This blog is for the use of the whole parish; please let me know if you'd like to contribute.


Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

Pentecost

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Acts 2:1–11
 
Dove with wings out stretched
 
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit totally transformed the apostles, changing everything.  Once cowardly, confused and lacking in confidence, they became convinced, certain and clear after receiving the Holy Spirit.  The old creation gave way to the new.
 
The Spirit is given so that we can live out our vocation, so that we can live a life in the Spirit.  At the dawn of creation God breathed life into creation and at the birth of the new creation the Lord breathed his life into his disciples, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).  Our capacity to receive the Spirit is determined by our attitude.  The Spirit retreats from self-reliance or self-confidence, but is quick to comfort the broken-hearted, the poor in spirit, the needy and the humble.  The disciples were filled with the Spirit because they were empty in themselves.
 
The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost is a recurring event in the life of the Church.  Today we can receive and enjoy the Spirit in a new and exciting way.  Don’t be afraid to cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.”  What can prevent us from being filled with the Spirit is that we rely too heavily on our own ability, not necessarily realising that even this is given to us by God.  Our confidence in ourselves is often greater than our confidence in God!  We need to be humbled by our own limitations and overwhelmed by our own weakness so that we can pray with heartfelt conviction:

“Renew your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost.  Grant to your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary . . . and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Saviour, the reign of truth . . . justice . . . love and peace.” (Pope St John XXIII)

 

Acts 2:1–11 • Psalm 103(104):1, 24, 29–31, 34 • Romans 8:8–17 • John 14:15–16, 23–26

 

Photo by Bahram Bayat on Unsplash

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The Church in its Beginning

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Matthew: 28:8–15


Today we begin an exciting adventure, a quest, an odyssey, through the masterpiece we know as the Acts of the Apostles.  Essentially, it takes us into the early years of the Church's growth and expansion.  It's not called 'Acts' for nothing!


Luke's narrative is action-packed, a thrilling, white-knuckle ride, a front row seat to the nascent Church's fight to establish itself and proclaim the Gospel.  We hope that over the coming weeks we may all grow in our love, appreciation and understanding of the incredible challenges and opportunities the first believers faced.  The saints whose stories are told here were the true pioneers of our faith; we stand on their shoulders, we sit at their feet.


So, a little background. The Hebrew word 'Messiah' and the Greek word Christ' both mean 'anointed'.  The term originally referred to the king of Israel as God's Anointed'.  When the Davidic kingdom was destroyed, the Jews expected God to restore it through a descendant of David, one anointed, as he was, by God's Spirit.  For Luke, Jesus was the Lord's Anointed: the Messiah, the Christ.


Fresh from his experience of being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches boldly, explaining how Jesus` Passion and death fulfilled Joel's prophecy (Joel 2:28-32). While the Jewish people believed Psalm 16:8-1l referred to David, Peter reinterprets it in the light of Jesus' resurrection: “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You..will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (NIV).


Jesus is Lord; the Messiah and Victor who conquered sin and death.  This is the Gospel's message.  In this Year of Faith, we can recover a new sense of excitement and conviction that Jesus is Lord and appreciate that we couldn't proclaim, believe and embrace this wonderful truth without the grace of the Holy Spirit.


Lord, please give me a fresh sense of the urgency to witness to my faith and be an evangelist.


Acts 2:14, 22–33 • Psalm 15(16):1–2, 5, 7-11  • Matthew 28:8–15

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Who is Jesus?

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Icon with Lord Jesus
John 7:40–52

In today's Gospel, Jesus makes a very telling comment and, ‘So there was a division among the people over him.' (v. 43). From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus' words had two equal and opposite effects.  They either inspired, comforted and encouraged, or they aroused terrible hostility and bitterness.

We meet these two opposites of opinion in today's reading. Both reactions are provoked by what we should refer to as the most important question that we must ask ourselves: Who is Jesus? Our dignity and destiny as human beings hinges on our answer.  We can't just ignore Jesus; he didn't give us that option.  We need to decide for ourselves who he was.

Addressing the question of whether it's possible to regard Jesus as just a great moral teacher, the great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis said, 'A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic…or else he would be the Devil... You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the eternal Son of God: or else a madman or something worse!' Very few people struggle with Jesus as a moral teacher, and many are happy to view him as a model of how to live a truly good human life.

The sticking point comes when we get into who he said he was: he said he was God!  Many of the Pharisees and Jewish leaders of the day wouldn't or couldn't accept this.  We all need to weigh up the evidence and come up with our own answer to the all-important question: who is Jesus?  Was he a lunatic, was he evil, or was he the Son of God?  The only worthy response for those who choose this third option is to bow down and worship him.

Lord Jesus, no human could speak as you spoke – because it would be a lie.  You, however, spoke the truth because you are the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, holy and eternal, Lord and God.  Therefore, we boldly and firmly proclaim that you are the Lord of the Universe.

