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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

Pentecost

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Acts 2:1–11
 
Dove with wings out stretched
 
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit totally transformed the apostles, changing everything.  Once cowardly, confused and lacking in confidence, they became convinced, certain and clear after receiving the Holy Spirit.  The old creation gave way to the new.
 
The Spirit is given so that we can live out our vocation, so that we can live a life in the Spirit.  At the dawn of creation God breathed life into creation and at the birth of the new creation the Lord breathed his life into his disciples, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).  Our capacity to receive the Spirit is determined by our attitude.  The Spirit retreats from self-reliance or self-confidence, but is quick to comfort the broken-hearted, the poor in spirit, the needy and the humble.  The disciples were filled with the Spirit because they were empty in themselves.
 
The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost is a recurring event in the life of the Church.  Today we can receive and enjoy the Spirit in a new and exciting way.  Don’t be afraid to cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.”  What can prevent us from being filled with the Spirit is that we rely too heavily on our own ability, not necessarily realising that even this is given to us by God.  Our confidence in ourselves is often greater than our confidence in God!  We need to be humbled by our own limitations and overwhelmed by our own weakness so that we can pray with heartfelt conviction:

“Renew your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost.  Grant to your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary . . . and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Saviour, the reign of truth . . . justice . . . love and peace.” (Pope St John XXIII)

 

Acts 2:1–11 • Psalm 103(104):1, 24, 29–31, 34 • Romans 8:8–17 • John 14:15–16, 23–26

 

Photo by Bahram Bayat on Unsplash

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Soften our Hearts, Father

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Matthew 21:33–43, 45–46

Jesus' ministry is drawing to a close.  Until now the chief priests and Pharisees have resolutely refused to listen to his teaching or come to faith in him. Their hearts and minds have remained firmly closed.  The Parable of the Tenants represents Jesus’s final attempt to break through the stubbornness of the Jewish leaders in the hope that they might recognise him as the One who fulfils the prophecies, the long-awaited Messiah.

Despite all their blindness and hardness of heart, Jesus loves them.  They are his brothers and he wants to reach out to them.  He can see beneath the surface and knows they are lost, and are in darkness and pain.  In their own, confused way, they are seeking life, but in all the wrong places.  Their interest is in power, prestige and wealth. Sadly, they choose to remain in the darkness and reject him.

In many ways, we're not so different.  We too can go astray and seek fulfilment and security in the things of the world.  Our hearts can harden as quickly as any Pharisee. But, as with the Pharisees, Jesus never stops loving us.  He is the Good Shepherd who always comes searching when we stray into the wilderness of sin.   He is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:11–12) for he bought us at the price of his precious blood to make us God's sons and daughters.

Through this parable, Jesus is speaking to our hearts today.  In this Lenten season he asks us to turn to him, to rediscover that we desperately need him each day.  He invites us to accept him as the cornerstone of our lives, to recognise him as the centre of all things, the One who gives meaning and significance to life.  Peter tells us that anyone who trusts in this 'chosen and precious cornerstone will never be put to shame (1 Pet. 2:6).  Jesus, through our prayers, fasting and almsgiving, wants to open our eyes to the truth that he is the goal of all our hopes and aspirations and only he can bring true fulfilment.

Father, soften our hard hearts with your grace. In this holy season may we build our lives on Christ your Son, the chief cornerstone.

Chris 
 

Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 • Psalm 104(105):16-21 • Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

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Jesus and the Holy Spirit

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Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

We can be easily swept along by the world's philosophical answers to life's fundamental questions.  The media often presents experts who proffer their answers to these, and we may feel lost in a world that is full of instant answers and strong opinions!  However, when we conform our attitudes to the truth of the Gospel and Jesus' teaching we can be confident that we are living a life that is pleasing to God.  Christ came into the world to set us free from futility and emptiness.

The way of Christ is simple: we believe in Jesus and love one another (v. 23).   When we allow the truth of the Gospel to reveal Jesus, we experience an interior attraction to his teaching.  The Spirit transforms us to be more Christ-like, and penetrates our hearts with the truth about ourselves and gives us the courage to admit how we have been unfaithful, marred God's image and tainted our relationship with him. We can enter into life-giving dialogue with the Spirit in which we speak, listen and express ourselves trustfully with the joy of being welcomed, accepted, forgiven and restored.

The Spirit knows our hearts and wants us to have confidence in his power to renew us.  The command to love one another would be impossible to fulfil were we to rely on ourselves; we need God's love, help and support. When we welcome the Spirit as our teacher and guide, he will come without our knowing how, without our being aware of how it happens. But we will find him dwelling within, speaking to us and counselling us on what we must do. If we are sorrowful he will comfort us in our affliction. The flame of his love will burn in us and we will love God and our brothers and sisters with a love that is encouraging, warm and constant.

Come, Holy Spirit! I welcome you in a new way into my lịfe today. Show me the attitudes and opinions that close my heart to your gentle persuasion. Help me to be aware of your presence that always consoles, enlightens, refreshes and directs. I believe that every wall of fear, confusion and temptation must yield before your truth and love.

