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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)
Bishop David's letter to his priests17-10-2020, 18:10encouragement, Witness
Bishop David has written to priests to pass his thanks onto volunteers who are stewarding in our catholic churches and making it possible for them to remain open. Recognising the struggle many churches face to find volunteers and the pressure on those who do volunteer as the pandemic continues much longer than any of anticipated, Bishop David writes:
My dear friends in Christ,
Greetings to you in the name of our Servant Lord! I want to write to you to express my personal gratitude for your service as a steward in your parish community. It is through your personal generosity and dedication that we have been able to reopen our churches for prayer, and to keep them open, for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other sacraments.
Your patient attention to preparing our churches, through regular cleaning, assistance with hand gel and guidance of visitors through the one-way systems in place, whilst ensuring social distancing, have made a real difference. Parishioners are able to come back to church, feeling safe and secure in these still very challenging times.
I have seen for myself, the effective and efficient manner in which you have carried out your stewardship. One might almost say in a very professional way. This has ensured that our churches are some of the most safest places and buildings throughout the land for people to enter.
All this is very necessary for us to continue. I know that it is difficult for some parish communities to find volunteers. None of us have realised how long this phase of the pandemic would be. I want to encourage you to continue to volunteer, and I encourage our priests to seek other volunteers to help alongside you with this indispensable ministry. I also appreciate how difficult your role can be at times, when you are challenged by those who do not wish to follow the guidelines.
From time to time, we hear talk of what is essential and non-essential. Unfortunately, there is no account in this discourse of the essential nature of our common lives as Disciples of Christ. For us as Catholics, our participation in Holy Mass and the sacraments does not belong to the non-essential. This coming together as a community, called out of darkness into light, is what defines us. In this regard, your volunteer ministry as stewards is a great blessing for us all.
Please be assured of my remembrance of you in my daily Rosary, and please do keep me in your prayers.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Jesus and the Pharisees15-10-2020, 07:57Holy Spirit, hypocrisy, today
Luke 11:47–52 • St Teresa of Avila
Make no mistake and be under no illusion, the Pharisees and Jesus were on a collision course and it was never going to be pretty — the gloves were off, the hostility was out in the open. Jesus did not hold back but called them to account for the blood of the prophets from Abel, the son of Adam and Eve (Gen. 4), to Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, the chief priest during the reign of Kingjoash of Judah (837–800 BC), who was killed in the temple when he tried to call the nation back to true worship (see 2 Chron. 24:17–22). Jesus’s fate was sealed, his path to the cross certain, as the religious establishment of the day was rocked to its very core by his exposure of their hypocrisy.
The Pharisees built tombs for the prophets their forefathers had persecuted and martyred; they claimed to speak for God but resisted the words. spoken by the prophets. Injesus we see the culmination of the ministry of every prophet of old. Israel’s prophets spoke about Christ and always pointed to Christ. Now someone greater than the prophets, the Christ, was among them, and so began a profound resistance which would culminate in the plot to kill him. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because their hearts had become hard and resistant to God’s plan of salvation. They had become closed to the work of God in their midst and in their lives.
True, we might not kill the prophets but we can kill the work of God by being hard and resistant to what the Spirit is doing in our lives and in our Church. The Spirit is at work today in many individuals and movements or streams, such as the Charismatic movement, the Neocathechumenate, Opus Dei, Focolare, the MaltFriscans, Youth 2000 and, last but not least, the sincere young people in our parishes who are ever eager to sing at Mass, play musical instruments and participate in the life of the Church. We must guard our hearts against our own prejudice and preferences – the Spirit blows where the Spirit wills, and we must learn to celebrate his work in our midst and not undermine it or even kill it.
Heavenly Father, by your grace may we resist and overcome ways of thinking which limit the work of the Spirit, and may we rejoice in what you are doing in the Church today.
