Easter Sunday (B)

easter_sunday_07

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!
Chrystus zmartwychwstał! Prawdziwie zmartwychwstał!
Khristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!
Le Christ est ressuscité! En verité il est ressuscité!
Tá Críost éirithe! Go deimhin, tá sé éirithe!
Atgyfododd Crist! Yn wir atgyfododd!

Gospel  (John 20: 1-9)

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

empty-tomb

Lord God, this is the day that you have made!
Raising Jesus from the dead,
and raising us with him,
you have fashioned for yourself a new people,
washed in the waters of baptism,
sealed with the gift of the Spirit,
and invited to the banquet of the Lamb!

Prepare our hearts, Lord,
to celebrate this Easter festival with great joy.

We ask this through your Son, our Passover and our Peace,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.   Amen.

(c) 1998 ICEL.

he-is-risen


Holy Week

THE EASTER TRIDUUM

Holy Saturday

THE KING SLEEPS

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From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

(From the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday)

Good Friday

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha.

carrying-the-cross

Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

crucifixion

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfil what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

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After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

(cf. John 19: 1-30)

Holy Thursday

Gospel  (John 13: 1-15)

It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, and he got up from table, removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘Never!’ said Peter ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ said Simon Peter ‘not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus said, ‘No one who has taken a bath needs washing, he is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.’ He knew who was going to betray him, that was why he said, ‘though not all of you are.’

When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’ he said ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.’

pope-francis-in-argentina

Pope Francis washing feet when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires

Lord God,
you sent your Son into the world,
and before his hour had come,
he washed his disciples’ feet.
You had given all things into his hands.
He had come from you, and was going to you,
and what did he do?
He knelt down on the floor,
and washed his friends’ feet.
He was their teacher and their Lord,
yet he washed their feet.
Lord God, help us learn from his example;
help us to do as he has done for us.
The world will know we are his disciples
if we love one another.
Strengthen our hands and our wills for love
and for service.
Keep before our eyes the image of your Son,
who, being God, became a Servant for our sake.
All glory be to him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
Amen.

(Rachel Marie Stone)

Wednesday of Holy Week

Gospel  (Matthew 26: 14-25)

One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ ‘Go to so-and-so in the city’ he replied ‘and say to him, “The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples”.’ The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.’ They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not I, Lord, surely?’ He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’ Judas, who was to betray him; asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’ ‘They are your own words’ answered Jesus.

30-pieces-of-silver

The Easter Triduum begins on Thursday evening at 7.30 pm with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St Benedict’s.

Tuesday of Holy Week

Gospel  (John 13: 21-33, 36-38)

While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is he means’, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it, Lord?’ ‘It is the one’ replied Jesus ‘to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.’ He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’, or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. Night had fallen.

When he had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.
‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
And, as I told the Jews,
where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’

judas

Holy Week Penance Service (Service of Reconciliation) tonight (Tuesday) at 7.30 pm at St Oswald’s.  Walk of Witness for Peace tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12.00 noon beginning at the Bridegfoot War Memorial in Warrington.

Monday of Holy Week

Gospel  (John 12: 1-11)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.

mary-of-bethany

Holy Week Penance Service tomorrow (Tuesday) at St Oswald’s at 7.30 pm.

 

palmsunday

 

Gospel  (Mark 11: 1-10)

When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, and said to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat; untie it and bring it. If any one says to you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately”.’

And they went away, and found a colt tied at the door out in the open street; and they untied it. And those who stood there said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ And they told them what Jesus had said; and they let them go.

And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on it; and he sat upon it. And many spread their garments on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed cried out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!’

palm-sunday

Reflection

In his homily for Palm Sunday a few years ago, Pope Francis asked: “Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus?”

Pope Francis then pondered the different characters we hear about in the Passion of Jesus:

“The group of leaders, some priests, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who had decided to kill Jesus. They were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them? …

The disciples who understand nothing, who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who did not realize what it was to betray Jesus? Or like that other disciple, who wanted to settle everything with a sword? Am I like them? Am I like Judas, who feigns love and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor?

Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I think that in this way I am saving the people?

Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?

Am I like that crowd which was not sure whether they were at a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and then chose Barabbas? For them it was all the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.

Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, who find entertainment in humiliating him?

Am I like the Cyrenean, who was returning from work, weary, yet was good enough to help the Lord carry his cross?

Am I like those who walked by the cross and mocked Jesus: “He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him!”. Mocking Jesus….

Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, and who suffered in silence?

Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?

Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the Tomb, weeping and praying?

Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, “Look, this man said that he was going to rise again. We cannot let another fraud take place!”, and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?

Where is my heart? Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.”

(Pope Francis, Homily for Palm Sunday 2014)


Our Lenten Journey – Week 5

Fifth Saturday of Lent

taize-cross

Intercessions from Taize

Lord Christ, reveal the presence of your Kingdom in our midst.
O God, keep watch over the gate of our lips – may every hurt of this day be buried in your forgiveness.
Lord Jesus, show your light to the hearts that can no longer find the road to you.
O Christ, by your life offered to God, show us the road to life.
O Christ, remain alongside all who are undergoing a night of torment, the ill and the homeless.
O Christ, keep us from the snares of discouragement and worry.
Our eyes are turned to you, O Lord; our soul finds rest in you.

Prayer

Living God,
at times we are strangers on the earth,
disconcerted by the violence, the harsh oppositions.
And you breathe upon us the Spirit of peace like a gentle breeze.
Transfigure the deserts of our doubts and so prepare us to be
bearers of reconciliation wherever you place us,
until a hope of peace arises in our world.

Fifth Friday of Lent

Day of Prayer for Survivors of Abuse

On Friday 23 March, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is encouraging the Catholic community to take part in a day of prayer for survivors of sexual abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) has highlighted the importance of prayer and suggested to Pope Francis that the worldwide Catholic Church should join together in a day of prayer.  The Holy Father has welcomed this initiative.

In England and Wales, this day will be marked every year on the Friday of the fifth week of Lent.

Heavenly Father,
who loves and cares for all of your children,
especially the smallest and most vulnerable,
we entrust to you the lives of the many children and vulnerable adults,
who have been sexually abused,
and whose trust and innocence have been destroyed.

Help us to hear their cries of pain
and to take responsibility for so many broken lives.

We pray that within their communities and families
they may find understanding and support
so that with the help of your grace their wounds may be healed,
and they may again know peace.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who shared our weakness in all things but sin,
and lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.

Fifth Thursday of Lent

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Psalm 129

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleading.

If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
for this we revere you.

My soul is waiting for the Lord.
I count on God’s word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than those who watch for daybreak.

Because with the Lord there is mercy
and fullness of redemption,
Israel indeed God will redeem
from all its iniquity.

Fifth Wednesday of Lent

Lord,
you will not fail today
to show me your face,
speak to my heart,
and touch my soul with healing…

You will not fail today
to walk by my side,
to show me the way,
and lead me to where your peace awaits…

You will not fail today, Lord,
to help me carry the burdens I bear,
to be the light in my darkness
and to offer some joy in my sadness…

You will not fail today
to give me what I need,
everything I need,
to come to this day’s end
in peace…

So, help me then not fail this day
to look for you
and listen for your word, Lord;
to open my heart
to your presence and touch;
to find you at my side, guiding my way
and lifting me up each time I fall…

Help me not fail today, Lord,
to find and accept
your saving presence in my life,
in my heart and in my prayer…

This is the day that you’ve made, Lord,
and you will not fail
to live and walk it with me:
help me not fail
to live and walk it with you…

Amen.

(c) Fr Austin Fleming aka ‘Concord Pastor’

Fifth Tuesday of Lent

fountain-of-life

25 years ago today (20 March 1993), two bombs exploded in Warrington Town Centre killing two little boys – Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball – and injuring scores of other people.

Today, as we remember Tim and Johnathan and their families, together with all those who bear the scars of that terrible day, let us pray:

Loving God,
welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism.
Comfort their families and all who grieve for them.
Help us in our fear and uncertainty,
and bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love.
Strengthen all those who work for peace,
and may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts.

