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Sermons

During the Bishop's Conference of Scotland suspension of the celebration of all public liturgy to combat the spread of the covid-19 corona virus, Fr. Mark's sermons and prayers for intercessions will be posted here.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A, 19 July 2020

Gospel, Matthew: 13:24-30
The longer form of today’s Gospel reading focuses on three of Jesus’ parables detailing what ‘the kingdom of heaven may be compared to’. The first is about the man who sowed good seed in his field but his enemy came at night and sowed darnel among the wheat. The second is the parable of the mustard seed. And the third, the parable of the yeast.
The main focus in the shorter form of the Gospel is the sowing of the darnel.
Darnel is a poisonous weed which looks similar to wheat when it first starts to grow but by the time a farmer realises its presence amongst the wheat it is so intertwined with the wheat it is impossible to remove it. At harvest time it is a laborious task to separate the ears of wheat from the ears of darnel.
This intertwining of the darnel and wheat is an analogy for our world, and the kinds of lives we all live.
We live in a world of good and evil – the two are intertwined in that we all have the potential and capacity to be both. It is not the case that there are people who are all good just as it is not the case that there are people who are all bad. It is the way we live and love which will determine the level of goodness which is revealed to the world.
Clearly, if we are people of faith, we will have a better understanding of what we need to do to avoid evil, and we will actively strive to attain the good. We are reminded too that we have the free will to follow the path the Lord sets out for us, just as we have the free will to take another path.
And so we note: it is our Lord and Saviour who is the exemplar of good; it is he who guides us along the right path when we are open to allowing him to do that. Our faith is all about repentance and conversion as we turn our hearts and minds to God, and it is our faith which will be our strength and guide in all things.
Our whole lives are set out before us to give us the opportunity to produce a rich harvest through the way in which we live our lives. The level of goodness, truth, beauty and love which we show to the world will determine the kind of harvest which will be reaped when the day of judgement comes upon us.
On that judgement day the measure of wheat we have produced in our lives will be compared to the measure of darnel we have produced; and hopefully it will be the case that the wheat we have produced will far outweigh that of the darnel, so that like the wheat, we may be gathered into the Lord’s barn i.e. that we will be gathered into His kingdom.

Intercessions

God sends the Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness, and so we pray for all our needs.
For the Church: Many people find confession of sin difficult and struggle to believe in the Sacrament of Penance; may God give them new understanding and the trust to recognise His mercy.
For the world: In a world where being different is such an issue, may God provide everyone with a spirit of tolerance, and an understanding that we are all His children.
For our country: That all people will be freed from the chains of doubt and guilt, and that they may be given the confidence and generosity necessary to follow Christ.
For our community: That we may all bear a rich harvest and so be gathered into the Lord’s barn.
For the sick and the dying: That God’s loving presence will be with them through our care.

God, our Father, we ask You to hear our prayers and bestow Your promise of hope on those who pray to You. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A, 12 July 2020

Gospel, Matthew 13:1-23
The parable of the sower is well known but sometimes it is interpreted in such a way that one might think four different people were being described.
But if we imagine ourselves as the seed, and if we all accept that, at one time or another, we can be like the seed in each of the four categories we will come to realise that our spiritual lives will always need to be cared for: our spiritual lives will always need to be nurtured and maintained.
At some point in our spiritual lives the seed may fall on the edge of a path where it will be carried away, stolen away by the evil one. This will happen because we have not understood the word of God and we’ll not bother trying to understand it. We will not ponder on the word nor act upon it.
When the seed falls in patches of rock it cannot develop roots. When we allow this to happen to our spiritual lives we will not be able to withstand trouble or persecution when it comes our way because we will have failed to sufficiently develop our spiritual lives.
When the seed falls in thorns it cannot bear fruit because it is in competition with the thorns. This would highlight the fact that in our lives the spiritual world would be in competition with the cares and wealth of the world. Certainly, when we are like this we would not be able to bear the fruit of our faith.
It is when the seed and the soil come together that a harvest is yielded. When our faith is integrated with everything we do and say the result would be an abundance beyond imagination.
And so we see that every one of us has the potential to lose the word to the evil one. Each of us can be enthusiastic but not persevering. We can all put riches at the expense of our soul. And we all can bear abundant fruit.
With this knowledge we can better prepare ourselves spiritually to ensure that our faith will always produce an abundance of fruit however, we should not become despondent with our failures either.
All God asks of each of us is that we do not give up because of complacency or by feelings of inadequacy. Instead we are to persevere through good times and bad, and through our spiritual highs and lows, as we await that time, as St. Paul tells us, ‘for our bodies to be set free’.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A, 5 July 2020

Gospel, Matthew 11:25-30
During these difficult days of lockdown we have been inundated with new, and sometimes contradictory, rules and regulations which have been imposed by the government. Most people will adhere to them but there will always be a few who do not. Hasn’t it ever been the way!
Obedience to any authority takes humility, but because of our weak human nature, and because we don’t like being told what to do, we will sometimes do our own thing. For example: when out driving our selfish and sinful condition might encourage us to drive at dangerous speeds, putting our lives and the lives of others at risk. Only the authoritative presence of a police car or speed camera will help us to see sense and so drive at an appropriate speed.
As our Christian faith plays a major part in our lives we recognise that there are God-given laws and rules of life which we are called to obey. These are the commandments of the Lord. These are laws designed to enable us to live in freedom and love as we respect the rights of others.
I think many people will obey God’s commandments only out of a sense of fear rather than from a sense of love: living their lives fearfully because they are frightened of the consequences of disobeying God. In a sense they labour, and feel overburdened by the rules of the Church.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says: “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.” He goes on to tell us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
From this we can see that living fearful lives, and being afraid of God, is the complete opposite of what Jesus said and taught. Instead of fear Jesus helps us to see that what is needed is a renewal in our understanding of his gentle ways.
In the Gospel Jesus uses the example of childlike trust and obedience to illustrate the nature of the relationship we ought to have with God our Father.
Our obedience to God, (if it is to be fruitful), has to be founded upon trust; a trust in the goodness, reliability and love of the One who calls for our obedient response.
In our personal lives we practice obedience to the promptings of our conscience: for example we are prompted to tell the truth, and not to lie; we are prompted to work, and not to be lazy; we are prompted to be kind and considerate to other people, and not to be spiteful and rude. We do not however, always follow these promptings even if we do recognise their value.
In our spiritual lives, when we follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we will recognise the need to obey the commands of God. We will listen to what is good, and we will want to do it. It will mean that we will listen to the promptings of our hearts to determine what is good, honest, kind, and loving.
When this is true it will enable us to better love our neighbour as Jesus commands us.
St. Paul tells us that our interests are not to be in the unspiritual but in the spiritual. In this we are to understand and accept that we have the Spirit of Jesus Christ within us, and so there is no need for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives.
Instead, following the promptings of the Spirit, we can choose to live spiritual lives as we strive to respond to the creative power of God’s love, and as we strive to show that love to all people: all in obedience to the law of the Father.

