesus follows it up by saying that if somebody does anything wrong, we must follow this up and try and get right the wrong. With the possible safety net of two or three more people.
This mandate gives us the chance to follow up all indiscretions with love, put the wrong right or minimise the risk of it happening again. Love our brothers and sisters and help them is our mandate.
In this Season of Creation, we know that working to resolve climate change is part of this same loving mandate. Reducing items that damage ourselves or the environment would be a relevant part of our mission. The rewards of winning back our brothers and sisters are worth it.
How the detail works is something we cannot outline here but we need to educate ourselves to help in allowing the planet to breath just as we need to be aware of brothers and sisters in other types of need. Showing this love is vital to our vocation as Christians and can take different forms but as Paul says love is the one thing that cannot harm anybody.
 
 
17th Sept 2023 – 24th Sunday Ordinary Time A
“Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.”
This is what the book of Ecclesiasticus outlines to us -what a demanding thing to do even though God is telling us that to forgive is the right thing to do and then get on with the next task
Politicians in the UK often appear to say that the world has started and improved when they came to office or alternatively started to deteriorate from the day they lost that previous election.
Neither of which is true of course. However, when you take over a role it is good to plan otherwise how do you know if you have been successful, but the strategic underpinning of every plan is important.
So, knowing God forgives our indiscretions should give us the confidence to forgive others and then say let’s make progress in our relationship, our planning and our success Jesus though is reminding us that we need to forgive, forgive and forgive again.
The end game is love of all and the success of all and it is a continuous action. As is our need to improve our world. Major disasters in Morocco and Libya in recent days and the wildfires earlier in the summer suggest a need not to blame but restore.
Let us pray that we all work continuously to develop to its best God`s creation both in the natural world and with the people who live with it and off it.
 
 
24th Sept 2023 – 25th Sunday Ordinary Time A

Isaiah tells us not to try to think like God. His ways are not our ways, his thoughts not our thoughts but why not?

God is the one who is rich in forgiving, totally generous, totally loving. Why not seek to be like that.? That’s our target.

The only way we can hit our target is to learn from Jesus

He tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who distributes a fair wage to all, who is generous to a fault and holds all his people in love equally

But it’s so easy to move away from that ideal and that target. To have favourites, to write people off, to gossip on people’s inadequacies to know people down. God never does that!!!!

Perhaps Paul gives us the action point, avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.

And what is unworthy?

Can I suggest poor use of resources that is nowproducing negative changes in our climate. And we all do it!!!

Can I suggest a struggle to value other people’s behaviour and toinappropriate condemnation of it. And we all do that!!!

But can I suggest that we pray for Jesus` intervention by his teaching so that the way we do this can change and open ourselves to be people who introduce God`s ways, God`s thoughts into our community

August 2023 weekly reflections

Refelctions for August from Mary Ryan.

 

6th August 2023 – 

The Transfiguration comes shortly after Jesus speaks of his death, but the disciples are not yet ready to hear this message. The vision of Jesus in glory reveals something more about him and gives Peter, James and John a glimpse of the resurrection to come. In seeing the transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples are also transformed; their experience changes their understanding of who Jesus is and what awaits them too.
The Transfiguration speaks to us as well. While we may not share anything like the same experience of Peter, James and John, we can experience ‘glimpses of gold’; moments when God can break through and touch our lives. Every time we experience a moment of joy or hope or forgiveness, we have the opportunity to be transfigured and allow ourselves to be moulded into the image of Christ. We should look for those ‘glimpses of gold’ in our lives; those moments where God can come close to us. They can bring great joy and hope but can be easily missed.
13th August 2023 – 
? Sunday Reflection for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
⛈️ The image of a boat caught in a storm was a metaphor for the early Christian Church, often tossed about by the storms of life. Today’s Gospel finds the disciples battling against a ferocious storm on the Sea of Galilee and see Jesus, calmly walking across the water to meet them. Peter has the courage to trust in Jesus and step out onto the waves yet is almost overwhelmed when he becomes transfixed by the storm rather than Jesus. In the first reading, Elijah too, is almost distracted by the earthquake, wind and fire before finally hearing God in the gentle breeze. The Psalm reveals more; God is present where mercy and faithfulness meet, where justice and peace embrace, and is present to all who are willing to look for him. There will always be storms to face, whether personal or as a Church community as we try to discern the right path to take. In all we need to listen to the still, small voice to help us to decide on the right path and pray that the leaders of our Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, have the courage to continue to do the same.
20th August 2023 – 
Sunday Reflection for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
One of several recurring themes in Pope Francis’ talks is the idea of a Church open to all; a place where everyone is welcome to encounter Christ.
Today’s readings speak to this idea. The first reading hints at an element of complacency among the Jewish people – it is the ones who keep the covenant regardless of their origins, who will be brought to the holy mountain. Jesus appears uncharacteristically harsh to the Canaanaite woman, and there would certainly have been people among the crowd wishing Jesus would tell her to go on her way and stop making such a scene. However, her persistence is rewarded – her faith has opened the door and Jesus relents (would he really have denied her plea?).
How often do we turn people away, making excuses when circumstances are not convenient, or with misguided good will. We need to open the doors of our church communities and welcome all. As Pope Francis said: “Let us think of all Christians of good will who err and shut the door instead of opening it”. Let us ask the Lord to grant that “all who approach the Church find doors open to encounter Jesus’ love. (Pope Francis – General Audience, St Peter’s Square 23/10/19)
27th August 2023 – 
Sunday Reflection for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Once again, Peter is at the heart of the Gospel, on this occasion being given authority over the Church. What might have appeared to have been a great reward for his faith at first glance, could have been regarded as rather a burden on closer inspection. There may have been times when Peter may have thought ‘Why me?’ Peter may have seemed an unusual choice of leader for the Church, yet the other readings today speak of God’s choice and wisdom in choosing those who have qualities beyond what the world sees. It is no surprise that Jesus gives his faithful disciple the name ‘Peter’; his strength and dependability are among the qualities the early Christian Church needed. Peter uses his gifts to serve God without knowing fully where this choice would lead him yet was willing to take this journey. So often we fail to see our own qualities or underplay the gifts we have. Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us and recognise the goodness within us.
July 2023 weekly reflections
July Refelctions from Ann Blackett. 
2nd July 2023 –
Reflection by our regular contributor Ann Blackett for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
? Matthew 10.37-42
I’m reading texts and talks from people who were around in the years leading up to the Second Vatican Council at the moment, taking a bit of a scattergun approach, and came upon a fragment from Dorothy Day, (1897-1980) the American social worker and co-founder of the ‘Catholic Worker’ newspaper which is still published today. Dorothy was a convert; she lived at the time of the Great Depression and for her, as for many other Catholics, the link between the liturgy and the living out of the Gospel was perhaps more explicit than it is today. She was not only a political activist but someone who was committed to communicating the idea of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ to everyone, and the working out of this idea in contemplation and the arts, social justice and peace. In about 1972 she wrote, in the ‘Catholic Worker’: ’’The words “Ordinary Time” in our own prayer book put me in a state of confusion and irritation. To me, no times are “ordinary”.’
Now, when we first learn about the liturgical calendar we’re told that ‘ordinary’ doesn’t mean ordinary in the sense that it’s not special, but that it’s to do with numbers: ordinal, that is, counted time. Hence the numbered Sundays. But I do have a sneaking sympathy with Dorothy Day on this. The great run of Sundays-in-green-vestments (which can take up pretty much half the year) stretches on and on, with the readings arranged in themes and patterns which we don’t always realise, unless we’ve read those wonderful tables of how the Sunday Gospels are arranged over the three-year cycle, at the front of the Lectionary. The table for Year A tells us that today’s Gospel is the third and final part of Jesus’ Mission Sermon, as he sends out the apostles with power to heal and cast out demons from people. And so these alarming words about not being worthy are part of his encouragement. Take up your cross! It is worth the pain and the effort, more than that, it’s the way to new life.
I’ve known people be troubled by the thought that being in a position where they have to give their lives to caring for a parent or child means that they aren’t worthy, that they’ve somehow fallen short of ‘proper’ discipleship, that they can’t give to Christ the attention they think he demands. And yet, their caring is a cross they take up, in willingness or out of need, and put themselves and the person they care for into God’s hands, and do whatever they can, out of love of doggedness, which is the love that says ‘stick at it’. Jesus sends his disciples out to heal and to cast out demons; those today whose discipleship calls them to this but not in the way they think, live with a mingling of the cross and the love, the lives in one way lost, in another way found. And in these ordinary lives, if you will excuse the pun, they are surely counted worthy.
9th July 2023 – 
? Reflection for 14th Sunday Ordinary Time
Today the Gospel begins with the words of Jesus: ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth… ‘ and continues’: Come to me and I will give you rest.’ The words of the psalm come from a place of deep trust in God, a resting place in God’s loving-kindness. These are reassuring words, but how do we hear them, when generally our day to day lives are quite pressurised? This week I’ve had a ’to-do’ list which has buzzed in my head constantly, pushing me to read this, write that, get to this meeting, put other things into place for events happening soon. On top of that, suddenly someone was ill and I stepped out of one set of tasks to another, unexpected, set. At one point, facing a screen full of words, I realised I hadn’t been asking for help, and put my head in my hands and prayed.
So the readings set for today strike me in a particular way this week. They’re an invitation to lift your head from the things in front of you, the lists, the emails, the practical hands-on stuff, and see them in a different way. As I write this, I’m listening to the Sunday programme on Radio 4 (yes, I was so concerned with yesterday’s list that I only remembered to write this today) and John Casson, the newly-appointed National Leader of L’Arche, was speaking. After 20 years of working for the British Government in various roles, he was recalled from being the British Ambassador to Egypt to run the Foreign Office in London. At that point he realised that he needed to work in a different place, a different context. In Egypt he had run a project which gave people without much of a voice encouragement and support to develop what they wanted to do with their lives, empowering and (as he says in an article in ‘The Tablet’) ‘giving power away to them’. His work in future, he continues, would be ‘with as much wisdom and character and hope as I could, and that meant really deepening my own inner life’. Looking at the readings today, it seems that here is someone who has heard and acted on them!
It’s hard if not impossible to put everything down and walk away to find peace. But if, as St Paul says, the Spirit of God has made his home in us, then we are given the power to change things. Can we live, work, rest in God’s presence every moment of the day? Can we turn our daily to-do lists into God’s work? At some point this week I was explaining my current working life to someone I’d not seen for a while, and finished, ‘…but I love it, so it’s not like work’. That’s a beginning, but maybe we all need to lift our heads up and re-place ourselves in the spiritual, actively re-minding ourselves that we’re invited to transformation – and that in itself gives a sense of rest.
16th July 2023 – 
? Reflection for Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time A 
?Once again the parable of the sower comes round, and there’s a danger that we’ll glaze over, having heard it so many times that we are ahead of the story here, familiar with the explanation that Jesus gives to the disciples afterwards, maybe even providing our own mental commentary as we hear the words proclaimed. But imagine hearing the story for the first time. What is the teacher talking about? Clearly he want us to understand something, because he doesn’t just say ‘Listen’, but ‘Listen, anyone who has ears!’. Well, we all have ears, but what does the teacher mean?
Probably even the disciples do not understand, although they are used to hearing Jesus talk to the crowds in this way. ‘Why do you take to them in parables?’ Today, Jesus does not answer them with another parable, but in a mixture of clear and oblique words. The disciples are privileged: they have had the mysteries of the kingdom explained to them in the words and actions of Jesus (but they still do not seem to recognise that), but the crowds haven’t, following Jesus in swarms, looking and listening, but it’s all on the surface – he is a phenomenon, a teacher, but so difficult to follow (any every sense!). Jesus is acknowledging that to be his follower is not that easy, and for that reason many choose to hear the wonderful words but leave it at that level. Matthew reports Jesus us calling up the words of Isaiah to describe them, and the words that strike me today are that people (Jesus says ‘the heart of this nation’) have closed their eyes and ears…
‘for fear that they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and healed by me’…
In a way this is a different story, and one for every age. While healing the hearts of people is clearly a Good Thing (and in our time we might also say, working to mitigate the climate crisis or fix any number of problems), we’re all too likely to be distracted by trials, or the cares of the world, or other concerns, or the things we have to do this week. It’s not just the hearing the word and taking it to heart, but what we do as a result of our hearing it. What is our harvest?
As Kevin Donovan put it once (one of my own teachers, once upon a time): ‘The acid test of liturgy is what happens afterwards.’
Text and Photo: Ann Blackett
Detail of ‘God rested – and it was all good’: one of the ‘Threads of Creation’ panels by Jacqui Parkinson – the story of creation in spectacular scenes in fabric, currently on display in Ely Cathedral, but on tour throughout 2023 and 2024. Worth a visit!
23rd July 2023 – 
? Reflection for 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
? Matthew 13.24-43
??A couple of weeks ago we heard Jesus thanking God for revealing (note, not showing) the mysteries of the kingdom to children in such a way that the learned and privileged aren’t able to see them. Now we hear Jesus telling the people about the Kingdom of God, but again, who will hear and understand? He doesn’t tell it like it is; rather he tells what it’s like, using everyday images: sowing seeds, harvesting, weeding, baking bread, simple but essential tasks for living. Anyone who has other people – slaves, servants – to do these things for them might well be puzzled; what is it about this man’s teaching that causes the crowds to follow him? (And who is he, anyway?) The people with dirt or dough under their fingernails understand the stories, because these things are the stuff of their lives.
So far, so good. As we saw last week, though, even the disciples struggle to understand why Jesus is always speaking in parables. The kingdom is like this… like this… like this… so many images. The disciples have to keep on asking for more details; it’s no wonder Jesus keeps on saying: ‘Listen, anyone who has ears!’
So often I come back to the rule of Saint Benedict and his call to ‘listen…with the ear of the heart’. Knowing that a tiny seed can produce a huge plant, a tree even, is to know a fact of life, but Jesus adds a flourish: the tree is so big that all the birds of the air come to it and take shelter. As if the huge tree were not enough of a wonder, the birds enhance it, making it a glorious place of singing and activity. He doesn’t embellish the baking of the bread, but everyone present will know the smell of bread baking, the taste of bread cooling from the oven, a pleasure all its own. It’s the heart that sees and understands these things, seeing beyond the flat story to the appreciation of the good soil, the wonder of the clouds of birds around the tree, the heart’s ease at the meal shared at the end of the day. If these things are like the Kingdom, then the Kingdom is a place for flourishing, a place of awe and wonder, a place of light, happiness and peace, as the old translation of the Eucharistic Prayer used to run.
I think that this is one aspect of what Pope Francis means when he talks about liturgical imagination. We have senses to receive words and images, sights and textures, taste and smells during the liturgy. Our life of faith and formation helps us reflect and find meaning, opening the way to our own transformation, our re-making in the image of Christ, our realisation of what it is to be the Church and our sense of who we are and where we are going. We become aware of the call that pulls us in and turns us outward to the world to join the work of transformation there too. We will meet the darnel out there: people and situations which try to stifle us, belittle and pull us down. But with the ears of our heart engaged (and the eyes of our mind – see the Gospel Acclamation), we can grow beyond all expectations, on our way to the Kingdom which is beyond all our imaginations, although we can – and will – always be surprised by glimpses.
30th July 2023 – 
? Reflection for 17th Sunday Ordinary Time A
?️ The Society has been on its summer holidays this week, three days at Liverpool Hope University. As part of our programme we heard about the four Constitutions which came from the Second Vatican Council, in entertaining and scholarly talks from Bishop John Arnold, David McLoughlin, Professor Claire Ozanne, Vice-Chancellor of Hope, and finally Revd Professor Peter McGrail, who thoroughly energised us to consider the document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which provided the underpinning and direction of travel for the reform and renewal of the Church’s liturgy.
The next day our worship included words and music of Christians across the centuries as they described, considered and spoke up for the essential part played by the liturgy in the life of the church, the people of God. It included this passage from the writings of Lambert Beauduin (1873-1960), a Benedictine monk from Belgium, an important and visionary figure in the Liturgical Movement.
‘Like the wonderful basilica, the liturgy has riches and splendours of infinite variety in reserve for all souls and for all circumstances life Yes! Would that the preachers explained it, the educators taught it, the theologians consulted it, men and women of action propagated it; that mothers and fathers spelled it out and children lisped it; that ascetics there learned true sacrifice; Christians, community and obedience; all humanity, true equality ; and societies, harmony! May all Christians live it fully, come to draw the true Christian spirit at this ‘primary and indispensable source’, and by means of living the liturgy, realise the prayer of the first Mass of the eternal high priest: that they be one – supreme wish and supreme hope!
That is the liturgical movement; all of that, nothing but that!’
From Liturgy, the life of the church, 1926
June 2023 weekly reflections
June Reflections by Dr. Gemma Simmonds CJ, Senior Research Fellow Director, Religious Life Institute Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology
4th June 2023 – Feast of the Most Holy Trinity A
3️⃣ Sunday’s readings don’t so much speak to us about what God is as about who and how God is. The mystery of the Trinity tells us that God is by nature relationship, relationality. When we find ourselves living in the radical relationality gifted by the Father, in imitation of Jesus, then we are living in the Spirit. Today’s readings identify God as ‘a God of tenderness’. Paul blesses the Corinthians with the grace of fellowship, while John reminds us of God’s love for our world. Whenever the followers of Jesus have allowed the dominant culture of their time to overcome the Trinitarian Gospel imperative, they have moved towards exclusion, prejudice and rejection of what is considered Other. Faith in the Trinitarian God is profoundly transformative of all relationships. If we are to become co-creators and co-redeemers of our world, the route lies in worshipping a relational God.
11th June 2023 – Feast of Corpus Christi A
? We need an effort of the imagination to recapture the disgust and sheer bewilderment Jesus’ listeners must have felt on hearing him speak of the Eucharist. When he asks if the Twelve are going to join his other followers in abandoning him, Peter replies that there is nowhere and no one else to follow. We get the feeling that he would have been only too happy to find someone who made more sense! The impact of Jesus’s teaching about the Eucharist is so powerful that we have tended to try and tame it through piety. To become one body in Jesus implies becoming the ‘revolutionaries of tenderness’ described by Pope Francis. If we were truly Eucharistic it would change the nature of our every relationship. There could be no exclusion, no class prejudice, hierarchy of value, racism, misogyny, homophobia or abuse of power. The concept behind the Eucharist is unimaginably dangerous.
18th June 2023 – 11th Sunday Ordinary Time A 
?What does it mean for us to be a ‘kingdom of priests’? The liturgy of Baptism tells us that everyone who is baptised into Christ shares in his threefold ministry as Prophet, Priest and King, but most of us have little idea of what that might mean in practice. The twelve apostles chosen by Jesus were spectacularly ordinary people who, when push came to shove at the crucifixion, were not noted for their courage or bravery. But it was all unpromising material that the Holy Spirit made the foundations of the church. A prophet speaks truth to power, pointing out God’s presence within human experience. The Latin for priest is pontifex or bridge-builder, bringing about reconciliation and union through God’s healing signs. God’s kingdom is the whole of creation, which we proclaim when we honour God within it. That is what it means for each of us to be baptised.
25th June 2023 – 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
? Jesus offers his hearers both encouragement and challenge. It’s immensely reassuring to hear that we are worth so much to God. But we are also warned both of the risks implied in being a follower of Jesus and of the consequences of choosing to abandon that commitment.
? Jesus is not threatening us here. Being his disciple means being a volunteer, not a conscript. God invites our faith response in total freedom. Any image of God which we have gained, perhaps from poor teaching or childhood misunderstanding, that presents God as a divine policeman, a punishing bully or an angry parent is a horrible distortion of the truth. We are constantly invited to grow in our understanding of God, including growing beyond our childhood images. Being a believer does not make us immune to suffering, but it gives meaning to every human experience and a sure hope of God’s everlasting mercy.
May 2023 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – May 2023
by Paul Inwood currently works as a liturgical consultant, author and composer, and as acting organist of Portsmouth RC Cathedral. An active member of the Society of Saint Gregory for 51 years, he is a former editor of Music and Liturgy.

