Reflections on Gospel Readings for Sundays and Feast Days
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FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT - John 9:1-41
This homily arrived late so, my apologies. When Father Christopher contacted me to say it was overdue my immediate reaction was to be annoyed at myself for being so disorganised. And now that I am over the initial annoyance I reflect on what is happening for me, my family and friends as these are uncertain times. It is no surprise therefore that I am not organised. Continued government advice about COVID-19 continues to disorientate us and reinforce the sense of disbelief, it is happening, this is real.
For the last few weeks we have been going through a process of purification, preparedness for the Resurrection. As the Creed tells us, 'for our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.’
In the reading from the book of Samuel, the Lord sends Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem for the Lord chose a King among his sons. It is Samuel that made the assumption whom the Lord had chosen, no doubt a fine statute of a man however this was not the Lord’s choice, ‘the Lord looks at the heart.’ After a list of sons, it was David who was anointed as the King. This is a reminder that is it the Lord who calls us to service, to fulfil his will but we are also human, open to temptation and weakness. As we read on, David was not always a great role model but as we see from history of David, adulterer and a conspirer to murder. It was to the Lord that David would return, seeking merciful forgiveness.
Sunday is a time when the liturgical colour changes from purple to rose or violet. This change indicates some breathing space from the self sacrifice at Lent, it recognises the human condition, that we may find Lent too challenging. It is also Mothering Sunday, a time when we focus on a mother figure and what they have done for us, nurtured us and helped us to grow. It may not always be a biological mother.
The story from John’s gospel is the blind man whose sight was restored by Jesus. Two things strike me about this reading, the miracle is met by disbelief, surely this can't be the same man and, anger that Jesus did this on the Sabbath! It was not uncommon for people then to believe that if you were born with a disability it was for a past sin. No surprise therefore that despite what the man said he was dismissed as a sinner ‘through and through, since you were born’.
Bringing this together what message comes from the old testament reading and the gospel? For one thing, our capacity to sin, but recognising this and seeking the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. Jesus’ ministry was one of forgiveness, paying the ultimate price for our sins. Part of the process of Lent is to take in the enormity of this, Jesus did this for us.
But it is about much more, Jesus invites us to join him in the Resurrection, to come alive, to be in relationship with God and truly recognise this. This is about hope, renewal, a new sense of purpose.
COVID-19, the coronavirus, is making everyone take a sharp intake of breath. As we are continually updated on those who are infected and those who have died including the healthcare workers who look after patients, we are trying to make sense of this. There exists a fear of the unknown. Yet our thinking is not medieval, 21st century medicine has taught us so much, saved so many of us but it also reminds us of our fragility, our weakness, not to take life or each other for granted.
Let us pray for each other at this time, that we may keep well and safe, to listen to those in healthcare who give us advice to minimise the risks, and to pray for the healthcare workers who are in the front line, who live out their vocation despite the cost.
Fr. Tosh Lynch
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT -
"5 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
The Greek translation of ‘anointed’ is Χριστός (Christós), which in English is Christ. Every king of Israel and Judah was an ‘anointed one’ because the high priest or prophet anointed him, often with olive oil, at the time of his enthronement. High priests and prophets were also ‘anointed’ (Lev 4:3; 1 Kgs 19:6). Anointing symbolised being set apart, or made holy, in order to represent the people before YHWH, their God. Following the return from exile, the idea of a Messiah developed into an agent of God who would save Israel and herald ‘a messianic age.’ Hosea introduces the idea of a restored Davidic king (Hos 3:4-5).
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says that he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising [sic] nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (p.45)" CS Lewis
"Calling two of his disciples to him, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (john 7:19) In the coming week reflect on this question: Who is Jesus Christ to you?
Brother James CFMD
SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT - Mt 17:1-9
Do you see that shining face of Jesus in your homeless siblings? Do those tired, lonely and dirty faces shine the same? Do their clothes look anything like Jesus’s white as the ligh raiment to you?
Would you set up a
tabernacle for them to be with you? Would you say out loud that it is
good for you to be there?
Because Jesus can be well seen in their faces. Moreover, whatever you do to them, you do to him.
But do you?
In our tradition, we believe every baptised person carries within themselves the royal priesthood. Some of us are called to what we call the ministerial priesthood. Many catholic traditions call it hierarchical. But deacons, priests and bishops are nothing more than slaves whom their Lord orders to look after his family – the royal priesthood, the whole Church. Not to be above them but to minister to them with what was given to us on the ordination day. We are not there to serve merely some methaphysical Jesus. We are here to serve you, because you are his family!
And we promise to see his shining face and raiment white as the light in you. Whoever you are!Fr. Chris CFMD
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT - Mt 4:1-11
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Today’s Gospel reading is of the familiar story of the temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness; temptations from the devil that must have made Jesus ask questions of himself.