Chris 

 

Jeremiah 11:18-20 • Psalm 7:2-3, 9-12 • John 7:40-52

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Pray with Humility

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Photo by threeshoes photography © 2021


Luke 18:9-14


Jesus says of the tax collector, 'I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.' (v. 14). This is because the tax collector came to pray with a true realisation of his position before God.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or ‘out of the depths’ of a humble and contrite heart?  He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer.” (para. 2559). It's clear in this parable which of the men is praying from the height of his pride and will, and which out of a 'humble and contrite heart.' Our need is to pray like the tax collector, in humility and repentance. 


Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!'  (Ps. 50(51):1-2)


Chris 
 



Hosea 5:15-6:6 • Psalm 50(51):3-4, 18-21 • Luke 18:9-14



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Soften our Hearts, Father

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Matthew 21:33–43, 45–46

Jesus' ministry is drawing to a close.  Until now the chief priests and Pharisees have resolutely refused to listen to his teaching or come to faith in him. Their hearts and minds have remained firmly closed.  The Parable of the Tenants represents Jesus’s final attempt to break through the stubbornness of the Jewish leaders in the hope that they might recognise him as the One who fulfils the prophecies, the long-awaited Messiah.

Despite all their blindness and hardness of heart, Jesus loves them.  They are his brothers and he wants to reach out to them.  He can see beneath the surface and knows they are lost, and are in darkness and pain.  In their own, confused way, they are seeking life, but in all the wrong places.  Their interest is in power, prestige and wealth. Sadly, they choose to remain in the darkness and reject him.

In many ways, we're not so different.  We too can go astray and seek fulfilment and security in the things of the world.  Our hearts can harden as quickly as any Pharisee. But, as with the Pharisees, Jesus never stops loving us.  He is the Good Shepherd who always comes searching when we stray into the wilderness of sin.   He is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:11–12) for he bought us at the price of his precious blood to make us God's sons and daughters.

Through this parable, Jesus is speaking to our hearts today.  In this Lenten season he asks us to turn to him, to rediscover that we desperately need him each day.  He invites us to accept him as the cornerstone of our lives, to recognise him as the centre of all things, the One who gives meaning and significance to life.  Peter tells us that anyone who trusts in this 'chosen and precious cornerstone will never be put to shame (1 Pet. 2:6).  Jesus, through our prayers, fasting and almsgiving, wants to open our eyes to the truth that he is the goal of all our hopes and aspirations and only he can bring true fulfilment.

Father, soften our hard hearts with your grace. In this holy season may we build our lives on Christ your Son, the chief cornerstone.

Chris 
 

Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 • Psalm 104(105):16-21 • Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

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Tempted by Satan

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1st Sunday of Lent

The Spirit led Jesus into the desert for forty days to be tempted and tested.  During Lent we too are tested and tempted, although it's different for each of us. Some find food an overwhelming temptation, whilst others struggle instead with envy and jealousy.  In this sense temptations are a mystery: 'By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.' (CCC 540). So, during this holy season we too can expect to be tempted and tested. 

The Scriptures make clear that Jesus was tempted by Satan and so are we!   The name Satan means ´adversary'.   In the Book of Job, we're given a vivid picture of Satan in God's heavenly court, along with other angels, where he has the role of accuser or prosecutor (see 1:6-12:2:1-7).  The Scriptures also identify Satan as the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve  Gen. 3) and thus as the origin of sin and temptation.

Therefore, the Scriptures and tradition clarify that we have a mortal enemy who, although created by God, is in a desperate struggle to overthrow God's reign and lead his creation into darkness and death.

Over Easter, we will recite and renew our baptismal promises.  Bear this in mind as we move through Lent, because, as you know, this renewal involves us actively and freely rejecting Satan.   Lent is also a time for us to discover anew the Gospel, the 'good news', which Jesus began to proclaim immediately after his time of testing.   The good news is a message of two parts: firstly, to repent, and secondly, to believe in the Gospel.

We walk together on this road marked out for us by the Church and take up our call to stand firm and resist Satan, knowing that he will flee, and embrace freely and with love the Gospel, which is Christ with us and in us, the hope of salvation.

'In these days.. let us add something beyond the wonted measure of our service, such as private prayers and abstinence in food and drink. Let each one, over and above the measure prescribed for him, offer God something of his own free will in the joy of the Holy Spirit.' (St Benedict)

Chris 
 

Deuteronomy 26:4-10 • Psalm 90(91):1-2, 10-15 • Romans 10:8-13 Luke 4:1-13

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The Dangers of Sin

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What is sin?  Firstly it’s an offence against God, a rebellion against his love, where we turn our hearts away from him.  Sin is not a theory; it’s a daily reality to which our experience testifies: “What revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience.  For when we look into our own hearts we find that we are drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot have come from their good creator.” (Gaudium et Spes 13).  If we look into our own hearts we know that this is true.  We are continually struggling between good and evil, light and darkness.  We want to do good but find that we don't always manage it.
 