(Picture:  ‘Fountain of Life’ erected in memorial to Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry in Bridge Street, Warrington)

  

Fifth Monday of Lent

lent-plastic-challenge2

More ideas from the Church of England’s Lent Plastic Challenge:

  1. Avoid wet wipes.  These contain plastic fibres so don’t break down like toilet roll, despite often being described as flushable.
  2. Acquire used necessary plastic items instead of new.  Check second-hand shops, Freecycle or Freegle.  Look for sharing groups locally.
  3. Avoid the Mini bar snacks and drinks.  Not only are they incredibly expensive, but they all come in plastic packages or bottles.  Even if you can’t avoid plastic entirely, you can resist single serving sizes.

Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)

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Gospel  (John 12: 20-33)

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus. Jesus replied to them:

‘Now the hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified.
I tell you, most solemnly,
unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies,
it yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it;
anyone who hates his life in this world
will keep it for the eternal life.
If a man serves me, he must follow me,
wherever I am, my servant will be there too.
If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.
Now my soul is troubled.
What shall I say:
Father, save me from this hour?
But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.
Father, glorify your name!’
 A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.

‘Now sentence is being passed on this world;
now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I shall draw all men to myself.’
 By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.

Pondering the Gospel

As I come to prayer, I ask the Lord to help me be aware of his welcoming presence, and to offer anything that burdens me into his hands.

In time, I read through the Gospel text prayerfully. I may like to place myself within the scene, sensing the hustle and bustle of Passover, the different nationalities and languages … Jesus and his disciples nearby. I stay here for a while, noticing what stirs for me.

Perhaps I stand with the Greeks, sensing their eagerness to meet Jesus. Who is the Jesus that I would like to encounter? Is there something I would like to say to him? I take time to do that now, trusting that he listens to me with the greatest love and compassion.

Is there anyone in my life who might be asking me to introduce them to Jesus? I ask the Lord to show me.

Jesus is clear about the challenges of life in his service – and also clear about the promised reward. I ponder the ways in which Jesus himself comes to us as a loving servant. How does it feel as he invites me to work alongside him, as servants together? Where might he be calling me to follow him this day, this week?

I ask for any grace that I need, and the courage to respond with an open and generous heart.

In time I end my prayer, giving thanks for all that the Lord has done for me.

(From St Beuno’s Outreach, Diocese of Wrexham)

Prayer

Father in heaven,
the love of your Son led him to accept the suffering of the cross
that his brothers and sisters might glory in new life.
Change our selfishness into self-giving.
Help us to embrace the world you have given us,
that we may transform the darkness of its pain
into the life and joy of Easter.
Through Christ our Lord.

(c) 1973 International Committee on English in the Liturgy Corporation.


Our Lenten Journey – Week 4

Fourth Saturday of Lent

Update on the Crisis in Syria from CAFOD

As Syria’s civil war enters its eighth year, it remains the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.

According to the UN, the conflict has killed over 400,000 people and caused large-scale displacement. An estimated 6.1 million Syrians have been made homeless inside the country, and more than half the country’s pre-war population, 13.1 million people, are in need of urgent humanitarian aid – food, water, shelter and protection.

Over 5.4 million Syrians have registered as refugees in neighbouring countries.

What is happening in Ghouta?

The conflict has intensified over the last few weeks and months, with a horrifying situation unfolding in Eastern Ghouta. Hundreds of civilian deaths have been reported and the UN has said 400,000 people are trapped in the besieged neighbourhoods east of Damascus.

Alan Thomlinson, CAFOD’s Syria Crisis Programme Manager, said: “We are outraged that civilians are being targeted by attacks on residential areas around Damascus. The devastating bombardment in Eastern Ghouta and Damascus is a stark reminder to us all that the conflict is not over in Syria.”

God of Compassion,
hear the cries of the people of Syria,
comfort those who suffer violence,
console those who mourn the dead,
give strength to Syria’s neighbouring countries
to welcome the refugees,
convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and protect those who are committed to peace.