7th May 2023 – 5th Sunday Easter A

? A very full day today. In the 1st Reading we have the very beginning of the diaconate in the Church. In the 2nd Reading St Peter presents us with the striking image of Jesus as the living stone, rejected by men but in fact the keystone; and we are reminded that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.
Both of these tell us that our Christian living is not just about believing but about ministry. In the many different ways that we are called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light, all of them entail serving the Lord and our sisters and brothers. Without that we are still in darkness.
And those many ways of ministering to God’s people are mirrored in the many rooms that Jesus tells us are in the Father’s house. To those who do not know the way to the Father’s house, Jesus is the Signpost. Through him we are shown the Way, through him we learn the Truth, and through him we are led to Eternal Life.
Jesus did not say “I am the Faith” or “I am the King” or even “I am the Rubric”. Instead he talks about the work that he did and the work that we must also do. And that work is not to be the greatest but to be the servant of all.
14th May 2023 – 6th Sunday Easter A
??Today is all about preparing for the coming of the Spirit. We hear about the powerful symbol of the laying-on of hands, in this case on the Samaritans., and Jesus’s promise to send us the Spirit of Truth.
The translation that we hear today uses the word “Advocate” which comes from the Latin, rather than “Paraclete” which comes from the Greek. Both these can be difficult to interpret. Literally, the word means someone called to your side as a helper, often as a defender especially in legal situations. Among the Jews their next-of-kin had a sacred duty to come to the aid of a widow or orphan in distress. The story of Ruth in the Old Testament centres round this duty of the go’el, appealed to for help on grounds of kinship. This has led some to translate Paraclete as “Kinsman”: the Holy Spirit is Kinsman to Christ, and Befriender of Christ’s kinsfolk, to whom he is also Kinsman. In these days “Befriender” would be a more inclusive and gender-neutral rendering. We might even think of the Holy Spirit as “a friend at court”.
If all this sounds rather abstract. it is clear that, whatever image or symbolism you use, the Spirit is someone who is alongside you, who befriends you, who advocates on your behalf. If we are truly filled with the Spirit, we too are called to be alongside our sisters and brothers, especially the poor and oppressed, walking with them and advocating for them.
Ascension of our Lord 
As on Sunday, we are still awaiting the coming of the Spirit. And we can probably identify with those disciples who, encountering Our Lord on the mountain, hesitated to fall down before him. Were they not sure it was really him? Could they not recognise him in his glorifed resurrected body? Or were they just introverts, reluctant to rush to his feet, to anyone’s feet? It’s an intriguing human detail in the Gospel narrative.
Jesus’s command, though, is spoken with full authority. “Go, make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is the fount of the mission of the Church, the Church that would be born at the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. In receiving the Spirit, the “eyes of our mind” will indeed be enlightened, and we will recognise ourselves as members of Christ’s body, the Church. We will recognise that this mission, his mission, is also ours.
We may celebrate the Lord ascending today with shouts of joy and trumpet blast, but for those of us who are still on this earth there is still much to do!
21st May 2023 – 7th Sunday Easter A
This is a Sunday of comfort. The disciples accompany each other in prayer after Jesus’s ascension. We are called to do the same. The 1st Reading is also at pains to point out that those praying included a number of women. In the prevailing culture this would have been highly unusual. Even today, members of Middle Eastern religions are often segregated by gender at worship. The message for us is that all pray-ers are equal! We should not be divided by issues of gender or orientation or status, but support each other along the journey no matter who each other may be.
More comfort from St Peter, who tells us that it’s a blessing to suffer for being a Christian and that we should not be ashamed of our faith.
The climax of comfort comes in the Gospel, an extended passage from John in which Jesus states that he is praying for his disciples — that includes us! — because we have been given to him and because we belong to the Father. What a great context in which to await the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost!
28th May 2023 – 
?????????
A recent change in the Lectionary and Missal has reintroduced the Pentecost Vigil, an extended Liturgy of the Word parallelling the one we experience at the Easter Vigil. Like the Easter Vigil, it was originally a baptismal liturgy. (Some have derived the name Whitsunday from the white garments worn by the newly-baptised.) The Pentecost Vigil is a series of vignettes from salvation history, and it’s very good to celebrate this Vigil Mass on the eve of Pentecost because it can be a further source of spiritual enrichment, providing food for meditation and lectio divina. There is even an option to combine it with the psalmody of Vespers, providing still greater nourishment.
On Pentecost Day itself, the Liturgy of the Word is imbued with the Spirit. While it is unlikely that we will experience tongues of fire as the apostles did, it is worth asking ourselves how we will receive the Spirit, how we will be “under the influence of” the Spirit, how “our inmost beings will be filled” with the Spirit, how the fire of God’s love will be kindled within us.
Perhaps the dual key to all this is firstly in the psalm response: “renew the face of the earth” — will we allow ourselves to be renewed? — and secondly in Jesus’s instruction: “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you” — are we willing to be sent out? We may need to be cauterised for mission!
April 2023 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – April 2023
by Kathryn Turner is a member of the Bishops’ Conference Spirituality Committee and a freelance writer and workshop leader and created the Wellspring website: www.wellspring.co.uk

March 2023 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – March 2023
by Msg Timothy Menezes, Cathedral Dean at St Chad’s Cathedral.

5th March – 2nd Sunday Lent A

? “Trust me: everything’s going to be alright. You just need to trust me”. These sentiments of encouragement for somebody who is not convinced of what they have been told could apply to the disciples in the Gospel account of the Transfiguration today and to Abram in the First Reading.
To be able to realise that level of trust in somebody requires no mixed motives or suspicion of gain on the person saying ‘Trust me’. It is based on an understanding of unquestioning love or faithfulness.
The word of the Lord is faithful and all his works to be trusted, says the psalmist.
Jesus is the Word of the Lord, and how often we see his promises being fulfilled to the surprise of the recipient.
As we move into this second week of Lent, may we know the unconditional love of God for us, so that we may begin to trust in what he asks of us.
12th March – 3rd Sunday Lent A
? A key to opening the Scriptures of this Sunday of Lent, with a focus on water as a key theme of baptism, is the request of Jesus to the Woman of Samaria: Give me a drink. When we come to know that it is the very same phrase that Jesus speaks on the Cross: I thirst, then this whole encounter at the Well is brought to life in an exciting way.
Jesus thirsts on the Cross – yes, for water – but he thirsts for justice, for mercy for a sinful world; here at the Well, he thirsts for the Samaritan Woman who is open to his message to live a new life.
The encounter between Jesus and the Woman at the Well can be summed up well in the phrase used by St Paul to the Romans: the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.
19th March – 4th Sunday Lent A 
?This Lenten Sunday’s baptismal theme of Light brings us the encounter between Jesus and the Man Born Blind.
What is so evidently lacking from this Gospel is any joy on the part of the Pharisees at the restoration of sight to this man. They question the man, then his parents, then the man again. If they can’t understand it, it can’t happen. Does that sound familiar to us?
Just as the man in the Gospel does not ‘deserve’ to be healed, so David in the First Reading is not even considered a worthy candidate but, as the Lord reminds Samuel ‘man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart’.
Maybe St Paul’s words to the Ephesians: You were darkness once but now you are light in the Lord is an invitation to us this Lent not to think so much of the effects of darkness but of spiritual blindness.
26th March – 5th Sunday Lent A
❓Why does Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead?
Of course, he restores hope to Martha and Mary. But it is as though Jesus’ divine power fulfils this miracle, almost to overcome the deep and surprising human emotion at the death of his friend, shown by Jesus in this account.
In the third of the Gospels of these Sundays of Lent related to Baptism, the theme is Resurrection.
❓Why does Jesus delay in going to see Lazarus when he knows how seriously ill he is?
And for all of the grief of Lazarus’ sisters, can we not say that in the face of harsh reality of the death of a loved one, most people do not have the happy ending of today’s Gospel.
So, is the faith of Martha and Mary the cause of the miracle?
In baptism, we enter into the tomb with Christ. Death is made part of our baptismal identity. We live that death with Christ until its promised is fulfilled at the time of our own death.
February 2023 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – February 2023
by

Ann Blackett, Music and Liturgy editor,  Parishes Support Officer, All Saints, Oakham

5th February – 5th Sunday Ordinary Time A

?If the Bible text included emojis, there’d surely be a ‘rolling eyes’ in the verses leading up to the passage from Isaiah we have today. The verses in the Lectionary, it seems to be an instruction on how to live a good life, living well with others, doing good to those less fortunate than you. In the verses leading up to this, though, it’s clear that the people are not living like that. ‘Day after day,’ says God, ‘they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practised righteousness… you serve your own interest on your fast day and oppress all your workers; you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist… Is such the fast I choose…? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?’ (Isaiah 58.2-5, extracts from NRSV).
It’s as though God cannot believe what he sees – or, he sees and believes, and is unsurprised. Look, he says, let’s look at this again: ‘Is not THIS the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry… ‘ and then we run into the words of today’s first reading. Far from being commended, we are being shaken awake: Yes, you do the religious stuff, but you should be lifting the burdens of suffering people, you need to stop waving your clenched fists or pointing the finger at others (translations vary), you should be sharing your own bread with the oppressed, bringing the homeless under your own roof. It’s only then that your light will shine.
It’s very demanding. How far we measure up can be seen in our newspaper headlines, in the attitudes of our politicians, our own reactions to the stranger in our midst, or in the inflatable boat. It’s good to see in the lives of our parish communities heartfelt action towards mercy and integrity, welcome and practical help. As Lent approaches, as needs arise, as long as we are able to reach out our arms to welcome and to raise up people who need it, there are lights shining. For some reason the Canterbury St Vincent de Paul group comes to my mind, but there are many other groups and individuals, small lights joining and making greater the great light of Christ. And what emoji could possibly carry the meaning and wonder of the light of life?

12th February – 6th Sunday Ordinary Time A

?If the Bible text included emojis, there’d surely be a ‘rolling eyes’ in the verses leading up to the passage from Isaiah we have today. The verses in the Lectionary, it seems to be an instruction on how to live a good life, living well with others, doing good to those less fortunate than you. In the verses leading up to this, though, it’s clear that the people are not living like that. ‘Day after day,’ says God, ‘they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practised righteousness… you serve your own interest on your fast day and oppress all your workers; you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist… Is such the fast I choose…? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?’ (Isaiah 58.2-5, extracts from NRSV).
It’s as though God cannot believe what he sees – or, he sees and believes, and is unsurprised. Look, he says, let’s look at this again: ‘Is not THIS the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry… ‘ and then we run into the words of today’s first reading. Far from being commended, we are being shaken awake: Yes, you do the religious stuff, but you should be lifting the burdens of suffering people, you need to stop waving your clenched fists or pointing the finger at others (translations vary), you should be sharing your own bread with the oppressed, bringing the homeless under your own roof. It’s only then that your light will shine.
It’s very demanding. How far we measure up can be seen in our newspaper headlines, in the attitudes of our politicians, our own reactions to the stranger in our midst, or in the inflatable boat. It’s good to see in the lives of our parish communities heartfelt action towards mercy and integrity, welcome and practical help. As Lent approaches, as needs arise, as long as we are able to reach out our arms to welcome and to raise up people who need it, there are lights shining. For some reason the Canterbury St Vincent de Paul group comes to my mind, but there are many other groups and individuals, small lights joining and making greater the great light of Christ. And what emoji could possibly carry the meaning and wonder of the light of life?

19th February – 7th Sunday Ordinary Time A

? Leviticus 19.1-2,17-18; Psalm 102; 1 Corinthians 3.16-23; Matthew 5.38-48
I come to the readings for this Sunday, and treat them like Lectio Divina. I read slowly, out loud, and I listen with the ear of my heart. What strikes me today?
‘Offer the wicked man no resistance’ (Matthew 5.38/9). Oh.
I sit with that for a while, trying not to think about the war in Ukraine and how the nations of the world are trying to approach the situation. I try not to be distracted, but I want to go skittering off online to find out what the Pope is saying about the war, what Rowan Williams is thinking about it.
When I lived in Canterbury, Rowan would teach in the Cathedral on Monday-Wednesday of Holy Week in the evenings. At half-time he would go through the crowd, discussing and answering questions. It was much more comprehensible than some of his theological writings, and often veered into difficult places. These Sunday readings as we approach Lent go into some of those same places.
Trying to stick with the Lectio, I lay these thoughts down, and read again. Still the phrase from Matthew comes through strongly, but also words from the Psalm touch my heart: ‘He does not treat us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our faults’. Immediately the readings take on a more personal shape. As last week, the words of Jesus in the Gospel demand that we go beyond what we might think reasonable, instead trying to emulate God in mercy and generosity and foolishness. To become perfect, as God is perfect, is to hear and respond to God’s love expressed in the psalms, to take on God’s ways as set out by Jesus, to reframe what we think of as wisdom into God’s wisdom, so different from our own, as described by Paul.
It’s a long process, but these are the things that work on our own hearts in the daily episodes of our lives, the small turnings-away from darkness which remake us into the people God calls us to be. Taken to heart, they lead us into a better place to approach some of the more demanding things that Jesus says: love your enemies; be perfect. And while we as individuals may have no influence on the geopolitical affairs of the world, they can give direction to our prayers.
26th February – 1st Sunday Lent A
✝️Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, but the first Sunday is when we gather together and hear the account of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, being tested and resisting temptation. When our own forty days begins and whether or not the Sundays are included are less clear, but what’s important is that we use this time of preparation before Easter to pay attention to every area of our life as Christians: our relationship with God, and with one another; how we live with the other creatures on the planet, how closely we follow Jesus, how we stay within the Church; how we work with the difficulties and contradictions. How we love God, and how we love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
We do this alongside those who are preparing for the baptism we have already received, who are now the Elect. We see them amongst us, and they may seem to be an inspiration to people who cannot remember their own baptisms, yet in fact we inspire one another. The Elect are signs of the Holy Spirit active in the world, shaping their lives according to the call of the Gospel – as Hippolytus described their time as catechumens: ‘whether they honoured the widows, whether they visited the sick, whether they have fulfilled every good work’. The ones who are consciously turning back to God throughout these days of Lent, re-shaping their Christian lives, are models of the continuing conversion to which we are all called. Together we’re called to the fullness of life; together we walk through the days of Lent to the passion and death of Christ, but through that until we stand in the garden very early on Easter morning, or find ourselves on the road to Emmaus, and encounter the Love that will not let us go.

 

January 2023 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – January 2023
by Fr Allen Morris, former Trustee and editor of Liturgy and Music 

1st January – Mary – the Holy Mother of God

What is New Year’s Day in our secular calendar, in the Church’s Calendar is the Octave Day of Christmas Day and the Solemnity of Mary the holy Mother of God.
Those two – Christmas and Mary’s Motherhood – go together rather well – this day is no celebration of Mary just in and of herself, but precisely as mother.
Sometimes to know a woman ‘only’ as mother, or wife, might be seen as detracting from her dignity as a person in her own right.
For Mary however there is no diminishment of her dignity as person. But today’s gospel reading tells of Mary’s being helped to a fuller grasp of the wonder of her self and her mission because of her relationship with God, and her relationship with God in flesh, enfleshed in her womb and born of her body. ‘Astonished at what the shepherds had to say… Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in heart.
In the accompanying image – of a free-standing devotional figure created by the artist Margaret Rope – the infant Jesus blessing us, also seems to call us to attend to his mother. Together with Mary, we are invited to become more ourselves through our encounter with Jesus, knowing him as the one who saves.
8th January – Baptism of the Lord 
? Matthew’s account of the baptism of Jesus, the Gospel passage proclaimed at Mass this Sunday, is generally considered by scholars a relatively late text, editing the earlier accounts given by Mark and Luke. The earlier accounts record how Jesus is baptised by John, like his compatriots, as he responds to John’s mission of offering a spiritual renewal to the Jewish people, an invitation to repent of their sins and make fresh affirmation of their desire to live faithful to the Covenants God made with Israel. However, by the time Matthew was preparing his Gospel, so the argument goes, the Church was increasingly aware of the unique status of Jesus as Son of God, and Christ, and sinless. As Jesus was these things, why would he need to be baptised at the hand of a ‘mere’ mortal?
Matthew does not resolve the ‘problem’, but simply alerts us to it, and leaves it for another discussion on another day!
As on this day the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord, it is something wonderful to contemplate that what the voice from heaven says about Jesus – and which apply to him in a unique way because Jesus is the Son Begotten and not made – also apply to us who are baptised into Christ and so share in his sonship. We too are beloved of God and favoured by him.
15th January – 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time A
?This Sunday is the first Sunday in Ordinary Time in 2023. It might be helpful to remind ourselves that this is Ordinary time not because it is ‘commonplace’ but because we are in the time of numbered, ordinal, weeks
The language John the Baptist uses to speak of Jesus in today’s gospel may be very familiar to us, even commonplace in our faith-talk. But when we pause and consider, John is saying the most extraordinary things – that Jesus, the lamb of God, takes away the sins of the world; that he existed before John (his older cousin – at least according to Luke) was conceived; that he is the Chosen One of God. John has ‘seen’ these things and so is witness to the world. What have we seen and how and to whom do we witness?
22nd January – 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time A
?This Sunday is the first Sunday in Ordinary Time in 2023. It might be helpful to remind ourselves that this is Ordinary time not because it is ‘commonplace’ but because we are in the time of numbered, ordinal, weeks
The language John the Baptist uses to speak of Jesus in today’s gospel may be very familiar to us, even commonplace in our faith-talk. But when we pause and consider, John is saying the most extraordinary things – that Jesus, the lamb of God, takes away the sins of the world; that he existed before John (his older cousin – at least according to Luke) was conceived; that he is the Chosen One of God. John has ‘seen’ these things and so is witness to the world. What have we seen and how and to whom do we witness?
29th January – 4th Sunday Ordinary Time A 
? Gospel of Matthew 5:1-12a
?️ How happy are the poor in spirit
Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’
– – – – – – –
The distinction between religious and secular is a feature of modern Western Society. It would not make sense to people in earlier ages. It still does not make sense to people in many cultures today in which God has not been reduced to an ‘idea’ or a debatable ‘fact’ in discourse about how the world is.
But belief in God does not necessarily mean someone believes in the true God, still less that they themselves live godly lives.
In the Beatitudes Jesus speaks about what is godly. Right from the beginning he puts what he says in the context of the kingdom of heaven. But then he speaks of familiar human virtues – indeed a wide variety of them. Maybe we are more familiar with them as concepts than we are through encounter with them in our lives – be that by exercising them ourselves, or being beneficiaries of the virtue of others. These virtues bring reward to those who minister and those who receive, says Jesus.
Perhaps at Mass we will hear the list of Beatitudes rattled off (or if we are priest or deacon, perhaps we will be the ones who rattle them off). But if we do, we will hear virtues, qualities of living, reduced to ideas and concepts. We need more from the proclamation of the Gospel than that. It would be helpful to pause and reflect on where we have experienced each virtue, or endured their absence and how these touch us in our humanity.
Why helpful? Because it is not only that these fine ways of human living help us flourish in our humanity – Jesus structures his teaching to help us understand that such ways of human being help us find common ground with God. Indeed Jesus teaches that these fine human things draw us into communion with God.
Jesus, God made flesh, engages us in our humanity to draw us more securely yet towards God and the life of God.
December 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – December 2022
by Paul Moynihan, MC to Cardinal Nichols, Westminster