Intercessions

Let us thank the Lord for the gift of faith, and pray to Him for all our needs.
For the Church: May Christians throughout the world reach out to others with the compassion of the Lord.
For the world: May all political leaders be directed by the love of justice and peace.
For our country: May kindness and compassion be the mark of all who work in hospitals and care homes.
For our community: May we always be prompted by the Holy Spirit as we strive to recognise the need to obey God’s commandments.
For the sick and the dying: May the healing hand of Jesus bring them a sense of healing and peace.

God our Father, we know Your goodness and kindness towards us. Help us, in our turn, to show mercy to others. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul – Year A, 28 June 2020

Gospel, Matthew 16:13-19
Freedom is a word much used today, and in varied contexts. People want to be free to do what they want and when they want. For the most part there is no reason why this shouldn’t be the case, however with freedom comes responsibility. If our freedom disturbs the social order and adversely affects the lives of others it cannot be said to be real freedom because it has the power to imprison others.
One example of this would be the recent demonstrations which have taken place, not just in our country but around the world. Peaceful demonstration is part of our democratic process and is seen as a right in most civilised countries. But when these demonstrations become violent they bring about a sense of fear and anxiety in others – they remove the right other citizens have of living freely without fear.
As the new Church emerged after Pentecost, Christian leaders, such as Peter and Paul, often found themselves in trouble and in prison. The reason for their imprisonment was because they challenged the existing order of things as they claimed an allegiance to a greater power than the emperor, and preached a way of life which seemed to undermine the existing power structures.
The greater power was God, and the way of life they preached was one of love for others, even their enemies.
The Roman Empire ruled by using a system based on fear and favour. People were threatened and killed if they refused to follow the Roman way. They were rewarded if they complied.
King Herod ruled in much the same way which is why he imprisoned Peter. But as Jesus proclaims in the Gospel reading, ‘the gates of the underworld can never hold out against [the Church]’ – the gates of the underworld cannot hold out against a kingdom of truth and justice.
We know that both Peter and Paul ended up in the city of Rome itself where they were both condemned to die. But death held no fear for them because they knew that where the Lord had gone before them, they too would be allowed to follow. It was the crown of righteousness which awaited them as the Lord brought them safely to his heavenly kingdom.
This commemoration of Peter and Paul, like every Christian feast, is a proclamation of freedom and the possibility of freedom.
The prisons people find themselves in are many and varied. There are, of course, actual prisons where people are deprived of freedom because of a criminal conviction. There are the prisons of domestic violence, of mental torture, of emotional disturbance, of addiction and so on.
It is in the midst of all this imprisonment that we Christians are called to be freedom fighters in the truest sense. We are to strive to share the spirit of Jesus Christ and through it obtain the power to set people free. This is because to be part of Jesus Christ is to be free.
Whatever it is that threatens us or tries to imprison us, we can never be deprived of our personal freedom, and this is because our faith is something alive and active; something within us and which cannot be forcefully taken from us. Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and to be part of his kingdom is to be free, and within this freedom we truly have the power to make others free.

Intercessions

Let us pray to the Lord and walk in His ways.
For the Church: That the God the Father will grant to all Christians a spirit of courage to proclaim His Son as Lord.
For the world: That all prisoners of conscience will be given a spirit of perseverance.
For our country: That all citizens in this country will practice their hard-won freedom with responsibility and consideration for their fellow citizens.
For our community: That our faith may be alive and active as we witness to others that true freedom is to be found through Jesus our Lord.
For the dying: That they may know the peace of Christ and, the comfort of family and friends.

God or Father we ask that You wrap Your cloak of protection around us, and keep us from all harm. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A, 21 June 2020

Gospel, Matthew 10:26-33
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus says: “Do not be afraid.” “Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid…”
Fear is such a debilitating experience leaving people anxious and possibly even despairing.
In his inaugural speech, after becoming the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”
“You are a child of God” he said: “your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”
These words clearly reflect Gospel values, and provide encouragement to people to do what is right and just to ensure that the world can live in peace.
In the Gospel reading Matthew relates how Jesus comforted his small band of followers, assuring them that they were known by the Father who watched over them.
In this, Jesus is providing the encouragement his disciples would need to go out and to preach in his name – preaching the Good News to all who would listen.
Jesus reminded them that they could trust in the word that had been shared amongst them, and that they could face any opposition if only they believed in themselves. This is the way to rise above fear.
It did not mean that the disciples would not face opposition and mockery – we know they did but they persevered.
And the same holds true for us. In proclaiming God’s word we will face opposition but we do have the promise that Jesus is at our side which is why we can persevere in proclaiming the truth.
Quoting Nelson Mandela again, he said for South Africa to go forward: “Fearless acts of renewal are required.”
It is the same for the Church today: fearless acts of renewal are required from all Christians to enable the Good News to be heard clearly once again.
We all have the ability to manifest God’s glory, and we all have the potential to love as the Father loves so that we live out of a true sense of love rather than from a sense of fear.
Our God-given mission is to proclaim the love of the Father to a broken and fearful world, and if we are fearful or anxious ourselves we only need to remind ourselves that Jesus conquered all things, and he is by our side in all things.
It is with this understanding that we will gain the confidence to witness to the truth, trusting always in the love of the Father made manifest in Jesus his Son.

Intercessions

Our Father knows our joys, hopes, and fears. In complete trust in Him we offer our prayers for our own community and for our broken world.
For the Church: That her leaders, and all those called to proclaim the Good News, may always preach the truth fearlessly, that all may have life to the full.
For the world: That those who have power over people oppressed for their beliefs may come to understand that true leadership consists in protecting the freedoms of all.
For our country: That all those who are lonely and feel unloved may know the healing presence of the Lord building up within them a true sense of worth, filling their lives with renewed purpose.
For our community: That we will endeavour to gain the confidence to witness to the truth as we place all our trust in the love of the Father.
For the sick and the suffering: That in the midst of their pain and worry they may know that the Father is close beside each one of them, holding them by the hand.