Sin is a real force that works to undermine our life with God.  The biggest mistake that we can make is to underestimate its power.  Jesus came to set us free and to strengthen us.  Through the Spirit we are inwardly renewed and empowered to overcome sin – we receive the grace that we need to say “no” to sin and to live for God.
 
We reject Satan, his evil works and his empty promises.
 
Lord Jesus, you came to conquer sin.  Teach me to be vigilant and courageous so that I may experience your victory over sin in my life.
 
James 5:1–6 • Psalm 48(49):14–20 • Mark 9:41–50
 
 
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Blessed are . . .

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 Photo by Francesco Alberti on Unsplash

Man near desert lit by sun

Luke 6:17, 20–26 • Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

The Beatitudes occur only in Matthew's and Luke's Gospels.  Matthew's version is delivered on a mountain (just as Moses delivered the Ten Commandments) and Luke's version on plain or level ground.  There are many comparisons to be made.  Luke's version doesn't have the “poor in spirit” – simply the “poor” – and omits the Beatitude about the meek inheriting the earth.  His version also has a set of 'woes', which highlight the downside of being rich, well fed, socially affirmed, etc . . .

Mining the Scriptures for hidden depths yields fruit and many blessings.  The Beatitudes, be they Matthean or  Lucan, do a variety of things. They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life.  They're the paradoxical promises that sustain hope amid tribulations.  They're also the very heart and essence of Jesus’s teachings and reveal his face, character and personality.

Jesus lived the Beatitudes; he incarnated them, if you like.  Perhaps he is the only one who ever has, for to live them is to be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  Mind you, given that in his lifetime St Francis was called the “Second Christ”, it's likely that he came close, alongside other great saints, especially Mary, the Mother of God.

However, the Beatitudes aren't just for the saints, but for all of us.  They contain both promises of what we shall become, and a revelation of what we have begun to be, albeit in perhaps a somewhat hidden way.

One way of living the Beatitudes and putting them into practice is to memorise them, to become as familiar with them as with the Our Father or  Hail Mary. This straightforward step will help us take them to heart and cherish them during our daily lives.  St Augustine said, “We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.”

I thank you, Father, for everything that gives me happiness. I ask you to purify my heart so that I may know the blessing and grace of putting the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount into practice.

Chris 
 

Jeremiah 17:5–8 • Psalm 1:1–4, 6 • 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16–20 • Luke 6:17, 20–26

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Jesus and his disciples feed the 4,000

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beach with cross and heart in sand

 

Photo by Neal E. Johnson on Unsplash

 

Jesus feeds the 4,000; he saw their need and was moved to feed them.  There’s a clear reminder here of God feeding his chosen people with manna in the wilderness after the Exodus (Exodus 16).  On that occasion he was moved by his infinite compassion because he loved them and wanted to demonstrate his love.

Jesus’s cross and resurrection showed that in him all of humanity’s weaknesses can be overcome; his ascension revealed his intention that humankind should be united with God for all eternity.  But still we demand tangible signs of faith.  Jesus’s actions in breaking the loaves and giving them to the disciples to distribute is in anticipation of the Last Supper and the life-giving sacrament of the Eucharist.

It is a breathtaking and glorious truth of our faith that in the Eucharist we receive Jesus’s body and blood as the Bread of Life, the promise of eternal life.

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live for ever; and the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)

Chris 
 

1 Kings 12:26–32; 13:33–34 • Psalm 105(106):6–7, 19–22 • Mark 8:1–10

 
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We are wounded

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Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Mark 6:53–56 

The sick, weak and suffering pursued Jesus.  Such was their faith that they simply wanted to touch him, believing this would heal them (v. 56).  Jesus came to seek, save and heal the lost, and to restore a fractured and fallen humanity.  He himself said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17).

Nowadays, many people struggle with the concept of sin, but the Gospel isn't going to change to accommodate our modern sensibilities.  We have lost the sense of sin and because of this corresponding sense of our need for a Saviour.  This is sad and serious because the very essence of the Gospel is that Christ brings healing and redemption.  Like sheep we have gone astray, and Jesus, the great Shepherd and Physician, has come to rescue and heal us.

Through baptism we are brought from death to life and become a new creation, born of water and the Holy Spirit.  However, we all remain wounded and need God's constant grace to become what he intends us to be: his children.

St Athanasius speaks down through the centuries: “The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach . . . For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders.  But for him who came to heal and teach, the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put himself at the disposal of those who needed him, and to be manifested according to how they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.”

The Spirit helps us grow in two important areas.  The first is self-knowledge: we need God's grace to understand ourselves and to become aware of the aspects of our personalities that God wants to touch with his strength and healing.  The second is the confidence that God has the power to heal us and set us free from anything that hinders our growth as his children.

Lord Jesus Christ, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free. You are the Saviour of the world. 

Chris 
 

 

1 Kings 8:1–7,9–13 • Psalm 131(132):6–10 • Mark 6:53–56

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