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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

The "Sent Ones"

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Mark 3:13–19

Jesus is the Father's Emissary.  At the beginning of his ministry he appointed twelve men to be his emissaries (apostoloi). In the same way that the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus sent these apostles, literally translated sent ones', into the world to preach the good news (John 20:21).  Today's Church stands on the shoulders of these great men of God, who were chosen, commissioned and sent on mission by Jesus himself.  The Church is built on the foundation laid by the apostles.  The Church is  herself apostolic because she has been entrusted with the commission of handing on faithfully the “apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42).  In the words of the apostle Paul she has been commissioned to guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – [to] guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us (2 Tim. 1:13-14 NIV).

Although we don't tend to think in these terms when we attend Mass on a Sunday or celebrate the Eucharist during the week, the Church continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by the apostles until Christ's return.  In this task she is led and guided by the Pope, the successor of St Peter, and the College of Bishops, assisted by priests, but we too, by virtue of our baptism, are called to be 'ministers of the New Covenant, “servants of God”, “ambassadors for Christ” and “stewards of the mysteries of God”.  We should rejoice in this calling and be conscious of what a sacred calling it is to be a Christian.

However, there is one aspect of the apostles call that none of us can share in because their ministry was unique.  It is that they were chosen by Christ to be eyewitnesses of the Lord's foundation and so the foundation stones of the Church.  We owe these men, these heroes of faith, these men of courage and faith, a profound debt of gratitude for if the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, so too is the witness of the apostles.  Praise God today for their faithfulness and obedience and stand in awe of their witness because they are truly giants of faith.

Jesus, you are the eternal Shepherd who never leaves his flock untended. Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always. You made them shepherds of the flock to share in the work of your Son.

 

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

Hebrews 8:6–13 • Psalm 84(85):8, 10–14 • Mark 3:13–19

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Faith and Forgiveness

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Isaiah 35:1-10  Psalm 84(85):9–14  Luke 5:17–26


The paralysed man is healed, not because of his own faith, but through the faith of his friends. This fascinating incident highlights that a sure knowledge and experience of forgiveness is a fundamental human need which strikes at the very core of who we are. And who are we? We are persons created in the image and likeness of God, but fallen and wounded and in need of the bitter grace of sorrow and repentance, which leads to the sweet blessing of forgiveness.


The Pharisees have to be given credit for getting to the heart of the matter very quickly indeed. They figured that no mere human being could forgive sins and that this power and grace belonged to God alone (v. 21). Many centuries later William Blake captured this idea in the way that only a great man of letters can: “There is not one moral virtue that Jesus inculcated but Plato and Cicero did inculcate before him. What then did Christ inculcate? Forgiveness of sins. This alone is the Gospel, and this is the life and immortality brought to life by Jesus.”


There is a very real way in which forgiveness is our greatest need, and when we receive God’s forgiveness our greatest response is in turn to forgive those who sin against us. At the heart of receiving God’s forgiveness is taking hold of how great is God’s mercy towards us. God delights to forgive sins and rejoices when we turn to him in sorrow and repentance. Perhaps it is because in receiving God’s forgiveness we grasp reality and come in contact with the truth that it was because of our sin, our rebellion and our waywardness that God sent his only Son.

The cost of the grace of our forgiveness and reconciliation was brought about by nothing less than the cross of Jesus. Without the cross there would be no forgiveness. In forgiving us God sets us free, and we are invited to forgive others as we have been forgiven. This is why the cross is truly a sign of forgiveness and freedom. “When Christ’s hands were naıled to the cross, he also nailed your sins to the cross” (St Bernard of Clairvaux).

On this his feast-day, we leave the last word to the wise pastor St Ambrose: 


As often as the Lord’s blood is shed it is poured out for the forgiveness of sins; so I ought to receive it always, that my sins may always be forgiven.

Chris


from Bible Alive

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Our goal, destiny and purpose

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field and sky with figure

Luke 21:34–36

Jesus understood the human: condition with all its weaknesses, inclinations and peccadillos. He counsels us to be careful or our hearts will be weighed down with three things: dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and ‘that day’ will close unexpectedly on us like a trap. The day the Lord was referring to is the day of his coming, the day of judgement but also the day of our death. We know for sure that these things will come upon every person who lives on the face of the earth (v. 35).

