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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

John the Baptist

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Isaiah 45:6-8, 18, 21-25 • Psalm 84(85):9-14 • Luke 7:19-23

  

John the Baptist was one of the greatest men who ever lived and figured prominently in the period immediately preceding the ministry of Jesus. Not only had John foretold the coming of Jesus (Matt. 3:11f.), he had recognised him, pointed him out to others (John 1:29) and baptised him (Matt. 3:13-17). John had faithfully and fearlessly prepared the way for Jesus. Yet, in today's Gospel, John poses a question that seems tinged with doubt and indecision: Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another? (v. 19). What were John's expectations of the Messiah?

Both the language and imagery of John's preaching conjure up a wrathful figure coming forth in judgement, scattering fire and destruction in his wake (see, eg, Luke 3:7-9, 15-17). Yet, as he languished in prison, he heard rumours of quite a different kind of activity by Jesus healings of various kinds, casting out of evil spirits and even the dead raised to life. As John served the prison sentence earned for fearlessly denouncing Herod, was he perhaps disappointed or disillusioned because the Messiah had not responded with a similar counterblast of judgement?

At the commencement of his ministry, in his home-town synagogue, Jesus had proclaimed the inauguration of God's kingdom (Luke 4:16ff). He had quoted from the prophet Isaiah, but gone only so far as to proclaim 'the year of the Lord's favour (Luke 4:19 NIV) and had not proceeded to announce the day of vengeance of our God’ (Isa. 61:2b). Jesus came as Saviour; the time was not yet ripe for him to assume his role of Judge. John was impatient for judgement, but Jesus was patient for salvation.

Jesus later uses the parable of the Fig Tree to explain God's gracious, patient waiting, but also his ultimate and inevitable judgement (Luke 13:6-9). More than two thousand years later, the judgement envisaged by John has still not come. The fig tree still stands – and the Master watches hopefully for it to bear fruit. To those who hear the good news today, the Holy Spirit continues to warn, 'Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts' (Heb. 3:7-8). Have we embraced the good news in faith and allowed it to bear fruit in our lives? We dare not postpone our response of faith and obedience. 

Gracious God, help me never to presume upon your mercy and grace. Instead, teach me to respond with steadfast faith, fervent gratitude and wholehearted obedience

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

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The meaning of Christ, by St Paul

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Philippians 2: 5-11

In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus: His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

A note from the Life Application Bible:

2:5-11 These verses are probably from a hymn sung by the early Christian church. The passage holds many parallels to the prophecy of the suffering servant in lsaiah 53. As a hymn, it was not meant to be a complete statement about the nature and work of Christ. Several key characteristics of Jesus Christ, however, are" praised in this passage: (1) Christ has always existed with God;


(2) Christ is equal to God because he is God (John 1:1ff; Colos- sians 1:15—19); 


(3) though Christ is God, he became a man in order to fulfil God’s plan of salvation for all people; 


(4) Christ did not just have the appearance of being a man — he actually became human to identify with our sins; 


(5) Christ voluntarily laid aside his divine rights and privileges out of love for his Father; 


(6) Christ died on the cross for our sins so we wouldn’t have to face eternal death; 


(7) God glorified Christ because of his obedience; 


(8) God raised Christ to his original position at the Father’s right hand, where he will reign for ever as our Lord and Judge. 


How can we do anything less than praise Christ as our Lord and dedicate ourselves to his service!

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Bishop David's letter to his priests

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Bishop David has written to priests to pass his thanks onto volunteers who are stewarding in our catholic churches and making it possible for them to remain open.  Recognising the struggle many churches face to find volunteers and the pressure on those who do volunteer as the pandemic continues much longer than any of anticipated, Bishop David writes:

 

My dear friends in Christ,

Greetings to you in the name of our Servant Lord!  I want to write to you to express my personal gratitude for your service as a steward in your parish community. It is through your personal generosity and dedication that we have been able to reopen our churches for prayer, and to keep them open, for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other sacraments.

Your patient attention to preparing our churches, through regular cleaning, assistance with hand gel and guidance of visitors through the one-way systems in place, whilst ensuring social distancing, have made a real difference. Parishioners are able to come back to church, feeling safe and secure in these still very challenging times.

I have seen for myself, the effective and efficient manner in which you have carried out your stewardship. One might almost say in a very professional way. This has ensured that our churches are some of the most safest places and buildings throughout the land for people to enter.

