Please note! Mass times and dates for this comming week
Sunday 2 August
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Monday 3 August
Tuesday 4 August
St John Vianney
Wednesday 5 August
Wednesday of Week 18
Thursday 6 August
Transfiguration of the Lord
Friday 7 August
Friday of Week 18 St Sixtus, St Cajetan
Saturday 8 August
Sunday 9 August
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time year A Psalter week 2
Ent antiphon God, come to my help. Lord, quickly give me assistance.
You are the one who helps me and sets me free: Lord, do not be long in coming.
1st reading Isaiah 55: 1-3.
Response You open wide your hand, O Lord, and grant our desires.
2nd reading Romans 8: 35, 37-39.
Acclamation Alleluia, alleluia! Blessings on the King who comes, in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens! Alleluia!
Gospel Matthew 14: 13-21.
Comm ant You gave us bread from heaven, Lord; a sweet-tasting bread that was very good to eat.
Gospel extract When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they answered ‘All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.’ ‘Bring them here to me’ he said. He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining; twelve baskets full. Those who ate numbered about five thousand.
Commentary Every mother knows the disaster-situation of the family day out when the shops turn out to be closed and the emergency supplies were left at home. This lot have been three days on the trot, and there must have been nothing left at all. Jesus turns the disaster into a party for that huge crowd of people. Left to our own resources we are helpless, but Jesus can deal with that. How many were there? We don’t know, for the numbers are symbolic. In the Bible ‘twelve’ alerts us to the tribes of Israel. So the twelve baskets of scraps show that the crowd is the twelve tribes of Jesus’ new Israel. The way Jesus takes the bread and says the blessing must remind any Christian of the Eucharist. So this gigantic field-party was a sort of Eucharist, Jesus at the centre of his people, entertaining them and cheering them. That is why the Sunday Mass is so important: meet your friends and celebrate Christ together!
Henry Wansborough OSB
SAINT OF THE WEEK St Dominic 1170 – 1221 Domingo de Guzmán was born in Castile, Spain and became a canon of the cathedral of Osma. He accompanied his bishop on a mission preaching against the Albigensian heresy, which was then strong in southern France. While the official missions lived in splendour, Dominic and Diego lived in extreme poverty, and prepared with great diligence for the debates that they held with their opponents.
In 1216 he founded the Order of Preachers, dedicated to saving souls by preaching and persuasion. Like the Franciscans, the Dominicans put great importance on poverty, both of the individual and of the community, and of the need to be involved directly in the world while still living some form of monastic life. At a time when the settled Benedictine monasteries had grown into great and rich institutions, this was a revolutionary concept. The Friars made a lasting impact on the life of mediaeval Europe, and the Dominicans in particular altered the course of intellectual history. He is often credited with receiving the Rosary from Our Lady. He is the patron saint of Astonomers.
May God the Father who made us, bless us.
May God the Son send his healing among us.
May God the Holy Spirit move within us
and give us eyes to see with, ears to hear with,
and hands that our work might be done.
May we walk and preach the word of God to all.
May the Angel of Peace watch over us,
and lead us at last by God’s grace to the Kingdom. Amen
The Dominicans have a good website: Godzdogz. From Latin: Domini Canes translates as God’s Dogs!
If you are coming to Mass, please come in good time. A maximum of 50 people will be allowed in hall – please do not be offended if you are turned away when we have reached this number.
- Face masks are now strongly recommended
- On arrival use hand sanitiser
- Please give your name and contact details to the Steward
- A Steward will escort you to your place
- Please observe 2 metres social distancing
- Please avoid talking in Church
- Please do not kneel
- Mass will be brief and Holy Communion will be brought to your seat
- At the end of Mass please follow the directions of the Steward
- The collection will be taken as you leave the hall
- No toilets will be available
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart
Jesus invites each and everyone of us to come to him, as we hear in the Gospel Reading for this Sunday. Perhaps the first question we might ask of ourselves is ‘Have I heard this loving and gracious invitation?’ Who am I that the Lord, who is my maker, should seek me out? As one of the Psalms (Ps. 8) says, What is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?