God our Father, help us to build Your kingdom of truth in our world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Year A, 14 June 2020

Gospel, John 6:51-58
You’ll perhaps remember how, at the beginning of the spread of COVID19, people were panic buying; leaving supermarket shelves just about empty.
I wonder, (now that we have been in lockdown for so many weeks), just how much is left of the items people stockpiled. Has it all been used up and replenished or do the stockpiles remain unused, being kept just in case…?
This kind of situation helps us to see that our modern manna doesn’t last long anymore that did the manna for the Israelites. And this is true of so much of our material world.
“That was the best meal I’ve ever eaten” we might say, or “that is the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard”, and “never will I experience something like that again”! But we will.
Even in our human relationships we might think we’ll never love another person so much as we do the person or people we love already. But we do.
We keep the memories but some part of us is not really satisfied and wants more, or wants something different.
We have in us that restlessness of which St. Augustine spoke when he said that our hearts were restless until they rested in God.
From today’s Gospel reading we hear Jesus telling us: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven…” as he offered himself for our sake, and gave us the promise of life eternal.
In this it is Jesus who is answering the restlessness that exists in our hearts as he provides us with the gift of himself in the Eucharist – that gift which bestows eternal life because it is Jesus who is the Author of life.
The manna which God provided for the Israelites to eat only provided temporary nourishment whereas the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist – his Body and Blood – provides us with all the spiritual nourishment we could ever need.
Clearly, we cannot say that once we have received the Eucharist we will never feel hungry again, nor can we assume that we’ll never experience periods of isolation or dissatisfaction.
What we can say however, is that when we accept the Eucharist, (Jesus himself), with the right disposition i.e. with faith, we can share in his life. Then we can know we are part of the body of Christ, drawing life from Christ who in turn draws life from the Father reflecting once more Jesus’ words: “As I…myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.”
It is when we are in communion with Christ that we can say we are in communion with each other. In a sense we take Jesus to each other, and we meet him in each other.
Jesus is with us in many and varied ways but most especially in his Body and Blood.
Let us then receive Jesus in the Eucharist, (when we can), because this is the way in which Jesus has chosen to be with us in a very intimate way.

Intercessions

Jesus is the living bread which has come down from heaven. Let us pray in his name for our many needs and the needs of the whole world.
For the Church: United in the Eucharist may the whole Church grow in faith and confidence.
For the world: That Christians throughout the world may be instruments of justice and mercy.
For our country: That the Lord will bring healing and hope to all in this land who are suffering in mind or in body.
For our community: May always remember when we are in communion with Jesus Christ we are in communion with each other.
For the dead: That the Lord will look mercifully upon all those who have died and bring them to eternal life.

God our Father, we have Your Son ever present with us in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Help us to understand this mystery that we may always remain faithful to his presence. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Year A, 7 June 2020

Gospel, John 3:16-18
If we were to think of God solely as ‘Father’ we might be tempted to understand our relationship with Him in very human terms. In these very human terms God is seen as a Father who loves His children and who puts in place laws about how they are to honour Him and treat one another.
Some of God’s children will obey the laws and some will break the laws. From this, there is the natural understanding that there will be reward for those who obey and punishment for those who don’t. Both the reward and punishment happen in this life and come to conclusion in the afterlife. The law-keepers enjoy the rewards of heaven, and the law-breakers suffer the torments of hell.
In contrast to this flawed understanding the Gospel of John gives us a very different meaning to our relationship with God as the truth of our relationship with Him is revealed through His Son.
In today’s Gospel reading we hear that: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may…have eternal life.”
God sent His Son into the world because the world was broken and was in need of healing. So many of God’s children had turned away from Him; using their free-will to separate themselves from Him.
The world that God had created therefore, became alienated from Him, (became cut off from His love), and subsequently hostility toward our fellow human beings became the norm.
The truth which Jesus came to reveal to us was that even though the world had alienated itself from God, God still loved the world, and He loved the world so much that He sent us His only Son. He did this so that the world i.e. humanity, could once again be in communion with Him and so bring eternal life those who chose to accept Him.
This understanding helps us to see that God is not motivated by condemnation – He has no desire to punish the wicked. Instead, what becomes clear is that humanity will still divide itself but those who do choose to believe in the Son, and in his revelation of Divine Love, will open themselves to salvation.
God loves all people. It is those who choose not to believe in the Son; those who close themselves off to the offer of His love: these will be the people who condemn themselves.
When we can accept this understanding of God’s love for us, (love freely given without any expectation of return), and when we can practice that love in all our human relationships, we will soon discover a much healthier, happier way of being whereby all people will be treated as equals, and our love for God will not be based on reward and punishment.

Intercessions

It is through Jesus Christ that God has revealed Himself to us as one God – yet Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is through that same Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that we now make our petitions to our Father in heaven.
For the Church: That all the baptised may always be grateful to God for revealing Himself to us in the life and teaching of His Son, Jesus.
For the world: That those who suffer in mind or body may be supported by the knowledge that God is a God of tenderness and compassion.
For our country: That all those who feel far away from God may discover that He loved the world so much as to give His only Son.
For our community: That we may love our fellow human beings as God loves us.
For the dead: That they may come to live in the eternal light of heaven which has been opened for them by the saving power of the Cross.

All Holy God, great and wonderful beyond all imagining, we ask You to hear and answer our humble prayers which we make through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Solemnity of Pentecost – Year A, 31 May 2020

Gospel, John 20:19-23
For some years now the need for so-called ‘green energy’ has been increasing as more and more people choose to have their energy provided by companies who have moved away from fossil fuels.
It is the electricity produced from wind farms which provides the bulk of green energy produced in the UK, and Scotland is one of its biggest providers.
The wind turbines, which we see dotted around our landscape, are harnessing the power of nature, (of the wind), to provide for our energy needs.
Mention was made of the wind from the first reading from today’s Mass.
In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that the Apostles, who had all met in one room, suddenly heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, “the noise of which filled the entire house.”
This ‘wind from heaven’ heralded the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was a life-giving wind; a wind which cannot be harnessed to provide us with energy because it is God’s free gift. And as it is God’s Holy Spirit it roams freely, providing energy to anyone open to receiving it. This is God’s energy – the outpouring of the love of God the Father and God the Son, sent out to those who have been baptised in the One Spirit.
In the Gospel reading Jesus said to his Apostles: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you…Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into his Apostles, just as God breathed life into Adam, allowing his Apostles to share his life-giving Spirit, and providing them the energy they would need to follow his commands and to do his will.
As we know, as soon as the Apostles had the life-giving Spirit within them they became emboldened, and they went out to proclaim the Gospel with confidence, allowing the early Church to grow rapidly.
This same Holy Spirit, (this same life of Christ), has been with his disciples ever since, so that every baptised person, (ever since the first Pentecost), has been given this wonderful free gift from God.
Like the wind, the Holy Spirit moves freely, providing life, peace, forgiveness, growth, and love to all those who wish to receive it.
The Psalmist said: “Send forth your Spirit O, Lord, and renew the face of the earth.”
On this great day of Pentecost then, let us all be open to a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit as we open ourselves to His power. And with this power let us be courageous disciples as we undertake the work God has given us to do so that a wind of change may blow through the whole Church, bringing with it renewal, peace, and unity.

Intercessions

The Spirit of God has been poured into our hearts, and in that Spirit we can call on God our Father confident the He will hear and answer all our prayers.
For the Church: That all who make up Christ’s body, the Church, may accept the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit.
For the world: That God’s Spirit may whisper words of peace into lives torn apart by violence and discord.
For our country: That those who feel they have nothing to offer may recognise that they, themselves, are gifts of God.
For our community: That we may be open to a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and so open ourselves to God’s power.
For the faithful departed: That as Temples of the Holy Spirit they may all come into the presence of God and so rest in peace.