God of hope,
inspire leaders to choose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with their enemies,
inflame the Universal Church with compassion
for the people of Syria,
and give us hope for a future built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
the Prince of Peace and Light of the world.
Amen.

Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus

Fourth Friday of Lent

Today, let’s pray the Lenten Psalm – Psalm 50 – usually prayed on Fridays in the Morning Prayer of the Church.

prayer

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offences truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervour sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favour to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.

Fourth Thursday of Lent

You call us to service;
to be your eyes and ears,
hands and voice in this your world.

To open our eyes not only
to the beauty and love which you create,
but the injustice,
hate and suffering that mankind generates.

To open our ears not only
to the chattering of this coming week,
but the searching,
fears and questioning of all whom we shall meet.

To open our hands not only
to those we choose our lives to share,
but in welcome,
love and fellowship to all who you draw near.

To open our mouths not only
to speak platitudes and simple words,
but the truths you lay upon our hearts.
Your Word for this your world.

You call us to service,
to be your eyes and ears,
hands and voice in this your world.

(c) 2016 John Birch

Fourth Wednesday of Lent

when-god-feels-far-away

Over the past week, Lord,
I’ve found myself
sometimes feeling far away from you
and other times as close (or closer)
than ever I have been…

Though some days you seem distant
I know there’s not a moment,
day and night,
when you’re not by my side:
before me, behind me,
above me, below me,
within and beside me…

It’s your grace,
always your move, Lord,
that beckons,
calls me out of hiding,
sets me on the right path
and draws me home
into the warm embrace
of your strong and loving arms…

You never leave me, Lord
(you never have, you never will)
but I’ve a host of ways
to turn and hide from you,
from your word and from your truth,
closing my eyes
to your wisdom and counsel,
your guiding presence at my side…

For the times I’ve run away
(or tried to)
I ask your pardon, Lord,
and for the times you’ve brought me back
I give you thanks and praise…

Draw me close
when I’m inclined to lose my way
and let me never, never
be separated from you…

Amen.

(c) Fr Austin Fleming aka ‘Concord Pastor’

Fourth Tuesday of Lent

Today, 13 March 2018, is the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis.

pope-francis-and-child

God our Father, shepherd and guide,
look with love on Francis your servant,
the pastor of your Church.
May his word and example inspire and guide the Church,
and may he, and all those entrusted to his care,
come to the joy of everlasting life.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

“Giving thanks today on the 5th anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. The Holy Father has brought a pastors heart, an embrace of the most vulnerable and an example of Christ’s love to the entire world” (Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston).

Fourth Monday of Lent

lent-plastic-challenge2

More ideas from the Church of England’s Lent Plastic Challenge:

  1. Share your leftovers or unwanted food. Reduce waste by joining a food sharing network like Olio – check out their website.
  2. Choose natural fibres. Synthetic fabrics create microfibre pollution when washed. When buying new clothes look for organic cotton, wool and other natural fibres.
  3. Invest in quality. By doing so, you are minimising the demand for cheap items that end up in landfill. In the long run, it will save you money.

Fourth Sunday of Lent (B)

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Gospel    (John 3: 14-21)

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘The Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

Pondering the Gospel

Read today’s Gospel passage slowly.  After you’ve read it, think for a moment:  are there any words or phrases that stand out for you?  If not, perhaps read the passage again.

What is ‘Good News’ for you in this passage?

If you’re struggling, perhaps mull over these lines:

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.


Our Lenten Journey – Week 3

Third Saturday of Lent

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Third Friday of Lent

Thinking about the readings for this coming Sunday, here’s the Second Reading – a beautiful passage from St Paul.

Ephesians 2: 4-10

God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

you-are-gods-work-of-art

Third Thursday of Lent

examen-prayer-450

The Examen is a way of reviewing the day by St Ignatius Loyola – a time set aside to notice, in particular, the presence of God with me during the day.  There are five steps.  The whole exercise takes about 15 minutes.

  1. Ask God for light – to look at the day with God’s eyes, not just my own.
  2. Give thanks for the day – it has been a gift from God to me.
  3. Review the day – guided by the Holy Spirit, slowly look back over the day.
  4. Face your shortcomings – I recognise what is wrong in my life and in me.
  5. Look toward the day to come – I ask for God to be with me in the day to come.