In Jesus Christ, God seeks to awaken us to the most profound of all relationships that exist. This is something that a young John Henry Newman, our new English saint, discovered, and which set him upon a truly remarkable spiritual journey, eventually leading to his elevation as a Cardinal in later life. The motto he chose in Latin was Cor ad Cor Loquitur which means Heart speaks to Heart. It is in the heart of Jesus Christ that God speaks the mysteries and wonders of His love for all mankind. It is a motto we should make our own, for it goes to the centre of true religion.
The Solemn Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated recently. The origin of devotion to the heart of Our Lord comes from Jesus’ own words contained in the Gospel for this Sunday; it is truly biblical. Let us, then, with spontaneity and with an open heart respond to Jesus’ invitation come to me, come to my heart, learn from me. The lessons Jesus gives as the true teacher of mankind are lessons in life itself.
How often do we see man losing his humanity and becoming a distorted image of his true self, a reality reflected in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray?
In our own prayer, devotion to the Sacred Heart should have a place. There is also the traditional devotion of the
First Friday of the month and many prayers in honour of the heart of Jesus.
The first reading of mass today begins with the words,
The Lord says this; Rejoice
How good that next Sunday, 12th July, once more we can joyfully assemble to celebrate mass.
SOLEMN FEAST OF SS PETER & PAUL
You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church
I [Paul] have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith
Each year the Church celebrates a Solemn Feast in honour of the two principal Apostles, Saints Peter & Paul, and of course in Newport it is also the patronal feast of both the Church and parish school. In Rome, as one might expect, this annual feast has the greatest significance on account of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul there, and the fact that the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, is the successor of St. Peter. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, but it is upon the witness of Peter and the Apostles that our Lord has built his Church and guaranteed that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Today, we honour these two outstanding Apostles and ask for their powerful intercession for the Church and the World, whilst at the same time learning from their lives and being inspired by them.
When we consider the choice that Jesus made of Peter and Paul for the vocation entrusted to them, both may strike us as not being obvious candidates and that the choice was unusual, and even involved a risk. In an age which takes great care and effort in making appointments, according to a due process with the close examination of a personal CV and recommendations, one surmises that even a Church panel for ministerial selection would not have chosen Peter and Paul for senior roles in the Church.
It was after praying all night that Jesus made the choice of his Apostles and amongst them was a fisherman who bore the name Simon. Our Lord knew the character of those whom he called and, as we know from the Gospels, the weakness and impetuosity of Simon is not disguised. Jesus even rebuked him for his lack of faith and for thinking as man thinks and not as God would have us think. Simon even betrayed Our Lord in his hour of need. And yet this is the man of whom Jesus says,
You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church
Jesus saw the potential in St. Peter, and also recognised the faith and love that was within him. Our Lord gave Simon a new name, the name Cephas which in Greek is Petros meaning rock. As St. Paul teaches us, God choses the weak and makes them strong to fulfil the mission entrusted to them. This gives us great confidence in the power of God’s grace to do what we cannot do by ourselves.
In the Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see Peter in prison and in chains and then delivered from his captivity by an Angel. Whatever his personal weaknesses and defects, God worked through Peter, as he does both you and me, when we have faith and trust. Peter ran away on the occasion Jesus needed him most, but ran to the tomb upon hearing report of the Resurrection. As followers of Jesus, sometimes we run away, or turn off, or become unreliable in our commitment. Upon recognising our weaknesses, the response should be like that of Peter, to repent and, as St. Paul says in the Letter to Timothy, to run the race to the finish.
The story of Paul’s Damascus road conversion from being a persecutor of the early Church to being the outstanding missionary Apostle, is well known. Again, an unusual choice on Jesus’ part, and yet how indebted the Church is to Paul for his ceaseless labours and the true Christian teaching bequeathed to the Christian community which we read in his Letters at mass throughout the year.