Loving Father, giver of all that is good, fill our mouths with Your praise, our hearts with Your love, and our lives with Your service. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

7th Sunday of Easter – Year A, 24 May 2020

Gospel, John 17:1-11
The Gospel reading today is part of what might be called ‘the last will and testament of Jesus’, and Jesus’ words draw their power from his imminent death and subsequent return to his Father in Heaven.
We know that Jesus’ words do not see his death as ending his influence on earth, nor do they equate to a terrible loss for his disciples. Instead these words revealed that Jesus’ departure to his Father would bring about a new way of being for his disciples. Jesus’ words deepen our understanding of the relationship between the Father and the Son, and they reinforce the mission that they share together.
These are words which are directed to people who have come to know the Father and who have accepted the Son; people who have understood the intimate relationship between Father and Son and so can come to eternal life in God’s kingdom, this made clear where Jesus says: “through the power over all mankind that you have given [me], let [me] give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to [me].”
And Jesus continues: “Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
But what does it mean to know God and Jesus Christ?
Does Jesus mean we need to know everything about him, or is it more like knowing a person, (having a relationship with someone), so that we can say that we know them and what they are like?
To really know another human being we have to interact with them so that we can get to know their personality and they can come to know ours. In this endeavour there has to be a desire to want to know someone intimately, and when that desire exists we will make the effort to find different ways of interacting. And, (for the most part), human relationships break down because people stop communicating with each other openly and honestly.
It is the same with God: ‘to know God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son’ is to have a relationship with them. It is to have the desire to want to enter into an intimate relationship of love with them. It is about communicating with God through a life of prayer so that our relationship with Him doesn’t break down.
Many people, I think, despair of ever coming to ‘know’ God, and they worry they may get it wrong. It is also sometimes the case that they feel they don’t know how to pray properly therefore, feeling close to God is a difficult thing for them to experience.
But the truth is that coming to know God is experienced through the ways in which we strive to follow His ways: if we keep His commandments, and love & care for those around us, then we are already a long way towards knowing God.
Reading a little more of the Gospels will also help in this endeavour of ‘knowing God’, because the more we can understand how Jesus lived his earthly life, and the more we can imitate his ways, the deeper our relationship with God will become. But more importantly, it is about maintaining and deepening our prayer life, no matter how we may be feeling, because God always hears and answers our prayers.

Intercessions

We believe in a Father who will always love us despite our many failings, and we believe in a Son who intercedes for us, and so we pray with confidence for all our needs.
For the Church: That the Pope and the Bishops may remain faithful to their calling as they continue to guide our pilgrim Church.
For the world: That all those who have no faith and live in the darkness of despair may come to experience the light and the hope that our Lord can provide.
For our country: That the Lord will bring comfort and healing to all those who are suffering in body or in mind.
For our community: That as we strive to deepen our lives of prayer we may experience that presence of God in a very real way.
For the dead: That they may share in the eternal hope of the Risen Christ.

God our Father, You call each of us by name, and so we place our petitions in Your hands and ask that you answer them through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Ascension of the Lord – Year A, 21 May 2020

Gospel, Matthew 28:16-20
During the recent celebrations of the 75th Anniversary of the end of WW2 in Europe we were able to hear from military personnel about their experiences of coming home. These were very human, and sometimes very emotional recollections of a time when, I’m sure, there were mixed emotions.
Today, forty days after the Resurrection, we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord into heaven.
This is the day when the victorious Jesus Christ returned to the Father after achieving everything the Father had asked of him. It was Jesus’ own victorious homecoming!
In Eastern iconography it is not just the Apostles who are depicted as being present on the mountain in Galilee ‘where Jesus had arranged to meet them’. Mary too, is also depicted, and she is placed among the Apostles, not primarily as the Mother of Jesus, but as the image of the Church.
On that mountain Jesus gave the commission to the Apostles to, ‘go and make disciples of all the nations’, and this commission came with a promise: that Jesus would be with them always.
We will all understand the fact that the Church is human, not bricks and mortar, but instead a family of people united in one faith.
The Church is also missionary in that all baptised people have been given the commission to go out and proclaim the Gospel message.
And finally, the Church is a community of hope as Christians place all their hope in the saving power of Christ.
The Ascension of our Lord into heaven confronts all human hopelessness as it reveals the hope we all have of one day being with our Lord in glory. Jesus, the Son of God, (truly human, and truly divine), has gone before us and he waits for us at God’s right hand. With this in mind we cannot be anything but a Church of hope, and it is a message of hope destined for all people to hear.
In our present circumstances we may be tempted to hopelessness which is why we need to renew our faith in Jesus’ final promise: that he would be with us always.
Jesus is our firm foundation in whom we can place all our hope and when we do place our hope in him we can endure anything. We will also be empowered to undertake our missionary role as we boldly proclaim, (to anyone who will listen), why we are so hope-filled.

Intercessions

The Father provides us with all that we need on our journey through life, and so we can turn to Him with confidence as we place all our needs before Him.
For the Church: May the Lord bless and protect always those people who serve the great commission given by Jesus.
For the world: That all those who have a responsibility for leading others may support those in their charge with insight and compassion.
For our country: That those who are tempted to despair may be filled with new hope by the Risen Lord.
For our community: We find our hope and strength in Jesus continuing presence amongst us. May we bear faithful witness to that presence.
For the dead: May they be welcomed by the Lord who is seated at the right hand of the Father.

God our Father, we ask you to accept our prayers as we make our way towards You. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

6th Sunday of Easter – Year A, 17 May 2020

Gospel, John 14:15-21
In the Gospel reading Jesus says: “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”
When Jesus speaks like this he is not wagging his finger at his disciples as if to say: “do as you are told.”
No one likes to be bossed around and so a wagging finger is more likely to get a negative response.
If this is the way we think that Jesus is commanding us it would be very difficult for us to maintain a good and healthy relationship with him.
What Jesus is actually doing when he uses these words is to point his disciples to a different way of living and being.
A true disciple of Jesus will be one who has a deep and loving relationship with their Saviour; one who desires to follow Jesus’ ways, and one who aspires to be in the presence of the Lord on the Last Day.
This deep and loving relationship with the Lord will entail living our lives in the way Jesus lived his life.
Jesus commandments were only two: ‘Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself’. And Jesus goes on to say: “Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me…”
And so we note: lack of love for God, lack of love for neighbour, and lack of love for self is incompatible with a true Christian vocation.
As we know, Jesus came to serve rather than be served, and his service was to those in most need – the poor, the blind, the sick and so on.
This is the model of discipleship which Jesus provided for us, and it is when we strive to follow his ways that we will, in fact, be keeping his commandments.
Whether we are able to follow his example and live up to our belief will depend on how far the Gospel message is real to us. It is only when we have a real reverence for the Lord in our hearts, and remain open to his Spirit, that we will be able to continue to offer his gospel of love to all we meet.
And let us remember too: we do not follow Jesus through our own strength alone. It is only through the mystery of his grace given through the Holy Spirit that we are able to follow his model of discipleship both in word and deed.

