Feast of the Holy Family (B)

Gospel
Luke 2: 22-40

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

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A PRAYER FOR THE HOME…

God of mercy and compassion,
you gave your Son a loving, caring home with Mary and Joseph.
Together they learned to be a family
with all the challenges and rewards that sharing a home can bring.
May their story inspire and give courage
to all those who share a home together.
May we, in this home, always try to be patient with each other.
Help us to love and cherish one another
and to be ready to forgive one another daily.
May our home be a place of welcome for all who come our way.
Amen.


Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

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This year’s Nativity Scene in St Peter’s Square which incorporates
the corporal works of mercy

 

A very happy and peaceful Christmas to you all

Nollaig Shona Dhuit

Feliz Natal

楽しいクリスマスをお過ごしください

Froehliche Weihnachten

Joyeux Noël

Feliz Navidad

愉快的圣诞节

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia…

 

Scripture Reading  (Luke 2: 1-14)

Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census — the first — took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, “Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly with the angel was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to all who enjoy his favour”.

Reflection

In the Child of Bethlehem, God comes to meet us and make us active sharers in the life around us. He offers himself to us, so that we can take him into our arms, lift him and embrace him. So that in him we will not be afraid to take into our arms, raise up and embrace the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:35-36). “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ”. In this Child, God invites us to be messengers of hope. He invites us to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors. In this child, God makes us agents of his hospitality.

Moved by the joy of the gift, little Child of Bethlehem, we ask that your crying may shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering. May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognize our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.

(Pope Francis in his Homily on Christmas Eve 2017)

Prayer

Almighty God and Father of light,
a child is born for us and a son is given to us.
Your eternal Word leaped down from heaven
in the silent watches of the night,
and now your Church is filled with wonder
at the nearness of her God.
Open our hearts to receive his life
and increase our vision with the rising of dawn,
that our lives may be filled with his glory and his peace,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Advent Chillout

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A beautiful evening of prayer and stillness at St Benedict’s this evening – time out from all the hustle and bustle.

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Lord Jesus,
master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparation for Christmas.
We who have so much to do
seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things
look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways
long for the complete joy of your Kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy
seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people,
walking in darkness yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come, Lord Jesus”.


3rd Sunday of Advent (B)

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Gospel
John 1: 6-8, 19-28

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied:

a voice that cries in the wilderness:
Make a straight way for the Lord.’

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, John points out to the people that he is not the Messiah, he is not the prophet, he is not Elijah.  He is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. He reminds them that there is one person in their midst who is greater than he is, but they do not recognise him.  John is merely a witness, pointing out to the one who is coming so that they might not miss him.  Jesus is the light, he is their hope, he is the promised one!  If we do not see him, accept him, believe in him, then the source of our joy is lost.  We have missed the one who can bring meaning into our lives!  We did not know he was in our midst.  “He came to his own and his own did not recognise him.”  God comes to us in strange ways!

Adapted from Fr Jude Botelho

Prayer

O God, most high and most near,
you send glad tidings to the lowly,
you hide not your face from the poor;
those who dwell in darkness you call into the light.

Take away our blindness,
remove the hardness of our hearts,
and form us into a humble people,
that, at the advent of your Son,
we may recognise him in our midst
and find joy in his saving presence.

We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near:
your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

(c) 1998 International Committee on English in the Liturgy Corporation.


2nd Sunday of Advent (B)

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Gospel
Mark 1: 1-8

The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:

Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight,

and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the snap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

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Pastoral Letter from the Archbishop

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The season of Advent is very short this year – it is only three weeks and one day long– and this means that Christmas will be upon us before we know it. Inevitably our preparations for the great feast will gain a heightened sense of urgency as the days pass. This sense of urgency was also experienced in the time of John the Baptist.

Today’s Gospel shows just how excited the people were at the news that John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness. Something great was about to happen. ‘All of Judea and all of the people of Jerusalem’ flocked to hear the preaching of John the Baptist who was announcing the coming of the Lord and calling them to repentance. The excitement amongst those who heard the Baptist must have been at a very high pitch, and that level of enthusiasm was also to be found later amongst the first Christians as we heard in today’s second reading from St Peter’s second letter. He exhorts us to always be ready for the coming of the Lord at the end of time, when his promises will be fulfilled and a new heaven and new earth will be ushered in. This will be the time when there will be a new reign of justice on the earth. Although we continue to state these truths in the Creed, have we lost the enthusiasm that should come with a belief that a new age will come to us?

In our time, Catholics and non-Catholics alike have welcomed Pope Francis because he is exciting and inclusive in his ministry. Like St Peter he impresses on us the necessity to fully live the Christian life now and not to put it off until later. By word and gesture Pope Francis encourages us to reach outwards to those who are in physical and spiritual need.