Paul commences his Letter to the Galatians with the words,
The Good News I preached is not a human message
Filled with the Holy Spirit, but living within the limits of human weakness as earthenware vessels which contain the God’s grace, Peter and Paul proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to the world and established the Church at its beginning. The message and the work were not their own but God’s plan in which we are all called to participate. Both Apostles sealed in their own blood witness to Christ as martyrs in Rome and are praised throughout the world this day.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us and for our parishes on this patronal feast.
TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Do not be afraid
The Sundays following the end of the Easter Season are marked by the great feasts of Pentecost, Trinity and Corpus Christi, but with no feast this Sunday one could be forgiven for feeling a sense of climb down and wanting everyday to be a feast day. And yet, in a sense, every day is a feast day. Life is governed by routine; there are ‘highs’ and ‘lows’! However, if the dawn is announced each day by the joyful chorus of the birds singing, why do we often respond on a low ‘yet another day’. When we proclaim the greatness of God and acknowledge His wondrous gift of life each morning, we begin the day on the right note, even if it is a challenging and difficult day ahead.
This Sunday is an appointed ‘Day of Prayer for Life’. To be Pro Life, which we are and must be as Christians, is not just to promote the wonderful and sacred nature of life at its very beginning and the rights of the unborn. It is to promote the sanctity of life at every stage. Those who have fought to preserve life in the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, especially in hospitals and Care Homes, deserve our unqualified admiration and appreciation.
However, there is a deeper value to life than just the bodily dimension of our existence. In the Gospel Reading for mass this Sunday Jesus says to us, some three times, Do not be afraid. These are comforting words, indeed, but also challenging words for they invite us to place all our trust and confidence in God no matter what is happening in our lives and in the world. Often, we are unable to answer and comprehend the ‘why’ in the question ‘Why do things happen?’, but in everything we can place our trust in God our loving and heavenly Father who, alone, knows the answer to those questions we cannot answer.
Fear, of course, is a very real thing. That goes without saying. The word phobia comes from the Greek language and we find it in the negated form in Jesus’ imperative Do not be afraid. Our own St. Thomas More, whose feast day we celebrate on Monday, June 22nd, with Bishop John Fisher, struggled against his own fears after his fall from the King’s favour and incarceration in the Tower of London, for refusing the Oath of Supremacy by which Henry usurped the spiritual governance of the Church for the State. Thomas More even wrote a major work, a Tower Work as they are known, A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, in which he contends with his own fears. In a letter from the Tower of London to his eldest daughter, Meg, More reflected in a truly Gospel spirit, the words of our Lord Do not be afraid. This is what he wrote,
Nothing can come but that which God wills. And I make myself very sure that whatever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be best.
Such is the trust of the saints in the providence of God, and in the case of Thomas More, an outstanding married lay saint and father of four children. Once again, there is a deeper value to life than just the bodily dimension of our existence. The voice of conscience speaks and, rightly informed, is God speaking within. Thomas More did not doubt the true voice of conscience and made the fundamental and defining choice, God first. He was true to God and to himself and so realised in his act of witness in the martyrdom the words of Christ which we hear in today’s Gospel.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul
THE SOLEMN FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven
On Holy Thursday evening, during Holy Week, we gather to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It is good to try to picture in our minds the scene as it is described in the Gospels, helped by the many ways in which the Last Supper has been depicted in great art, so as to be able to ‘feel’ our faith, as it were, and what it is that Jesus brought about on the night he was betrayed and which is given to us.
This Last Supper with the disciples was the occasion of the first mass. The holy mass celebrated each Sunday, and in most parishes every day, has been given to us personally by Jesus himself with the words Do this in memory of me. The divine worship of the Church is not something believers have designed, such as the beautiful carol service of Nine Lessons and Carols, but received from the Lord himself. For this reason, St. Paul, who was not present at the Last Supper since his call to be an Apostle came later, after the Resurrection, wrote in the first letter to the Corinthians,
This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you
When we participate in the celebration of mass we receive from the Lord what has been passed down through the centuries. Hence, we see that the Eucharist is in reality Jesus giving his very self to us and a profound mystery of communion with God in Jesus Christ, through whom we come to God the Father in the Holy Spirit.