Intercessions

We know we cannot do God’s will through our own strength and so we turn to our Father with all our needs.
For the Church: That all who are persecuted for their beliefs may be granted inner strength and perseverance.
For the world: That those for whom life seems empty and without hope may experience the hope and peace that God offers to everyone.
For our country: That all who are anxious about the future may find guidance and peace in Jesus.
For our community: That as we enter into a deeper relationship with the Lord we may endeavour to be more faithful to his commandments.
For the dead: That they may see the Lord face-to-face and that he will welcome them into the fullness of life.

Father, help us to use our gifts to work with all like-minded people for the glory of Your kingdom. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

5th Sunday of Easter – Year A, 10 May 2020

Gospel, John 14:1-12
There are many people in our world today who have troubled hearts and this brought on by many different situations but more so these days because of the lockdown in which we find ourselves.
Lots of people are finding ways of coping through differing means but it has to be understood that faith is an important element in this endeavour of coping. With faith in God and in Jesus we have the remedy which can calm emotional distress – we have the means to cope!
In the Gospel reading it is clear from Jesus words that he is aware of the emotional vulnerability of his disciples and so he said to them: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me’.”
These words of Jesus were spoken to ease the hearts of his disciples who were troubled because they knew that Jesus would soon leave them. At that moment all the disciples could focus on was their pending sense of loss of Jesus which was their trigger for sadness and fear.
We all know and understand that love can endure temporary separation but it cannot abide permanent loss and so Jesus assures his disciples that his parting will only be a temporary parting – he will come back to take them where he is.
Jesus’ promise of taking his disciples to a new home – his Father’s house – holds true to this day so that all who profess their faith in the saving power of the Lord are assured of a room in the Father’s House where Jesus tells us there are many rooms.
It is Thomas who cannot understand how this could be which is why he asks Jesus: “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus, (as we know), is the ‘Way’, and the ‘Way’ is the Christian lifestyle which Jesus encourages us all to follow. At the heart of the Christian lifestyle is love – pure and unconditional. This is the love with which Jesus and the Father love us, and it is this love which we are to strive to show to others.
And so Jesus lets us know it is through the many dimensions of love which we show in our earthly lives, through the many and varied relationships we have, which will manifest itself as everlasting life.
Jesus, (the Way), and the Father, (the where), are so closely linked together as One, that it is impossible to come to the Father and not go through Jesus.
The relationship between God the Father and God the Son is so complete that we, who come to know Jesus as our Lord, will also come to know the Father.
The more that we can enter into this relationship of love between God the Father and the Son,( the more we can learn to trust in them), the more likely it is that our hearts will not be troubled; instead, we will find that calmness of heart which only a relationship of love with God can offer.

Intercessions

We turn to the Father, source of all revelation, and bring to Him in faith all our needs.
For the Church: Jesus, our Saviour, was put to death in the body and raised to life in the Spirit – may he grant all Christians to die to sin, and live in the power of the Resurrection.
For the world: Jesus received all power in heaven and on earth to bear witness to the truth – may he guide in the spirit of truth the plans of governments and rulers.
For our country: Jesus sent his disciples to proclaim the Good News throughout the world – may all who preach his word in this land be alive with the Holy Spirit
For our community: Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – may we have the courage to enter into the relationship of love he has with his Father so that eternal life may be ours.
For the dead: Jesus said there were many rooms in his Father’s house – may he bring all those who have died in faith into the rooms prepared for them.

Father, may the power of Your revealed truth give us the understanding we need to love and care for all we meet. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

4th Sunday of Easter – Year A, 3 May 2020

Gospel, John 10:1-10
‘Shepherd’ has for a long time been a symbol for both teachers and rulers, people who have influence over others. The way these teachers and rulers relate to people shows whether they are true shepherds or thieves and robbers.
Thieves are people who steal by deceit. Robbers are people who steal with violence. But both steal; both take away from people, sometimes depriving people of whatever resources they have.
Thieves and robbers have little or no conscience.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus uses the strong words of ‘steal’, and ‘kill’, and ‘destroy’ to describe what thieves do – they leave people less than when they found them.
A true shepherd, in contrast, leaves people more than when they found them. They are capable of this because they know people intimately. A true shepherd walks ahead of people, bringing them to pasture, to places where they can find nourishment and safety.
Jesus describes himself in the Gospel reading as “the gate of the sheepfold” and states: “Anyone who enters through me will be safe…” And he tells us: “I have come so that they may have life…”
And later in the same Gospel passage Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd…who lays down his life for his sheep.” (Jn10:11)
The life which Jesus offers us is not necessarily about healing, nor does it mean a greater length of days, instead it points to a deeper spiritual meaning in which Jesus leads us to ‘fullness of life’ – life in the Spirit whereby we can be filled and nourished by the amazing outpouring of the love of God the Father and God the Son.
But how do we find ‘the gate of the sheepfold’, and how do we obtain this outpouring of God’s Spirit?
Through baptism we already have the great gift of the Holy Spirit and so all we need to do is to acknowledge the presence of the Spirit within us as we continually maintain our faith in Jesus our Lord through prayer, through the reading of Holy Scripture, and through the ways in which we relate to our neighbour.
Jesus is our guide in all things, (our Good Shepherd), and he will lead us to be better people when we remain open to his saving power. His voice is our conscience as we strive to recognise the needs of others in our world, and when we listen attentively to Jesus’ voice, (he alone who speaks the truth to us), we are seen to be sheep of his fold.
It is our faith in Jesus then which will allow us to enter ‘the gate’ where we will be sure of finding pasture: fullness of life in which Jesus guides us along the right path so that, even if we ‘should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil will we fear’.

Intercessions

Jesus said: “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.” In recognition of the need of God’s help, we pray in confidence.
For the Church: That the Holy Spirit will guide those searching to find their Christian vocation.
For the world: That those who experience suffering and persecution in the living of the Christian life may be steadfast in their faith.
For our country: That young people may be generous in considering religious and priestly life.
For our community: That we will allow Jesus to be our guide in all things so that we may enter the fullness of life.
For the dying: That all who are walking in the shadow of death may feel the presence of Jesus guiding them to safety.