Since the beginning the Christian faith has encouraged the idea of keeping watch, being vigilant and in constant prayer in anticipation of the coming of the Lord. In this we are united to our brothers and sisters in the Jewish faith, who pray and long for the first coming of the Messiah in glory and honour. We pray for Jesus’s second coming, for we believe he is the promised Messiah, and returns in glory and honour after securing our eternal salvation.

However, truth be told, if we can resist being dissipated and drunk, most of us succumb to being overwhelmed by the anxieties and cares of life. When this happens, we  are easiiy  confused, lose clarity and are consumed with the things of this world. The real challenge for all of us is keeping our goal, destiny and purpose to the forefront of our minds and hearts.

What is our goal, destiny and purpose? To be with God, to share in the joy of heaven, to know the resurrection life – these are the end realities for which we long and pray and which one day will be a reality. For sure we need to strive, for sure we need to apply ourselves and work, but more, much more than this, we need to turn humbly to the Spirit who helps us in our weakness.

Tomorrow the season of Advent and Christmastide begins and we enter a time of waiting, longing and hoping as the liturgy makes present to us the events, the drama and the grace of Jesus’s first coming, while looking forward to his second, his return in glory but also to his coming into our lives in a new, exciting and dynamic way.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. With eyes of faith we see his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.

Chris 

From Bible Alive

 

 Apocalypse 22:1—7 •  Psalm 94(95):1–7 • Luke 21:34–36

 

 

 

 

Photograph ©2020 threeshoes photography

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Who is Jesus?

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 • Psalm 143(144) 1–4 • Luke 9:18-22Robed figure, below the head, with hand outstretched

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.

Chris

Graphic from: https://slmnallotey.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/jesus-the-word-of-god/

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Love

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1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13 • Psalm 32(33):2–5, 12, 22 • Luke 7:31–35
 
Love is the greatest of all human qualities, and it is an attribute of God himself.  Love entails unselfish service to others; to show love gives evidence that you care.  
 
Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message; hope is the attitude and focus; love is the action.  When faith and hope are aligned you are free to love completely because you understand how God loves.
 
So St Paul says:
 
"And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
 
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 
 
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 
 
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 
 
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 
 
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
 
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
 
Chris
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Jesus and Peter walk on the water

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1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 • Psalm 85: 9–14 • Romans 9:1–5 • Matthew 14:22–33

Jesus rescues Peter as he sinks

Both Jesus and Peter are  recorded by the Gospel-writers Matthew, Mark and John as having walked on water.

In Dei Verbum the bishops of the Second Vatican Council explain this important and profound truth by saying: ‘The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus’ (para. 19).

If we approach the sacred text in this way, we open ourselves up to being taught, informed and enlightened by the Holy Spirit about the meaning of this event in Jesus’ life.

Jesus's walking on the water is certainly a miracle but it is also a sign. A sign of what? A sign of Jesus's divinity. Who else could walk on water? Who else could calm the wind and the waves? Only God. Only God can truly say: 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid' (v 27 NIV), because only God can promise true and everlasting peace.

Lord Jesus, you invite me to step out with you on the storm waters in the furious squalls of life.  I do indeed take courage from your promises, because it is you who invite me not to be afraid and with your Holy Spirit all things are possible.

Chris
 

 

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Faith as Small as a Mustard Seed

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Matthew 17:14–20
 
A mustard seed held between two finger tips.
 

After glimpsing Jesus’s glory in his Transfiguration, the disciples had to come down from the mountain. They were truly brought back to earth by the failure of others to exorcise a demon. Though they had seen the glory of God, they still had to operate, as we all do, in a world where Satan has power because of human sin. Our encounters with God in prayer can give us the faith to be able to combat evil in our daily lives.

Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. Unlike them, the father of the possessed boy was a model of faith: he knelt before Jesus and addressed him as Lord. He knew who Jesus was and that he had the power to set his son free. The disciples had some faith, but it was weak and needed strengthening. Jesus stressed the power of faith in a vivid way in his statement that even faith the size of a mustard seed could move a mountain. In the world’s perspective faith is something insignificant and powerless; yet it can achieve amazing results. If we only believe, God can do great things through us, and bring about what we think impossible.

Most of us would say we have faith and believe in God, but our challenge is to apply this faith in our daily lives. It is in times of trial and suffering that we are called to live by faith, and it is then that our faith can grow most. We need to exercise our faith, and work to make it grow — otherwise it may wither away and fail to reach its potential. We can nourish our faith by regular prayer, Scripture reading and celebrating the Eucharist. In these ways we allow God to speak to us and strengthen us with his grace.

