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)


3rd Sunday of Easter (B)

Gospel  (Luke 24: 35-48)

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.

They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’

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The Breaking Of The Bread

Luke’s gospel describes an appearance of the risen Jesus to two disciples who are on their way to Emmaus. This place is usually identified with the Arab village of Amwas. It is set on a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean. He talks with them, but they do not recognise him. This may be caused by their grief or the spectacular sunset over the Mediterranean. It is not until he sits down in their home and “breaks bread” that they come to understand who he is. Of course, we immediately see the connection with the Eucharist, but there also may be something more.

There were no utensils at a 1st century Jewish meal, except perhaps a knife. People ate with flat bread similar to today’s Syrian or Pita bread. It came in large sheets. The host would tear off a section of the bread and use it to pick up the food. He would then pass the bread to the others at the table. Each would take a section. By the time it reached the last place, there was often little or none left. Jesus may have had a different way of breaking bread. He did not take his share first, thus making himself last. This set an example of humility for the others. It certainly would have been unusual and recognisable.

Baked Fish

Luke tells us that Jesus asked his disciples, “Have you anything to eat?” This may seem like a strange request since Jesus’ risen body is obviously very different (he can walk through walls). It may simply be that Jesus wants to show them and us that he is not a ghost, dream or hallucination. You can dream that someone is eating food, but when you wake up the food will still be there!

© 2000 by Father Richard Lonsdale

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you banish our doubts with the gift of faith:
Lord, have mercy.
You calm our fears with the gift of peace:
Christ, have mercy.
You heal our wounds with your gift of love:
Lord, have mercy.


2nd Sunday of Easter (B)

Gospel  (John 20: 19-31)

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

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Prayer

Hear the risen Lord greeting you personally:  “Peace be with you!”

Hear him entrust you with the words:  “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.”

Allow him to equip you for this task with open hands:  “Receive the Holy Spirit” … “Give me your hand.”

With Thomas, we say:  “My Lord and my God.”


Easter Octave

Saturday of the Easter Octave

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad. Alleluia!  (Ps 117)

Gospel  (Mark 16: 9-15)

Having risen in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus appeared first to Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils. She then went to those who had been his companions, and who were mourning and in tears, and told them. But they did not believe her when they heard her say that he was alive and that she had seen him.

After this, he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country. These went back and told the others, who did not believe them either.

Lastly, he showed himself to the Eleven themselves while they were at table. He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.’

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“Let us go forward with the joy of Jesus’ Resurrection, knowing He is always by our side!” (Pope Francis, 5 April 2018)

Friday of the Easter Octave

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad. Alleluia!  (Ps 117)

Gospel  (John 21: 1-14)

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

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“John turns to Peter and says: “It is the Lord!” (v. 7). Right away Peter throws himself into the water and swims to the shore, toward Jesus. In that exclamation: “It is the Lord!”, there is all the enthusiasm of the Paschal faith, full of joy and wonder, which sharply contrasts with the disappearance, the dejection, the sense of powerlessness that had accumulated in the disciples’ hearts. The presence of the Risen Jesus transforms everything: darkness has become light, futile work has again become fruitful and promising, the sense of weariness and abandonment give way to a new impetus and to the certainty that He is with us” (Pope Francis, 10 April 2016).

Thursday of the Easter Octave

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad. Alleluia!  (Ps 117)

Gospel  (Luke 24: 35-48)

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.

They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’

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“The empty tomb should challenge us and rally our spirits… It should make us think, but above all it should encourage us to trust and believe that God ‘happens’ in every situation and every person, and that his light can shine in the least expected and most hidden corners of our lives” (Pope Francis, Easter Vigil Homily 2018).

Wednesday of the Easter Octave

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad. Alleluia!  (Ps 117)

Gospel  (Luke 24: 13-35)

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

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“All of us, in our lives, have had difficult, dark times; moments in which we have walked sad, thoughtful, without horizons and (with) only a wall in front…” However, even in these moments “Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, warm the heart and say, ‘Go ahead, I’m with you. Go ahead’ ” (Pope Francis, General Audience, 24 May 2017).

Tuesday of the Easter Octave

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad. Alleluia!  (Ps 117)

Gospel  (John 20: 11-18)

Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

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Jesus’s empty tomb should fill Christians with trust in God and should assure them that God’s light “can shine in the least expected and most hidden corners of our lives” (Pope Francis, Easter Vigil 2018).

Monday of the Easter Octave

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad. Alleluia!  (Ps 117)

Gospel  (Matthew 28: 8-15)

Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’

While they were on their way, some of the guard went off into the city to tell the chief priests all that had happened. These held a meeting with the elders and, after some discussion, handed a considerable sum of money to the soldiers with these instructions, ‘This is what you must say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And should the governor come to hear of this, we undertake to put things right with him ourselves and to see that you do not get into trouble.’ The soldiers took the money and carried out their instructions, and to this day that is the story among the Jews.

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“Our God is always the God of surprises. From the beginning of the history of salvation, God has surprised his people” (Pope Francis, Easter Homily 2018).