11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Gospel  (Mark 4: 26-34)

Jesus said to the crowds: ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

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Reflection

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime
only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

© 1979 Ken Untener (Bishop of Saginaw)

Let us pray

For fathers and grandfathers, godfathers and stepfathers, and for those who have been like a father to us.

†That every human life may be protected and cherished from conception to natural death.

†For the victims of human trafficking – that they may be helped to rebuild their lives after the traumatic experiences they have gone through.

†For the people of Lourdes and surrounding regions in France following the floods this week.

†That the courageous meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un may bear fruit, especially for the suffering people of North Korea.

 


10th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Gospel  (Mark 3: 20-35)

Jesus went home with his disciples, and such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of him, convinced he was out of his mind.

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

His mother and brothers now arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

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Reflection  (Fr Jude Botelho)

In today’s gospel passage, we see some of the frustrations Jesus had to contend with. He had to contend with the constant opposition from his enemies and sometimes even misunderstanding from his own family.

News of people’s reactions to him reached Nazareth and, worried about the direction of his life, his relatives set out to rescue him and bring him back home. Many great people were at times believed to be mad by their contemporaries. When they reached the house where he was preaching, they sent him a message: “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.” On hearing this, Jesus replied. “Who are my mother and my brothers?” “Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.”

When Jesus left Nazareth he ‘lost’ his natural family, but gained another family – the family of his disciples. He was calling people to a spiritual family, built not on bonds of blood and nation. Blood relations are important, but it is not everything. Jesus refused to go back home with his relatives. Though his mission was proving to be frustrating, he refused to quit. He had a mission to accomplish.

Jesus gives us an example of faithfulness in a time of darkness. Jesus was calling people to a new community, into a spiritual family. Belief in Jesus and the practice of God’s will are what create community. With his example to inspire us, and his grace to strengthen us, we too can be faithful to our vocation as his disciples.

Prayer

God of wisdom and love, source of all good,
send your Spirit to teach us your truth
and guide our actions in your way of peace.
Through Christ our Lord.

(Adapted from Opening Prayer (c) 1973 ICEL)


Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ (B)

Gospel  (Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26)

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there.’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.

And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’

After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.

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Song  (Panis Angelicus)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK3TeWqSAZk

The bread that angels eat
becomes our food on earth,
God sends his manna, living Bread,
from heaven above;
what wonders now we see:
those who are last and least
receive their Lord as food and drink,
his pledge of love.

Three persons, yet one God,
be pleased to hear our prayer:
come down in power to seek your own,
dispel our night;
teach us your word of truth;
guide us along your way;
bring us at last to dwell with you
in endless light.

St Thomas Aquinas tr. James Quinn SJ

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Intercessions

At the supper to which all are invited, Christ gives his body and blood for the life of the world. Earnestly we beseech him, saying:

R.  Lord Jesus Christ, give us the bread of eternal life.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, you have commanded us to celebrate the eucharistic meal in remembrance of you: — enrich your Church with the worthy celebration of these mysteries.

R.  Lord Jesus Christ, give us the bread of eternal life.

Lord Jesus Christ, eternal high priest, you have committed to your priests the ministration of your sacraments: — help them to do their part in your work with the unfailing gladness of genuine charity.

R.  Lord Jesus Christ, give us the bread of eternal life.

Lord Jesus Christ, manna from heaven, you make into one all who share the one bread: — grant peace and concord to all who believe in you.

R.  Lord Jesus Christ, give us the bread of eternal life.

Lord Jesus Christ, heavenly physician, you give an eternal remedy and a pledge of resurrection to those who eat your bread: — grant health to the ailing and a real hope to sinners.

R.  Lord Jesus Christ, give us the bread of eternal life.

Lord Jesus Christ, king who is to come, we know that whenever we celebrate these mysteries, we proclaim your death until you come again: — bring all those who have died in you to share your resurrection.

R.  Lord Jesus Christ, give us the bread of eternal life.

O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament
have left us a memorial of your Passion,
grant us, we pray,
so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood
that we may always experience in ourselves
the fruits of your redemption.
Who live and reign with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
R.  Amen.


Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (B)

Gospel

Matthew 28: 16-20

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

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Prayer

A beautiful prayer to ponder from the 1973 edition of the Roman Missal:

God, we praise you:
Father all-powerful, Christ Lord and Saviour, Spirit of love.

You reveal yourself in the depths of our being,
drawing us to share in your life and your love.

One God, three Persons,
be near to the people formed in your image,
close to the world your love brings to life.

