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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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God's Love

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1 John 4:11-18 and Mark 6:45-52
 
God is our Father and he loves us perfectly.  
 
His love is unchanging.  It does not depend on external circumstances but is constand and sure.  We can trust completely because God is faithful and his love endures forever.
 
God wants to replace fear with a secure trust in his care for us.  He will set us free from fear as we draw closer to Jesus.  We can trust Jesus with everything: our past, our worries, our pain, our joys and our deepest longings.
 
We can hand over to Jesus every fear and oppression.  When we do this, something wonderful happens.  Through the Holy Spirit we enter into the inheritance that we received at baptism — we are born again.
 
As adults we may have taken the step of making our own the promises given us by our parents at baptism, and may have known the grace flowing from such great commitment. But we are weak and sinful.  How easily we can lose our first love for Jesus!  How quickly our vision of living life in the Spirit can grow dim!
 
From time to time we need to stop and take stock so that we can reaffirm our decision to take seriously the call of Jesus to follow him.  We need to come daily into God’s presence in prayer, repenting of the ways in which we have failed as his disciples.
 
God’s love is so great that he is quicker to grant forgiveness that we are to ask for it, and he will give us the power of the Holy Spirit to live a transformed life.
 
Father God, as your sons and daughters we ask you to release us from every fear.  Draw us deeply into the life of the Trinity each day and reveal how much you love us.
 
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In the Beginning was the Word

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John 1:1-18
 
The key to the mystery of life and death is found in the revelation that in the beginning was the Word.  The Word was God, and through the Word everything was created and has its being.
 
The beating heart of life has its source in the Word.
 
The wonder, beauty and glory of Christian revelation is that the Word broke into human history as a human being.  The eternal entered time.  The First-born clothed himself with our humanity.  The meaning, purpose and goal of our existence was revealed.  God became man in order that we might enjoy his divine life.
 
The truth of the incarnation liberates us from despair and hopelessness.  its light illuminates the darkness.  Our lasting inheritance is that through and in Christ we have become children of God.
 
In this truth we stand with dignity, joy, confidence and hope.  As we contemplate the beauty and the wonder of the incarnation, our faith is strengthened and our hope renewed.
 
On the eve of a new year it is good both to look back and to look forward.  We can look back in thanks and look forward in hope.  We can rejoice in Good’s goodness and grace to us and thank him for all that unfolded in 2019.
 
The new year ahead of us we dedicate to the loving care and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Lord the Giver of Life; through his power we shall plumb new depths of God’s grace and wisdom.
 
Heavenly Father, your wonderful plan of salvation, the mystery hidden in ages past, has now been revealed in all its splendour and truth.  Your Son, the Word, the Light and Life, entered human history and rescued us from the grip of sin, Satan and death.  On the threshold of 2020 I dedicate my life to your Holy Spirit and ask that you renew the face of the earth.
 
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Jesus a Refugee

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Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
 
We rarely think of Jesus as living the life of a refugee.  It is a salutary thought in a modern society which has downplayed the loneliness and desperation of those who flee their homes because of persecution.
 
Persistently adverse and inaccurate media coverage has fuelled spurious suspicion and has led many people in recent times to view refugees with mistrust, as economic migrants and freeloaders.
 
The popular view is that migrants should look after themselves, and should not be tolerated if they entail any expenditure on our part.  Yet the mark of civilisation of any society is the degree to which it protects those who are weak and vulnerable.
 
Lord, help me to remember that you have always identified yourself with the poor, the weak and the disadvantaged.  Help me to show my love for you by caring for my brothers and sisters in need.
 
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Zechariah's Benedictus

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Luke 1:67-79
 
Silence, they say, is golden.  Zechariah discovered this truth during the nine months of Elizabeth’s confinement.
 
We need to still our minds if we are to grow in our understanding of the Lord.  Our minds naturally race and are quikly distracted by the here and now, by the immediate demands on us.
 
We can, like Zechariah, respond to God’s call with questions: “How can I find time to pray?  I’m so busy.”  As reasonable as this objection is, why don’t we let our faith persuade our reason and carve out some time and space to be still and to know the presence of the Lord?
 
Allow Him to subdue the scattered thoughts of our minds.  From the silence of Zechariah’s heart came a song of praise; so too from our own minds let a song of praise ring out with hearfelt thanks to our God.
 
Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay; give new courage to your people who trust in your love.  By your coming, raise us to the joy of your kingdom, where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
 
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The Annunciation

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Luke 1:26-38
 
God chose a young and innocent virgin in a small hamlet in Israel to be the Mother of God.  It is remarkable fact that God’s plan for salvation required the consent of a human being — Mary’s “yes” to God was the most momentous and profound ever spoken in human history.  
 
The challenge we face with today’s reading, from what is referred to as Luke’s Infancy Narrative, is that we are so familiar with it that we fail to see that there is so much treasure to be found in it.
 
Our minds must bow humbly before the mystery that we contemplate today.  Along with the saints we confess that our knowledge and understanding are limited and if we are to touch God’s mystery, we need to pray and ask for the light of the Holy Spirit.
 
If we pray, “Lord, open the eyes of my heart; show me in a new and fresh way the wonder and glory of the salvation unfolding before my eyes in today’s reading”, God will answer.
 
We join our prayer today to the prayer of Antipater of Bostra:
 
"Rejoice, you that are full of grace; the Lord is with you.  Rejoice, that you are the first and only one to conceive a babe free from sin.  Rejoice, that you bring into the world the beginning of life.  Rejoice, O Virgin Mother."
 
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Saint Joseph

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Matthew 1:18-24
 
Although we know that Jesus has only one Father, God the Father, in human terms and on this earth, Joseph was his father.  He was his adopted father, just as today many children do not have as their father their biological father.
 
We can see therefore Joseph as an inspiration and as an example of father love and fidelity.  He is a saint for all who adopt the role of father, whether or not they are fathers by blood of those precious sons and daughters for whom they are now responsible.
 
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the example and inspiration of St Joseph.  We pray for fathers we know who, like St Joseph, will be able to hear your word for their families.
 
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Come to me, all you who are weary or burdened, and I will give you rest

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Matthew 11:28-30
 
Jesus invites us to lay down our burdens and come to him for rest.
 
We create many of our own burdens when we are imprisoned in fear, resentment, anger and anxiety.  The teaching of Jesus and his new law of love offers another kind of wisdom for life, and offers freedom from our own bondage.
 
His healing presence in the Sacrament of Reconciliation softens our inner reactions and gives us peace and hope.  When we come to Jesus in the Eucharist he gives himself as heavenly food that satisfies the deepest hungers of our heart.
 
We learn to be united to Jesus and to be like him in his gentleness and humility.  Coming to Jesus refreshes our hearts and makes them like his.
 
Lord Jesus, attract me to yourself.  Teach me to be still before you, to look upon your gentle, humble face.
 
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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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