Father, You revealed the fullness of life in Your Son. May the power of the gospel deepen our faith, hope and love. We make this prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

3rd Sunday of Easter – Year A, 26th April 2020

Gospel, Luke 24:13-35
There are many moments on our lives when our viewpoint of what is happening or what has happened is forced to change in the light of new information received so that the context of the event is altered.
Suffering made meaningful: perhaps by the support and deepened bonds between the sick person and their helper. A difficult birth made joyous by the advent of a new baby. Hard work made meaningful by success and promotion. An examination passed. The praise of others. Just a few examples.
But it works the other way too: positive, happy memories can be distorted by betrayal, desertion, loss or failure.
It reveals to us just how our memories are so easily open to change, and that they can be both a blessing as well as a source of pain and disappointment.
In the Gospel reading we hear of two very despondent, disappointed individuals, (two of Jesus’ disciples), who are walking away from the terrible events of Jesus’ death in Jerusalem, as they made their way back to their home town of Emmaus.
It is easy to put ourselves into that picture – the incredulity they felt at what had happened, and their disbelief as all their hopes appeared to have been destroyed. They had believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the one who was supposed to save all of Israel. Instead, he had appeared as just another weak human being, powerless against the forces of evil, and so had suffered a humiliating, painful and degrading death.
It was while these men were in their state of despair that Jesus joined them on the road. He started to talk to them about what had happened as he went through the scriptures to reveal how his death fulfilled the scriptures. Jesus put his death into a new context for the disciples, he gave it meaning so that it could be seen to be the culmination of his act of redemption. This was not abject failure; this was victory over the Evil One!
Only after Jesus had revealed this new meaning to the events that had taken place were the disciples able to recognise the truth, and only in the midst of the breaking of bread were they able to see that it had been Jesus who had revealed the truth to them.
Jesus is in our midst in the same way. We may not always recognise him or realise it is he who is with us. We may, sometimes, even fail to acknowledge him. But he is always there!
It is with this understanding and truth in our minds i.e. that Jesus is always with us, that we can put our own lives into a new context whereby despair can be replaced by hope, betrayal replaced by trust, and pain replaced by healing.
This is what faith in Jesus Christ provides us so that we can reach out to a new vision, a new life where the light of Christ shines brightly – a light which shines in the darkness – and a light to guide us out of the darkness into the wonderful light of His presence!

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) – Year A, 19th April 2020

Gospel, John 20:19-31
The main protagonist in today’s Gospel reading is Thomas, he who refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until such time as he was able to physically see and touch Jesus.
Thomas was looking for cast iron proof of what had happened, and despite seeing the joy on the face of the other disciples he still refused to believe that Jesus had been with them.
Eight days later Jesus came again and stood among his disciples and this is when Thomas got the proof he was looking for.
On both the occasions when Jesus appeared to his disciples in the Upper Room, the first word he spoke was ‘peace’.
After all the suffering and torture of preceding days, Jesus first words spoke of peace and forgiveness.
The Gospel reading tells us how the disciples were filled with fear, feeling alone and isolated – perhaps the same feelings many people are feeling today as they endure this so-called ‘lockdown’.
But Jesus reassured his disciples with his presence, as he showed how he understood their fear, and how he understood the doubt of Thomas.
Despite their fear and doubt, Jesus called on his disciples to go out amongst the people to proclaim the good news: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” he said.
But Jesus didn’t send them out without providing them with a very special gift – the gift of the Holy Spirit – to be their guide and strength in all that they did in the name of the Lord.
At their lowest moment, at a time when they were frightened, Jesus came among his disciples, and his presence brought them peace and joy.
For people today to have that same sense of peace and joy in life they need to have faith.
They don’t need cast iron proof of the Resurrection of Jesus because Jesus tells us: “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Today, so many people are living with feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety and all that is needed to overcome these feelings is a simple belief in the saving power of Jesus Christ.
We can help overcome these negative feelings as we put into action the faith we have: and this can be done simply by proclaiming our belief in the Resurrection as we strive to bring Jesus’ peace and joy to everyone we meet.

Intercessions

We come before the Lord asking for His support through all our trials and difficulties, confident He will hear our prayers.

For the Church: May those who find it difficult to believe, and those who have fallen away from their faith, be encouraged by the mercy and forgiveness of our Risen Lord.
For the world: May all people who suffer in mind or body be strengthened by the Spirit of Christ.
For our country: May the Risen Lord bring peace and hope to all those who are anxious and living in fear.
For our community: May we be bold in the proclamation of our faith as we strive to bring Jesus’ peace and joy to everyone we meet.
For those who have died, remembering especially Bill Pritchard: May they come to meet the Lord at the heavenly banquet.

Lord, the resurrection of Jesus fills us with hope and confidence. Help us, we pray, to strengthen our faith in our moments of weakness We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Easter Sunday – Year A, 12th April 2020

Just this past week we had a full moon, a so-called ‘blood moon’ because of its colour, and it provided so much light as it hung low in the Western sky just an hour or so before dawn.
As an aside, astronomers have been able to determine that it was also a ‘blood moon’ when Jesus was crucified.
As many of you will know I enjoy a morning run, and usually in the early hours of the day.
As I run out of the town in Stonehaven the first thing I become aware of is the lack of light pollution, and so, when the skies are clear, and there is no moon, I’m afforded incredible views of the stars in all their array.
If you have ever been out before the dawn breaks, you might have noticed that the darkest time of night seems to be immediately before dawn. The darkness appears to deepen a little before the light begins to creep over the horizon, and gradually the darkness gives way to the light. Again, this week, on Thursday morning when the sun began to appear on the horizon, the colours in the sky were incredible.
The world rests in the night and for us too it is a time of rest whereas the dawn is a refreshing time, a time offering possibility and promise. Just as darkness brings rest and release, so the dawn brings awakening and renewal.
In faith we know that we are all on a journey from darkness into light: our souls awaken and live in the light – the divine light of our Lord and Saviour.
Throughout the Easter night the world waits for the dawn in eager longing to greet our Risen Lord.
It was at dawn, on the first day of the week that Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit Jesus’ tomb, (as we are told in the Gospel reading from last night’s Vigil Mass – Matthew28:1-10).
“And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightening, his robe white as snow.”
To the women the angel said: “Jesus, who was crucified…He is not here, for he has risen from the dead…”
In contrast, in the Gospel from today’s Mass, (John20:1-9), we learn that when Mary of Magdala saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb she ran to Peter and John to tell them: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.”
It was the two disciples, who, on encountering the empty tomb, came to understand and believe that our Lord had indeed risen from the dead just as he said he would.
It is because of the miracle of the Resurrection that we can maintain our faith and hope for a brighter future. Although we don’t always recognise the Lord in our midst we are assured that he is always here with us, ready with open arms to provide us with comfort, strength, and the determination to persevere as we continue our pilgrim journey into the new light of Easter.
On this most unusual of Easter days then, let us renew our faith and hope in the Risen Lord, going forward with determination to proclaim him is our Risen Lord, because, as St. Paul says: “[Christ] is our life” and, “you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.”
Psalm117:24, (Hebrew Ps118) “This day was made by the Lord; we rejoice and are glad.”

Intercessions

We come before the Lord and ask that He will listen to our prayers and increase within us the Easter faith.
For the Church: That all Christians may always be uplifted by their belief in the Risen Lord.
For the world: May all people whose lives have been turned upside down during this time of pandemic find comfort and healing in the message of the empty tomb.
For our country: May this feast of the Risen Lord bring patience and healing: leading people to follow the pathway of peace.
For our community: On this Easter day let us renew our faith and hope in the Risen Lord as ‘we rejoice and are glad’ for all the blessings bestowed upon us.
For our deceased relatives and friends: May they find rest in the Lord’s peace, and that we who are left may console one another with words of faith.