 

Third Wednesday of Lent

xslow-me-down-lord

Slow me down, Lord…

Especially when I can’t stop this merry-go-round on my own:
slow me down…

When my head and heart are filled with noise,
slow me down and show me a path to a quiet place…

When I’m standing still but moving at 60 inside,
put the brakes on and bring me to a stop by your side,
in a place where I can hear my own breathing
and the breath of your Spirit within me…

Help me hear my heart beat
and to trust that you listen to every beat…

Help me savour the silence
and find peace within it
and peace within my soul…

Help me make the time to find the calm,
to find the quiet I need
to hear the birds sing, the tide come in,
the sun rise and the moon wax full in the skies above…

Let me find the time, Lord, for the rhythms of my life
to slow down and rock me not to sleep but to peace,
to that serenity that only you can give…

Let this place and time of prayer become for me
a wellspring of sweet waters for a thirsty heart,
a place where I will want to come often, every day,
to draw and drink from its depths,
to slake my thirst for what truly satisfies
and gives me life…

Bring me to a quiet place, Lord,
wherever in my day that may be
and let me find the time to sit with you there
to drink in the peace that’s only yours to give…

Help me to be still, Lord,
that I might know that you are God,
that I might know that you are near…

(c) Fr Austin Fleming aka ‘Concord Pastor’

Third Tuesday of Lent

Today’s First Reading is the Prayer of Azariah.  Azariah prays to God on behalf of the community – begging forgiveness for the sins of the people.

Azariah recognised God as gentle and very merciful.  As we come to know our Lord, we discover the same.  We can always come to him with our burden of sin, knowing that he will understand, forgive and help us to get back on the right road again.

Daniel 3: 25, 34-43

Azariah stood in the heart of the fire, and he began to pray:

Oh! Do not abandon us for ever,
for the sake of your name;
do not repudiate your covenant,
do not withdraw your favour from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your friend,
of Isaac your servant,
and of Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven
and as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Lord, now we are the least of all the nations,
now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins.
We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince,
no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense,
no place where we can offer you the first-fruits
and win your favour.
But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.
Do not disappoint us;
treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle
and very merciful.
Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds,
let your name win glory, Lord.

Third Monday of Lent

lent-plastic-challenge2

More ideas from the Church of England’s Lent Plastic Challenge:

  1. Disposable razors and razor blades are two of the biggest contributors to plastic waste. Why not think about using a razor with removable blades.
  2. Fresh food markets are not only often cheaper and fresher than supermarkets, but they sell fruit and vegetables loose. Why not try and do some of your shopping at markets – don’t forget to take your reusable bags!
  3. Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bags. This eliminates plastic wrapping waste from shop bought bread and you help support local businesses.

Third Sunday of Lent (B)

This year, the First Readings on the Sundays of Lent recall the covenants God made with his people in the Old Testament.  So, on the First Sunday of Lent, we heard how God made a covenant with Noah.  Last Sunday, we heard about the covenant God made with Abraham.  Today, we hear about the covenant God made with Moses in the form of Ten Commandments.

lent-3

Exodus 20: 1-3, 7-8, 12-17

God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
‘You shall have no gods except me.
‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.
‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.
‘You shall not kill.
‘You shall not commit adultery.
‘You shall not steal.
‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’

Thought

I don’t think any of us could quibble with any of those commandments.  They make sense and they’ve stood the test of time.  But they’re more than a list of rules.  They show us how to live in relationship with God and other people.  They can also be summed up in Christ’s new commandment, which we will celebrate on Holy Thursday evening – ‘love one another as I have loved you’.

Prayer

God of the covenant,
you are full of compassion and faithfulness,
slow to anger and abounding in love.
In Jesus, your word to us was always “yes”
and in him we hear the yes to all your promises.
Open our hearts that we respond to your great gifts
so that all we do and say and are
may be a yes to you from the depths of our hearts.

(cf. www.tarsus.ie)