Ephesians 1:1–10 • Psalm 97(98) • Luke 11:47–54
Occupy your mind with good thoughts09-10-2020, 07:24Christ, cross, evil, good
St John Henry Newman (Feast)
2 Timothy 1:1–5 • Psalm 95 (96) • John 15:9–17
There are two extremes into which people fall when it comes to their attitude to evil and the devil. At one end of the spectrum is to believe in the devil and evil excessively, and at the other not to believe in evil or the devil at all — with plenty of people fitting somewhere in-between! This is as true in our age as any other, and we have ample evidence of excessive belief in innumerable blockbuster films and books and even weekend courses on the occult and demons.
We, for our part, are guided and governed by the Scriptures and the wisdom of the Church passed down through the ages. The Church has always affirmed that the devil and his realm is a reality (see, e. g. Catechism of the Catholic Church 407) which we ignore at our peril. Jesus is the strong man who by his death and resurrection has redeemed the world. By his cross, in his name and through his blood we who have received the grace of baptism are protected and kept safe, but we need to call upon this shield of God’s grace.
We are invited to enter into the spiritual battle which is waged every day. This notion of spiritual conflict or engaging the enemy can seem rather obscure or remote, especially when the daily struggle to deal with the problems of this world is hard enough. Perhaps the great saint and martyr Thomas More shed some light on' this when he said: “Occupy your minds with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones; unoccupied they cannot be.” Being passive and undisciplined in our thinking and in our behaviour can open us up to the devil and his ways. The devil delights in an idleness of mind and a passivity which does not actively take up the good fight of faith.
A mind ﬁlled with God’s truth and God’s thoughts is a mind which is bolstering and protecting itself against the snares and attacks of the Evil One. God created us with the gift of free Will, and the greatest challenge we face every day is to choose God and reject the devil, to choose the good and repel evil, and to stand firm in faith.
Lord Jesus, protect us from the snares, wiles and schemes of the Evil One. I call upon the power of your name, cross and blood, that I may live more and more in your presence.
Who is Jesus?25-09-2020, 09:30Christ, faith, Jesus, Peter, Witness
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 • Psalm 143(144) 1–4 • Luke 9:18-22
It is sometimes difﬁcult to express simply and clearly what we believe. For some, it may stem from a lack of conﬁdence or a fear of being rejected. For others, it might be that they don’t even have the words.
Take those suffering with dementia, for example. There are in the UK 700,000 people suffering from dementia, and that number is steadily increasing. Being diagnosed with dementia is distressing for the individual concerned and for their family and friends. As someone’s ability to relate to the world around them is diminished, they become more isolated. Communication becomes increasingly difficult – they might not be able to talk or to communicate in other ways.
Jesus asked Peter, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (v 20). Peter knew exactly who Jesus was, just as God knows exactly who we are. He knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). Whatever happens to our mental functions, we remain spiritual beings. The Catechism fo the Cat/90hr Church states that ‘The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God’ (para. 1700).
Peter recognised Jesus as the Christ (v. 20). Do we look for and recognise God in those with dementia? The decline in someone’s mental faculties does not end their personal journey of faith or diminish their full human integrity. They continue on their pilgrimage, usually aware of the continuing importance of their deeply held spirituality, and often ﬁnding comfort in familiar prayers and rituals. God is there in their loneliness to give them comfort.
Would Peter have openly stated his faith if he hadn’t been directly challenged byJesus? He might not have made such a declaration without prompting, but he knew what he thought and felt. He had faith. For those witnessing the mental decline of their loved ones, faith becomes all the more important too. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” (Ps. 46:1-2).
Loving Father you are close to the broken-hearted. Look with compassion on those whose lost memories have robbed them of home and belonging. Comfort and strengthen those who care for them. May they make their home in you. This we ask through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Graphic from: https://slmnallotey.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/jesus-the-word-of-god/
Some Wisdom and Calm from Richard Rohr22-09-2020, 07:29contemplation, God, You
The Scandal of Grace20-09-2020, 10:05fairness, forgiveness, grace
Isaiah 55:6–9 • Psalm 144(145):2–3, 8–9, 17–18 • Philippians 1:20–24, 27 • Matthew 20:1–16
Can you imagine the furore at any modern workplace if someone who had worked a full day were paid the same as someone who had worked for only the last hour of the day? With the modern raft of employment legislation and unions, there would probably be a major protest, even a riot. The boss wouldn’t be able to say, as the landowner said to his protesting workers, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?” (v. 13 NIV ). Don’t worry, Jesus told the parable to elicit this very response – indignation, protest and complaint! Sometimes life just isn’t fair, and neither is the gospel message – but that’s the point . . .