4th December – 2nd Sunday Advent A

? One week of Advent over and another three to go. And on this Second (and Third) Sunday, as in every year the Gospel focuses on John the Baptist. Just look at how important he is to us! For not only do we get these two Sundays we also get the chance each year to celebrate his birth (23/24 June), his martyrdom (29 August) and his baptism of Jesus (Sunday after the Epiphany).
With such honour it is easy to overlook the fact that this great Saint was Jewish and his ministry was one of preaching to fellow Jews, calling them to repentance as prophets had done for centuries before. John’s words are fiery stuff indeed. Yes, it is good to be shaken up once in a while from our regular routine for we too need to repent, turn away from selfish interests and turn towards God. This renewal is nothing less than a dying to self and a rising with Christ, the Paschal Mystery.
Going to church, being a Catholic or knowing about God is not enough. An interior reorientation towards God and the values of his kingdom is demanded.
11th December – 3rd Sunday Advent A
?Half time! Yes, we are halfway through Advent, so we may use rose coloured vestments to add some joy to this season of joyful expectation. This joy has two causes: the proximate coming of the Lord in the incarnation and his return at the end of time. The second coming we pray for in every Mass, when, after the Lord’s Prayer, the celebrant prays ‘as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ’.
John is convinced that Jesus is that Saviour and calls his followers – and us – to recognise that fact. It is Christ’s kingdom that we are invited, made possible for us by his incarnation, his birth among us as both God and man. May we respond to that call as we journey towards Christmas by rededicating ourselves to incarnating the life of Jesus and the kingdom of God in our words and actions. And to do so with joy and much rejoicing.
Gaudete!
18th December – 4th Sunday Advent A
On this last Sunday of Advent (yes, we are nearly there!), and having had two Sundays of John, that fiery and outspoken preacher, we now have a story about Joseph. He is another important figure but unlike John he is one from whom we have no words of his own, not here or anywhere else in any Gospel. Not a peep!
We can only but wonder what his thoughts were, what he might have said about this dream we hear about today, about the birth in Bethlehem, about the visit of the Magi, about the loss and finding of Jesus in the temple. In Joseph we find a model for living life in Christ in ways big and small, from heavenly revelations to family chores and worries.
He may not speak a word but his actions, say it all. ‘Yes, Lord, your will be done.’
25th December – The Nativity of the Lord 
? It is not often that Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. But here it is! But it’s no ordinary Sunday is it. Large crowds, decorations, white vestments, lovely music. Four different Mass texts, four different sets of readings. But there is a text I would like to focus on: the Collect from the Day Mass:
O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature
and still more wonderfully restored it,
grant, we pray,
that we may share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
Who lives and reigns …
This text is the basis for the text which the celebrant prays in every Mass when he pours wine and water into the chalice:
By the mystery of this water and wine
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
That is what we mean by the incarnation: Christ divine becoming also human. That is what we celebrate this day. Hodie, Christus natus est. Christ is born today – and everyday.
My Christmas wish to you is to invite you today to join me in spending some quiet time in a busy day just meditating on this text and the wonder it contains.
November 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – November 2022
by Paul Inwoood, liturgist and composer, music consultant, editor for Liturgical Press (Collegeville). Longtime SSG COmposers Forum

6th November – 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time C

? In a sense, Advent has already begun. We are thinking about the Last Times, the Second Coming, an over-arching theme of the first part of Advent.
The reading are a curious mixture, starting with the torturing of Old Testament martyrs in 2 Maccabees, then the encouragement to the Thessalonians to hold fast to God’s love, and lastly the Sadducees nit-picking about what will happen at the resurrection of the body on the last day. But if I were to choose a couple of lines to give me sustenance today, I would turn to the last verse of the Responsorial Psalm:
“Guard me as the apple of your eye.
​Hide me in the shadow of your wings.”
…after which the psalmist proclaims his confidence that he will see the face of God and the sight of God’s glory on the Last Day.
13th November – 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time C
? We are still reflecting on the Last Day, coming now, burning like a furnace (1st Reading), an exhortation to work in order to justify having something to eat (2nd Reading), and the prediction of the destruction of the Temple and the coming of the Last Times (Gospel).
By a happy chance, today being Remembrance Sunday, the Gospel contains the following passage: “And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon. Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom….”
As we remember those who had the courage to die for their country, and those who had the courage to die for their faith, Jesus’s words can give us strength: “Your endurance will win you your lives.” He does not mean that we won’t die in conflict but that, by standing firm and remaining true to what we believe, we will gain eternal life.
20th November  – Christ our King 
? This feastday is not yet 100 years old. It was inaugurated by Pius XI in 1925, not as a feast glorying in the royal majesty of God but rather focusing on the kingship of Christ at the end of time. Originally celebrated on the last Sunday of October, it was transferred to the end of the liturgical year in the 1969 General Roman Calendar.
At a time when memories of World War I were still very real in people’s minds, Pius deplored what he saw as the rise of new class divisions and nationalism, which would eventually give rise to World War II. He paints a picture of the dominion of Christ not as one of majesty, not “a dominion seized by violence nor usurped”, but the realm of one who suffered and died for us all.
Christ is, as the author of the letter to the Colossians (probably not St Paul himself) tells us in that wonderful eulogy in chapter 1, “the image of the unseen God, and the first-born of all creation….and he holds all things in unity….[having] made peace by his death on the cross.”
We can pray, like the repentant thief in today’s Gospel, that we too will be with him in paradise.
27th November – 1st Sunday Advent A
? Happy New Liturgical Year!
? As we move from the end of our Sunday Lectionary to the beginning of it, we may notice the hinge formed by the Responsorial Psalm, which is the same as last week’s though with a larger selection of verses.
As during the past few weeks, our theme today is still very much one of the Last Days. We are challenged on how we will behave when the time comes, and urged to stand ready.
Another aspect of this is that wonderful image of all the nations streaming up to the mountain of the Lord, with the subsidiary images of hammering swords into ploughshares, etc. At a time when an end to conflict on the edge of Europe seems a far-off hope, we can and must pray for the time when “Nation will not lift sword against nation; there will be no more training for war” (1st Reading). In the words of the Responsorial Psalm, “For the peace of Jerusalem pray: ‘Peace be to your homes!’ May peace reign in your walls, in your palaces, peace!”

October 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – October 2022
by Canon Pat Hartnett, SSG Trustee and Parish Priest at All Saints Church, Thirsk

2nd October – 27th Sunday Ordinary Time 
? We have all experienced turbulent times lately in the Church, society and throughout the world. The prophet Habakkuk echoes our experience: ‘How long, Lord, am I to cry for help while you will not listen’. His world is bringing torment to his soul. The Lord replied: ‘Write the vision down’. Without a vision we don’t see signs of hope. Jesus reminds us to be people of faith. Faith will bring new hope and a clear path through the darkness. St Paul reminds Timothy to: ‘fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you.’ The gift of the Holy Spirit has been given to each one of us. May we support one another and share the vision.
9th October – 28th Sunday Ordinary Time 
? I have always been struck by today’s Gospel passage. Jesus reveals both his humanity and divinity in the account of healing ten lepers. He is clearly hurt that only one healed leper gives thanks. The message is revealed when we reflect on Elisha, the prophet. He doesn’t want anything in return for restoring to full health, Naaman. Eucharist means thanksgiving. As we participate in the Eucharist may we encounter Christ, the healer and give thanks for all he does for us.
16th October – 29th Sunday Ordinary Time 
? We can identify with the widow in today’s Gospel passage. She was looking for justice. There were no benefits she could access. Unless a widow could get help from relatives she would be numbered as another poor person. Her need was great. As a result of her persistence with the judge she received what was rightfully hers. Jesus gives this parable to encourage us never to give up hope. The scriptures are the inspired Word of God. They guide us through life and and bring us hope when we need it most. Let us persevere with our prayer life and allow the Word of God to guide us.
23rd October – 30th Sunday Ordinary Time 
? Today is World Mission Sunday. The Church exists to evangelise and bring healing and hope to a broken world. St. Paul was a man who had to endure rejection and suffering. He was aware too that Christ was with him throughout his trials. We too have to live our life of faith in difficult times. The Good News we are asked to proclaim can be rejected and have to face many challenges. St. Paul came to realise: ‘the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed.’ Like the psalmist we too can say with confidence: ‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted.’ The Gospel teaches us the lesson of true prayer. The tax collector raises his eyes to heaven and acknowledges: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’
30th October – 31st Sunday Ordinary Time
? The book of Wisdom talks of Wisdom as a person. St. John’s Gospel takes this image as he writes his Gospel:
‘The Word of God was made flesh’.
Jesus indeed is the image of the invisible God. The section of Wisdom today reminds us:
‘Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent.’
As we celebrate the Eucharist we are invited to encounter God as the merciful Father. Time and time again Jesus reveals to us his Father’s forgiveness. In forgiving he forgets. We encounter this in today’s Gospel. Jesus sees what Zacchaeus could become. He calls him by name and encountering Jesus’ insight he repents all the wrong he did. Each one of us is called by name and Jesus sees beyond our sins.

September 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – September 2022
by Martin Barry

4th September – 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time C
Stark instructions for the ‘great crowds’ accompanying Jesus: if you want to follow me, renounce your comfortable life, your family and all your possessions. Instead, pick up your cross and start walking.
These are words to shock us out of our complacency. It is not enough to be following the crowd; instead, God challenges us, one by one. What exactly these challenges are for each of us may perhaps not be easy to discern – Who can divine the will of the Lord? – but we are assured that the Spirit of Wisdom is sent to help us work it out, and finish what we have started. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
11th September – 24th Sunday Ordinary Time C
? The Gospel of forgiveness which we hear today in the story of the Prodigal Son finds an echo in words spoken in 2011 by Queen Elizabeth, for whom the nation and much of the world are now in mourning. “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves—from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person — neither a philosopher nor a general, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.”
Herself an emblem of reconciliation, not least between the peoples of Britain and Ireland after so much painful history, Queen Elizabeth lived a life of deep and personal Christian faith. This was made manifest in seven decades of steadfast service, despite the vicissitudes experienced over this time in the life of the nation and of her own family. She was described, it is said, in Vatican circles, as the last truly Christian monarch.
The Queen’s dedication to duty came from an appreciation of the unchanging presence of God. As we heard a week ago: Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next. At the age of 90, the Queen wrote: “I remain very grateful to God for his steadfast love. I have indeed seen his faithfulness.”
May she, and may we all, one day hear the words promised to us: well done, good and faithful servant.
18th September – 25th Sunday Ordinary Time C
? Listen to this, you who trample on the needy, and try to suppress the poor people of the country: never will I forget a single thing you have done. (Amos 8:4,7)
Each of us might find it easy to imagine who these words could be addressed to. We live in a country, the Social Metrics Commission tells us, where 22% of the population, and 34% of children, live in poverty. Millions of households, UK government statistics tell us, live in fuel poverty, and millions more are being precipitously added to the tally. Yet newspaper headlines all the while talk about subsidies to fossil fuel companies and the lifting of caps on bankers’ bonuses. We might find it easy indeed to imagine a modern-day target, close to home, for the prophet Amos’s excoriations.
Yet I am not exempt. I live in a country where children live in poverty, I live in a country where people will soon be struggling to heat their homes. I live in a world, United Nations statistics tell us, where more than 10% of the population does not have enough food to eat.
My fellow human beings will struggle less if I give. Things will not change unless I act. What have I done this week?
15th September – 26th Sunday Ordinary Time C
? As with last week’s rebukes of the wealthy from the prophet Amos, today’s Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus invites – perhaps demands – interpretation in the here and now: the fat cat dressing in finery and feasting on tax cuts, the pauper longing for scraps to trickle down from the rich man’s table. I wonder what a present-day equivalent might be for the dogs licking Lazarus’s sores?
The psalm we hear today tells us not to despair: the Lord upholds the widow and orphan, it is he who gives bread to the hungry, who raises up those who are bowed down.
And St Paul describes the part each of us is called to play: to fight the good fight, and speak up for the truth in front of many witnesses.
September 3rd 2022 Feast of St Gregory
? Happy St Gregory’s Day.
? Remember how he told St Augustine to use what was best from the people he was trying to evangelise in the 7th century? Appropriately this week Pope Francis has spoken yet again on the need to honour our liturgy. May his words be our greeting to one another on our feast day, and our inspiration for the work of the Society.
“We are now in a period of deepening acceptance of the reform, which requires not only time but also passionate and patient care, spiritual and pastoral understanding, and ongoing formation. The study and promotion of liturgy must be imbued with prayer and the living experience of the Church that celebrates, so that liturgical ‘thought’ might always flow, like a vital sap, from the lived liturgy. All theology, but especially liturgical study – precisely because it is directed to “the act of celebrating the beauty and greatness of the mystery of God who gives Himself to us” – must be done with an open mind, and at the same time, ‘on one’s knees’ in prayer.” [1 September 2022]
? This is also our opportunity to offer our prayers and best wishes to Cardinal Arthur Roche on receiving the ‘red hat’ and for his work as the Prefect of the Dicastery of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
? Msg Kevin McGinnell, SSG Chair
————————————————————
1.9.2022
Pope: Liturgy must look to God without being worldly. In an address to an Italian association of liturgists, Pope Francis warns against “worldly” approaches to the liturgy, saying liturgy must be directed to the Mystery of Christ while remaining close to daily life.
By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis on Thursday addressed the Italian Associazione dei Professori e Cultori di Liturgia (Association of Professors and Practitioners of Liturgy) on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the organization’s foundation.
The Pope noted that fifty years corresponds to “the ecclesial season of this liturgical reform”: following the initial phase marked by the publication of new liturgical books, “we are now in a period of deepening acceptance of the reform.” This process, he said, requires not only time but also “passionate and patient care,” “spiritual and pastoral understanding,” and ongoing formation.
He encouraged members of the Association to continue to pursue their work in a spirit of dialogue.
“Theology can and must have a synodal style.”
Listening key in liturgical study
In order to ensure that their efforts “are never separated from the expectations and needs of the People of God,” Pope Francis said, listening to the Christian communities is “indispensable.”
The Holy Father noted, too, that the academic work of liturgists cannot be separated from the pastoral and spiritual dimension of liturgy, saying that liturgical formation must reach the people of God. In this regard, he held up the model of Romano Guardini, a German priest and scholar who, among other notable accomplishments, was able to spread the “achievements of the liturgical movement” in a way that was accessible to the ordinary faithful.
“May his figure and his approach to liturgical education, as modern as it is classical, be a point of reference to you.”
Progress rooted in tradition
Finally, the Pope insisted that progress in the understanding of the liturgy and the art of celebrating it “must always be rooted in tradition.” At the same time, he warned of a worldly spirit of going backward (IT: “indietrismo”, literally: backwardness).
Going back to the roots, he said, does not mean going backward, but instead means allowing true tradition to lead one forward. He cautioned liturgists to carefully distinguish between tradition and “traditionalism,” warning that “today the temptation is ‘backwardness’ disguised as tradition.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis reminded his audience that the study and promotion of liturgy “must be imbued with prayer and the living experience of the Church that celebrates, so that liturgical ‘thought’ might always flow, like a vital sap, from the lived liturgy.”
All theology, he said, but especially liturgical study – precisely because it is directed to “the act of celebrating the beauty and greatness of the mystery of God who gives Himself to us” – must be done “with an open mind, and at the same time, ‘on one’s knees’,” in prayer.
August 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – August 2022
by Gerard Shepherd, Longtime SSG Member

7th August – 19th Sunday Ordinary Time C

Do we have the faith to dare? The second reading talks of the faith of Abraham and Sarah. They followed their calling in faith. For these nomadic pensioners the prospect of having children and their own land seems highly unlikely. But their faith in God allows them to believe what they cannot see, to build up a vision of what their life may be like. By acting on their faith they are rewarded with a son. By following the map of their faith they set out for the promised land. Their treasure is their faith and that faith in God enables them to dare.
❔What treasure do we have in our store? Do we have the treasure that allows us to dare to follow God? Jesus risked everything but his risk was funded by his treasure – his great love for his Father. In these turbulent times for our world, much is being asked of us. Is our treasure great enough to fund the risks the gospel asks us to take?
14th August – Feast of the Assumption
“The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it.” ​(Apoc 11:19)
Luke gives us a portrait of Mary and in that portrait we are able to glimpse the full potential of God’s children. Mary’s faithful service opens up a view of what God’s children can achieve. While the New Testament says nothing of her death, from early times Christian have speculated that her life must have led to a grace filled death. Thus we can dwell on the imagery from the Apocalypse, “a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown.” (Apoc 12:1) She is the Queen of Heaven but she is also a radical woman who hungers for justice. Her God is one who “has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.” (Luke 1:52-53) As we celebrate this truly great woman we are left to answer her cry for justice and acknowledge how great we, God’s children, can be. In moments of doubt perhaps all we can do is call on the prayers of Mary, Mother of God:
? Mother and Queen, star of the sea,
? Pray for thy children, pray for me.
21st August – 21st  Sunday Ordinary Time C
Who is in and who is out of the kingdom of God? It all starts so promisingly in the first reading today.
“The Lord says this: I am coming to gather the nations of every language.” (Is 66:18)
Gathering the nations is such a good idea but speaking multiple languages makes it harder than it sounds. In a world troubled by war, famine and disease the incentive to speak to each other may be great but often it seems it is not great enough for us to listen to everyone’s needs. People speak to us but sometimes we do not understand what they are saying.
❔And in this great gathering who is in and who is out? If we don’t listen to the Word of God we may not be part of the gathering. The gospel today makes very stark reading. We may have eaten and drunk in the company of the householder but, if we come late, he will not admit us. Worse than that we may see who has been allowed in and be surprised – “men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29)
We can be admitted to the kingdom of God. The entry policy is to listen, be faithful to the Word of God and then respond generously.
28th August  – 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time C
If popularity breeds contempt, then Ralph McTell’s song “Streets of London” certainly suffered by overexposure 50 years ago. Sadly, the words are still apt today:
?Have you seen the old girl who walks the streets of London,
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking; she just keeps right on walking,
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.?
Having refused to write any new verses McTell relented and added a verse as the pandemic engulfed us in 2020:
?In shop doorways, under bridges, in all our towns and cities
You can glimpse the makeshift bedding from the corner of your eye
Remember what you’re seeing barely hides a human being
We’re all in this together, brother, sister, you and I.?
During the pandemic the homeless disappeared. They are re-appearing now and most of them young.
We should have listened to Christ. In today’s gospel he criticises those who are involved in an undignified scramble for the best place at a meal with an important host. Instead he challenges the host to have a more radical approach. “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, … when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” (Luke 14:14) Not paying attention to position, status or mode of dress, not worrying about whether people are clean enough or smell sweetly enough to share our table, may allow us to feed those who are genuinely hungry. Perhaps then we lift the homeless from the streets of London – or of Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham…. After all, in his goodness God prepared a home for the poor.
July 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – July 2022
by Kevin McGinnell, Chair SSG

3rd July – 14th Sunday Ordinary Time C

? **Peace to this house**
Like so many things Covid touched our liturgy significantly and for many the Sign of Peace has been a distant memory. It has re-emerged in new formats, people bowing, waving in many varied ways. Christ makes it the first words of the disciple when they go into a house. Peace must be the dominant gift that anyone brings who journeys in the name of Christ. It is then reciprocated by the person who is given that gift, or it is rejected. When we celebrate that peace of Christ in the liturgy we need to remember that it is not us just greeting fellow parishioners, it is indeed a sacramental moment, sharing the peace that Christ alone can give. It must be a peace that is integral as we journey together in the Communion procession to receive Christ who is our peace. Perhaps the handshake or the hug, the personal comment that was there before, masked this spiritual deeper meaning. Covid gives us food for thought and prayer. “Rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”
11th July – 15th Sunday Ordinary Time C
Google tells me that in the gospel Jesus asks 307 questions. He is asked 183. He answers 3.
Today’s lawyer asks two of those questions – how to inherit eternal life, how to identify his neighbour. Jesus answers none but asks three in return – what does the Law say, what does he read in the Law, and who showed himself to be a true neighbour. In the end Jesus makes the lawyer answer his own questions, and then tells him to do what he has discovered. The questions children ask can be so challenging at times because they have a clear world vision. Adults tend to shy away from questions because it can seem to be a sign of ignorance. Yet our life is a journey of faith discovery from womb to tomb. As children of the Father we need to be eager to ask questions of our God so that we can indeed find out more clearly what he wants us to do. It is the only way we will find how to inherit eternal life.
17th July  – 16th Sunday Ordinary Time C
It is Martha who asks Jesus whether he cares about her because she is doing all the work and Mary is just listening to Jesus’ speaking. Mary, says Jesus, is doing the only thing that really matters, she has chosen the better part. This is quite a challenge in a world where we are so often measured by what we do. Productivity is the name of the game. Even parishes may measure themselves by mass attendance or the collection. We need to be challenged by this gospel as to what is the only thing that matters to us as Christians. There are probably many things that we worry about which are secondary to what is the one thing that matters – sitting still to listen to the voice of the Lord and putting it into practice.
24th July  – 17th Sunday Ordinary Time C
Following the example of Mary’s choice of the better part Jesus answers the disciples’ request for teaching on prayer with the Our Father. He gives them the only prayer he teaches in the gospel after he has finished praying himself. It is the fruit of his prayer. When we pray it ourselves we are using the words of the Son of God, reflecting his intimate relationship with the Father. It would have been a shock to the system of the people where prayer was to a distant and remote figure. Jesus seems to realise we need help us to see this in the parable that follows which deals with friends responding to others’ needs. That’s why Jesus insists that we must persist in our requests to our God. He will always respond to our needs although not always in the way we expect, for the heavenly Father will always give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
30th July – 18th Sunday Ordinary Time C
Here is another case of Jesus asking a question and then leaving the individual to come to the answer through a parable. He is not going to get involved in personal disputes over land or inheritance or an individual’s rights. As with Mary choosing the better part he puts wealth and possessions into the context of a greedy man’s sudden death. We often hear people say, You can’t take it with you! about what we have stored away. That’s all well and good but what have we to take with us that will making ourselves rich in the sight of God? Jesus is not dismissive of the material world rather asks us again and again have we thought through our priorities in our relationships with God, others, the Church, the world.
June 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – June 2022
by Ann Blackett, SSG Liturgist