Throughout the archdiocese there are many examples of individuals, schools and parishes responding to the needs of others at home and in the developing world. As I go around the archdiocese the good works that are carried out in Christ’s name never fail to lift my spirits and give me new heart. This orientation is at the heart of Christianity and therefore at the centre of our Christian Life. This is Pope Francis’ vision for the Church. It is a vision of a church that is not hampered by buildings or regulations but one where these structures are put at the service of the gospel; and it is a vision that we should make our own.

In his letter, ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, Pope Francis wrote: ‘I dream of a “missionary option”, that is a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.’

Our Diocesan Advent Prayer which you received last week, and which will be used at all masses says, ‘Help us to become the Church you are calling us to be’.

Pope Francis invites everyone to be part of this adventure: ‘To those who feel far from God and the Church, to all those who are fearful or indifferent, I would like to say this: the Lord, with great respect and love, is also calling you to be a part of his people! The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.’

Pope Francis’ dream can become reality, but it requires us to change and to capture something of the enthusiasm that is found in our young people. They often ask the question, ‘What would Jesus do’? And it is a good question. When we hear the gospels, we see Jesus going to the poor, the sick, and the blind. But he also spends time in prayer, attends the synagogue and keeps the Jewish feasts, even going up to Jerusalem though he knows it will mean suffering and death for him. So should it be with us. Prayer is important because when we truly engage with God it overflows as action. Our Advent Prayer asks that this may be our experience, ‘Send us out to share what we have received …’ As we prepare for the coming of the Lord then a good way to do this is to take stock of our Christian life and ask ourselves if our spiritual life is centred only on ourselves or does it drive us outwards to bring the light of the gospel to others by feeding the hungry, working for peace, or contributing to charitable work. This process of prayer and reflection resulting in action is something that Pope Francis alluded to when he wrote to the church at the closing of the Year of Mercy:

‘The Year of Mercy has set us on the path of charity, which we are called to travel daily with fidelity and joy. It is the road of mercy, on which we meet so many of our brothers and sisters who reach out for someone to take their hand and become a companion on the way… By its very nature, mercy becomes visible and tangible in specific acts…’

The road of mercy and the path of charity are other names for the journey that we follow as Pilgrim People. Our journey as an archdiocese over the next three years is a path that we will follow together towards the archdiocesan synod in 2020; after all the word ‘synod’ means just that – being together on a common road.

Sometimes it is difficult for me to capture the enthusiasm that I referred to earlier. The church has gone through much change and this has left us longing for a new vision. The beauty of the Advent season is that it reminds us that our future and the future of the Church are in God’s hands and that he unfailingly comes to us in unexpected ways that are ever new. Who could have predicted that in our time we were to be blessed by having Francis as our pope, leading the church to deeper and more contemporary ways of living the gospel? As our eyes and hearts are opened to the coming of the Lord this Advent let us pray that we may see more clearly how we can serve him in the Archdiocese of Liverpool.

May I wish you and your families a blessed Advent and a peaceful Christmas,

Most Rev Malcolm McMahon OP

Archbishop of Liverpool


1st Sunday of Advent (B)

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Scripture Reading    (Mark 13: 33-37)
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

Prayer
As we prepare for the great feast of Christmas, let us pray for the grace to open our hearts to Christ, who comes knocking at the door of our lives in the poor and the needy, the refugee and the lonely.

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The Season of Advent

As we begin the season of Advent, you might find one or more of the following helpful:

The Catholic Church in the UK will be launching  a new podcast series later this week called ‘Let us Adore Him’. You will find it here:

The Irish Catholic Bishops has produced an Advent Calendar with reflections and prayers for each day of Advent:

www.catholicbishops.ie/advent-calendar

The American Bishops have done the same here:

www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/advent/index.cfm

 

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Prayer in Preparation for the Eucharistic Congress 2018
& Archdiocesan Synod 2020
We thank you Father
for the love you have shown us
in the gift of Jesus, your Son.
Keep us grateful each day
for the blessings that surround us.

As we are fed by you,
so now send us out
to share what we have received
with our hungry brothers and sisters.

We humbly ask your help to become the Church
that you are calling us to be:
a community that listens, that trusts,
that lives with courage
and that puts out its nets into new waters.

May the gentle presence of Christ in our hearts
be a source of healing, of new life
and of a deeper trust in you.
We ask this in faith
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Mass to Remember Children

Last Tuesday, we celebrated a Mass to remember children who died before birth, during birth or afterwards.  Those present lit candles for the baby or babies, the child or the teenager they were remembering.  Their names were then read out during the Eucharistic Prayer.

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God of kindness and compassion,
you created these little ones
in your own image and likeness,
bestowing on them the gift of life,
a gift that is transformed but never taken away.
We entrust them to your everlasting love.
One day, unite all parents and their children
in the peace and joy of your kingdom.
Comforting God,
help us to face each day
with trust in your healing and comforting presence.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Many thanks to Helen for the photographs