The gospel message is shocking and scandalous. How? Because in the gospel we encounter the lavish, generous and wanton giving of God’s grace to all men and women. If we haven’t touched something of the “scandal of grace”, we haven’t understood the “gospel of grace”.
Jesus caused quite a stir through his association with so-called public sinners, including tax collectors, prostitutes and others on the margins of society. The Pharisees were indignant and horrified because they reasoned that God loves the righteous and despises the unrighteous.
But Jesus revealed that God’s love shines on the righteous and the unrighteous, the good, the bad and everyone in between. Jesus was sent by the Father to save the sinner, the poor, the outcast – those far from God, those who would never set foot in a synagogue or indeed a church! Where sin, darkness, evil and death abound, guess what? God’s love and mercy super-abound!
This holier-than-thou attitude was particularly devastating in its effect in Ireland in the last century when unmarried women who fell pregnant were treated abysmally by their families and church authorities. Considered fallen women and unﬁt mothers, they were sent to institutions run by religious sisters, where many of them were treated brutally and harshly. Many were separated from their children and never saw them again. What priests and religious sisters failed to understand is that we are all ‘fallen’ – we are all beggars before God’s mercy.
Jesus heralded a revolution of love and grace, and we are freedom ﬁghters, activists and soldiers of this revolution.
Father I rejoice in the gospel of your scandalous and shocking grace, and give you thanks and praise for the gift of salvation, the light of your mercy and your healing love.
Love16-09-2020, 07:01charity, faith, hope, love
Heavenly Forgiveness13-09-2020, 12:37cross, divine, forgiveness, grace, Jesus
Ecclesiasticus 27:30–28:7 • Psalm 102(103):1–4, 9–12 • Romans 14:7–9 • Matthew 18:21–35
C.S. Lewis was right on the button when he said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” We pray at every Mass: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Yet, when sinned against by a brother or sister, husband or wife, friend or foe, how ready are we to forgive? And how do we forgive? Reluctantly and resentfully, or readily, from the heart?
When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive, proposing the generous offer of ‘as many as seven times’, he was really trying to set a limit – to see how few times he could forgive and get away with it! Jesus responded with a number which was not really a number! “Seventy-seven times” (or “seventy times seven”) signified a countless number. Again we turn to CS. Lewis, who explained: “We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offence and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence.”
As often as the sense of grievance rises hot and strong within us, Jesus challenges us to forgive. And this forgiving is not so much about forgetting as about remembering without bitterness or acrimony in our hearts. Jesus speaks in the context of relationships within the church family. The closer a relationship, the more frequently and more heavily we tend to tread on one another’s toes. Our deepest hurts are not usually inﬂicted by our worst enemy, but by our nearest and dearest, those close to us — our friends / relatives / work colleagues.
The servant in Jesus’s parable owed 10,000 talents – this figure combines the largest Greek numeral with the largest unit of currency. Here is not merely a daunting debt, but one that could never be repaid. God offers us unlimited grace and inexhaustible forgiveness beyond measure, beyond our wildest dreams. But hands clenched in unforgiving anger can neither appropriate nor appreciate this gift. Forgiveness extended to a brother or sister is inextricably linked with the forgiveness received from our Heavenly Father. Jesus modelled unconditional and unlimited forgiveness as he hung on the cross, not only forgiving, but also pleading for the Father’s forgiveness for those who put him there.
Heavenly Father, show me that to err is only too human, but to forgive is truly to imitate the divine.