5th June  – Pentecost C

This Pentecost, we are in an unusual position as the whole country celebrates the service and steadfastness of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s been noticeable how much the tone of the whole event has been one of thankfulness, and many of the people who have appeared on our screens have taken the opportunity to say out loud ‘Thank you, Your Majesty’. In the air is the understanding that we will not have the Queen for ever, and we need to express our feelings while she is still here to hear them.
? The Queen’s Christian faith is well known, and she speaks easily of it her in her Christmas broadcasts and at other times. Several people this weekend have spoken about being in the presence of someone who looks to Christ for strength, who prays, who is herself ‘holy’. The Coronation service, with its vows and and anointing and symbols, set her apart, but for service to her people, and not with all authority, but under God.
? Today, as we hear the reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, the celebrations and reflections this weekend might give us a different insight into the way our Queen has lived her life: not born into her role, but accepting it, and living under the influence of the Spirit in her very public service all these years.
12th June  – The Most Holy Trinity C
Yesterday evening I went to a concert in church – the last of a series by a group calling themselves Trio. I’d been struck before by the connection between the musicians, all mature and experienced, each one used to playing with the others – in fact, the interaction between them was as much of a reason for being there as the music. Piano, violin and cello all danced, marched, flew, made jokes, sometimes leading, sometimes marking time, sometimes holding back while the others flourished, then changing the balance and passing the wonderful thing they were doing from one to the other, generously, gladly, skilfully.
Much more than teamwork, this was like three centres of energy, each dancing with the others to create in that space and at that time, something that shimmered before us, washed over us, lifted us up, invited us in. The music was composed by Beethoven, but the three people in front of us lifted it off the page and wove it into wondrous sounds – and also, as the individual energies flew around one another with glances, smiles, and the sheer joy of playing, the music became visible too. Being caught up in it, even as someone sitting in the audience, I could not help but be put in mind of the Trinity. I wouldn’t put it forward as a formal theological definition, but maybe there was something of the ‘unity in substance… equality in majesty’ about what was happening. If the Kingdom of Heaven can be like a mustardseed, why shouldn’t the Trinity be like a trio?
19th June  – Corpus Christi C
Characteristic hospitality of Luke’s gospel – Jesus welcoming crowds; talking to them about the Kingdom of God; healing the ones who needed it; providing food for all. And more. I love the generosity of this. Although Jesus often seems to take himself off apart from the crowds, when the people find him, as they mostly do, he turns his face to them, teaching, telling stories and healing – and feeding them, however many there are. This is more than acceptance: it is invitation, a hand held out, a word spoken, a door open.
The scale of the miraculous feeding can overshadow the simple human actions here. Jesus blesses the unlikely plateful and raises his eyes to heaven, then begins to hand the pieces out to the disciples with him, for sharing among the huge crowds. The people eat, and eat, and eat. There’s more than enough. All are welcome.
Over the last couple of years we have seen our participation in the Eucharist in new ways: locked out of churches, people separated from one another and from the clergy who serve them; watching liturgy, acts of spiritual communion, no singing, and, when we were allowed back into churches, the precautions surrounding receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord. But even though we’re still coming to terms with it all, we can trust to the words received by Paul and handed on: ‘Do this in memory of me’. We do this in memory of the One whose hands are open to welcome and bless, to pray and touch, whose hands once opened to take nails for us. It is doing this which makes us his body too.
26th June  – 13th Sunday Ordinary Time C
This year we come back to the Sundays of Ordinary Time at the beginning of a series of Gospel readings dealing with Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem – the ‘Travel Narrative’, in the words of the Lectionary. For the next few weeks, in a mix of parables, stories and encounters with people, we’ll hear more about the qualities expected of Jesus’ followers.
Jesus himself is in a hurry; instead of turning his face to the crowds and giving them time he sets the pace, heading towards Jerusalem and whatever awaits. He ‘took the road’, ‘making for Jerusalem’, ‘went off’, ‘travelled along’; the sense of purpose is clear, and there’s no time for delay, as he gives short shrift to anyone who tries to distract him.
Today, as I read this familiar passage again it struck me that I’d always slightly romanticised ‘Foxes have their holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’, seeing it as a description of a gentle progress through towns and villages, preaching, telling stories, healing. But the context here says nothing of the sort. It’s not the answer the disciple-hopeful is expecting, more ‘can you hack it?’
Jesus’ words to those who follow him are sharp – he even stops for a moment to look at James and John – the text says ‘rebuked them’, but you can imagine that a single look would be enough. The human ties and relationships cited by others are clearly barriers to following with an undivided heart (and most uncomfortable hearing to anyone who has ever been torn by conflicting responsibilities).
But Jesus knows that time is short. Wherever home is, he’s not going back. He’s just healed an only son his disciples had tried and failed to cure, in some exasperation – ‘how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?’ (Luke 9.37-43). His face is set toward Jerusalem; where the things he has told the disciples about himself will come to pass.
And here, now, on this Sunday in June 2022? What progress are we making with our undivided hearts? Because time is short…
May 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – May 2022
by Mary Ryan, School Chaplain, SSG Trustee 

1st May  – 3rd Sunday Easter C

Today’s Gospel tells of another post-resurrection appearances by Jesus, this time by the Sea of Tiberias. It seems that Peter and some of the other disciples have returned to being fishermen, but on this evening, are not having much success. Jesus appears, once again unrecognised by his disciples, and encourages them to go out once more. This time the fish are plentiful, and the disciple recognise the stranger as Jesus. The longer version of this Gospel includes what is, perhaps, the most important section; Jesus asking Peter ‘Do you love me?’ Peter’s response is an immediate ‘Yes’. Jesus responds by asking Peter to ‘feed my sheep’ and concludes with call, once again to ‘Follow me’. Once again, Peter is meant to serve the Gospel rather than return to his life as a fisherman. As in the first reading, Peter recognises that ‘…obedience to God…’ is more important; Peter and the other disciples are called to new work now.
8th May  – 4th Sunday Easter C
This morning’s Gospel speaks of the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep, echoed by the vision of the Lamb, shepherding the blessed to springs of living water in the second reading.
Jesus’ request to Peter to ‘feed my sheep’ in last week’s Gospel is lived out through the mission of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch in the first reading.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows us better than we know ourselves and will guide us if we are willing to hear his voice and follow him.
There is a dual invitation in today’s readings; first, to come closer to following the Good Shepherd ourselves – He already knows us, how much closer can we come to know Him? The second invitation arises from Jesus’ request to Peter to ‘feed my sheep’ from last week’s Gospel.
If that invitation extends to Paul and Barnabas, it extends to us as His followers too; if we have a role in guiding others as teachers, catechists or music leaders what kind of shepherds are we to others?
15th May  – 5th Sunday Easter C
This year’s consultation on Synodality has led to many questions about who and what the Church is, and is to be, in this age. Today’s second reading gives us a glimpse of the ‘New Jerusalem’, a place where God lives among his people – the end point of a perfect and harmonious community. The first reading brings us back to the beginning, with Paul and Barnabas reporting back on a part of their missionary journey through Galatia, encouraging people to persevere in the faith and building new communities of faith.
❔What links the two is the Gospel which tells us of Jesus’ commandment to ‘love one another’.
❔What kind of community could be built without love at its heart?
❔What becomes of a community where love is forgotten?
This should be what marks us as Christians, as Jesus says ‘By this love for one another, everyone shall know you are my disciples.’
22nd May  – 6th Sunday Easter C
We tend to forget that the early Christian Church were left with a strong faith in the risen Jesus, but no convenient handbook on how to organise a Church. Today’s first reading tells of an early disagreement arising which compels Paul and Barnabas to return to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles who send them back with a swift and clear decision.
This morning’s Gospel continues with John’s Gospel; Jesus reminding his followers that those who love Him will keep His word and telling the disciples of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Those words might have been a puzzle for the disciples when Jesus said them at the last Supper but guided by the Holy Spirit, these and other teachings of Jesus would have been recalled as they tried to work out the direction of this new community of believers.
What does it mean to keep his word? This was a key question for the early Church and remains so for us, too.
In the first reading, the disciples reached their verdict with the help of the Holy Spirit and chose not to let the community be overburdened with unhelpful rules, but trust in God. Should not we do the same; it is easy to be side-tracked by arguments over details that may seem so important at the time but are not really essential. Instead, keep our eyes on Jesus, trust in the Holy Spirit who brings us peace beyond our understanding.
27th May  – 7th Sunday Easter C
As the Easter season ends, there is a sense of completion with the readings too; the extracts from the story of the early church finishes with the martyrdom of Stephen, and the prayer of Jesus from John 17 that we have been listening to over the last few weeks also comes to an end. Yet, as we end one cycle, the second reading looks towards a new beginning, both welcoming those, like Stephen, who have been washed clean into the new Jerusalem, and looking forward to the Gospel vision of all being united with Jesus once again.
The readings over the Easter Season have offered a time to reflect on our own response to living in the light of the resurrection.
❔How does Easter change us?
We may not be called to martyrdom as Stephen was, but we are called to bear witness to our faith in some way. As we approach Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, perhaps consider whether we are being called to do more to support our faith communities.
April 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – April 2022
by David McLoughlin, retired Emeritus Fellow of Newman University, Birmingham

3rd April  – 5th Sunday Lent C

Isaiah remembers the Exodus and God’s extraordinary capacity to create new opportunities; “water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”
The Gospel story is brutal. The teachers, judges, scribes, and purity reforming Pharisees drag a woman, literally from the act of adultery, scantily clothed, into the public temple space. Only the woman is brought, not her male lover. We don’t know her name, where she came from or where she goes afterwards. She is a negligible pawn in the battle for male religious power and influence.
Jesus’ question reveals their sin – the denial of the mercy of God. We all depend on and live out of the mercy of God, something Paul celebrates in Philippians. Self-convicted they all creep away. Only then can Jesus and the woman truly meet. Only then can he offer her new life, beyond her past. God’s mercy opening up new possibilities in her life.

10th April  – Palm Sunday Lent C

Jesus rides into the East of Jerusalem on a colt. His followers and friends sing out Psalm 118 celebrating the arrival of the King of Peace. Earlier Pontius Pilate had entered on a war horse surrounded by imperial soldiers and the threat of violence.
Jesus’ entrance proclaims a kingdom of peace and non-violence.
Jesus’ entry echoes the account of the Ark of the Covenant, the promise of God’s presence, being brought into the Temple with David and his people dancing before it.
Luke emphasises God’s presence as mercy – starting with Peter. The mercy spreads as Jesus forgives his executioners and promises paradise to the repentant thief. And just in case we had not got the message the curtain of the Holy of Holies is ripped open and the divine mercy is now free to roam throughout the world. The first to celebrate is a pagan Centurian.
The new age has begun.

 

17th April  – Easter Sunday Lent C

Last night we went from darkness and death to life and light and encountered the risen Lord, and the promise of his shared risen light, in word, community and sacrament.
But in the cold light of the first Easter day Mary of Magdala and Peter and his companion find an empty tomb. They are still on the journey of faith. But when the moment of encounter and insight comes it effects a transformation on their everyday lives. Peter the abject traitor suddenly has courage to proclaim his Lord alive and potent. Paul, the persecutor of the early community, having met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus shares with all the new life so mercifully poured out on him.
Resurrection is real, its consequences are tangible, but it still requires a generous heart to respond to the witness of others and to walk into the light and the life it promises.

 

24th April  – 2nd Sunday Easter C

The last verse of today’s Gospel reading gives us access to the whole message of John. It was written so we might come to faith and so become truly alive. We hear of doubting Thomas journey to faith and his recognition of Jesus divinity “My Lord and my God”. But Jesus following words- “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”- address us who must encounter Jesus in the faith and sacraments of the body, the church itself. It is here we are to find the mercy and reconciliation Jesus lived, now part of the ongoing life of his mystical body gathered each Sunday.
It is here we hear his teaching proclaimed and see examples of Christ -like heroic lives of faith lived in good times and bad. It is here we share peace, shalom, with each other and with the world that is becoming renewed and Spirit indwelt.
March 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – March 2022
by Peter Tibke, Former Trustee, Prisons Chaplain Advisor

6th March  – 1st Sunday Lent C

Jesus was alone in the desert. No one would see him. No one would witness his giving in to the devil. He had plenty of excuses available. What do we do when we are in situations when we think nobody will find out?
Jesus was hungry. He had been fasting for forty days. Why shouldn’t he do something dramatic to get something to eat? He knew he had the power.
Nobody would know but he doesn’t give in.
This hunger points Jesus at leadership of his people. He gets strength from his personal integrity from being able to see off temptation and provides community leadership.
Maybe this Lent we can gain integrity from fasting, prayer and almsgiving to provide local leadership, resistance from temptation and effecting positive change. The world needs it -can we gain the strength in all our challenges to provide it.

13th March  – 2nd Sunday Lent C

In todays Gospel, please note the transformation of Jesus’ face and though Moses and Elijah come to speak with him, only Jesus’ face remains transfigured and shining. It makes Him special. Peter’s reaction puts Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah, great Biblical characters, but the Father soon clarifies that “This is my Son, the Chosen One “Listen to him”. So, to no one else. His Word is all that matters.
In our preparation for Easter, we need to recover in today’s world the decisive importance of this Gospel story about Jesus as told in the centre of the Christian communities from His time. The Gospels aren’t teaching books that set out academic and biographical stories about Jesus. They are “stories of conversion of spirit, heart, and soul” that call for a change, for a following of Jesus and for an identification with his mission.

 

20th March  – 3rd Sunday Lent C

On the 3rd Sunday of our Lenten journey, our readings speak of God’s mercy and compassion in giving His people chances, despite their repeated errors. As His people we need to co-operate by producing fruits of love, compassion, forgiveness, and faithful service.
The first reading tells us how God shows His mercy to His chosen people by giving them Moses as their leader and liberator. He assures Moses of His Divine presence with His people and of His awareness of their sufferings in Egypt. The second reading warns us that our merciful God is also a disciplining God. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they must learn from the sad experience of the Israelites who were punished for their sins by a merciful but just God.
Today’s Gospel explains how God disciplines His people and invites them to repent of their sins, to renew their lives, and to produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Citing two tragic events, Jesus exhorts the Jews to repent and reform their lives. With the parable of the barren fig tree, Jesus also warns them that the merciful God expects growth and commitment. A need to commit to change because there is missionary work to be done in the world in His name.

 

27th March  – 4th Sunday Lent C

Our first reading from Joshua sees us at the point where furlough can end (manna), and the economy of Cana can take over to provide what we need. The Israelite community is sufficient to live on and surely, they should be satisfied. They are welcomed now into the Father’s homeland. However, the prodigal son is not satisfied. He cannot wait for his Father to die and leave him his inheritance; he wants to live a life of excess and he wants to do it now! When that all goes wrong, the father still welcomes him home.
Our knowledge is that we are always welcomed home by our loving Father. Through Jesus’ ministry and trial, death, and resurrection, we are reconciled to God and welcomed home.
Isn’t that marvellous -to have those loving arms enveloping us but we must do our bit as well, as St Paul says; we must be “ambassadors for Christ” so that all can know the warmth of God’s fatherly love.
February 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – December 2021
by Canon Pat Hartnett, SSG Trustee

3rd January – 2nd Sunday After Christmas

For a lot of people Christmas begins and ends on Christmas Day. The season of Advent was a season of Hope as we listened and reflected on the message from the Prophets. Advent was leading us to the fulfilment of their message in the celebration that revealed: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’.
As Ecclesiasticus tells us: ‘Pitch your tent in Jacob’. The Wisdom books of the Old Testament talks about the personification of Wisdom. John uses this image to show that Jesus is the one who becomes this Wisdom. When Ecclesiasticus talks about living in a settled place our minds are turned to the many who are refugees or homeless.
The Prologue to John’s Gospel introduces many themes which will be developed throughout his Gospel. The liturgy of the Church for today gives us an opportunity to reflect on the mystery of the incarnation and what it means to me.
St. Paul gives us Good News in his letter to the Ephesians. I hope this will guide you through 2022: ‘May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit.’
 

6th January – THE  EPIPHANY  OF  THE  LORD

The Epiphany of the Lord returns to being celebrated on 6th January.  The word Epiphany means a manifestation of a mystery revealed to us.  The Word of God proclaims the mystery ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’  We encounter Christ through his Word as well as the Eucharist.

Today’s feast once again tells of the revealing of light.  Isaiah reminds us that although the light has come we journey towards the light from darkness.  Being in total darkness brings terror and confusion.  Isaiah brings hope: ‘for your light has come.’  It is light that overcomes darkness.  No need to be anxious of stumbling we have the light of God.

St. Paul was aware of his vocation.  He realises that he is entrusted with grace and this was given to him through a revelation.  We too are entrusted with grace.  The Wise men in the Gospel follow the sign they were given in order to find the Christ child.  The signs we have been given are Word and Sacraments.  These will lead us to encounter Christ.  Having encountered him demands a response from me.  Just as the Wise men had to return by a different route so we too might need to change course.

 

9th January – THE  BAPTISM  OF  THE  LORD

Today’s feast marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  The prophet Isaiah tells us: ‘Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights.’  The theme of vocation, calling is repeated many times in the first reading.  We see how Jesus becomes this servant of the Lord living out the prophecy of Isaiah.

Luke in the Acts of the Apostles gives a synopsis of Jesus’ ministry.  We too are given the Holy Spirit and anointed in order to live out our Baptism.  The Holy Spirit is given to empower and bear witness.  It is not for remaining static.

There are a series of paintings in the Scottish National gallery by Nicolas Poussin depicting the seven sacraments.  The one for Baptism shows Jesus being Baptised in the river Jordan by John the Baptist.  He even paints himself into the scene.  Close to the bank he shows a group of people with their eyes focused on the Baptism.  In the background there is a group looking upwards looking at the dove hovering above the scene.  By painting this scene he shows how the early Church came to understand the significance of the Baptism.  The voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’  The Father said that to you and I when we were Baptised: ‘You are my Son, Daughter my favour rests on you.’

 

16th January – SECOND  SUNDAY  OF  ORDINARY  TIME

Christmas is behind us now as we begin Ordinary Time.  There is nothing that is ’Ordinary’ when we reflect on God’s Word.  I wonder how is God going to surprise us in 2022?  How are we going to encounter him as we listen with a disciples ear to his all powerful Word?    St. Paul talks about a variety of gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit.  As we continue to prepare for the Synod it is an opportunity to discover what gifts I have been given by the Holy Spirit.  How can I share my gift with my parish so that we can journey together as we listen to one another.  The prophet Isaiah tells us that we are the delight of the Lord.  We have not been abandoned, God journeys with us.  Do not be afraid.

The prophet tells us of the Covenant that God has entered with his people like a couple getting married: ‘I will be your God, you shall be my people.’  We are to live out our vocation from the gifts of the Spirit given to us from our Baptism.

The Gospel gives us an account of a wonderful day for a couple, their wedding day.  It is a special day for their families and the community.  Disaster strikes as they run out of wine.  Mary tells the stewards to do what her Son tells them.  The water is changed into wine.  There is a generous amount of wine provided from the stone water jars.  It tells us how generous God is with his love, mercy, forgiveness brimming over because of his love.  We bring to the Lord our ordinary lives and he can transform them to bring joy and happiness to our world.  Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

 

23rd January – THIRD  SUNDAY  OF  ORDINARY  TIME

Pope Francis has dedicated this Sunday to ‘Sunday of the Word of God’.  It is a reminder to us to truly listen to God’s Word and not allow it to go in one ear and out the other.  Some preparation is required so that we are disposed to ‘Listen’.