Chris 
 

 

1 John 22–46 • Psalm 27–8, 10–11 • Matthew 4:12–1, 23–25

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Jesus's Love

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Jesus loved the people of Jerusalem and wept over their rejection of him.  But he wasn’t weeping for his own sake: these tears expressed a tender love for them.  These language of tears offers us a wonderful insight to the very heart of God.  Jesus’s tears were not only for Jerusalem but also for all who reject God and rebel against him.  This is not a harsh or vindictive God but One who weeps warm tears of love.
 
St Thérèse of Lisieux wrote beautifully of the depth and extent of God’s love for us:
 
“My God, everywhere your love is misunderstood and cast aside.  The hearts upon which you are ready to lavish your love turn away to earthly pleasures instead, as if happiness could be found in more material attachments.  They refuse to throw themselves into your arms and accept the gift of your infiinite love.
 
“Must this rejected love of yours remain shut up in your own heart?  If only you could find souls ready to offer themselves as victims, to be burnt up in the fire of your love!  You would lose no time in satisfying their desire.  Thus you would find a welcome outlet for the pent-up force of your great devotion.
 
“Jesus, grant me the happiness of being such a victim, burnt up in the fire of your divine love."
 
1 Maccabees 2:15–29 • Psalm 49(50): 1–2, 5–6, 14–15 • Luke 19:41–44
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Love whom?

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First Reading: Colossians 3: 12-17

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.  The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same.  Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love.  And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body.  Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.  Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom.  With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 150: 1-6
Response: Let everything that breathes give praise to the Lord

  1. Praise God in his holy place,
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
    Praise him for his powerful deeds,
    praise his surpassing greatness.
  2. O praise him with sound of trumpet,
    praise him with lute and harp.
    Praise him with timbrel and dance,
    praise him with strings and pipes.
  3. O praise him with resounding cymbals,
    praise him with clashing of cymbals.
    Let everything that lives and that breathes
    give praise to the Lord.

Gospel: Luke 6: 27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

 

Lord, teach me to love those people in my life whom I struggle with.  Rid me of hate and resentment, which so easily fester in my heart.  Amen

 

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Jesus heals the leper of his disease

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Mark 1:40–45 Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

 Figure by trees in sunshineLeprosy was one of the most repugnant and most feared diseases in the ancient world. In the Old Testament the term was used to denote a broad range of skin diseases, some of which were curable, and so the law stipulated conditions to be fulfilled if the disease was to be recognised as cured. In its most virulent form it was considered so serious that the rabbis regarded the healing of leprosy to be as difficult as raising the dead. Perhaps the worst effect of leprosy was that people suffering from any of the diseases covered by the term had to live isolated from society. They were forbidden from entering a dwelling, and if anyone approached they had to cry "Unclean, unclean!" (Lev. 13:45–46).

This understanding helps us to realise that in today's Gospel Jesus was approached by a person who was normally denied any contact with healthy people. Those surrounding Jesus must have shied away from the sick man, fearful of contamination. How did Jesus react to the man's presence? Some ancient manuscripts, rather than saying that he was 'moved with pity' (v. 41), read that he was 'moved with anger. Commentators reflect that this reading may portray Jesus’s anger against the power of evil seen as present in the illness. With a word and a touch Jesus healed the leper.

Despite the laws of Leviticus, the leper came to Jesus with great faith, and his faith was rewarded with his healing Jesus showed that he regarded compassion as more important than the ritual prohibitions against contact with the diseased. Nevertheless, he was obedient to the law in complying with the regulations surrounding the proof of a cure, telling the man to go to the priest and make the stipulated offering

As we try to follow Jesus’s way, we may ask ourselves: Who are the outcasts today? Who are those that we shy away from, in fear, loathing and contempt? Whether consciously or not, it is all too easy for us to retreat from those who are ill or suffering But people, whoever they are and whatever their condition, need compassion and care.

Lord, you cared for the outcasts of society.  Help me to make room in my heart for everyone, including those whom society judges as beyond redemption, for your mercy reaches out to all.

 

 

Leviticus 13:1–2, 44-46 • Psalm 31 (32):1-2, 5, 11 • 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1 • Mark 1:40–45

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Take Courage

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Mark 6:45–52
 
Jesus appears on the water to a boatload of men
 
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells us, “Take courange! . . . Don’t be afraid.” (v50, NIV).  The remedy for fear is love, faith and courage.  God’s love for us is so intense, so prolific, so all-forgiving that we should never be burdened by guilt or bound by fear.
 
In God’s love we can become like infants, blissfully and safely asleep in his arms, where nothing else matters.  Do we ever feel like this?  If not, or not frequently enough, we need to remind ourselves of the truth that, however helpless or unworthy or frightened we feel, Jesus felt that we were worth dying for.
 