We live in a world of many questions. Received customs and traditions are questioned; hitherto unquestioned norms are not spared and we are no longer satisfied with the answer, “that is how it is, or has always been”. Some of those questions have one answer, some of those questions have many different answers depending on who you ask, and some of those questions seem to have no answer at all.
In the Parish Office in Wimbledon, London, where I was the full-time Administrator before I was ordained, there were a steady stream of questions arriving through letters, telephone calls and e-mails on a daily basis. Through our televisions we are bombarded with programmes featuring contestants being asked question after question, and those people who have the kind of minds that enable them to answer the most questions correctly turn out to be the biggest winners.
I know a young man, Malachi who, as a 3 year old boy, began every conversation with a question. This had been going on from the moment he began to string his first sentences together. Almost always the question was, “what are you doing?”, which was quickly followed by another question, “why?” If he was speaking to someone whom he did not know the next question was usually, “what’s your name?” After those three questions had been asked he normally started the cycle again. It could go on for hours: “what are you doing?” “Why?” “What is your name?” “What are you doing?” “Why?” Most of us probably have detected that same kind of pattern in the lives of the children that are close to us. Well, those child-like questions are good questions for all of us, no matter what our age. “What are we doing?” “Why are we doing it?” “Who really are we?”
Last Wednesday Christians around the world enacted together a liturgy for the beginning of Lent in which ash, the ash of penitence, was imposed upon our foreheads as it has been imposed on the foreheads of generation after generation of Christians before us. For the next forty days all of us, whether we were at one of those services or not, will journey together on a pilgrimage toward the Easter mysteries which are at the centre of our faith. This season of Lent provides us with an opportunity to stand back from all that we do, ask ourselves some poignant life questions, and prepare ourselves once again to receive the life-giving message of Easter.
Fr. Julian Kent CFMD
Ash Wednesday - Matthew 6, 1-6.
Is it just me or did we just have Lent? Well actually, that was Advent which is given the name, mini-lent. The call to be ready in preparation for the second coming of Christ.
This is the time that the whole church goes on retreat for 6 weeks, about 6 weeks after the Christmas season. In fact, as we are recovering from the holidays and celebrations of Christmas retail packs away the decorations and gifts and replaces them with chocolate Easter eggs, nothing like pressure.
Let us focus on what Lent is about. As Christians it is the most fundamental belief, Jesus was raised from the dead and is Christ the Lord. The Lent period prepares us for Easter and this wonderful celebration, the Resurrection.
Three themes take us on the journey: the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection; the implications of this for those who are preparing for baptism and a renewal of faith and conversion for those already baptised.
The season of Lent starts with Ash Wednesday. Ash comes from the palms used the previous year and are placed on the forehead saying, ‘repent, and believe in the gospel’.
We then embark on a journey of purification for 40 days that mirrors Jesus’ time in the desert of fasting and temptation in preparation before he was to embark on his ministry.
I have worked in the health service for many years and we aim to provide quality care to patients and careers. For me as chaplain that also includes care to staff. If we are looking at change we consider a template and use the acronym, SMART. This means specific, measurable, realistic and timely. I was thinking about this today and how it could be applied to our purification. Sometimes we makes decisions of what to give up for Lent. As a child it was things like chocolate and sugar in my tea and going to Mass everyday. As a child I would consider that as SMART and not too testing. Of course, sometimes I didn’t go to Mass everyday but did not give myself a hard time about it.
Give space for prayer, pray for peace, for justice and for the homeless. Give even if it is a loaf of bread at the food bank for those who need our love and support.
I understand the purification part and also thought about how some sacrifices promotes my own wellbeing. Maybe this is an opportunity to try and lose some weight as ultimately it will contribute to positive health outcomes. Maybe this is a time to reflect on my work life balance.
Ultimately, I want to get to know Jesus more, build my relationship with the Divine through prayer and meditation.
I say this during Lent, during the Easter Triduum and the day of Easter, ‘he did this for me’. This is the unconditional love of God.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.
Fr. Tosh Lynch, Saint Mungo's Mission, Glasgow, Scotland
7ᵗʰ Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5, 38-48
Love your enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
We believe in the mercy of God. At least out of one side of our mouth. On the other side we doubt it.
And wait for some coming proof. Which comes, and before which we persist in doubt.
I read the following story of Rudolph Hoess to retreatants once. I am not sure of their reaction. But I sense troubled souls. Can this be true? A bit much, is it not?
It is indeed a bit much.
And so is His “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The murder of the Son of God at our hands by our sins.
A bit much indeed.
Centuries later we still doubt. The proof of that is our mercy to others. For an experience of mercy leads most certainly to a passing it on. And so a merciful people. Pass it on.
Here is the story:
“Let us pray for the Nazis, because no conversion is impossible!”
Fr. Maximilian Kolbe said to his friend Fr. John Lipsky in Auschwitz. In the end, he was right.
In 1947, a few days before his execution, Rudolph Hoess, one of the cruelest mass murderers in the course of history, converted.