Ezra the priest reads  from the book of the Law from morning to evening.  Men, women and children gather to listen.  They clearly are all moved by the experience of encountering God’s Word that they are moved to tears.  It reminds me of the disciples travelling to Emmaus: ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he opened the scriptures to us.’  The people are gathered by the Water Gate to listen to God’s Word as we too have our thirst quenched by God’s Word.  Finding time to listen will bear fruit in our lives.

St. Paul compares the Church to a body.  The body is made up with many parts, each part is essential and joined together creates a human person.  So with the Church, the Church is spread throughout the world.  Although single individuals we form the Body of Christ on earth, the Church.  Perhaps we could reflect on what is my role in the Church.  What gift, talent have I received to help build up the Church.  We all play an important role.

Luke tells us of Jesus’ mission.  He is led by the power of the Spirit and joins the community in worship in the synagogue.  He is presented with the scroll from the prophet Isaiah.  He tells people that he is the fulfilment of this prophecy.  The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, he has anointed me and sent me to bring Good News.  How am I to do that?  Ask the Lord for the discernment you need.

 

30th January – FOURTH  SUNDAY  OF  ORDINARY  TIME

 Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet.  He didn’t think he was the right person.  He certainly didn’t think he had the talents required to be a prophet.  God thought differently.  God told Jeremiah that he has chosen him.  God sees beyond what we see.  God gives the talents and ability to respond to our vocation.

St. Paul reminds the Corinthians of the higher gifts.  Gifts that are given to us.  He reminds us to reflect on how we show love to one another.  Substitute the word love and replace it with ‘God’.  It shows us how God operates.  As a challenge to us place my name.  Can I say I am always patient and kind etc.

The people in the Gospel were unable to recognise who Jesus is.  They thought they knew him but couldn’t get beyond their short sightedness.  He quotes examples from the Old Testament of Elijah and Elisha and how God surprises how he works through people and situation.  Look to see how God will surprise you today and during the week.  

 

 

 

January 2022 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – January 2022
by Canon Pat Hartnett, SSG Trustee

3rd January – 2nd Sunday After Christmas

For a lot of people Christmas begins and ends on Christmas Day. The season of Advent was a season of Hope as we listened and reflected on the message from the Prophets. Advent was leading us to the fulfilment of their message in the celebration that revealed: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’.
As Ecclesiasticus tells us: ‘Pitch your tent in Jacob’. The Wisdom books of the Old Testament talks about the personification of Wisdom. John uses this image to show that Jesus is the one who becomes this Wisdom. When Ecclesiasticus talks about living in a settled place our minds are turned to the many who are refugees or homeless.
The Prologue to John’s Gospel introduces many themes which will be developed throughout his Gospel. The liturgy of the Church for today gives us an opportunity to reflect on the mystery of the incarnation and what it means to me.
St. Paul gives us Good News in his letter to the Ephesians. I hope this will guide you through 2022: ‘May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit.’
 

6th January – THE  EPIPHANY  OF  THE  LORD

The Epiphany of the Lord returns to being celebrated on 6th January.  The word Epiphany means a manifestation of a mystery revealed to us.  The Word of God proclaims the mystery ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’  We encounter Christ through his Word as well as the Eucharist.

Today’s feast once again tells of the revealing of light.  Isaiah reminds us that although the light has come we journey towards the light from darkness.  Being in total darkness brings terror and confusion.  Isaiah brings hope: ‘for your light has come.’  It is light that overcomes darkness.  No need to be anxious of stumbling we have the light of God.

St. Paul was aware of his vocation.  He realises that he is entrusted with grace and this was given to him through a revelation.  We too are entrusted with grace.  The Wise men in the Gospel follow the sign they were given in order to find the Christ child.  The signs we have been given are Word and Sacraments.  These will lead us to encounter Christ.  Having encountered him demands a response from me.  Just as the Wise men had to return by a different route so we too might need to change course.

 

9th January – THE  BAPTISM  OF  THE  LORD

Today’s feast marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  The prophet Isaiah tells us: ‘Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights.’  The theme of vocation, calling is repeated many times in the first reading.  We see how Jesus becomes this servant of the Lord living out the prophecy of Isaiah.

Luke in the Acts of the Apostles gives a synopsis of Jesus’ ministry.  We too are given the Holy Spirit and anointed in order to live out our Baptism.  The Holy Spirit is given to empower and bear witness.  It is not for remaining static.

There are a series of paintings in the Scottish National gallery by Nicolas Poussin depicting the seven sacraments.  The one for Baptism shows Jesus being Baptised in the river Jordan by John the Baptist.  He even paints himself into the scene.  Close to the bank he shows a group of people with their eyes focused on the Baptism.  In the background there is a group looking upwards looking at the dove hovering above the scene.  By painting this scene he shows how the early Church came to understand the significance of the Baptism.  The voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’  The Father said that to you and I when we were Baptised: ‘You are my Son, Daughter my favour rests on you.’

 

16th January – SECOND  SUNDAY  OF  ORDINARY  TIME

Christmas is behind us now as we begin Ordinary Time.  There is nothing that is ’Ordinary’ when we reflect on God’s Word.  I wonder how is God going to surprise us in 2022?  How are we going to encounter him as we listen with a disciples ear to his all powerful Word?    St. Paul talks about a variety of gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit.  As we continue to prepare for the Synod it is an opportunity to discover what gifts I have been given by the Holy Spirit.  How can I share my gift with my parish so that we can journey together as we listen to one another.  The prophet Isaiah tells us that we are the delight of the Lord.  We have not been abandoned, God journeys with us.  Do not be afraid.

The prophet tells us of the Covenant that God has entered with his people like a couple getting married: ‘I will be your God, you shall be my people.’  We are to live out our vocation from the gifts of the Spirit given to us from our Baptism.

The Gospel gives us an account of a wonderful day for a couple, their wedding day.  It is a special day for their families and the community.  Disaster strikes as they run out of wine.  Mary tells the stewards to do what her Son tells them.  The water is changed into wine.  There is a generous amount of wine provided from the stone water jars.  It tells us how generous God is with his love, mercy, forgiveness brimming over because of his love.  We bring to the Lord our ordinary lives and he can transform them to bring joy and happiness to our world.  Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

 

23rd January – THIRD  SUNDAY  OF  ORDINARY  TIME

Pope Francis has dedicated this Sunday to ‘Sunday of the Word of God’.  It is a reminder to us to truly listen to God’s Word and not allow it to go in one ear and out the other.  Some preparation is required so that we are disposed to ‘Listen’.

Ezra the priest reads  from the book of the Law from morning to evening.  Men, women and children gather to listen.  They clearly are all moved by the experience of encountering God’s Word that they are moved to tears.  It reminds me of the disciples travelling to Emmaus: ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he opened the scriptures to us.’  The people are gathered by the Water Gate to listen to God’s Word as we too have our thirst quenched by God’s Word.  Finding time to listen will bear fruit in our lives.

St. Paul compares the Church to a body.  The body is made up with many parts, each part is essential and joined together creates a human person.  So with the Church, the Church is spread throughout the world.  Although single individuals we form the Body of Christ on earth, the Church.  Perhaps we could reflect on what is my role in the Church.  What gift, talent have I received to help build up the Church.  We all play an important role.

Luke tells us of Jesus’ mission.  He is led by the power of the Spirit and joins the community in worship in the synagogue.  He is presented with the scroll from the prophet Isaiah.  He tells people that he is the fulfilment of this prophecy.  The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, he has anointed me and sent me to bring Good News.  How am I to do that?  Ask the Lord for the discernment you need.

 

30th January – FOURTH  SUNDAY  OF  ORDINARY  TIME

 Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet.  He didn’t think he was the right person.  He certainly didn’t think he had the talents required to be a prophet.  God thought differently.  God told Jeremiah that he has chosen him.  God sees beyond what we see.  God gives the talents and ability to respond to our vocation.

St. Paul reminds the Corinthians of the higher gifts.  Gifts that are given to us.  He reminds us to reflect on how we show love to one another.  Substitute the word love and replace it with ‘God’.  It shows us how God operates.  As a challenge to us place my name.  Can I say I am always patient and kind etc.

The people in the Gospel were unable to recognise who Jesus is.  They thought they knew him but couldn’t get beyond their short sightedness.  He quotes examples from the Old Testament of Elijah and Elisha and how God surprises how he works through people and situation.  Look to see how God will surprise you today and during the week.  

 

 

 

December 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – December 2021
by Paul Moynihan, MC to Cardinal Vincent

28th November – 1st Sunday Advent Year C

Happy New Year! Yes, it’s New Year’s Day in the Church as with the beginning of Advent a new liturgical year opens before us. And a new year means a new Lectionary Year – this time year C, in which we will hear proclaimed Luke’s Gospel. However, the text we hear today is not from chapter 1 but chapter 21, and it recounts similar things to the text that we heard from St Mark, two weeks ago, on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time: about the end of time and the Second Coming. ‘Stay away, praying at all times …’ we are told by Jesus. In our haste to prepare for Christmas and the excitement about the celebration of that great festival in the days and even weeks before 25 December, we can easily forget that this first (and longer) part of Advent is about preparation for the second coming, not the first. Perhaps that might be a New Year’s resolution: to make more time in our busy lives for prayer, even if only for a few minutes each day.

 

5th December – 2nd Sunday Advent year C

 

One of the things I like most about Advent is its wonderful music. ‘O come, O come’, ‘Rorate Caeli’, ‘Alma Redemptoris Mater’, ‘People look east’, ‘Lo, he comes …’ to list but a few. It’s music specific to this season and can only be used during this season. Sounds as well as visual elements, smells and tastes are all tools used that can make certain seasons distinctive and events noticeable. Liturgy is an assault on all the senses! Advent also provides wonderful readings from the Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Baruch, with rich imagery and poetry. I am going to spend some time this Advent, just wallowing in the riches of music, prayers and scripture that makes Advent really … Advent.
Join me, please.
 
 
12th December – 3rd Sunday Advent Year C
 
St John the Baptist is quite unusual. For not only does the Church mark every year his birth (23-24 June) and his death (29 August) but there are also three Sundays in which he is a key feature of that day’s liturgy – the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and the Second and Third Sundays of Advent. He is likely to feature more in the Sunday Gospels in a year than Mary. ‘On Jordan’s bank, the Baptist’s cry …’ we sing and today that cry resounds in our Gospel passage in response to the question ‘What must we do?’ and John exhorts the people ‘and to announce the Good News to them’. John announces that same Good News to us too, so that ‘when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which we now dare to hope’ (Preface I of Advent). May we be ready.
 
 
19th December – 4th Sunday Advent Year C
 
Six days to go, and, if you are like me, still much to be done. But we are blessed this year with a very long Advent, almost as long as it can be. And to me it would make much more sense to mark this day as Mothering Sunday rather than the Fourth Sunday of Lent. The Gospel today is the first part of the account of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, a meeting of two women who are both going to give birth. And what a great miracle that is, one that happens every single day, that of new life, that of giving birth, that of a new baby. The Church in England and Wales has, for some years marked this day in its Cycle of Prayer as one for expectant mothers. Yes, rightly so, but perhaps we might extend this to all mothers as well.
 
 
25th December – The Nativity of Our Lord
 
‘In the beginning was the Word ….’
Christmas, a baby born… Shepherds, mangers and angels…
‘Once in royal David’s city…’, ‘Hark the herald …’, ‘O come all ye faithful…’
‘The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light …’
Familiar words, familiar music, all much loved.
Christ is born. Today. Hodie, Christus natus est. Today. But not just today.
Every day. Christ is made present.
God becomes man.
‘… may we share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity’ (Collect, Christmas Day).
 
 
26th December – Feast of the Holy Family
 
This is not so much the morning after the night before but the day after the day before. Luke’s Gospel contain most of what we know about Jesus’ early life, what is known as the infancy narrative. But as Luke was not an apostle, how come he alone has these accounts on annunciation, visitation, birth, presentation in the Temple and more? Tradition has it he knew Mary, for only she could be the source of much of this information. The Gospel today is a good example: the finding of Jesus, now aged 12, in the temple having been missing for several days. We cannot imagine the worry of his parents; we can imagine their joy when they found him. We cannot imagine the worries that we gave our parents. We can hope, as I am sure, that we have given them joy too.
November 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – November 2021
by Mgr Timothy Menezes, who is Cathedral Dean of St Chad’s, Birmingham.

7th November – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Have you ever heard it said that ‘widow’ is one of the most unfortunate of terms? It defines a person but it is often not a word that the person would choose as a designation. It speaks of a state of loss and can be used from the day of bereavement and for a whole lifetime if the loss happens at an early age.
It is a term that usually conjures up an image of advanced age, but that is not always the case.
In the Gospel reading, the Widow’s Mite is contrasted with the donations of the rich, but crucially it is the link between their wealth and their treatment of widows that draws Jesus’ criticism. It is not simply their state of life but the exploitation of the most vulnerable that is identified and the hypocrisy that it is done by outwardly upright people of faith.
As we have begun the month of the Holy Souls, it is the self-giving (in the Gospel and corresponding First Reading) that does not cling on to earthly possessions and the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ (in Hebrews) that paves the way to eternal life, the primacy of the life of heaven, that is given to us to influence our daily choices.
The psalm in today’s Mass speaks of the redeeming power of God to raise up those who have been humiliated in earthly sight.
 
 
 
14th November – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
 
We listen again to the Letter to the Hebrews in today’s Second Reading.
On this Remembrance Sunday and as we continue to reflect on life and death, we are invited to remember that the Sacrifice of Christ has been achieved. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the source of our undying hope.
Where we would always like to keep the Seasons of the Church’s Year neat and distinctive, in the Scriptures at this time of year there are striking similarities between the end of the Church’s Year and the coming Season of Advent.
The catastrophic sights in nature might have been no more than imaginary (or unimaginable) apocalyptic events that formed a warning but were difficult to believe were real. Can we say that they are not so unimaginable in our day and it is not opportunistic to cite situations which have been on our TV screens, if not in our own experience, quite close to home in recent times.
Both the Gospel and the corresponding First Reading speak of the steadfastness which is required of a person of faith in the face of terrifying events beyond our control.
Two things that we might note: not even Jesus is party to the day of judgement – which can be puzzling for us, given his precious union with the Father. This is the obedient Son.
And in the Prophet Daniel: Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth many will awake… As we pray for the Holy Souls, we affirm Sunday by Sunday our belief in the resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of the body.
The psalm in today’s Mass, long before the Resurrection of Christ, is a prophesy of a life beyond death.
 
21st November – Solemnity of Christ the King
It is always good to note that this Feast dates back only as far as 1925, instituted by Pope Pius XI in the light of the suffering of the First World War. The Kingship of Christ over earthly power and authority was the original purpose of this Feast:
 
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The interplay between regal language and the image of a ruler whose authority is not readily understood or accepted makes of this Feast a recognition of the way in which our faith is lived in the world but not of the world.
The term ‘king’ for Jesus from the Passion Narrative in St John’s Gospel is more mocking than respectful. But Jesus himself adopts it and uses it in its true sense of his own purpose as King of Heaven and Earth. To the ears who listen, they have no idea of the truth Jesus speaks and they only have a man’s word for it, and a man with lofty claims – so it seems.
The Prophet Daniel speaks of ‘one like a son of man’, a term that Jesus adopts of himself. It is good to note that this term actually means ‘human being’ and so it is the incarnate word of God, the heavenly anointed one, who takes flesh that raises up humanity to a new aspiration.
All three of today’s readings call us to celebrate the universality of this Feast.
The psalm of today’s Mass speaks of the Kingship of God which stretches back through history and for all time to come.
 
28th November – Advent Sunday 1 Year C
 

The beginning of a new Church Year, and one in which we shall meet the Christ of St Luke’s Gospel, brings promise. The prophet Jeremiah sets out the Lord’s promises to his people which will lead us through this holy season of blessed hope from The-Lord-our-Integrity to ‘God-is-with-us’.

 

And there is no irony lost in the line ‘a virtuous Branch…for David…who shall practice honesty and integrity in the land.’ For David was the favoured one who did not always practice honesty and integrity, but one who followed in this line would fulfil where fallen humanity lost its way.

 

To be saved, to dwell in confidence speaks of recurring threats and it is such threats that become real in Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Luke on this First Sunday of Advent. To be a people of hope in normal times is one thing; to continue to be strong in hope when there is devastation all around – and especially when the devastation caused in our own lives or those close to us can make us question the foundations of our faith – leads Jesus to warn his followers to ‘stay awake, praying at all times’.

 

As we look forward with hope, maybe our consolation is that hope does not give us all the answers to life’s challenges, but our closeness to Christ helps us to make sense of it, because we will already have surrendered control and seek to live God’s will for us and for the world.

 

The psalm of today’s Mass gives emphasis to the words ‘you / your’ in the first verse and ‘he’ in the second. Surrender of our will and following the path laid out for us is not always easy, but ‘The Lord’s friendship is for those who revere him.’

October 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – October 2021
by Mary Ryan, School Chaplain, SSG Trustee

3rd October – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 
A close relative has recently celebrated a silver wedding anniversary. I remember the day well and have watched their relationship grow stronger over the years. A good Marriage is not always easy, but can truly be a powerful sign of love and hope in our world. Today’s readings would be perfect for any celebration of the commitment and devotion that marriage involves.
Yet the focus on marriage can sometimes unintentionally exclude those who are single because a marriage has broken down or the opportunity to commit to another has never been available to them. How do these texts resonate with them?
The readings focus principally on the example of marriage, but the call to love others is offered to everyone, whether married or not, because we are made in God’s image. Discipleship means showing love to all we encounter.
‘As long as we love one another, God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.’
 
 
 
10th October – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
 
 
 
 
Today’s Gospel raises the question of what it means to be a disciple. Jesus is asked the question:
‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’
The questioner is already living by the commandments and perhaps expects praise from Jesus, but when challenged to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor, he cannot. The man goes away disappointed, and the disciples are surprised – if this good man cannot enter heaven, then who can?
The other readings help us to understand; Wisdom is more precious than gold, the Word of God is alive and active. Faith is not just an intellectual exercise, focusing on fulfilling an obligation to live by the rules of a religion as the rich man might have been doing, but it must also come from the heart.
 
 
17th October – 28th Sunday Ordinary Time
 
It’s easy to become a little complacent about being a Christian today; we live in a society that is, for the most part, at least tolerant of other beliefs. However, today’s readings remind us of Jesus as the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant. While James and John and the other disciples are arguing over their own status within their small group, Jesus reminds them that they too are called to be servants to each other, and later to the community of believers that emerges after the resurrection.
Today many dioceses will be starting the process of consultation for the 2023 Synod of Bishops which will focus on the Synodal Church, may the process challenge us, like the disciples, to be true servants to one another.
 
 
24th October – 30th Sunday Ordinary Time
 
Today’s Gospel tells the story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar sitting by the roadside waiting for alms from travellers heading out of Jericho. Although physically blind, Bartimaeus has the insight to recognise Jesus as the promised Messiah and recognise him with such loud enthusiasm that those nearby try to silence him. Jesus hears and responds to Bartimaeus, his faith having allowed him to see what those with physical sight have not yet understood. The joy of Bartimaeus’ recognition of Jesus echoes the happiness of the people of Israel being called back from exile in the First Reading. After his sight is restored, Bartimaeus continues to follow Jesus along the road, his encounter with Jesus having transformed him completely. The second reading speaks of vocation being initiated by God; Bartimaeus has been called and now rejoices to follow him.
 
September 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – September 2021
by Rev Peter Tibke: Archdiocesan Prison Chaplain Lead , Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham.

5th September – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Be opened”
How do we hear the Word of God? How do we speak the Word of God? How do we pass it on? God’s instructions have lasted for all time except, every so often we chose to ignore, misinterpret or actually sometimes go against it.
So many people that I come across in ministry expect a one-off direct involvement with God; a vision or an action, before they can believe. And often it goes the other way; take a bad situation and God gets blamed. An easy way for people to walk away from faith.
What the reality is, is an ongoing relationship with God sustained by his Word and the Church traditions. This includes Jesus’ teachings of course and then hearing God’s Word on a regular basis. It is about being able to absorb that wonderful loving relationship and then proclaiming it to those we meet and speak to, in our lives.
Please don’t forget also that language can be physical. God’s Word can be proclaimed to others by both Word and Action. None of us are yet Saints but God can still speak through us by our example and actions.