When we contemplate the scene at the Last Supper, we see a number of instructive aspects which help us to understand the full reality of what Jesus is doing and giving. First, he is in the midst of his followers who are gathered around him. In other words, Jesus is present; he is here. Secondly, he takes the cup of wine and the bread, and using sacrificial language referring to his forthcoming death, blesses them and declares This is my Body, This is my Blood. Jesus thereby identifies himself with the consecrated elements of bread and wine, in which he is truly present. Surely, such a gesture is truly extraordinary and amazing! The Church tries to capture something of this wondrous transformation in the use of the term transubstantiation. Thirdly, the disciples receive Communion from the Lord but do not treat the Eucharistic meal as a ‘one off’. The early Christians were faithful to the command of Jesus to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. And so it is to this day and the end of time.
In the ‘shape’ of the Last Supper, we recognise three fundamental dimensions. The dimension of the presence of Our Lord; the dimension of the union of the sacrifice of Calvary with the Eucharist and the dimension of his giving himself to us as the bread of eternal life and so drawing us into the mystery of the Holy Trinity. These three dimensions are conveyed in the Gospel Reading for this Sunday, according to St John,
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven … and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink... As I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. This is the bread come down from heaven not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live forever.
Could our Lord have been any more explicit than he was as to his meaning concerning the eucharistic mystery? Indeed, the second recorded celebration of mass is by the Risen Lord in the home of the disciples who encountered him on the road to Emmaus. They recognised Jesus present in the Breaking of Bread.
In today’s feast of Corpus Christi, that aspect of the Eucharistic mystery we focus upon and celebrate is the real presence of Our Lord in the sacrament and this reality in the life of the Church and of believers. Holy Communion is reserved in the Tabernacle for the those who are sick, housebound and close to death, as viaticum, food for the journey, but also for prayer and adoration.
The sanctuary lamp placed near the Tabernacle draws our attention to the Lord who is with us and we make a genuflection in reverence and adoration to this wondrous presence. The mystery of Our Lord’s presence amongst us is especially celebrated in the services of Benediction, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and processions of the Blessed Sacrament. It is in this way that Jesus who ascended into heaven fulfils his promise to be with us always until the end of time.
The wondrous mystery of Our Lord feeding us and being with us shows forth God’s love and desire to accompany us through life. Our response must be one of love and faith in God who comes so close to us and who works such wonders. We do so not only in church but also by recognising Christ’s presence in those who are in need and need to be fed materially and spiritually.
O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine
The Solemn Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls this coming Friday. Let us not forget to reflect upon the love of the heart of Our Lord with devotion and to pray to the Sacred Heart on this Feast.
SOLEMN FEAST OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all
These words are very familiar to us and, no doubt, can be recognised immediately for they form the Greeting at the beginning of the celebration of mass. As with much of our liturgical prayer and worship, these words are also biblical. St. Paul concludes his Second Letter to the Corinthians with this greeting. At mass, they follow the sign of the cross we have traced upon ourselves and which in itself recalls our baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The Feast of the Holy Trinity which falls on the Sunday after Pentecost and the close of the Easter Season also teaches us that the life, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus to heaven leads us to God himself, whom we worship in spirit and truth as Holy, Holy, Holy: Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit.
Such is the wondrous mystery of God and the intimacy with him into which we are invited, that God comes close to us and reveals his true nature and personality. It is natural to believe in God, but we cannot work God out for ourselves for he is above and beyond the human mind. No human words can contain the greatness of God, yet that said, God has spoken his Word, Jesus Christ to us and enlightened our minds so that, brought to the complete truth by the Holy Spirit, we may indeed speak of Him.
