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.

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.
𝘈 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬𝘴𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘢𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘐 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦;
​ 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘳𝘥’𝘴 𝘯𝘢𝘮𝘦.
𝘔𝘺 𝘷𝘰𝘸𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘳𝘥 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘧𝘪𝘭
​ 𝘣𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦.​
(𝘗𝘴 115:17-18)
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘶𝘱 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘢𝘭𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘴𝘦;
𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘳𝘥’𝘴 𝘯𝘢𝘮𝘦.
 
13th June 2021 11th Sunday Ordinary Time 
 
In his “Four Quartets” T S Eliot reflects on the inadequacy of words.
𝑾𝒐𝒓𝒅𝒔 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒊𝒏,
𝑪𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒃𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒌,
𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒃𝒖𝒓𝒅𝒆𝒏.
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.
𝑷𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒔𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑳𝒐𝒓𝒅
​ 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒇𝒍𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒊𝒔𝒉 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒕𝒔 𝒐𝒇
𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝑮𝒐𝒅,
𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒇𝒓𝒖𝒊𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒐𝒍𝒅,
​𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒇𝒖𝒍𝒍 𝒐𝒇 𝒔𝒂𝒑, 𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒈𝒓𝒆𝒆𝒏,
𝒕𝒐 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒄𝒍𝒂𝒊𝒎 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑳𝒐𝒓𝒅 𝒊𝒔 𝒋𝒖𝒔𝒕.
​𝑰𝒏 𝒉𝒊𝒎, 𝒎𝒚 𝒓𝒐𝒄𝒌, 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒊𝒔 𝒏𝒐
𝒘𝒓𝒐𝒏𝒈.​(𝑷𝒔 91:14-15)
 
𝑰𝒕 𝒊𝒔 𝒈𝒐𝒐𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝒈𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒌𝒔, 𝑶 𝑳𝒐𝒓𝒅.
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.
🔥𝙒𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙎𝙥𝙞𝙧𝙞𝙩 𝙞𝙣 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙡𝙞𝙫𝙚𝙨 𝙬𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙣𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙗𝙚 𝙡𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙤𝙣𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚.
 
30th May 2021 Holy Trinity Sunday
 
‘𝐎𝐮𝐫 𝐛𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐬𝐦 𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐇𝐨𝐥𝐲 𝐒𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐢𝐭:
… 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.
‘𝐋𝐞𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐟𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞, 𝐎 𝐋𝐨𝐫𝐝, 𝐛𝐞 𝐮𝐩𝐨𝐧 𝐮𝐬, 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐬 𝐰𝐞 𝐡𝐨𝐩𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮.’ (𝐏𝐬.𝟑𝟑:𝟐𝟐)
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 

“𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬”.
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.
‘𝑾𝒉𝒐 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒍𝒅?’
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 
‘𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙚𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨.’
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.
‘𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙚𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨.’
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 –
“𝐒𝐢𝐫, 𝐰𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐞𝐞 𝐉𝐞𝐬𝐮𝐬.”
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.
“𝘏𝘰𝘴𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘢!” 𝘪𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘺 “𝘊𝘳𝘶𝘤𝘪𝘧𝘺 𝘩𝘪𝘮!”
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’.
‘𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐥𝐲 𝐈 𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐭 𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐟𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐬’ says depressed Job.
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:
‘𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐦𝐞.’
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:
‘𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆 𝒉𝒂𝒔 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒅𝒐𝒎 𝒐𝒇 𝑮𝒐𝒅 𝒊𝒔 𝒄𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒅. 𝑹𝒆𝒑𝒆𝒏𝒕, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒃𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒆𝒗𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑮𝒐𝒐𝒅 𝑵𝒆𝒘𝒔.’
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:
‘𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒅 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑳𝒐𝒓𝒅 𝒊𝒔 𝒇𝒂𝒊𝒕𝒉𝒇𝒖𝒍’
‘𝑶𝒖r 𝒔𝒐𝒖𝒍 𝒊𝒔 𝒘𝒂𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑳𝒐𝒓𝒅.’
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:
‘𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒅 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑳𝒐𝒓𝒅 𝒊𝒔 𝒇𝒂𝒊𝒕𝒉𝒇𝒖𝒍.’
They were afraid and wondered what was happening. The voice of the Father is heard:
‘𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒎𝒚 𝑺𝒐𝒏, 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑩𝒆𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒅. 𝑳𝒊𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒐 𝒉𝒊𝒎.’
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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