12th September – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospel passage at Caesarea Philippi is another of Peter’s explosions of enthusiasm and joy and commitment to Jesus. And an important one as this is the point where Jesus starts to focus on his ultimate objective of going to Jerusalem and of his arrest and trial, and death but resurrection and ascension. Jesus warns the disciples that he is to suffer grievously and therefore the human thought sets in that this must be wrong. Jesus says it must be done so that the mission is accomplished; that is, the salvation of all human kind if they choose to accept that salvation.
In our modern society many are sustained by money, property, retail and now online therapy and other things that we cannot take with us to heaven. The love of money being the root of all evil is so extended to other things when all that matters, is our salvation, included within our relationship with our loving Father. I was recently told by a colleague in a meeting that he didn’t believe in any of this, of being any faith you might care to mention. He was taken aback when I retorted that God believes in him. The story of our salvation is littered with enthusiasm yet problems. Belief yet doubt. Tragedy, trauma, rejection yet good times. All these things are enveloped by our God who loves us totally.
Perhaps it would be good to mediate that we, and those to whom we come into contact, receive that love unconditionally and perhaps that thought may allow us to be enthusiastic followers of Jesus who can attract people to his Holy Name and presence in this world.

19th September – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel, the disciples are on a bandwagon that is rolling. Popularity, excitement, and position of profile. Almost being famous for being famous. Jesus turns the whole thing on its head by saying he will be put to death at the hands of men yet will rise again, what does that really mean?

The disciples are valuing themselves on that bandwagon, who has the greatest role and who is more valuable, pampering to their egos. Jesus tells them that these things are not important. Welcome the little children he says, and this means that you welcome God. 

In welcoming God though we must be in a relationship with Him. How does that work? The disciples can help because they listen to Jesus and his teaching. We must do the same. They talk to Him and ask questions; we must do the same.  He puts his arms around children and heals the sick and the dying, and people in need. We must do the same.  This means putting others first, rather than massaging our own egos. Often a difficult thing to do but with Jesus’ help, we can do the same!

 

26th September – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

As someone who works in a Multi-Faith environment, this Gospel is very important. The Holy Spirit is gifted to everyone and therefore sometimes good works and thoughts come from other people of faith, and sometimes they don’t.
What this says to us as Christians, and in my case as a Catholic Christian, is that I need to be sure of my rooting in the proper relationship of salvation through Jesus, with the Father.
Then I can accept good works, thoughts, and directions from others because I can accept them as the Spirit of God without giving up my relationship with Jesus.
I have been involved with Ecumenical work for the best part of 50 years now from a time when Catholic input was regarded as a bit suspicious. Now with Churches Together groupings and listening to other Ministers preach I often hear great wisdom and awareness of Christ.
Over the last 7 years since the commencement of my Ministry in Prisons, the concept of Multi-Faith work has come more to the fore, explaining to others some many facets of Christ and the Catholic Church which many find fascinating when others who are baptised walk away from it. A strange situation but maybe it’s about us as Catholics being confident in faith, being able to teach others, taking opportunities to talk about the marvels of God and the wonderment of Jesus’ sacrifice.
For the liturgists we accept that the Mass is the “Source and Summit of our faith”. Of course, we do. However, the relationship with Christ as Mass is not an academic or recreational one, it’s an evangelical one offering all the opportunity to know Jesus wherever a person is on their journey of life.

 

August 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – August 2021
by David McLoughlin, Scripture Champion for Birmingham Archdiocese and Emeritus Fellow in Christian theology at Newman University and one of the speakers at Summer School.

August 1st – 18th Sunday Year B

The beginning of John’s Discourse of the Bread of Life

The crowd follow Jesus around the lake to Capernaum because he had provided an excess of free food. The majority do not see this gift, for the hungry of the Land, as a sign of messianic times. Jesus starts from the reality of widespread hunger, but now opens up the possibility of satisfying different, deeper hungers.

He speaks of a food from God, which he has access to. Hearing of things of God they ask for a sign like the manna that sustained their forebears in the desert. In reply Jesus identifies himself as the “bread of life” which alone can satisfy the deep hungers of human life. (Is 53:1-3, 65:13) Augustine, years later, after telling us of his long journey of desire and loves that led nowhere, recognises the moment when he realised “Our hearts are restless till they rest in you alone.” (Confessions 1.1.1.) The early followers of Jesus have not quite got there yet. Have we?

Aug 8th – 19th Sunday Year B.

Jesus claim to be bread from heaven provokes consternation among his listeners. He takes a commonplace of Palestinian life, a Father providing bread for his family, which includes the work of growing the seed, grinding it, baking it, and finally sharing it: ”Fruit of the earth and work of human hands”.

The parents providing bread provide shelter, clothing and sustenance. They are “bread of life” for their children not just because they gave them life but because, in a way, they are continually “eaten’” by them.

Giving this bread, fruit of their work, they too can say:”This is my flesh given for you my children and for all who share our table and participate in our life together”.

So Jesus takes an already profound reality and relocates it in the very sharing of his life with the Father and all who will come to know the Father through him.

August 15th – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary is celebrated as having fully participated in the life of her risen Son. Her life is a promise of fulfilment to all. The definition of the Assumption of Mary in 1950, the fruit of a global consultation of the Church, was a real act of collegiality and of shared hope after the evils of war.

Mary’s song anticipates beautifully the threefold restoration of all in her Son.

  • human self-sufficiency and manipulation of religion by the religious elites blown away
  • unjust distinctions of class, power and race are turned over
  • the fixed structures of wealth are broken open providing a shared space for all God’s children.

In the Apocalypse Mary becomes a symbol of the Church lit up with the light of the
heavens, the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth. Our weekly Eucharist remains the promise and invitation to help realise this promised, glorious end of our material world.

August 22nd – 21st Sunday Year B

From the start the Eucharist provoked multiple reactions!

Being fed was one thing, recognising a possible messiah king another, but the voice of the Father God was something else. John sees the problem as one of “sight”. They cannot see what is “really real” which is how he sees the Spirit. Jesus had shared this with the Samaritan women when he spoke to her of the day when men and women would worship in “Spirit and in Truth.” In coming to Jesus, the Word made flesh, we come, via his words and actions, to the Spirit source which alone gives and sustains life. She was the first to understand.

Peter’s words of so long ago become our words today: ”You have the words of eternal life.” We know Jesus as spirit and truth, whose life and words, shared in the Eucharist, lead us into eternal life i.e. “really real” life!

August 29th – 22nd Sunday Year B

Jesus sees his life and teaching as fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. He remains free of the later traditions insisted on by the Pharisees.

We know he had, and ate with, Pharisee friends, but he doesn’t share their fears that the covenant is being undermined by foreign influences. For Jesus their emphasis on ritual minutiae, can too easily undermine solidarity and social justice among God’s people.

The Covenant Law was a sign of the liberty and dignity of a freed people. Jesus thought these demands were being turned into a new shackle for all but the few. He feared that lives lived in generous free response to a gracious merciful God could be reduced to obedience, to the following of rubrics and the amassing of good works to save themselves. What was at stake was the true image of the merciful God and the free graced lives of all the children of God.

 

July 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – July 2021
by Kathryn Turner, a member of the Bishops’ Conference Spirituality Committee, freelance writer and workshop leader, creator of www.wellsprings.org.uk

4 July – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We have all had one of those “Who do you think you are?” moments – and today, Jesus faces one too. He has travelled around Galilee teaching, preaching and healing and been welcomed and recognised as someone worth listening to for miles around. He then goes home – tries to offer the same and, immediately, comes the question:

“Where did this man get all this?”

Closely followed by citing the kind of job he does and who his relations are and probably more that is not recorded.

Family, neighbours and friends-from-childhood know us so well and their insights about us can be valuable. But sometimes, those insights can become blinkers. Like Jesus, we may be left feeling consternation when we cannot share parts of ourselves with those closest to us.  But, like Jesus, it does not mean that we should not try – though, perhaps, a little more tactfully than Jesus does.

11 July – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus takes to the road again but now, begins to initiate the Twelve into the ministry of preaching. Perhaps he knows them well enough to know their tendency to prevaricate – to make sure they have all the bits they might need before setting off. Perhaps this lies behind the injunction to

“Take nothing for the journey…”

On longer-term missions, they will clearly need food, money and a change of clothes. Jesus is aware, though, that most of us will put all kinds of little obstacles in the way of taking the message of his love out to the world. They will not be unreasonable – the equivalent of a disciple saying “But it’s only a bit of bread, Jesus!” But Jesus knows that our trying to ensure that we have the things we think we will need can get in the way of realising that, actually, we have all we need – and tongues in our heads to ask for the extras along the way.

18 July – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The disciples have gone out and preached and taught and have come back somewhat pleased with themselves – probably on a bit of “high”. We can almost imagine Jesus gazing at them and spotting the signs of tiredness or, even, what we might today call “burnout”. It is in this spirit that he advises:

“You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while.”

It may seem strange after over a year of lockdowns, furloughs and limited travel to think that Jesus might be looking at us in the same way. Certainly, he would be looking at front-line staff and those who have borne the brunt of the demands of the past 18months in this way. And even if we are not among those, Jesus may be discerning that exhaustion in us – calling us to rest, so that we can better take up the role of sharing his love in a weary world.

 

July 25th – 17th  Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Year of Mark, we have an “interlude” from John 6 over the next few weeks. Jesus is going to perform a miracle that will lead to important teaching on the Bread of Life. The account opens by laying out the scale of the problem – a crowd of around 5000 hungry people in need of feeding. Jesus turns to Philip and the other disciples to see how they respond to the situation. Understandably, they see the problem… but it takes a child to come up with a solution.

“… a small boy (is) here with five barley loves and two fish”.

We can imagine the smirks or indulgent smiles or sheer exasperation at the child’s thinking that this is worth even considering.  But how does Jesus look at the child as he takes the offering from him– and prepares to show what God can do with the little that a human can offer?

June 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – June 2021
by Gerard Shepherd, a respected long time SSG member, and retired RE teacher who still serves as catechist at Sacred Heart RC Church, North Gosforth. A member of the parish liturgy group, he is also involved with the parish youth ministry.

6th June 2021 Corpus Christi
 
In the first reading today Moses seals the covenant by sprinkling the blood of a bull on the altar and on the people. Blood is a symbol of life. The sprinkling of the blood brings new life. On this great day we give thanks for the life we receive in the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Eucharist Christ becomes part of us and we become part of Christ. Thomas Aquinas said, “Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods.” (“On the Feast of Corpus Christi.” – the second reading from the Office of Readings.) But this incredible gift cannot just be for our own benefit. The new life of the Eucharist sets us free to give life to others. Sealed by Christ’s blood, fed by his body, we are set free to build his kingdom. God makes himself present to us and we make God present to others.
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(?? 115:17-18)
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13th June 2021 11th Sunday Ordinary Time 
 
In his “Four Quartets” T S Eliot reflects on the inadequacy of words.
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As words fail we need images and metaphors to help us. Thus the great cedars of Lebanon in today’s first reading gave a sense of hope to the exiles in Babylon, a sense of how vast God’s kingdom will become. In that kingdom all can find refuge. In today’s gospel we hear of the seed growing secretly and of the mustard seed becoming the biggest shrub of all. These parables speak of God’s kingdom spreading out and offering shelter to all. During the pandemic God’s kingdom may seem to have been buried under the burden of suffering. However, the goodness of individuals and of groups bringing support to those in need does indeed show that God’s kingdom has brought shelter to all. May we stand tall like the cedars of Lebanon and become beacons of hope.
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?????.​(?? 91:14-15)
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20th June – 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
 
“Then from the heart of the tempest the Lord gave Job his answer.” (Job 38:1) Just like Job in today’s first reading we have been crying out for the Lord in the heart of the pandemic. Tossed in the storm, many have been tempted to despair. Many may have feared that our God was sleeping as the waves threatened to sink our boat. In today’s gospel, as we hear about the calming of the storm, Christ seems surprised, disappointed or even shocked at the lack of faith of the apostles. The apostles are also shocked. “Who can this be?” (Mark 4:41) They were calmed for the moment but would go on to endure more uncertainties and fears, to feel all at sea and powerless to withstand threats. “What kept them going is what keeps us going: a strenuous belief that Jesus is Lord of all chaos, a stubborn faith which tells us that there is no storm that will not be stilled at last by the peace of his presence. In the meantime, we struggle on and hold on to our hats.” (Denis McBride C.Ss.R.Seasons of the Word, p271)
Then they cried to the Lord in their need
​and he rescued them from their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper:
​all the waves of the sea were hushed.​(Ps 106:28-29). Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.
 
27th Junes – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
 
Today’s story of Jairus’s daughter speaks to us of faith. I often wonder how anxious Jairus must have been as Jesus paused to speak to the woman who touched his clothes. The woman is rewarded for her faith but the time spent with her delays Jesus. I also wonder how parents who have lost a child react to the words, “Your daughter is dead”. But the child is only asleep. To Jesus all those we have lost are asleep in death. The story of Jairus’s daughter is a story for today, a story for us. We have lost so many people during the pandemic whether to Covid 19 or to other causes – and the deaths continue. But this story nourishes our faith in Jesus. It enlivens our hope in his power over death. Like the woman with the haemorrhage, we need to reach and touch the presence of our God. And when our loss is deeply felt, we too need to hear the words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid; only have faith.”
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May 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – May 2021
by + Peter Brignall, Bishop of Wrexham and a long-standing Patron of the Society of Saint Gregory. He is Chair of The God Who Speaks initiative, a collaboration with The Bible Society and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in England and Wales, to foster a deeper Catholic engagement with the Scriptures.

2nd May 2021 5th Sunday Eastertide

‘I am the true vine’ is the last of Jesus’ sayings ‘I am the … ’ which affirm Jesus is for those who accept him what the Lord God (‘I am who I am’) was for the people of the Exodus (3:14). This sentence begins a monologue on the believer’s relation to Christ. A relationship that is an abiding-in; fruit-bearing; and is love.
Not only is the true vine the Lord God in the midst of his people; Jesus identifies himself by allegory as the total fulfilment of Israel, the vine of the Lord God about which the Psalmist is prophetic. (Ps.80:9-20). Jesus now described as the true vine is fulfilling God’s and his purpose of bearing fruit which Israel failed to do.
Looking at a vine it is nigh on impossible to see what is stem or trunk and what is branch. The disciples of the true vine are the branches that bear fruit and are part of that inextricable relationship with Jesus as he is in that two-way relationship with the Father, ‘Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?’ (Jn.14:10)
 
9th May 2021 6th Sunday Eastertide 
 
In the Readings, ‘love’, ‘loves’ or ‘loved’ is heard eighteen times and even once in the prayer of the Psalm. For John, Jesus speaks of keeping one commandment, that of living in mutual love. Communion and gift. The love epitomised in and limited only by death; as we pray in the fourth Eucharistic Prayer, ‘… when the hour had come for him to be glorified by you, Father most holy, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end: …’ What in the OT is revealed through a series of divinely inspired events is expressed by John the Evangelist in the unique fact that love -God and Man- has come to live among us. Love is communion into which we are drawn, and is lived-out in the service which immediately precedes the farewell discourse; Jesus having washed his disciples feet, instructs them, ‘ … I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.’ … ‘ … and he who receives me receives him who sent me.’ (Jn.13:15,20) Gift and communion.
 
16th May 2021 7th Sunday Eastertide 
 
Prayer in its different facets figures greatly in the Liturgy of the Word to-day. The prayer of the apostles and the congregation seeking guidance and inspiration in the choosing of Judas’ replacement as one of the Twelve. The prayer of the Psalm is from a personal prayer of thanksgiving for recovery from sickness. The prayer in the Gospel is the central part of Jesus’ personal prayer coming as it does from the ‘highly priestly prayer’ prayed before his departure for the garden where he was to be betrayed by Judas. Jesus’ prayer is that his disciples have joy, and success in their mission of representing Him to the world.
Our prayer inspired by the Spirit living in us motivates us to make good and right judgements; gives praise and thanks for the healing we have received in forgiveness given; and to know the fullness of joy of missionary disciples, even when we find ourselves rejected by the world. Such prayer is truly raising the heart and mind to God in a personal and living relationship.
 
23rd May 2021 Pentecost
 
Jesus prepares his disciples for when he will no longer be physically present with them, but they will never be alone, as he was never alone although he came from the Father for he will have the Father send to them the ‘Advocate’, the ‘Paraclete’. Paraclete might be translated from the Greek to mean, helper, counsellor, comforter, or best of all, ‘the one who is alongside’. Jesus promises his disciples there will be one who when he is no longer physically present with them, will be with them to bear witness to their word, as the Father was with him in his ministry bearing witness to his word. The Disciples will be accompanied by the Paraclete as will all who are given the one Spirit to drink in baptism.
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30th May 2021 Holy Trinity Sunday
 
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… in the name of the Father, Creator of heaven and earth; to whom our prayer is to be made.
… in the name of the Son, through whom all things were made, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, crucified, died, buried, descended into hell; rose from the dead, ascended into heaven where he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead; who is Emmanuel – God with us.
… in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified; who is to be relied upon to inspire and speak through our frailty at all times especially when weak or troubled.
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April 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – April 2021
by Canon John Kelly, Parish Priest of St. Helen’s Parish, Caerphilly, and Chair of the Liturgy Commission, Archdiocese of Cardiff

4th April 2021 Easter Sunday 

“??? ???? ???? ????? ????? ??? ?????? ??????????”.
Peter’s confidence rings true to us after the immersion of Holy Week and the triduum. We feel confident to witness that we have walked with him through his ministry, and his passion and death, and almost that we too have eaten and drunk with him in the (socially-distanced) Vigil and Mass. But the roller-coaster is not over. Running home with Mary of Magdala we feel the loss and confusion of the empty tomb; running after Peter and John we too can suddenly see, and we believe. So once again we pass over into the Paschal Mystery and are renewed. Now our focus changes from looking back to something that happened, and we witnessed, to moving forward into a new perspective and a renewed hope. All the puff, and all the old yeast, have been knocked out of us.
Jesus has gone ahead, how shall we follow?
 
11th April 2021 2nd Sunday Eastertide 
‘Doubting’ Thomas – can he ever escape that caricature? – catches all the attention this, as every 2nd Easter Sunday, and steals the power of Jesus’ return. The story can distract us from the gift of the Spirit and the co-mission to continue Christ’s work of forgiveness. After a lent with the Covenants, God’s repeated repair work after each repeated failure of his People to match his generous offers, ending with the new and eternal Covenant in Christ, the disciples are called to continue Christ’s work of forgiving, retaining, and passing on his Easter gift of peace. But after generations, millennia, of failure, of broken peace, of failed common life, of clerical disgrace, and now the lockdown of community, doubting is tempting.
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Can the response to the coronavirus, medical and social, state and individual, and the vaccines, once again banish doubt and call us to believe and witness, forgive and reconcile, rebuild community?
 