God our Father, we give you thanks for Your unfailing love. By the power of Your Son’s Resurrection keep us faithful to one another and to You. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Reading for Holy Saturday - 11 April 2020

The Lord’s descent into hell.
What is happening? Today there is great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, the underworld has trembled.
Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.
The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.
‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.
‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are undivided person.
‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form, that of a slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.
‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.
‘See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to a tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.
‘I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.
‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.
‘The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness, the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.’

(Based on Psalm 62), by BM


The Altar table stripped, no coverings, bare
The Tabernacle silver lined is naked, open
The life red of the Sanctuary light extinguished.

Pews preach empty, in the silence of the tomb,
Heaven sitting shiva, statues covered, The Word, unspoken,
Is absent from the World, blood still, corpse cold.

And yet the motion of the world plays on, turn and turn
And turn again, to new and newer, driven
Down to bigger, better quicker, everything, all.

Deluges of different destinations; disconnected in
Connecting: like, retweet, followers, collect tokens,
Not taking note to muse to praise to hold.

The to and fro of always something, someplace, somewhere,
Paradigm of any, shiny, many, more in the signifier slot-in,
Syntax of living top tip, top ten, timesheet, timetable.

Tuned to throng and thrust and thrill
The ever noise and never still, kills the call to quicken
To the quiet of inner slaking, sating appetite.

But God is Dead - He walks the wynds of Hell
Through mindless mindset middens of our good intent
Through thought inaction, unthought action, abdication.

He strolls, the shadow of His wings brush souls in Sheol
Out of sleep, the lost in Limbo, or the loud of life, can cling to Heaven’s
Right hand held out, gates thrown wide, the banquet table laid.

Reading for Good Friday - 10 April 2020

Good Friday – a reading from the instructions of St. John Chrysostom to catechumens.
The power of the blood of Christ
Do you wish to know the power of Christ’s blood? Let us go back to the ancient accounts of what took place in Egypt, where Christ’s blood is foreshadowed.
Moses said: “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish and smear the doors with its blood.” What does this mean? Can the blood of a sheep without reason save man who endowed with reason? Yes, Moses replies, not because it is blood but because it is a figure of the Lord’s blood.
So today if the Devil sees, not the blood of the figure smeared on doorposts, but the blood of the reality smeared on the lips of the faithful, which are the doors of the temple of Christ, with all the more reason will he draw back.
Do you wish to learn from another source the power of this blood? See where it began to flow, from what spring it flowed down from the cross, from the Master’s side. The Gospel relates that when Christ had died and was still hanging on the cross, the soldier approached him and pierced his side with the spear, and at once there came out water and blood. The one was a symbol of baptism, the other of the mysteries. That soldier, then, pierced his side: he breached the wall of the holy temple, and I found the treasure and acquired the wealth. Similarly with the lamb. The Jews slaughtered it in sacrifice, and I gathered the fruit of the sacrifice – salvation.
“There came out from his side water and blood.” Dearly beloved, do not pass the secret of this great mystery by without reflection. For I have another secret mystical interpretation to give. I said that baptism and the mysteries were symbolised in that blood and water. It is from these two that the holy Church has been born ‘by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit’, by baptism and by the mysteries. Now the symbols of baptism and the mysteries came from his side. It was from his side, then, that Christ formed the Church, as from the side of Adam he formed Eve.
That is why in his account of the first man Moses has the words, ‘bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’, giving us a hint here of the Master’s side. For as at that time God took a rib from Adam’s side and formed woman, so Christ gave us blood and water from his side and formed the Church. Just as then he took the rib while Adam was in a deep sleep, so now he gave the blood and water after his death.
Have you seen how Christ has united his bride to himself? Have you seen with what kind of food he feeds us all? By the same food we are formed and are fed. As a woman feeds her child with her own blood and milk, so too Christ himself continually feeds those whom he has begotten with his own blood.

Mass of the Lord's Supper - 9 April 2020

On this Holy Thursday night, it would be normal for us to gather around the table of Jesus to reflect upon the events which took place in the upper room as Jesus celebrated the Jewish feast of Passover for the last time, and the journey he was to take from there to the Garden of Gethsemane.
As it is not possible to come together for this celebration, (because of the current situation we are all in), it would be helpful to spend some time at home in quiet reflection – perhaps imagining being with Jesus and his disciples in the upper room.
At the table that night, Jesus demonstrated, in a vivid and unforgettable way, the value of every human being as he, the Son of God, went down on his knees to wash the feet of his disciples.
This was a very humbling thing to do as it was usually the role of servants.
But in this simple act of humble service Jesus gave an example to all of his disciples of the kinds of humble service, they in their turn, were to strive to show to their neighbour.
In the Gospel reading for tonight: (John13:1-5), we hear about Peter objecting to Jesus washing his feet but Jesus said: “At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
And so Peter relented and allowed Jesus to give the most powerful demonstration of how to live life in the world.
If little things mean a lot, this seemingly insignificant action is the most meaningful of all.
To have servants was a sign of a person’s prestige and importance and so, Jesus’ humble service to his disciples revealed the importance and value he placed on all his disciples.
He, our Lord and Saviour, made himself our servant!
Back at the table Jesus went on to give to his disciples a most powerful gift – his Body and his Blood – that wonderful Sacrament, the Eucharist i.e. Holy Communion.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave himself to everyone and for ever.
This is the Bread come down from Heaven, this the spiritual nourishment we need to continue our pilgrim journey – Jesus’ Body broken for us, Jesus’ Blood poured out for us.
And so as we reflect upon what Jesus was going to endure for us let us consider his single, priceless, irreplaceable life, because this is at the centre of our celebration – life, Jesus’ life and our lives!

Intercessions

As we reflect upon Jesus’ act of humble service let us pray that loving kindness and service may grow in our world.

For the Church: May the Lord strengthen and inspire the Pope and all the bishops of the Church in their service of the people of God.
For the world: May all people who have plenty in this world be constant and persevering as they reach out to help the poor and the hungry.
For our country: May the celebration of the Lord’s Supper be for all Christians in this land an example of the kinds of lives of devotion and service which Jesus asks everyone to undertake.
For our community: May we always remember the humble service of Jesus and his sacrifice as we strive to follow his example.
For our deceased relatives and friends: May they all be united at the Heavenly table.