In the Nuremberg Trials, as well as in the Warsaw National Court, Hoess confessed to being responsible for everything that happened under his command at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Calm and matter of fact, he confirmed that three million people died under his leadership.
Already after he had been condemned to death, he heard the bells of a nearby Carmelite convent in his prison cell in Krakow. He remembered how he stood at the altar as an altar boy and how becoming a priest had been his dream. Then, the virtually unthinkable happened: Hoess wanted to talk to a priest. When there was no response to his wish, he repeated his plea in a written petition. In the end, Fr. Wladyslaw Lohn SJ was chosen to take on this delicate mission. The provincial of the southern Poland Jesuits, he was very well informed about the concentration camp Auschwitz which was situated there.
Before he went to Rudolph Hoess, he went to get spiritual support from the convent where St. Faustina had lived and received the revelations of Divine Mercy.
Fr. Lohn then spoke several hours with Hoess. At the end of the conversation, the former commander of Auschwitz made a profession of Catholic Faith and officially came back to the Church. Then Hoess received sacramental confession.
Years later, Fr. Lohn testified that he prepared this man, who had been condemned to death, for confession by speaking about Jesus heart.
On the following day, Fr. Lohn brought Holy Eucharist to the converted Hoess. On receiving Holy Communion, he knelt down in the middle of his cell and cried. He dismissed the priest with the words, “God has forgiven me, but the people will never forgive me!”
Anticipating his imminent death and reconciled with God, he wrote a touching and loving farewell letter from prison the next day, April 11, 1947, to his wife and his five children. In it he openly stated the motives for his behavior and admitted his faults, but he also describes his sincere and caring love for his family and describes his return to God: “It was a difficult struggle. Yet I found my faith again in the Lord my God.”
On April 12, four days before execution, Hoess wrote a statement publicly asking the Polish nation for forgiveness...
A bit much, isn’t it? It is indeed a bit much.
Fr. James Baker CFMD
6ᵗʰ Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5, 17-37
Today's Gospel reading leaves us with no space for any compromises when it comes to be more loving, more forgiving, more Jesus-like.
How many Gospel readings more do we need to read or hear finally to understand that there is no compromise ever possible for those who want to follow Christ? It is a radical choice of love. So radical, in fact, that it ensures no sin. Because only if you truly love, whatever you do, will not lead you to sin.
Is this the day that you will decide to follow that radical Gospel of love and inclusiveness that we see in Christ? Or are you still juggling your commitment between worldly benefits and Him, at the cost of your life?
Fr. Chris CFMD
5ᵗʰ Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5, 13-16
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.”
How important is salt? In ancient Israel, salt was a part of the rituals of sacrifice. Before modern refrigeration, salt was a necessity when it came to preserving foods. 40 million tons are required each year to fill our needs. Homer called salt divine. Plato called it a “substance dear to the gods.” Shakespeare mentioned salt 17 times in his plays. Perhaps Leonardo da Vinci wanted to send a subtle message about purity lost when he painted “The Last Supper.” In that painting an overturned bowl of salt is conspicuously placed before Judas.
In ancient Greece a far-flung trade involving the exchange of salt for slaves gave rise to the expression, “not worth his salt.” Roman soldiers were given special salt rations known as “Salarium Argentum”, the forerunner of the English word “salary.” Thousands of Napoleon's troops died during his retreat from Moscow because their wounds would not heal – their bodies lacked salt. The human body contains about 250g / 4oz. of salt. Without enough of it, muscles won’t contract, blood won’t circulate, food won’t digest, and the heart won’t beat. Without a doubt, salt is essential for life. Salt is a BIG DEAL!
And light? They didn’t have electricity when Jesus preached his famous sermon, therefore, they could really only accomplish and do things during the day when the sun was up. We know how important light is. Have you ever tried to find your way through the woods in total darkness?
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” Jesus said that to this humble mob, and it’s telling that the word “you” in this sentence is plural – it’s not any one of them by themselves, but if they work together.
The 20th century English Archbishop William Temple is quoted as saying, “The Church is the only organization on earth that exists for those who are not its members.” And it’s true –
Salt can lose its flavour and therefore usefulness when we forget about those outside our doors. Salt loses its leavening quality when we become focused on self, rather than loving God and neighbour.
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Fr Julian Kent CFMD
The Presentation of the Lord - Luke 2, 22-40
The Church, the family of God, must constantly live on the mystery of
the Passover and offer the only begotten Son to the Father, as the
Immaculate Lamb for the life of the world. That is why today's
meeting with Jesus is already a preview of the liberation of His
brothers. He is already prophesying about the Paschal Victory. The
light that accompanies us today in the liturgy makes us look forward
to the Resurrection Light and the full freedom of God's Children. Is
this what we really want, dearest?
Let us especially pray for all consecrated persons, as today is their feast day. Let us remember them in our prayers and support them with our love .They devoted themselves to God completely, may they persevere in good, bringing Christ's Love to the world.
Jesus is alive.
Fr. Michał Żarkowski CFMD
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