18th April 2021 3rd Sunday Eastertide 
‘??? ??? ????????? ?? ????.’
Here he is again, (though this may be the same Easter evening incident John was reporting last weekend) once again greeting them with Easter peace. Jesus keeps turning up in his old haunts, and ‘their joy was so great they could not believe it’, which puts them on a par with Thomas last week, though here they don’t seem to take on the invitation to touch the wounds. Instead he asks for food and eats, as physical proof, and once again opens the scriptures to them, as he did for the despondent disciples at Emmaus. Peter’s preaching repeats this good Jewish approach, using the scriptures to make sense of what is going on now, and to tell his hearers what they need to do. John also reminds us that knowing the risen Christ, and the freedom from sin won for us by his death and resurrection, must change us.
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25th April 2021 5th Sunday Eastertide 
 
‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ calls us to pray for vocations to Priesthood and the Religious Life. But living in towns and cities our picture of the first may be rather romantic – white woolly sheep and idealised shepherds (and shepherdesses?) peacefully playing their pan-pipes; and the second based on the rigors and ideals of the Country Priest and the great landed monasteries. Far from their modern-day incarnations, on quad-bikes in the fields, or struggling to keep the flock together on the phone or on-line. The pastoral has changed. But the purpose is still that gathering in and care for each one, to make sure each can stand on their own two (or four) feet. Peter insists that his act of kindness to a cripple was in fact done by Jesus, working ‘remotely’ when the disciples invoked his name. Basking in the Father’s love, brought to us in the mystery of Jesus, we still look forward to seeing him ‘face to face’: zoom doesn’t hack it.
March 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – March 2021
by Msg Kevin McGinnell, SSG Chair

7th March 2021 3rd Sunday Lent Year B

The Lenten journey is to the holy mountain of Easter. God on Mount Sinai gave the Hebrew people the Law which defined them as his people, and it holds true too for us if we want to be his people and He our God. In today’s world living like that can be seen to be madness, even foolishness, says Paul. For us, however, it is possible because we recognise Christ as the power and wisdom of God. Jesus, in his turn, purifies the Jerusalem temple, restoring it to its true identity. That is what is our purpose in Lent, refreshing our identity as baptised members of Christ, who himself is the Temple of God. It’s something of a challenge because as John says Jesus “could tell what a man had in him.” So we can’t hide from him this Lent.
14th March 2021 4th Sunday Lent Year B
The Lenten journey continues for us to the holy mountain of East. On the way we are challenged by the gospel to be people who prefer the light and live by the truth. God has made us so that we can become his work of art, called to live the good life in Christ Jesus. It is not as impossible as it may seem because God has loved us with so much love, been so generous with his mercy. We only have to believe in the Son of Man lifted up on the cross and we may have eternal life in him. Lent asks us to take the time to reflect on this more deeply than usual so that when we contemplate the cross on Good Friday our hearts are moved with gratitude and hope.
21st March 2021 5th Sunday Lent Year B
As the Lenten journey continues for us to Easter we can usefully take up the question of the Greeks to Philip who ask –
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Lent gives us the opportunity to sharpen our focus on who Jesus is for each of us and for our community of faith. The gospel does not tell us any more about the Greeks but rather give us Jesus’ words about the wheat grain that falls to the ground and dies, the only way it will bear fruit. If we are to sharpen our focus on the Lord then we need to put aside all those things which come in the way, that blur our vision. Christ offers himself as the pattern for us, for he “learnt to obey through suffering”. It is not too much of a challenge because God plants his Law, writing it in our hearts, for he is our God and we his people. We indeed need to pray that our Lenten observance will allow God to create a pure heart within us.
28th March 2021 Passion Sunday of the Palms
 
The joy of the Palm Sunday procession is in sharp contrast with the pain of the Passion story that is the gospel of the mass.
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Instead of spreading their cloaks on the ground in welcome, they cast lots to share out his clothing. Everything is turned upside down so quickly. It happens in relationships, in politics, in countries taken over by evil forces. Yet even the pagan centurion can say at Christ’s death, “In truth this man was a son of God”.
As we begin Holy Week we need to ask if we have everything in order in our lives to complete our ascent to the holy mountain of Easter. It’s only six days away.
February 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – February 2021
by Canon Pat Harnett, SSG Trustee

7th February 2021 5th Sunday Ordinary Time

Today we may have some sympathy to Job’s feelings in the first reading. He sounds tired and depressed. Many in our society can identify those emotions as we continue to struggle with COVID. There is no prediction of hope in Job’s life. Like the character in Dads Army ‘we’re doomed’.
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There is a message of hope and light from the Gospel. Simon’s mother in law is sick and Jesus restores her to full health and we are told she waits on them. Jesus brings life and healing to empower us to serve one another. Mark tells us that he got up early in the morning to go off to a lonely place to pray. As a Christian community we must find the time to pray and be instruments of hope.
14th February 2021 6th Sunday Ordinary Time
There were strict rules and regulations about leprosy or any swellings and scabs. Instructions were given if you found yourself suffering from any symptoms. Jesus encountered a leper in today’s Gospel:
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He showed great faith and knew he was taking a risk. Jesus showed many times his care for the sick, the outcasts of society. He restores him to full health with the orders to the priest to not tell anyone about it. But he does spread the news of his healing to everyone. It is interesting that the one who heals and restores to the community becomes the one who is confined outside the community. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist before receiving Holy Communion we say: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’
21st February 2021 1st Sunday Lent Year B
We have started our season of Lent. A time of renewal, a time to reflect on our relationship with God and turn our hearts to the God who loves us and calls us. Like Jesus we are called into the wilderness, desert to encounter God. That Spirit that descended on Jesus now drives him into the wilderness in order to reflect on his mission. After his time he comes into Galilee to proclaim:
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We all need reminders of our calling and set aside some time to reflect on our own faith journey. The rainbow mentioned in the first reading is a great sign of hope. May we discover the signs of hope around us.
28th February 2021 2nd Sunday Lent Year B
The psalm for today reminds us of the power of God’s Word:
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‘??r ???? ?? ??????? ??? ??? ????.’
Peter, James and John were chosen by Jesus to an amazing encounter. They were led up a mountain where Jesus was transfigured. Appearing also were Moses and Elijah. It is revealed to those disciples that Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets and so:
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They were afraid and wondered what was happening. The voice of the Father is heard:
‘???? ?? ?? ???, ??? ???????. ?????? ?? ???.’
Every time we come to celebrate the Eucharist we too are called by name to encounter Jesus as listen to him.
January 2021 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – January 2021
by Ann Blackett, former teacher of liturgy and sacraments to Franciscans in Canterbury and Benedictine oblate. Former SSG Committee Member.

3rd January 2021 3rd Sunday of Christmas
Over the weeks of Advent and Christmas we’ve heard again the wonderful narratives of the events surrounding the Nativity, and the prophecies pointing towards the events as told in the Gospels. It’s a sequence of texts which is comforting in its familiarity, but also disturbing with the very real dangers of the time, which still have resonances in situations we see in our world today. A long journey at the behest of the government, and giving birth, and having to leave the country in a hurry, a visit from poetic shepherds – all these are earthy, human things. Even the gifts of the wise men were things of earth: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
And so are we, albeit made from the same materials as the stars. We stand with our feet on the ground, and yet we’re called to walk alongside our God. Today the readings speak of God among his people: God’s wisdom, God’s power, God’s love, God’s son.
As I was preparing the parish Advent liturgy – something simple and online to stand in the place of our usual huge Advent carol service, with O-antiphons and the whole season in an evening – I put the reading from John 1 – ‘In the beginning was the Word…’ – into its traditional place at the end of the liturgy. Then I read it aloud, for inspiration, drew a line through the work I’d done, and started again, separating the reading into sections and using them to illuminate each stage of an Advent liturgy reworked for 2020. In the Lectionary, this reading is set for the Christmas season, appearing three times, yet in eighteen verses it holds the whole of Advent, the whole coming of the Lord, our invitation to accept him and become children of God ourselves.
From being listeners and people watching around the crib, we are called into the story and into the life of God. The language of all the readings today asks us to stay alert, to know who we are and who it is that calls us, and to become fully ourselves, as human beings within our own time and also in God’s time. We weren’t there two thousand years ago, in Bethlehem, watching as a couple knocked on doors and failed to find a room at the inn, but as children of God we walk in the way of the Lord, hearing the story of his life, his Good News, and his glory is there for us to glimpse, if we train our eyes to see it.
6th January 2021 Feast of Epiphany, House Blessing
During the first lockdown – how long ago that seems now – an upsurge in paint sales was reported. Pictures of freshly-decorated rooms and whole houses appeared on social media as people took advantage of unexpected time to freshen up their homes and finish long-abandoned projects. It felt like an opportunity to catch up on housekeeping, try something new, read better books and get fit – to improve ourselves and our surroundings.
As things have turned out, we’ve spent much more time in our homes than we could have imagined. For some it’s been a relief and a refuge, for others confinement and frustration. We’ve lived closer together than usual, or more alone. The places where we live have become classrooms, workplaces, sickrooms, domestic churches, places of isolation and/or intense family life and spaces to wash and eat and sleep between work shifts. We’ve had plenty of time to think about what it means to live together (or alone), to have a roof over our heads in a world where so many are homeless or refugees, and to look again at the world outside our doors as we shop, take exercise or dream of the travelling we’ve done and where we hope to go again.
All this brings us to the tradition – widespread in Europe and beginning to take root here – of blessing our houses on the feast of Epiphany. The family gather, perhaps sing a verse of a carol such as ‘ We Three Kings’, and someone who is safe on a ladder writes ’20 + C + M + B + 21’ in chalk over the lintel of one of the doors into the house. The letters stand for the initials of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the traditional names of the Wise Men, or Christus mansionem benedicat; may Christ bless this house. A prayer and a blessing follow, and an optional part of this domestic liturgy might be fizzy wine, or cake, or both – adapt and develop as you wish. And if you don’t have a proper lintel, improvise!
O God, you guard our coming in and our going out,
bless our home as we begin this new year.
We bring to you the state of our world,
where the news is discouraging
and our fragility and interdependence have been brought home to us.
We pray for all those who live in this house (name them!),
and our neighbours and friends:
may we live in peace and safety with one another.
We pray for those who have no home, who live on the streets or in refugee camps or on the road: inspire us to help to build your kingdom of justice and compassion for all.
We pray for families where there is a space at home, who are suffering because someone they love has died:
bring them comfort and give eternal rest to those whose journey has ended.
We ask you to be with us this coming year,
that you will give us hope and courage to make our home a place where all are welcome again,
where we live in love and trust and peace with one another,
and that you will bring us back safely from wherever we may travel.
We ask this though your Son, who was born into a human family and lived among us, teaching us the ways of love and welcome, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
10th January 2021 Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
In the news there are calls for public worship in churches to be paused as another way of trying to bring down the numbers of Covid infections. No-one would do this with an easy heart; gathering together for worship is one of the things which makes us the people we are. We balance up our need for worship – and our call to worship – with our loving relationship with not just our church community but the wider world as well.
Nathan Mitchell, the American liturgical theological and author, compared the Christmas journey to the journey of our lives: ‘We are urged to move quickly beyond the intimate scene of Jesus’ birth towards the more challenging vision of his baptism. In short, we are asked to move in the direction of life itself: from concern for intimacy to concern for community.’
Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, which marks the end of the Christmas season but also leads into something else. This is where the hidden life of Jesus ends, as he is baptised by his cousin John. John has known him since before they both were born and speaks of him to the crowds. John recognises Jesus when he comes, not as a family member but as someone more powerful, with work to do which will take him into the intimate situations of other families and into demanding and sometimes hostile crowds. Jesus’ baptism marks the beginning of his public ministry, during which he heals, teaches, speaks to people as he travels – and withdraws for prayer.
As followers of Jesus, as baptised members of his Body, we too have our different calls. Worshipping together on Sundays is foundational to us, as individuals and as church. It’s because of this – because we are formed by baptism and by the word and sacrament we celebrate – that we can have this conflict between keeping church worship going and keeping one another safe. It’s because we are formed into community that we can lay down our common worship for a while – as we did last spring – and adapt ourselves to worshipping differently, praying alone but joined to the family of the church and the whole company of saints by our prayer. I frequently quote Kevin Donovan SJ, who was one of the many folk who taught me liturgy: ‘The acid test of liturgy is what happens afterwards.’ I don’t think this situation is quite what he had in mind, but to me it seems that we may be entering another period of ‘afterwards’ – after another last liturgy before lockdown, either voluntary or enforced. As baptised people, as a community, as the Body of Christ in the world, how should we be reacting? With entitlement, or with steadfast hope for the future and care for our neighbours?
God is with us in the hard times of our lives, and this is surely one. This inscription, on the rim of the newish font in Salisbury Cathedral is a reminder of that. We don’t need to be in church, but we do need to be the church.
17th Sunday 2021 2nd Sundayr Ordinary Time 
What is it we’re looking for? What is that insistent call that tugs at our hearts? Will we know when we find it? Or will we keep looking for a better offer?
Eli knows. Living for so long in God’s presence, he doesn’t even have to hear for himself to know that this is God’s voice in the midst of the night. He remembers Samuel’s mother Hannah in her despair, and then her joy in the son promised to her by the Lord. He knows Samuel. He knows how God works. He tells Samuel to go back, giving him the words to say if the call should come again: ’Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’. It’s not enough just to run and answer when called; you have to be ready to listen.
This is also what Andrew finds. He’s one of John’s followers, but why, when John is not the Messiah? To be around John is to be in a place where things happen; where you might hear something. And so it happens. John sets out who it is they seek, and one day points out Jesus, a man passing by, calling him ‘The Lamb of God’, a title we don’t hear again in any of the Gospels. Andrew steps away from John, and he and another disciple approach Jesus, calling him Rabbi, ‘Teacher’. Is this the Messiah, or another signpost?
They’re not content to wait for the Messiah; they’re actively looking, already listening for something, someone. Once they meet Jesus, taking time to listen to him, they think they have found him. And Andrew acts immediately, not keeping his new experience to himself and reflecting on it, but going straight to fetch his brother Simon. This is him, this is the one we have been waiting for. Life with Jesus might not have turned out as they expected, but they only stepped back the once, and even then they came back.
So often Jesus asks questions: What do you seek? What do you want me to do for you? Sometimes people know what they want but, at other times they are more curious. John’s disciples ask Jesus where he is staying, but he doesn’t tell them, responding instead with an invitation: come and see. It’s an invitation to grow, and to discover not just where Jesus is staying but what will happen next. And to go on discovering. At the beginning of such an uncertain year, we can’t do better than respond to that invitation ourselves, to walk with Jesus the Christ, listening to the Word, following in his way and trusting in the love of God.
24th January 2021 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time
When Pope Francis designated the third Sunday of Ordinary Time as an annual celebration of the Word of God, he can hardly have envisaged that only a couple of years later we would be watching Mass either by appointment in socially-distanced churches, or on screens in our own houses, away from the communities with whom we share the life of Christ. To be unable to receive Communion is a hardship – and perhaps we need to remember that there are many Catholics throughout the world who are unable to celebrate Mass together even in ‘normal’ times – but we’re not completely cut off from the presence of Christ, because he is with us when we gather for prayer together, even in small family groups, and with us when his word is proclaimed. We can choose to be distracted or troubled by what we’re not able to do, or we can turn our hearts to the Word of God in peace, and in solidarity with everyone for whom Mass is difficult or even out of the question.
With that in mind, let’s look at the readings set for today. Jonah, walking across the great city Nineveh preaching destruction; Paul telling the people of Corinth that the world as they know it is passing away; Jesus, preaching the coming of the Kingdom and calling people from their livings to a life of uncertainty. We hear these texts every three years but today they may well strike us with new intensity. They provoke our prayer and cause us to reflect: what if the world as we know it really is passing away? What then?
We need the gentleness of the psalm: Lord, make me know your ways… in your love remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord. And we can also be more gentle with ourselves: not every part of the readings is a direct warning into the particular situations of our personal life in the immediate moment. To give the Word of God a central part in our lives takes a bit of discipline, in the sense of making regular time to read and hear, study and reflect and pray, and the willingness to let it work in our lives in ways we don’t always notice at the time. Doing this with others, when we can, helps to open us to how the Word of God touches people in different ways; it’s one of the things we can do with Christians of different traditions as well as our own communities in this week of prayer for Christian Unity.
In his Apostolic Letter ‘Aperuit Illis’ instituting the Sunday of the Word of God, Pope Francis writes: ‘Regular reading of sacred Scripture and the celebration of the Eucharist make it possible for us to see ourselves as part of one another. As Christians, we are a single people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak to us and to break bread in the midst of the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are with so many forms of blindness.’ (AI, n8)
The kingdom of God is close at hand; believe the Good News!
31st January 2021 4th Sunday Ordinary Time
Listening
From ‘The Sayings of the Desert Fathers’, by Benedicta Ward:
“A monk once came to Basil and said, ‘Speak a word, Father,’ and Basil replied, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart’; and the monk went away at once. Twenty years later he came back and said, ‘Father, I have struggled to keep your word; now speak another word to me’; and Basil said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ and the monk returned in obedience to his cell to keep that also.”
In lockdown, which might feel like twenty years in a monastic cell (but isn’t, unless we’re really working at it) we might also need a word from time to time. The word from today’s readings might be ‘Listen’.
The disciples have begun their journey with Jesus. They don’t know it yet, but they will behold his glory, and come to understand what he is saying. For the moment they are with him and witnesses to his authority, expressed in his teaching and his power over the unclean spirit. They, and the people, are at the beginning of listening, but already they are seeing. (Both Gospel Acclamations can be read as observations on what is happening.) As we read and listen to the Sunday Gospels we hear Jesus speaking, and it is our call to listen to both the reading and what Jesus says, to recognise him, break down the hardness of our hearts and follow him more closely.
If we are people who regularly proclaim the Scriptures in the liturgy, we spend time preparing the text, praying with it, reading and understanding as far as we’re able so that we can invite people to listen and read with clarity. But we also need to prepare ourselves to listen: to put down our distractions and place ourselves, our eyes and ears and hearts and hands, into the presence of God; using the Opening Prayer to turn ourselves towards the Word, paying attention as the scriptures are proclaimed; using the silence before and after to hold the words we hear and let them find a home in us. We listen, as the Rule of St Benedict says, with the ear of our hearts, and allow the Word to work in us.
December 2020 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – December 2020
by Peter Tibke, Adviser on Prison Ministry and Chaplaincy to RC Archbishop of Birmingham and former SSG Trustee

6th December 2020 2nd Sunday Advent Year B
Today we remind ourselves of a few things.
Firstly, the link with Isaiah, which allows us to remember that God has pointed the way over many generations, and that He was going to have further involvement in the World He had made.
Secondly, we are reminded to reflect on a new way of leadership. John the Baptist comes from the wilderness. He does not preach making everything great or a golden future of plenty of money, but of Baptism, Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins.
Thirdly, we look at the character of John. It’s not for him finery and posh clothes, but camel-skin, locusts and wild honey.
Why? So we can look up to Jesus who will give you the fire of the Holy Spirit, direct and guide you throughout life.
We should therefore focus on the person of Jesus, God Incarnate and what he as God knows to be right for this world and what our individual and collective role should be.
13th December 2020 3rd Sunday Advent Year B
Once again we focus on John the Baptist but in John`s Gospel he is outlining his role in God`s plan for our salvation.
He uses words like “witness”, and a “voice”. He allows people to see that he has a role but not the role that they might be expecting. He is not the Messiah nor Elijah or the Prophet. He is a conduit that will ultimately allow God to be seen in that community and in that time.
When we are mixing in community or even in Church settings what are we? Full of our own importance and needs are or are we people who through us allow the Messiah to be recognised? It’s a difficult balancing act because we need to use the influences for good that have been given but also we need to allow the awareness of God`s mercy and action to be evident.
20th December 2020 4th Sunday Advent Year B
Sometimes we don’t recognise the role that Mary plays in God’s plan for our salvation; we over emphasise that we almost raise Mary to a God-like status. She is human, but ever so special. She accepted God’s request that she would be the physical mother of God incarnate and all that the role would include. It is her acceptance in today’s Gospel that is so powerful. ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord’, she says.
Do we accept what God wants us to be? Or the reality of a relationship with him? Or do we spend time moaning about our lot in life? In these last days of Advent let us look to be more accepting of our relationship with God and the ultimate joy that it will bring. Look at Elizabeth –nothing is impossible for God and He wants us to be in a relationship with HIM.
27th December 2020 Feast of the Holy Family 
Today’s feast gives us thoughts of our journey in faith and that faith coming to completeness in our relationship with God the Father.
Abram, becoming Abraham, is nearing the end of his journey of faith and his reward will be a son and subsequent descendants. Simeon and Anna are at the end of their journey. Their relationship with God is solid and Simeon, having seen the Messiah, knows that the journey is complete and that God has done what he said he was going to do.
But Mary and Joseph are mystified. Their little child, born in a unique way provokes these strange reactions. They did not yet see the implications of God’s involvement in the world.
For us, we need to walk the journey of faith, develop our relationship with God the Father and remind ourselves of the focus, a place in God’s eternal kingdom and what all that means. The challenges of this life need to be faced against the backdrop that our place is with God.
November 2020 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – November 2020
by Paul Moynihan, MC to Cardinal Vincent at Westminster Cathedral, for The Solemnity of All Saints.

1st November 2020 Solemnity of All Saints

If it were not for the fact that the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (2 February) fell on a Sunday this year, displacing the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we would have already heard once the Gospel of the Beatitudes as recorded by Saint Matthew. But here it is now, on the Solemnity of All Saints, displacing the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time. And a good job too, because this is one of those passages which we need to hear, to understand and to act upon. For this text gives us a blueprint for being faithful disciples, for fulfilling our baptismal calling and for what we profess to be as Christians, for being saints to and in the world around us. The Beatitudes are a call to holiness, a reminder if you like of what holiness looks like. And as with much of Matthew’s Gospel, it’s more about actions than words, actions that can be practiced by anybody, cleric or lay, Catholic or not, even Christian or non-Christian. We are all called to holiness; we are all called to be saints.