We ask you this, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
one God, true and living, for ever and ever.

Song

‘The Deer’s Cry’ from The Pilgrim by Shaun Davey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DONuyLwWPaY

I arise today

Through the strength of Heaven
Light of sun
Radiance of moon
Splendour of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of the sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me
God’s eye to look before me
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s way to lie before me
God’s shield to protect me

From all who shall wish me ill
Afar and a-near
Alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel
Merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me

I arise today.

Anon. 8th Century, translated from old Irish by Kuno Meyer


Pentecost Sunday 2018

Pentecost Sequence

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The Pentecost Sequence, also known as the ‘Golden Sequence’, is one of the most beautiful prayers in the Roman Missal.

Holy Spirit, Lord of Light,
From the clear celestial height
Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, thou Father of the poor,
Come with treasures which endure
Come, thou light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul’s delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow

Thou in toil art comfort sweet
Pleasant coolness in the heat
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, light divine,
Visit thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill:

If thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew
On our dryness pour thy dew
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will
Melt the frozen, warm the chill
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on us who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend:

Give us comfort when we die
Give us life with thee on high
Give us joys that never end.

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Pope Francis on Pentecost

Then, there is something else: this Holy Spirit is a disaster because he never tires of being creative! Now, with the new forms of consecrated life, he is truly creative, with the charisms… It is interesting: he is the Author of diversity but at the same time the Creator of unity. This is the Holy Spirit. And with this diversity of charisms and many things, he makes the unity of the Body of Christ, and also the unity of consecrated life. And this too is a challenge. (Speech to participants in the International Convention of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, May, 2018)

Let us ask ourselves today: Are we open to God’s surprises? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? (Mass with ecclesial movements, Pentecost 2013)

The Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth. (Mass with the ecclesial movements, Pentecost 2013)

Be open to the surprises of the Spirit. Have the grace of docility to the Spirit, to go along the path that the Lord Jesus wants for each one of us and for the entire Church. (Daily Mass in St. Martha chapel, April, 2016)

The Spirit is the wind pushing us forward, keeping us going, that makes us feel like pilgrims and foreigners and doesn’t allow us to get comfortable and become sedentary. (General audience in preparation for Pentecost, May, 2017)

The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit. Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin. There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as ‘hypocrites’; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways. However, the world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers. The world needs the fruits, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul lists them: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace. (Pentecost Homily, 2015)

With thanks to www.praytellblog.com


7th Sunday of Easter (B)

Gospel  (John 17: 11-19)

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
keep those you have given me true to your name,
so that they may be one like us.
While I was with them,
I kept those you had given me true to your name.
I have watched over them
and not one is lost
except the one who chose to be lost,
and this was to fulfil the scriptures.
But now I am coming to you
and while still in the world I say these things
to share my joy with them to the full.
I passed your word on to them,
and the world hated them,
because they belong to the world
no more than I belong to the world.
I am not asking you to remove them from the world,
but to protect them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth;
your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
I have sent them into the world,
and for their sake I consecrate myself
so that they too may be consecrated in truth.’

Novena of Prayer (between Ascension and Pentecost)

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Come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with wisdom, love and courage.
Make us more like Christ in our words and actions.


Bless the work of your Church.
Renew us all in the desire to make Christ known and loved in the world today.

Bless the work of our parish.
Guide all that we do so that our church is a place of mercy and service for all who are seeking you.

Deepen our love for the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
and guide us in prayer and action as we journey towards Synod 2020
to become the Church you are calling us to be.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.


6th Sunday of Easter (B)

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Gospel  (John 15: 9-17)

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’

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Reflection

Take time to read the Gospel passage slowly.  Then read it again, stopping at the end of each sentence and thinking about the words you’ve just read.  Jesus is talking to you.  These words are for you.

Prayer

Lord,
you know us more deeply than we know ourselves.
May your love go before us always
and inspire in us
a generous love for our neighbour.


Alfie Evans & 5th Sunday of Easter (B)

STATEMENT FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF ALFIE EVANS

Following the death of Alfie Evans, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool, made the following statement on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

‘I would like to express my deepest sympathy at this moment of loss to Tom and Kate as we hold little Alfie in our prayers.  All who have been touched by the story of this little boy’s heroic struggle for life will feel this loss deeply.  But as a Christian Alfie has the promises of God, who is love, to welcome him into his heavenly home.