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary08-09-2020, 07:54covenant, love, Messiah, obedience, worship
Romans 8:28–30 • Psalm 12(13) • Matthew 1:1–16, 18–23
Readers of the Bible are tempted to skip the ﬁrst sixteen verses of Matthew’s Gospel. After all, it’s just a long list of names! Although, in recent years, there has been a renewed interest in tracing one’s family tree, genealogies are often viewed as superﬂuous by a generation that prides itself on being future-oriented and forward-looking. To ancient peoples, however, genealogies were of immense importance. Genealogies were the means by which Bible- time Jews traced their ancestry right back to Abraham, thus reassuring themselves of their position as rightful heirs of God’s covenant promises.
Matthew’s opening phrase ‘An account of the genealogy...’ reads, literally, ‘the book of the genesis. . . ’ , an expression that echoes Genesis 2:4 in' the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and would have been very familiar to Matthew’s original readers. By employing this phrase in connection with the Messiah, Matthew sets Jesus in the context of what God had been doing from the earliest days.
Matthew’s genealogy is constructed around three key periods in Israel’s history. Abraham and David recall two crucial covenants (Gen. 12:1ff; 2 Sam. 7:12ff) that significantly shaped Jewish identity. The Babylonian Exile (referred to in yerses 1 1—12) called into serious question these covenant promises – since the land was lost and the House of David no longer ruled. So, after their return from exile, the Jews eagerly awaited the coming of a Messiah who would fulfil the promises given to Abraham and David. Against this backdrop Matthew announces the ‘genesis’ of the one who would bnn'g to fruition these promises: .‘Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham’.
The genealogy climaxes with the mention of Joseph. Tradition suggests that Mary, too, was of the House of David. But since lineage was established by the male line, in order for Jesus to be proclaimed a true ‘son of David’ Joseph had formally to adopt him. In verse 18, the word translated ‘birth’ is the same as that used in verse 1 (literally, ‘genesis’). The story that follows is not so much a birth story, but an extension of the genealogy which establishes Jesus’s rightful place in the messianic line.
‘At the foot of the cross Mary became our mother. Just before he died, Jesus gave his mother to St John, and St John to his mother. And so, all of us become her children.’ (St Theresa of Kolkata)
Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath05-09-2020, 07:18law, Sabbath, spirit
1 Corinthians 4:6–15 • Psalm 144(145): 17–21 • Luke 6:1–5
Jesus didn’t come to challenge the status quo or upset the apple cart only a little — his wasn’t a slowly, slowly approach. He came to turn the world upside down, to usher in a radically new and different way of thinking. Between Jesus and the Pharisees there was a huge gulf about how they understood the Sabbath. The Pharisees, always eagle-eyed, spotted the disciples of Jesus walking through the grain fields and picking ears of grain. Harmless enough, you would imagine — rather like picking blackberries on a country walk! Yet the Pharisees jumped on this human and harmless activity as breaking the Sabbath and not keeping it holy (set apart).
The commandment to keep the Sabbath holy was a revelation of God’s mercy and liberation. The Sabbath was a day to rejoice in God’s gift of creation. The injunction to refrain from work was a protection ensuring that workers were not forced into slavery by being made to work seven days a week. To rest on the Sabbath is an opportunity to enjoy and celebrate the fruit of our labours and to acknowledge it all as God’s gift.
The Sabbath reminds us that in the end we are not self-sufﬁcient: we depend Upon God’s loving goodness and mercy; It is God who gives created things their capacity to grow and multiply. We cannot create anything out of nothing! We have been given the ability to harness to our advantage the natural resources which God has given us and on which we depend.
Jesus refers to an incident in the Old Testament when King David entered the temple and took the consecrated bread to feed his men, even though the law reserved it for the priests alone. The showbread was a symbol of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. Left in the presence of God, the bread revealed God’s desire to commune with his people. Normally consumed by the priests each week, on this one occasion it was used by David and his men at a time of need. By speaking of this incident Jesus is revealing the hidden reality that his own presence among his disciples brought to fulﬁlment what the showbread had symbolized: God communing with his people — making it a time to feast, not fast!
Blessed are thase called to the supper fo the Lamb who feed on the Bread of Life and who live not by the letter but by the Spirit of the law.
Christ the King
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