God our Father, we thank you for the gift of faith, family and friendship in Christ. May our lives be worthy of the love you have shown us. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Passion (Palm Sunday) – Year A, 5th April 2020

During this period of so-called ‘lockdown’ we have been told that if our lives and routines don’t feel any different from normal then we are doing something wrong.
This time of lockdown should be keeping us from our normal routines of shopping, working, exercising and so on.
It is a difficult message to hear but an even more difficult one to undertake especially as we move into its third week.
This season of Lent, which is rapidly drawing to its close, is the same.
If it hasn’t felt any different from any other time of year it is probably because we haven’t taken it seriously enough or given enough thought to what the season is about.
As we move to the last days of Lent we are coming into Holy Week, that very solemn time when we spend more time reflecting on the great sacrifice of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
It will be a wholly different experience this year inasmuch as we cannot come together to celebrate the different elements of the week but we can unite our prayers at particular times on each of the main days.
St. Athanasius, in the fourth century, wrote: “God, who first instituted this feast for us, has also permitted us to celebrate it each year. He who handed over his Son to death for our salvation, for the same reason gives us this holy feast.
This feast guides us through the misfortunes which befall us in this world.
And now, God gives us the happiness of salvation, which flows from this feast, and makes us friends.
At the same time, he gathers us all together, uniting us spiritually wherever we may be, letting us pray in common and offer common thanksgiving.
The miracle of his kindness lies in this: he brings together to this feast those who are far off; and those who are perhaps separated in the body, he makes spiritually close by the unity of faith.”
Through these simple words we understand that God reaches to us in our need as we struggle with our lives and He wants to bring rest to our hearts.
As Holy Week invites us to fall in step with Jesus, we pray that we might walk humbly as Jesus did and, with hearts like his, reach out to all who are burdened by grief, anxiety, or pain at this time.
We begin this Holy Week today by remembering Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem: the time when he was lauded by the people shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heavens!”
And so let us join our Saviour during his Passion as we journey with him through Holy Week, keeping our eyes and our minds on him who will lead us through the darkness into his own wonderful light.

5th Sunday of Lent – Year A, 29th March 2020

Over the last few weeks one of my prayers has been for the people of this land: that they may overcome their fear which leads to selfishness, and instead that they may turn to the Lord who is ready to give them His Spirit of courage and strength, and so lead them to selflessness.
For some people this will entail a huge leap of faith, for others simply a turning back to the God whom they abandoned but who never abandoned them.
During this time we have been told not to take risks, and rightly so, but in faith we do sometimes need to take a risk: we need to take the risk to help others, to boldly proclaim the faith we profess, and so on.
These risks are very small in comparison to the risk Jesus took in today’s Gospel reading.
On hearing the news that his friend Lazarus was ill he decided to make the journey to Bethany even though, in the words of his disciples: “it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?”
Jesus risked his whole life to do a good work for his friends Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus.
Jesus was not afraid of what others might say or do; he was not afraid to die.
And this reveals his inner power, his life, grace and freedom; and it was because of this inner power, grace and freedom that Jesus was not afraid of death.
This same inner power, grace and freedom is something God offers to all of us through His Son, and the words of the prophet Ezekiel state it well: “The Lord says this …I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live.”
And St. Paul tells us: “he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through the Spirit living in you.”
We have God’s Spirit living in us: given to us when we were baptised and became ‘new creations’.
For many Christians being a ‘new creation’ doesn’t seem to have affected them in any recognisable way.
And yet, as St. Paul says: ‘in baptism not only do great things happen to us, we ourselves do something extraordinary, we die to Christ.
Dying with Christ and dying in Christ is a very real thing.
The fact that we were baptised in Christ’s death comes to make sense when we think of Jesus and how he lived.
When we look to Jesus and we think of him we will be able to tell ourselves not to be afraid of doing a good deed that has to be done, because, (through our baptism), we have been born again in Christ and we are living in union with him: we already have his Spirit of courage and strength.
As we reflect upon Jesus’ journey to Bethany and the risks he took to do something good, we can reflect upon our own lives and discern how we have taken risks, or will take risks to do something good too – all in Jesus’ name and for his greater glory.

Intercessions:

For the Church: That Christians everywhere will forever cherish the gift of new life in Christ and celebrate it in deeds of goodness.
For the world: That God’s light may shine in the darkness and bring new heart to those who are without hope.
For our country: That the power of God’s grace may drive fear from the hearts of the people of this land, and give them courage to follow Christ.
For our community: That as we reflect upon the life of Jesus, with the Spirit of courage and strength we already possess, we may be open to taking risks to do something good.
For the sick and the housebound: That they may receive sensitive and faithful care.

Heavenly Father, we ask You to bless us all with Your power and make us forever faithful to the new life You have given us. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.

4th Sunday of Lent – Year A, 22 March 2020

With what is going on in the world at the moment some people might think we are living during the End Days!
There are no facts to bear this out however, and we know that throughout history there have been darker times.  And even if these are the End Days there is nothing for us to fear when we maintain our faith in God.
We will come through this, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is Jesus Christ, leading us through the darkness into his own wonderful light!
This is why there is no need for us to be fearful but simply to place all our hope and trust in God.
There are many times in the Gospel readings when we hear about Jesus and the miraculous healing he brought about but for the most part it was because people had asked him to heal them.
In today’s Gospel reading it was not the man born blind who was crying out for mercy or in any other way to attract attention, instead it is Jesus who takes the initiative and restores the sight of the man.
At the end of the Gospel reading we heard how Jesus was seeking the man again after he had learned he’d been driven away by the Pharisees.
At the beginning of the Gospel Jesus restored the man’s physical sight; now he was about to bring about the man’s conversion by opening his eyes of faith; giving the man spiritual sight.
Jesus said to the man born blind: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Sir”, the man replied, “tell me who he is that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.”
The man said, “Lord, I believe”, and worshipped him.
We know that on the first day of creation God brought light out of darkness; and that is what God is doing every day, even today.
We may think that we are living in dark times, and some might even question where God is in the midst of the current turmoil.
But we who have faith and maintain that faith will know that God is with us always, and that when we suffer He suffers with us.
This is why, in faith, we need not be fearful but simply to place our trust and our hope in the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.
St. Paul reminds us: “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of the light…”
To be children of the light entails maintaining our relationship with God always.
Even if we are forced to close our churches completely we can create places to pray in our own homes – havens of peace where we can be with God, and allow Him to bring his healing power upon us.
Let us then, ensure that our eyes of faith will always remain open, and that we will have the strength and the courage to let people know there is no need to fear when they turn to their loving Father.

Intercessions

Recognising our need for clearer spiritual vision we turn to the Father with all our prayers and needs.

For the Church: Teach your faithful Lord to be united with your passion in times of trouble and distress.
For the world: Lord you call on us to feed the hungry; let us deny ourselves some food this day to help our brothers and sisters in their need.
For our country: May the Lord give strength to the afflicted, and give us the will to do everything to help and comfort them.
For our community: As prophets of God’s kingdom may we make God known throughout the world, and may we confirm our message by lives of faith, hope and love.
For the dead: Lord giver of life, remember those who have died and grant them the glory of your resurrection.

God our Father, open our hearts to Your grace.  Restrain us from all human waywardness and keep us faithful to Your commandments.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.  Amen.