We should not be content with a wavering faith. If we expect great things from God, he can do great things for us. Jesus’s saying about the grain of faith should not depress us and make us think ourselves inadequate, but inspire us with a vision of the wonderful work God can do if we truly have a firm faith in him and try to live it out every day.

Lord Jesus, I believe in you, but my faith is often weak. Strengthen my faith so that I may allow you to work through me in ways more wonderful than I can imagine.

Chris
 
 
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(Feast) St Mary Magdalene

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John 20:1-2, 11-18
 
https://www1.cbn.com/why-jesus-chose-mary-magdalene-to-proclaim-his-resurrection

Mary Magdalene kneeling at the open tomb with the gardener

Today we celebrate the feast-day of one of the greatest women in the whole of the Bible. Clearly, Mary, Mother of God, has pride of place because she is our mother in faith. Mary Magdalene, however, can be seen as our sister in faith.

Of course, Mary Magdalene is often identified as being a woman of ill-repute, a prostitute no less, but there is no record of this in the Scriptures. We are simply told that seven demons were cast out of her (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9). Quite why the reputation of this magnificent woman and example of the Christian life should have been imputed with this slur is hard to figure out. Was it hearsay? What we do know for sure is that the Lord delivered her from whatever bound her. Some suggest that it could have been a complex illness of some kind or maybe even some mental suffering or anguish. From  that time on she dedicated her life to following Christ.

The Evangelists are especially sensitive to Mary’s closeness to the Lord during his last days on earth. She remained with him at the foot of the cross, staying when all the disciples except John had fled.

She was at his burial and, most striking and significant of all, she was a witness of the Risen Lord. God confounded the wisdom of an age in which women were regarded as second-class citizens and were not considered to be reliable witnesses in court. Ancient societies were misogynist and patriarchal, but God showed that this way of thinking to be a nonsense in the kingdom of God. Consider that God chose Mary to be the first person to witness the greatest event in human history — the resurrection — before Peter and the other disciples. We venerate her for this.

Mary can be seen to represent all women since the beginning of time who have witnessed Christ’s resurrection in their lives. In a way, in the kingdom of God, whether we are male or female is not an issue: we are equal before God, but we have different roles, different charisms and different strengths. Mary’s role was to support the Lord — it was a role of love and service, and this is the legacy she has left us. Today we cherish her memory, celebrate her life and strive to emulate her courageous witness.

Lord God, help as to follow the example of Mary Magdalene and live a life of humble service, sincere repentance and courageous witness for Christ.

 
Chris
 
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Pentecost

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Acts 2:1–11
Photo by Bahram Bayat on Unsplash
As we celebrate this feast day, we should remember that the event of Pentecost was as major an intervention by God as the creation of the Universe or the incarnation of God’s son, Jesus Christ.
This is what the Church has taught us since the beginning: through the grace of the liturgy it is as though what happened in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago is repeated on this holy feast day.  The same Holy Spirit who came down on the disciples huddled together in the upper room descends on us too.
When the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, he instilled in the Church a dynamism and power which since then has been the principal agent behind all its fruitful work and mission in the world.
Let the Holy Spirit come into your lives: invite him, welcome him and pray to him.
”Whenever the Spirit intervenes he leaves people astonished; he brings about events of amazing newness; he radically changes persons and history.  Faith is not abstract talk, nor vague religious sentiment, but new life in Christ instilled by the Holy Spirit.  Christ says to each of us, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation’ (Mark 16:15).  He is counting on every one of you and so is the Church. ‘Lo,’ the Lord promises, ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Matt 28:20). I am with you, Amen.” (Pope St John Paul II)
Chris
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Divine Jesus

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John 8:21–30

It is amazing to think that the divinity in Jesus did not overwhelm his humanity, and that his humanity did not corrupt his divinity.  “What he was, he remained and what he was not, he assumed.” Roman liturgy.

“O only-begotten Son and Word of God, immortal being, you who deigned for our salvation to become incarnate of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, you who without change became man and were crucified.  O Christ our God, you who by your death have crushed death, you who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us.”  St John Chrystosom

We are called to penetrate this mystery ever more deeply, and we have received the grace to do so.   It is a truth that we will spend the rest of our lives seeking to fathom and understand.  Consider that the One who created the universe, the Lord, the Almighty, worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will and loved with a human heart.

Having been born of the Virgin Mary he has been made truly one of us, like us in every way but one: he never sinned.

“As man alone, Jesus could not save us; as God alone he would not: incarnate he could and did.” Malcom Muggeridge

Chris

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