All this is very necessary for us to continue. I know that it is difficult for some parish communities to find volunteers. None of us have realised how long this phase of the pandemic would be. I want to encourage you to continue to volunteer, and I encourage our priests to seek other volunteers to help alongside you with this indispensable ministry. I also appreciate how difficult your role can be at times, when you are challenged by those who do not wish to follow the guidelines.

From time to time, we hear talk of what is essential and non-essential. Unfortunately, there is no account in this discourse of the essential nature of our common lives as Disciples of Christ. For us as Catholics, our participation in Holy Mass and the sacraments does not belong to the non-essential. This coming together as a community, called out of darkness into light, is what defines us. In this regard, your volunteer ministry as stewards is a great blessing for us all.

Please be assured of my remembrance of you in my daily Rosary, and please do keep me in your prayers.

Yours devotedly in Christ,

Bishop David 

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Who is Jesus?

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 • Psalm 143(144) 1–4 • Luke 9:18-22Robed figure, below the head, with hand outstretched

It is sometimes difficult to express simply and clearly what we believe. For some, it may stem from a lack of confidence or a fear of being rejected. For others, it might be that they don’t even have the words.

Take those suffering with dementia, for example. There are in the UK 700,000 people suffering from dementia, and that number is steadily increasing. Being diagnosed with dementia is distressing for the individual concerned and for their family and friends. As someone’s ability to relate to the world around them is diminished, they become more isolated. Communication becomes increasingly difficult – they might not be able to talk or to communicate in other ways.

Jesus asked Peter, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (v 20). Peter knew exactly who Jesus was, just as God knows exactly who we are. He knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). Whatever happens to our mental functions, we remain spiritual beings. The Catechism fo the Cat/90hr Church states that ‘The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God’ (para. 1700).

Peter recognised Jesus as the Christ (v. 20). Do we look for and recognise God in those with dementia? The decline in someone’s mental faculties does not end their personal journey of faith or diminish their full human integrity. They continue on their pilgrimage, usually aware of the continuing importance of their deeply held spirituality, and often finding comfort in familiar prayers and rituals. God is there in their loneliness to give them comfort.

Would Peter have openly stated his faith if he hadn’t been directly challenged byJesus? He might not have made such a declaration without prompting, but he knew what he thought and felt. He had faith. For those witnessing the mental decline of their loved ones, faith becomes all the more important too. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” (Ps. 46:1-2).

Loving Father you are close to the broken-hearted. Look with compassion on those whose lost memories have robbed them of home and belonging. Comfort and strengthen those who care for them. May they make their home in you. This we ask through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Chris

Graphic from: https://slmnallotey.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/jesus-the-word-of-god/

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Preaching the Gospel

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Matthew 10:7-15
 
Bare feet in the sand, “Sent”.
 
Jesus’s instructions to his followers are as relevant today as when he sent them out to proclaim the message of the kingdom of God.  But perhaps our hearts sink at the prospect of witnessing for our faith.  Increasingly in society, having faith, practising faith and witnessing to it are widely misunderstood and considered strange.  In any event, faith is considered personal, private.
 
But the key to all evangelising is revealed in v.8: “Freely you have received; freely give.”  Our vocation – whatever our role or ministry, whether we are an ordinary Christian, an ordained priest or religious or even an Archbishop or the Pope – is to grasp the great gift of the gospel of salvation: to appreciate its free, unmerited and undeserved nature and therefore to be filled with the joy of the evangelist.
 
An evangelist or witness is simply someone who has freely received the joy, hope and love of the gospel and who in their turn freely gives the joy, love and hope of the gospel.  Yes, it’s challenging and difficult, but we have the Holy Spirit and he gives us wisdom – as well as tact, sensitivity, intelligence, understanding, knowledge and patience.  And courage.
 
We are just ordinary men and women, workers in the vineyard of Christ.  Our task is always to be prepared to share with others the reason for our hope, joy and love.  Our challenge is to be filled with hope, joy and love which speaks to others’ hearts.
 
Lord, teach me to be a joyful, enthusiastic and convincing witness of the truth, goodness and beauty of the gospel.
 
Chris

from Bible Alive

 

Art Source: sent soysi.files.wordpress.com
 
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St Paul Preaches to the Sanhedrin

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Acts 22:30; 23:6–11
 
Paul stands before the Sanhedrin
 
Called to appear before the Jewish Council, Paul shrewdly set his opponents against one another.  He said that he was on trial for his belief in the resurrection of the dead, in which the Pharisees believed but the Sadducees did not.
 
Paul’s declaration was not just a clever ploy: it was true that the heart of his witness was the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus and our share in that resurrection.
 