 

8th November 2020 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Remembrance Sunday)

The main point in this Sunday’s Gospel of the wise and foolish virgins is the need to be prepared, and in this case for the coming of the bridegroom. This notion of preparedness is of special significance, because it looks forward to two weeks’ time when we shall celebrate the coming of the true bridegroom – Jesus Christ the King. The virgins in the Gospel waited with joy but the waiting became tedious and they began to sleep. How often have we done the same? Who among us has not found that preparing to meet Jesus in the eucharist, in daily prayer, in self-sacrifice, requires a level of perseverance that we fall short of, and like the virgins, nod off and fall asleep. But Christ calls: ‘Stay awake,’ so we can meet him whenever and however he comes: in the eucharist, in prayer, in sorrow and in joy, and, finally, at the hour of our death.

15th November 2020 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time

The parable of the talents is familiar to us. But what we might not have appreciated is that the talent in Jesus’ day was a large sum of money – think mortgage rather than petty cash. These servants were being asked to invest more money than they would normally see in a lifetime, so we might sympathise about their fear of losing it. But the point being made is that failure to invest is worse than making the investment. If we are trying to use the gifts we have been given, God is not disappointed with failure, as long as we don’t give up. Failure is learning. On the other hand, God is disappointed with giving up, or not trying to use our gifts. Failure is forgivable, but the refusal to use the gift is a refusal of the gift – and a rejection of God, the one who gives the gift in the first place.

22nd November 2020 Solemnity of Christ the King Year A

We have reached the last Sunday of the liturgical year and the end of our journey through Matthew’s Gospel – with a passage about final judgement. We have been through parables about the kingdom and all the conflicts Jesus had with the Jewish authorities. We began with baptismal waters and we end with judgement and eternal glory. Christ exercises his kingship in his right to judge and the basis of his judgement is whether we cared for the least. Christ is not a vindictive judge; we are only judged on our own choices and actions. Therefore this Solemnity is not just about Christ. By inviting us to share in his glory we are celebrating our own victory as well. Such is the King we have.

29th November 2020 1st Sunday of Advent Year B

New Sunday, new week, new season, new year. And yet, not so different from the weeks before. It may be the start of Advent and the start of Year B of the cycle of readings, the Year of Mark (and the eucharistic discourse of John), but the Gospel readings for this 1stSunday in all three years are all about the end of time and the second coming. This time we shall hear about the doorkeeper who is urged to be on his guard constantly for the return of the master of the house. We live as a Christian community between the times of what has been revealed and accomplished in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and what is still to happen at his second coming. Indeed we are the pilgrim church on earth, since we pray every day for the coming of the kingdom. May we remain faithful to the reign of God that has come and pray that it will come to its promised fulfilment.

October 2020 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – October 2020
by Martin Barry, composer and parish musician, Former DoM at Salford Cathedral

4th October 2020 27th Sunday Ordinary Time

Today’s readings echo the Good Friday Reproaches. “What more could I have done for you? I planted you as my fairest vine, but you yielded only bitterness.”
Our world is a vineyard laid waste. In the words of Pope St John Paul II: “Humanity has disappointed God’s expectations. Man, especially in our time, has without hesitation devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted waters, disfigured the earth’s habitat, made the air unbreathable, … turned luxuriant areas into deserts, … degrading that “flowerbed” … which is the earth, our dwelling-place.”
But there is hope. St Paul gives us simple, consoling instructions, nearly but not quite in words of one syllable. “There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it. … Fill your minds with everything that is true.”
Among these truths: God’s will for us to be stewards of creation. In Pope Benedict’s words, “the protection of creation is … a moral need, in as much as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God.”
God’s kingdom will be given to a people who will produce its fruit. This will be the Lord’s doing, and it will be wonderful to see.
11th October 2020 28thSunday Ordinary Time
“The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” The ones first invited spurn their invitations, and one of those who accepts later is thrown out because he is not properly dressed for the occasion. “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark.”
A double warning then: accept the invitation, and rise to the challenge. If we do, we know our reward: the crown of righteousness reserved for us, that St Paul tells Timothy about.
And if we do not? “There will be weeping and grinding of teeth, for many are called, but few are chosen.” Do we believe that, or have we become utterly complacent about our obligingly merciful God?
Again this week, St Paul has the answer in simple words: “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.”
That doesn’t mean we should expect it to be easy. But we know that God’s plan for us is to be properly dressed for the banquet.
18th October 2020 29th Sunday Ordinary Time
A neat little trap: ‘Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ Tell us, Jesus, are you an idolator and collaborator with pagan Rome, or a rebel and a traitor?
On the face of it, Jesus’s answer defuses the question. ‘Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’ Can’t say fairer than that. Next question?
But hidden inside this oblique answer is a confession of faith, and a real answer to the question. What belongs to God? Everything does. Jesus, no doubt, had prayed the words of the psalm we hear today. ‘Proclaim to the nations: “God is king”; the gods of the heathens are naught; give the Lord glory and power.’
Caesar can have what’s left over. We pay our taxes in exchange for what governments do for us and for each other, and in a functioning democracy we eject from office those who do not do the right things. Governments can earn our support and respect for upholding peace and justice, and lose it for feeding off enmity and lies.
Something else is hidden in Jesus’s answer: decide for yourself what is God’s, and what is left over for Caesar. No-one else can tell you how to vote.
25th October 2020 30th Sunday Ordinary Time
Everything that God asks of us, in two lines: ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself.’
The word ‘resembles’ tells us so much here: loving our neighbour is just like loving God, not only because each of our neighbours is made in God’s image, but also because each of us is. True love, lived out in the person of Jesus, involves emptying of self, and living a life that is other-centred rather than self-centred.
God’s words to Moses give us a more concrete idea of how to go about it: ‘You must not molest the stranger, you must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan’. It isn’t a great leap from ‘stranger’ to an asylum seeker, nor from ‘orphan’ to a child going hungry this October half-term.

 
September 2020 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – September 2020
by Msg Kevin McGinnell SSG Chair

SSG SEPTEMBER REFLECTIONS
We will miss singing the responsorial psalm at mass in most parishes. A cantor may sing the verses but we will not reply with the response. So let’s use these significant parts of the Liturgy of the Word as our reflection this month. You might want to use them all each day, or just one verse for one or two days.
Just sit with them and think, pray, reflect. Just be still and know that he is God.
 
6 September – Sunday 23A – Psalm 94
 
R. O that today you would listen to his voice!
”Harden not your hearts.”
Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
hail the God who saves us.
Let us come before him giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.
– how are we joyful in our prayer? and if not why not?
– how do we give thanks these days?
Come in; let us bow and bend low;
let us kneel before the God who made us
for he is our God and we the people who belong to his pasture,
the flock that is led by his hand.
– do we feel that we need to revere God?
– we would not be here if he had not made us – how does that make you feel?
O that today you would listen to his voice!
”Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day in Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
when they tried me, though they saw my work.
– people have often kept on testing God, do we?
– in the end do we realise that he is God and here is no other?

 

13 September – Sunday 24A – Psalm 102

R:The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord,
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings.
– think of one blessing that really matters to you at this time and thank God for it
– how can you be a blessing to someone today when people feel caught in this crisis?
It is he who forgives all your guilt,
who heals everyone of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with love and compassion.
– think of one moment when you feel God has healed you, even saved your life
– how will you share his love and compassion with others in this troubled world today?
His wrath will come to an end;
he will not be angry for ever.
He does not treat us according to our sins
nor repay us according to our faults.
– have you ever felt God was angry with you, or you with him?
– be honest about something for which you need to ask God’s pardon? or someone else’s?
For as the heavens are high above the earth
so strong is his love for those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west
so far does he remove our sins.
– how close do you feel God is to you at the present moment?
– what is your image for God’s love and forgiveness for you?

20 September – Sunday 24A – Psalm 144

R. The Lord is close to those who call him,
I will bless you day after day
and praise your name for ever.
The Lord is great, highly to be praised,
his greatness cannot be measured.
– how did you see God as great when you were a child? What is your image now?
– what do you want to praise him for in your life at the moment?
The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures.
– how does God show his kindness to you or to people close to you?
– can we believe God is compassionate to everyone when we look at the world today?
The Lord is just in all his ways
and loving in all his deeds.
He is close to those who call him,
who call on him from their hearts.
– if God is just then can you accept that good things happen to bad people, and bad people prosper?
– think of a time when you have called on God from your heart – how did he answer?
 
27 September – Sunday 25A – Psalm 24
 
R. Remember your mercy, Lord,
Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth and teach me;
for you are God my saviour.
– do you feel God guides you along his way?
– how do you know God is showing you his truth?
Remember your mercy, Lord,
and the love you have shown from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth.
In your love remember me,
because if your goodness, O Lord
– when have you felt God has shown you mercy?
– has God forgotten the sins of your past?
The Lord is good and upright.
He shows the path to those who stray,
he guides the humble in the right path;
he teaches his way to the poor.
– think of a time when God has called you back to the right way – were you glad?
– who are the poor and humble people you admire and why?
August 2020 weekly reflections

Sunday Reflections – August 2020
by Mary Ryan School Chaplain and SSG Trustee

2nd August 2020 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings speak of a loving God who provides for our needs generously and regardless of our failings. Yet we hunger for more; we have spiritual and emotional needs too. Desmond Tutu spoke of a ‘God shaped space’ within each of us that we try to fill with so much that we think will satisfy; yet we still search for more.

For many of us, our encounters with God may have been shaken by the necessity of Sunday worship at a distance. What is it that we have particularly missed about gathering on a Sunday? Are there aspects of Sunday Mass that we have not missed? Perhaps this time has given us an opportunity to find other ways to discover a deeper way of encountering God.

It calls to mind the words of St Augustine: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.’

6th August, 2020 Feast of the Transfiguration

Peter, James and John are given a glimpse of Jesus ‘transfigured’ in glory and in the presence of both Moses and Elijah; an echo of Daniel’s vision of the coming of the son of man. It is an encounter that, for the disciples, reinforces their growing belief in Jesus as the Messiah. On the surface it is Jesus who is transfigured, providing a moment of revelation and insight for the disciples, still uncertain as to whether Jesus is truly the Messiah.

Looking deeper, it is also part of a longer process of transfiguration for the disciples. What are they thinking? How does this experience change them? The vision ends all too quickly, and Jesus leads the disciples back down the mountain to return to his mission, ultimately leading to his death and resurrection. For the disciples, the process of their own transfiguration continues; their experience with Jesus challenges their old assumptions and
expectations. I am reminded of St John Henry Newman’s words: “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”. What might we need to change in order to follow Jesus?

9th August, 2020 19th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Today’s readings speak of storms which I hope this is not an accurate forecast of today’s weather!

Elijah is listening for God amidst a dramatic windstorm, an earthquake and fire, yet it is in the gentle breeze that God is found. In the Gospel, the disciples face a storm on the lake in the midst of this, Jesus who comes to his friends calmly walking across the crashing waves towards the boat. Peter tries to walk towards Jesus and manages a few steps until he is distracted by the continuing storm around him and almost succumbs to the water.

I have sympathy for Peter, it is hard to ignore everything around us, especially in an age where we are surrounded by the storm of voices and opinions that exist in the world. At the heart of today’s Gospel are Jesus’ words ‘Do not be afraid’. How hard are we listening for that voice?

16th August, 2020 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

I, like a number of my generation, grew up with an image of Mary as a somewhat passive, even subservient figure, who represented a level of perfection that was far beyond me. It took me a little while to shake that idea and develop a deeper understanding of Mary as a woman of strength and courage who chose to say ‘Yes” to God and remained faithful throughout her life.

Today’s Gospel, featuring the Magnificat – Mary’s great song of praise for God’s justice reflects her commitment to a God who exalts the lowly. The event of the Assumption is not described in the New Testament but comes from an earlier tradition, and it is a feast that gives us hope too. In Mary’s Assumption, we see a woman whose perfect example of discipleship being recognised as she is taken up to heaven. It is also a glimpse of the resurrected life that has been promised not just to those we love who have gone before us in faith but has also been promised to us too.

23rd August, 2020 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Peter features once again in today’s Gospel. It is another moment of revelation for him as he responds to Jesus’ question with his declaration of faith; ‘You are the Christ’. Jesus responds by giving Peter authority over the Church, echoing the first reading but on a much more significant scale. Peter could not have foreseen what this would mean for him or where it would lead.

There is also an echo of last week’s Gospel here with Mary’s Magnificat singing of the God who raises up the lowly. Peter would not be everyone’s first choice as a leader, he has feet of clay, yet Jesus has seen qualities within him that are of greater value; charisms that might have been disregarded by conventional wisdom. Indeed, the second reading reminds us that God’s wisdom is beyond our understanding.

Sometimes it takes an outside view to identify the gifts we have. Who helped us to discover our own gifts? Are we able to recognise such qualities in others?

30th August, 2020 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Peter once again features in this morning’s Gospel, if only to show that he hasn’t yet learnt what kind of Messiah Jesus is to be. Peter, like many Jews of his time, believed the promised Messiah would be a great freedom fighter – not someone who would suffer and die.

Years later, according to tradition, when Peter was under house arrest in Rome, he found an opportunity to escape only to meet Jesus heading back into the city. I wonder if Peter remembered this moment on the road to Jerusalem as he made the choice to turn back towards Rome and certain death. 

The call to ‘take up your cross’ has meant many things to Christians over the centuries. Most of us will not have to make the same choice that Jesus or Peter made, but faith should invite us to make some changes. What is it about our lives that marks us as being Christian? In the second reding, St Paul urges us his readers to make our lives pleasing to God rather than the behaviour of the world around us. What does that challenge mean for us today?

July 2020 weekly reflections

July 2020 Weekly Reflections By Fr Allen Morris

Former SSG Trustee and Editor Music and Liturgy Journal. Parish Priest, Parish of St Nicholas, Boldmere

Sunday 5 July 2020

The semi continuous excerpts from the Gospel of Matthew that are offered to use in the Sunday Liturgy of the Word this month all focus on Jesus teaching of the disciples. Or – it may be more accurate to say – Jesus’ attempts to teach the disciples, for they are mighty resilient to his teaching, very much slow on the uptake. As they so we… the Church indeed, we continue to struggle to comprehend what the Lord has taught and lodged in our hearts and minds, for us to understand and live more fully. The teaching that the Lord imparts regularly overturns what we expect and are prepared for – even as in the paradox of the king on a donkey, set before us in the first reading and literally fulfilled on the first Palm Sunday. The time will come when we will understand and be set free from our limitations and constraints – but when that will be who knows!

In the meantime he is for us compassion and mercy and love, our rest, even as we struggle!

Sunday 12 July 2020

The Lord says to the disciples – the mysteries are revealed to you, but to others they are hidden in parable so they may hear but not understand. There are all sorts of issues to tease out in such a dominical strategy. But maybe we best understand it if we think it as a prime example of apostolic irony! For neither crowds or disciples seem to be able to understand what the Lord is saying until he spells it out. (In fact some Scripture scholars suggest that the Lord never spelt it out, and the explanations in the Gospels come from the disciples or later editors) Be that as it may, we – as disciples – perhaps recognise that although our minds may easily understand the Gospel our hearts, hands and feet are not so quick to understand and -more importantly yet – to live the Gospel message. What do you find lures you from truth and love? From generous and faithful discipleship? What do you see having this effect on others?

Sunday 19 July 2020

When the penny does drop, when we do recognise our sin, our faults our failings we can sometimes be determined to immediately begin a regime to remedy what has gone wrong. There surely is something that we might do, even immediately – perhaps to acknowledge to others our faults, maybe just to say sorry. But anything more – if it is to be effective and long-lasting – probably needs to come not from us, but from the Lord. He is Saviour and, boy, do we need saving! When we know our fault perhaps the most important thing is to know ourselves as the darnel infested field. And purposefully, humbly, to entrust ourselves to the Lord of the harvest. He loves us and cares for us and sees beyond the Mass. Maybe we will have to wait until the final harvest until we are freed from what is flawed in our lives, but maybe not.

But let us be sure that in the remedial work, the Lord takes the lead…

Sunday 26 July 2020

It seems a long time now since that rather strange Easter when the Exultet was sung in empty churches, accessed by the faithful on laptops and tablets. What has brought this to mind now? Principally the readings we have had over the past Sundays from Paul’s letter to the Romans – focussing us on the spirit and the spiritual, bringing us – through birth [pangs – to something new; overcoming our weakness; and – as we hear this week – able to turn all things to good. As acknowledged in the Exultet –‘ O truly necessary sin of Adam… O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer…’

How wonderful our Lord who catches us as we are. How wonderful the love that not only helps separate us from our sin, but also – and so often – makes use of that very sin to win us and save us, and even equip us to share in his work… 

 

 

 

June 2020 weekly reflections

7th June: The Most Holy Trinity

“How shall I sing that Majesty?” How indeed? Mystics, theologians, all believers have struggled to put into words the unique relationship of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“Enlighten with faith’s light my heart, / Inflame it with love’s fire”. John’s Gospel tells us of a love eternally given, but also a love that gives eternity, through the gift of a Son’s own life and, wonderfully, of his resurrection. “There alleluias be”,

“How great a being, Lord, is thine”. As the cloud lifts on Mount Sinai, God stands near Moses and speaks his name. God takes the risk of being with us and of making his loving and forgiving self known; indeed, this is God’s true greatness. “Thy time is now and evermore, / Thy place is everywhere”.

14th June: The Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord

 Corpus Christi; in French, the feast known by its ancient and popular name of  “Fête-Dieu”, God’s feast. But we might well say that it is God’s feast every Sunday, every day even; why set aside another day to celebrate what we give thanks for every time we celebrate the Eucharist?

 Like the poor and the hungry of Israel, wanderers in the desert and fed by the manna, like those who heard and were sustained by God’s promise of salvation, we give thanks for God’s gift to us.

A gift always contains something of the giver. At God’s feast, Jesus is the gift, entirely present among us, in a fragile piece of bread, in wine out-poured. This is God’s feast, where we share the bread and wine of his body and blood, where we share the promise of being eternally in his presence. God has found the simplest and best way to be with us here and now: he feeds us.

21st June: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

There is a clear crescendo in today’s readings, from Jeremiah’s struggle to make his voice heard, through Paul’s affirmation of faith in Christ’s victory over sin and death, and up to the assurance by Jesus of God’s care for each living creature.

Running through this is the golden thread of faith in the promise of eternal life made real by Christ, the second Adam, a promise so strong that martyrs have testified to it for centuries by giving up their lives. Jeremiah endures persecution, strong in the knowledge that God is by his side and gives him strength to bring his message to his people.

Today, it is possible for most Christians to proclaim Christ’s message in the full light of day. This can still be at the cost of ridicule, indifference, even violence. But like Jeremiah, like the martyrs, these great witnesses to the faith, we can give thanks for Christ, the second Adam, and for God’s tender care for each one of us.

28th June: Ss Peter and Paul, Apostles

In Peter and Paul, the Church has two strong pillars, strong in their faith in Jesus Christ, strong leaders, strong witnesses. But they are also deeply human. Both have known the pain of denying their Lord: Peter, on the night before Jesus died, Paul, in his relentless persecution of Christ’s followers. Isn’t it fascinating, but so typical, that Jesus should choose those who recognise their weaknesses and accept forgiveness?

Peter, the fisherman, the one who speaks the crucial words: “You are the Christ, the Son of God”, and who states not once, not twice, but three times his love for Jesus at the lakeside. Peter, the Rock, who strongly and fearlessly proclaims the Good News to his people in the face of persecution and imprisonment, and of what he must have known must eventually end in his being put to death.

The energetic Paul, full to the brim with his passionate mission to bring the Gospel to foreign lands, torn between his desire to guide and instruct, and his yearning to finally be with Christ in the fullness of his presence.

Two strong pillars, two witnesses and leaders, but also two children of God, sinners, yet forgiven, human, yet destined, like us, to live in the full presence of God.

April 2020 weekly reflections

By Martin Foster, Director Liturgy Office

Palm Sunday

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. 

Easter Sunday

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.

Easter 2

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?

Easter 3

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.

19th January

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.

26th January

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.

Palm Sunday

Frail flesh.

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.

EASTER SUNDAY

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.

Our story

Find out how the Society began, back in 1929

Saint Gregory

Why was Saint Gregory adopted as our patron?

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