Lord, help me to experience the love that you have for me, the love which drives away fear and which equips me with faith and courage.  From my place in your arms show me how I can face my fears and how my worries will look so much smaller.
 

Chris

from Bible Alive

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Marriage in Heaven

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Apocalypse 11:4-12 • Psalm 143(144):1–2, 9–10 • Luke 20:27–40

Jesus incurred the wrath and indignation of two groups in Israel: the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Each group was intent on trying to trip Jesus up, catching him out, boxing him into a corner. The Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, did not believe in the resurrection of the body. They approached Jesus with all the arrogance of an elite professional religious caste and put before him a disingenuous conundrum all wrapped up as a sincere query about the levirate law on marriage. According to this law a dead man’s brother was obliged to marry the widow, who could then bear a child so that the deceased brother’s line and estate would be retained within the family and his lineage would continue into posterity. The Sadducees were trying to back Jesus into a corner, hoping that he would either renounce the resurrection of the body or condone polyandry (where a woman has more than one husband).

True to form Jesus transcended the question but seized the moment to teach about the afterlife. In heaven the institution of marriage will be succeeded by a new kind of relationship with God and with each other, which, despite us having a new body, does not involve procreation. We believe in the salvation of the whole person, body and soul, and although there is no marriage in heaven, we believe that we will be reunited with our loved ones.

For those who have had an unfortunate experience of earthly marriage, perhaps having suffered separation, divorce or other adverse circumstances, this prospect might not be a favourable one.  But in the passage from temporal to eternal on the good will remain – evil falls away – and the love that once united a couple remains.  Defects, misunderstandings or suffering will fall away.  Indeed this very suffering, accepted with faith, will transformed into glory.  Many spouses will experience true love for each other only when they are reunited in God, and with this love there will be joy and fulness of the union that they might not have known on earth.

In God all wıll be understood, all will be forgiven and all will be well.

Lord, you are the resurrection and the life.  Death is not the end, but the beginning of life, life to the full.

Chris 

From Bible Alive

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The meaning of Christ, by St Paul

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Philippians 2: 5-11

In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus: His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

A note from the Life Application Bible:

2:5-11 These verses are probably from a hymn sung by the early Christian church. The passage holds many parallels to the prophecy of the suffering servant in lsaiah 53. As a hymn, it was not meant to be a complete statement about the nature and work of Christ. Several key characteristics of Jesus Christ, however, are" praised in this passage: (1) Christ has always existed with God;


(2) Christ is equal to God because he is God (John 1:1ff; Colos- sians 1:15—19); 


(3) though Christ is God, he became a man in order to fulfil God’s plan of salvation for all people; 


(4) Christ did not just have the appearance of being a man — he actually became human to identify with our sins; 


(5) Christ voluntarily laid aside his divine rights and privileges out of love for his Father; 


(6) Christ died on the cross for our sins so we wouldn’t have to face eternal death; 


(7) God glorified Christ because of his obedience; 


(8) God raised Christ to his original position at the Father’s right hand, where he will reign for ever as our Lord and Judge. 


How can we do anything less than praise Christ as our Lord and dedicate ourselves to his service!

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Jesus and the Pharisees

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Luke 13:10–17


Today’s Scripture packs two strikingly different ideas into one reading: healing and hypocrisy. The healing is of a woman who had been crippled for eighieen years, and the hypocrisy is on the part of a synagogue official who cannot see what is happening right before his eyes – a woman being miraculously freed from her terrible pain and suffering. The synagogue ruler had been too crippled by the letter of the law to recognize the true spirit of the law.


The Pharisees allowed animals to be taken care of on the Sabbath (see Luke 14:5), so why should they begrudge a sick woman this extraordinary and wonderful gift of God? Such harsh, legalistic and quite frankly mean behaviour from so-called religious people is staggering, isn’t it? What had happened to their understanding of God and their understanding of the dignity of the human person to make them think like this?


Yet it is perhaps too easy to be judgemental and harsh towards the Pharisees. We can find ourselves saying to God, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like these Pharisees because I would not let myself become so confused and legalistic that I applied the letter and not the spirit of the law.’ To think like this is, of course, to have fallen into the same trap! Make no mistake, Jesus loved the Pharisees – it is obvious from his eagerness to correct their thinking.


To live in the Spirit we need to be very clear about two things: the first is that God loves everybody, and the second is that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and God wants the best for everybody. The Pharisees made the error of assuming they knew how God thought, but they could not have been more wrong. Jesus came to set us all free because we all need to be set free. The Pharisees’ religion had made them narrow-minded and mean-spirited, whereas the Spirit makes us big-hearted and generous. The Pharisees’ religion had made them hypocrites (a very real tension for all religious people), but the Spirit convicts us of our sin and makes us grateful and forgiven sinners in continual need of God’s healing and mercy.


The all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Saviour, heals both body and soul.  (St Clement of Alexandria)


Chris


From Bible Alive


Ephesians 4:32-56 • Psalm 1:1–6 • Luke 13:10–17


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