‘Although the past few weeks have been difficult with much activity on social media, we must recognise that all who have played a part in Alfie’s life have wanted to act for his good, as they see it.  Above all, we must thank Tom and Kate for their unstinting love of their son, and the staff at Alder Hey Hospital for their professional care of Alfie.  Now it is time for us to give Tom and Kate space to grieve their son’s death and offer our prayers for him and consolation for all.’

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Gospel  (John 15: 1-8)

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

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Reflection

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the amazing intimacy that God offers us.  Jesus himself invites us to make our home within him – for if we can allow him to live within our hearts, God will make us truly fruitful.

St John shows us this closeness through the wonderful image of the vine and branches.  Only when we remain connected to Jesus, the vine, can we bear fruit; cut off from him, we can do nothing at all.

As ‘branches’, we may sometimes need pruning – but that process can help us produce more plentiful fruit.

As I ponder the relationship God yearns to have with me, and the fruit he enables me to bear, perhaps I can pray with St Ignatius:  ‘Lord, I want and I choose whatever better deepens your life within me.’

(cf. www.pathwaystogod.org)

Prayer

O God,
you graft us onto Christ, the true vine,
and, with tireless care,
you nurture our growth in knowledge and reverence.

Tend the vineyard of your Church,
that in Christ each branch may bring forth
to the glory of your name
abundant fruits of faith and love.

Grant this through Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

(c) 1998 ICEL


4th Sunday of Easter (B)

Gospel  (John 10: 11-18)

Jesus said:
‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.

‘I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.

‘The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’

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Reflection

One of the most beautiful descriptions of God given by Jesus is contained in today’s Gospel reading where he proclaims: “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

Jesus was the visible sign of God’s constant care for his people.

In our present day set-up, the image of the shepherd may be alien to us, but in Palestine the shepherd was a common figure in the countryside. The shepherd in Palestine led his flock, he did not drive them as shepherds elsewhere did. The shepherd literally lived with his flock, spent most of the day and night with them. Though there were hundreds of sheep belonging to different shepherds, the shepherd knew his own and his own sheep recognised his voice and followed him to the pastures. The good shepherd cared for the sheep to the point of death.

Fr Jude Botelho

Prayer

What love you have given us, O God,
that we should be called your children,
born again in Christ by water and the Spirit!

What love you have lavished on us
that we should be gathered into the fold of the Shepherd
whose life is given freely for us !

Keep us safe, make us one,
and gather all your scattered children
into the fold of this Shepherd.

Through Christ our Lord.

(c) 1998 ICEL


God is a good Father

On Sunday, Pope Francis visited a very poor parish in Rome.  While he was there, some children were invited to ask him questions.  But then it was Emanuele’s turn.  The young boy smiled at the Pope as he approached the microphone, but then froze.  “I can’t do it”, Emanuele said.  Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, a papal aide, encouraged the boy, but he kept saying, “I can’t.”

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“Come, come to me, Emanuele”, the Pope said.  “Come and whisper it in my ear.”

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The little boy broke down and Pope Francis gave him big hug.

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With their heads touching, the Pope and the boy spoke privately to each other before Emanuele returned to his seat.

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“If only we could all cry like Emanuele when we have an ache in our hearts like he has”, the Pope told the children. “He was crying for his father and had the courage to do it in front of us because in his heart there is love for his father.”

Pope Francis said he had asked Emanuele if he could share the boy’s question and the boy agreed.  The boy had said:  “A little while ago my father passed away.  He was a nonbeliever, but he had all four of his children baptised.  He was a good man.  Is dad in heaven?”

“How beautiful to hear a son say of his father, ‘He was good’,” the Pope told the children. “And what a beautiful witness of a son who inherited the strength of his father, who had the courage to cry in front of all of us.  If that man was able to make his children like that, then it’s true, he was a good man.  He was a good man.  That man did not have the gift of faith, he wasn’t a believer, but he had his children baptised.  He had a good heart”, Pope Francis said.

“God is the one who says who goes to heaven”, the Pope explained.

The next step in answering Emanuele’s question, he said, would be to think about what God is like and, especially, what kind of heart God has.  “What do you think?  A father’s heart.  God has a dad’s heart.  And with a dad who was not a believer, but who baptised his children and gave them that bravura, do you think God would be able to leave him far from himself?”

“Does God abandon his children?” the Pope asked. “Does God abandon his children when they are good?”  The children shouted, “No.”

“There, Emanuele, that is the answer”, the Pope told the boy.  “God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptise your children than to baptise them when you are not a believer.  Surely this pleased God very much.”

Pope Francis encouraged Emanuele to “talk to your dad; pray to your dad.”

(From the Catholic News Service)