If we have truly experienced Christ’s resurrection power for ourselves, like Paul we will want to proclaim it to others.  For Paul, his experience of the risen Christ was so powerful that he had an unsuppressable drive to preach the gospel.  This is how he was able to endure great suffering and persecution – imprisonment, beating, shipwreck, hunger – in order to testify to Christ.
 
We may not be called to suffer in the way that Paul was, but each of us is called to be witness to Christ’s resurrection for those we meet in our homes, workplaces and communities.
 
We tend to find sharing our faith difficult in today’s secular environment, but it is God who gives us the power to bear witness, and just as Paul’s preaching flowed from his encounter with the risen Christ, so can ours.
 
If we spend time in prayer and try to listen to the Holy Spirit, we shall gain greater enthusiasm to preach the gospel and find more opportunities so to do.
 
Lord Jesus, we proclaim that our hope is in your resurrection.  We pray that we may come to experience more fully the power of that resurrection, and bring it to those around us every day.
 
Chris
 
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The Ascension of the Lord

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Mt 28:16–20
 
Jesus’s Ascension
 
Only Christ can open to us access to heaven and eternal life; we cannot enter God’s life on our own account.  Why? Because none of us is able to conquer death, sin and evil; so without Christ we remain mortal and corruptible.
 
Our hope is that we may go where Christ has preceded us.  This hope is grounded in Jesus’s own words: “and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12;32).
 
Jesus’s ascension into heaven marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’s humanity into God’s heavenly domain.  In the same way that Jesus ascended into heaven, so he will return. Meanwhile, he is hidden from our eyes but to him we pray today.
 
Come, Lord Jesus, come again to earth.  Return as our God and King and establish your kingdom for ever and ever.  Amen.
 
Chris
 
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Conversion of Paul's jailer

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Acts 16:22–34
 
 
God will literally move heaven and earth to save us; God did so to lead the jailer and his family to conversion.  The fruits of that conversion were immediate: deep joy, service of others and a profound conviction in the gospel message.
 
The call to conversion is one that occurs throughout our lives.  We are called to lead others but also to be converted ourselves, and to this task we give ourselves.  But why does God seek our conversion?  What is it about the human condition that makes it so necessary?  The Church recognises that the human heart is heavy and hardened by sin and by selfishness.  It is because of this that we need a new heart.
 
Conversion is first and foremost a work of God, a movement of his grace within us.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “God give us the strength to begin anew.  It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him.  The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced.” (para. 1432).
 
It is through the continuing process of conversion that we come to know God’s love; and we come to know God’s love by gazing upon the One we have pierced.
 
This is the path that the Holy Spirit invites us to walk.  We are converted in the first instance by love, and it is by love that we will continue to be converted.
 
Father, teach me that thre is no other path but through the burning love of the crucified, a love which transformed Paul when he was carried up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2) that he could say: “with Christ I am nailed to the cross.  I live , not not I but Christ liveth in me.” (Gal. 2:20 Rheims New Testament).
 
Chris
 
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Determined to Witness

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Acts 14:19-28
 
Paul was mercilessly stoned and then dragged and dumped outside the city walls.  We need to remember that every time we encounter Paul, whether through his story retold in Acts or through his writings, we are encountering a man who suffered profoundly for his faith – even to paying the ultimate price.
 
But no amount of suffering would deter him from his mission of preaching the Good news: “when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city” (v.20).  Sometimes we get knocked down, sometimes we trip and fall; either way the gospel is all about getting up again.
 
Lord, we are your people, the sheep of your flock.  Heal the sheep who are wounded.  Touch the sheep who are in pain.  Clean the sheep who are soiled.  Warm the lambs who are cold.  Help us all to know the Father’s love.  Renew us so that we may help renew the face of the earth.
 
Chris
 
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The Good News

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Mark 1:14-20
 
From the beginning of Mark’s Gospel we are introduced to the ideas of repentance, belief and good news.
 
The gospel, literally “good news”, is that God became man to save and resuce us because we could not save ourselves from sin, death and the power of evil.
 
The Good News is that God loves us and revealed that love to us by sending Jesus, his only son and the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, to die on the cross and to rise again on the third day.
 
The Good News is that our sins are forgiven, our lives are wiped clean by the blood of Jesus, and we are reconciled with God the Father, restored as his sons and daughters, blessed with a new dignity, purpose and hope.
 
The Good News is that we have received the Holy Spirit; we are a new creation.
 
Lord, teach me to be a witness of your grace and of the joy of heartfelt repentance, and in turn lead others to know deeply and personally your mercy and forgiveness.
 
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