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Our Shepherd

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Matthew 9:35 – 10:1, 6-8
 
The language of the Gospel recalls the words of the Old Testament prophets, especially Ezekiel.  Israel’s religious leaders had failed to give sure guidance to the people, to keep them faithful to the covenant and to maintain proper awareness of God in their midst.
 
God’s answer to this was to promise that he himself would come amonth his people to shepherd them (Ezekiel 34).
 
Jesus is the fulfilment of this promise.  As God made man he has come to be the shepherd — the priest and leader who draws God’s people into unity and reconciliation with the Father.  He is the Good Shepherd who calls each one of us by name into his fold.
 
While the Lord personally exercises his role as shepherd in each of our lives, he has also chosen disciples, as in the Gospel, who share in his ministry and who are the sacramental sign of his presence in the Church.  As ordained ministers they are called to act 'in the person of Christ’; through preaching the Gospel and adminstering the sacraments they can provide the means whereby we can grow as Christ’s flock.
 
We pray especially for the disciples’ successors, the bishops of the Church.  We pray also for vocations to the priesthood and for those who have responded that they might be true shepherds, conformed to the likeness of Christ.
 
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The First Sunday of Advent

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Matthew 24:37-44
 
‘Advent’ literallly means ‘coming’, and the Church has always sought to remind us during this holy season of the three comings of Christ: his first at his birth, his second at his return to Earth in glory and his third when he comes into each of our lives.  
 
The work of the Spirit in our lives is twofold: he compels us to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father; and he moves us to pray with heartfelt longing, “Come, Lord Jesus, come."
 
Jesus is the meaning of Christmas.  He is the meaning of human existence.  The baby born in the stable, in poverty and helplessness as God made man, is our light and our hope.
 
We lift up our hearts in praise and thanksgiving for Jesus who is the Light of the World, the light which darkness could not extinguish or overcome.
 
Lord Jesus, in this Advent season we invite your light into our lives and come ourselves into the light so that by the grace of repentance and a deeper conversion we may walk as children of the light. 
 
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Come, Lord Jesus, come

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Luke 21:20-28
 
We need to take Scriptures like today’s reading very seriously.  The same Luke who recorded the beauty of the nativity also gave us today’s apocalyptic vision of the end of the world.
 
Jesus warns that these events will cause the faith of many to be shaken.  But in warning of these events, his purpose is to assure his disciples that they are part of God’s overarching plan for the world.  When they see these cataclysmic events taking place, they will know that his plan is being fulfilled and that Jesus will soon return.  
 
Jesus wants us to be assured that God is in control and that his purpose is being fulfilled.
 
Lord, renew in me a firm faith in your second coming and teach me to pray for it with all my heart, soul and strength.
 
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Our Gifts

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Luke 19:11-28
 
We are not unlike the servants in the parable: we have been entrusted with many gifts and we are awaiting the return of our King.  
 
We are not to be like the unproductive servant and entertain unworthy and erroneous thoughts about our heavenly Lord.  God is for us and is delighted with all our efforts to produce fruit for his kingdom.  A fruit that is especially pleasing to God is love: love for our God and love for our neighbour.
 
We must not hide the wonderful gifts that we have received, but use them.  Each of us has received special and unique gifts from God with which to serve him in his kingdom.  We have nothing to fear because not only are we richly blessed with every spiritual gift, we also have the power and grace to exercise them.
 
Today let us dedicate our lives to being good and faithful servants, eager and keen to be obedient to our Lord and King.
 
”Take, Lord, and receive all my freedom, my memory, my intelligence and my will — all that I have and possess.  You, Lord, have given those things to me  I now give them back to you, Lord  All belongs to you.  Dispose of these gifts according to your will  I ask only of your love and grace, for they are enough for me.” (St Ignatius of Loyola)
 
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The grace of Jesus

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Luke 19:1-10
 
Jesus came to seek and save the lost, for sure, but he also came to flip everything on its head.  
 
If we could but grasp that none of us is righteous.  The only way that anyone can be reconciled with God is through the saving death and resurrection of Jesus.
 
We share a common humanity with every person on Earth: the drug addicts, the prisoners, the cheats, the adulterers and those our media highlight as beyond redemption.  
 
No one is beyond redemption because Jesus died to save us all.
 
Lord Jesus, you came to seek and save the lost.  Grant me a compassionate heart, especially towards those despised and rejected by society; teach me that there for your grace go I.
 
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Lord, I am unworthy servant

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Luke 17:7-10
 
Who is greater: the one who sits at the table or the one who serves?  Jesus turned the idea of greatness on its head, linking true greatness with true service.
 
The prayer of tye true servant is the prayer of the unworthy servant, “Lord, I am an unworthy servant.  I have only done my duty."
 
How many strive for this level of total commitment and dedication?
 
The point, though, is that this kind of service is rooted in love.  When we consider the ternder mercy of God towards us we can glimpse the truth that we are unworthy servants – we all compete not for the highest place but for the lowest.
 
This is what makes the Christian faith so attractive and compelling: those who embrace a life of such loving service are truly signs of contradiction in a selfish and often hedonistic world.
 
Lord, I am an unworthy servant and when I serve my brothers and sisters I only do my duty. 
 
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The Invitation to God's Banquet

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Luke 14:15-24
 
God invites not only a privileged few or those whom the world considers important, but everyone.  We should not take this invitation for granted but try to understand what a wonderful call it is.
 
The imagery of a banquet shows how God wants to lavish good things on us.  As we come to see this, we can see how foolish it is for us to be immersed in other things and telling ourselves that we do not have time for God.
 
If we were invited to a party we would be very quick to accept, yet we are often unenthusiastic about the heavenly banquet that God is offering us.
 
Lord, we ask your forgiveness for the we that we make excuses for not giving you time and for putting other things first.  Help us to understand the urgency of your call and the greatness of the banquet that you long to give us.  Grant us the grace to respond to you and to love you, so that we may one day enter your heavenly kingdom.
 
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Forgiveness, the Scandal of Mercy

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Luke 19:1-10
 
This encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus the tax collector illustrates perfectly the ‘scandal of grace’.  It brings to the fore this very important biblical teaching that where sin abounds, grace super-abounds.
 
God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.
 
Through his encounter with Jesus Zacchaeus had an experience of God’s mercy and compassion which touched him and led him to repentance and conversion.  No one is beyond God’s grace and mercy.
 
We are to be a living expression, a sign, a sacrament of this same mercy, kindness and forgiveness.  Learning to forgive others, to hold out the hand of friendship and brotherhood/sisterhood to those we find difficult is not easy.
 
In fact, without God’s grace it’s impossible, but with God’s grace all things are possible.
 
Lord, you treated everyone you met with great dignity and compassion; as persons created in your image and likeness.  May I now go and do likewise.
 
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The Beatitudes

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Matthew 5: 1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill.  There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. 

Then he began to speak.  This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

'Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage. 

'Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted. 

'Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied. 

'Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. 

'Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God. 

'Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. 

'Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

'Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

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The Narrow Door

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Luke 13:22-30
 
The gate or door to salvation is Jesus himself (John 10:9).  He knocks on the door of our souls (Rev 3:20) and invites us to acknowledge that he is Lord.  God created us without us, but he does not save us without us.
 
How can we then be saved?  By turning to Jesus every day, acknowledging our need of him and asking for the grace to live out our vocation.
 
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Way of Salvation, the Truth of Salvation and the Life of Salvation.  In following you we find the key to life, and we are guided and led by the Light of Life.
 
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