God has revealed himself to us, beginning with the Creation, as the origin and maker of all things. What God has made is good, and His goodness is beyond measure. From thence, the People of the Old Testament directly experienced God’s intervention in their lives and in the world. The fundamental passages of the Old Testament speak of how this people came to know One God alone, the Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, rich in kindness and faithfulness. The Books of the Old Testament can be understood as the chapters of a love story narrating the love of God for a people He made His own. In his prayer, the Benedictus, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, expresses this perfectly,
Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel,
He has visited his people and redeemed them
It is in Jesus Christ alone that the fulness of divine revelation takes place. There is only One, true and eternal God, but such is the mystery of God’s life and love that the divine nature is possessed by three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are co-eternal and co-equal. So, we say the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, but the Father is not the Son, nor the Holy Spirit the Father, for each person is distinct but the divine nature is One. God is love, but that love is mutually and eternally shared by the three persons, almost as if an eternal family. The divine purpose at work in the Creation and salvation of mankind, is to raise us up and make us sharers of the divine life.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.
For many people today, God is of no particular interest or a ‘delusion’, but for those who allow themselves to be drawn to God the very opposite is true. In God we discover ourselves and the true meaning of life and death. God made us in His own image and likeness and in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ we are reconfigured, as it were, through him and his Sonship, to become sons and daughters of God called to share the life of the Holy Trinity.
Jesus said, to see me is to see the Father, and when he addressed God as ‘Father’ he did so with the word Abba, a word in the Aramaic language he daily spoke which equates with the English word ‘Daddy’. The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, begin by addressing God in this intimate way. At Pentecost, the hidden person in God, the Holy Spirit, came to us and enabled us to call God, Father. Our belief in God has been taught by God himself. Faith is certain, it is to stand on firm ground, the surest knowledge, but from this we pass into the very mystery of God whose love is beyond all understanding.
We sing in a great hymn to the Trinity,
Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, three we name thee,
while in essence only One undivided God we claim thee;
and adoring bend the knee while we own the mystery
If any man is thirsty, let him come to me!
He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive
The Feast of Pentecost stands with both Easter and Christmas as one of the principal celebrations of our Christian faith. In each of these great feasts of the life of Our Lord, we recall that God, of His own loving initiative, brings about a transformative change in our human nature to save us and to make us capable of receiving eternal life.
At Pentecost, God poured into the hearts of believers a new and wondrous gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift is not ‘something’, but a person who enters our lives and of whom we say in the creed, is The Lord the giver of life. When I think of my life and its meaning, it perhaps doesn’t occur to me that I need to think of the Holy Spirit, and that to do so opens up completely new dimensions and horizons to the way we perceive ourselves.
The very essence of God is life, eternal life. The communication of life to us is very much the work of Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit the Creation came into being. God breathed life into us to make us a living being. For this reason, we think of the Spirit as the breath of God. It was by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that Mary conceived Jesus Christ. At his Baptism in the Jordan river, the Holy Spirit was manifest in the form a dove. In the Spirit, Jesus was raised from the dead and in the celebration of Mass, the Holy Spirit is called upon to transform the gifts of bread and wine into the wondrous presence of Christ, the Bread of Life.
We do not see the Holy Spirit. By definition the Spirit is immaterial and invisible but, at certain times, the Spirit does take a visible form such as in the form of tongues of fire at Pentecost or the form of a dove at the Lord’s Baptism, so that we may better recognise the reality of his presence and working. Such is the necessity of the Holy Spirit and our dependence on him that, as St. Paul says, we could not even call God Father or Jesus Lord unless the Spirit enabled us to do so.
Such is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, that at the first Pentecost people of different languages heard the Word of God proclaimed in their own tongue, as we hear in the First Reading of Mass. One Lord, One God, One Faith are preached to the whole world and so a universal Church, the Catholic Church, comes to birth. Hence, Pentecost is also known as the Church’s birthday.
Why is it the case that we as Christians do not pay sufficient attention to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity? Pentecost invites us to put the Holy Spirit in focus and to be aware of His presence for,
The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world
The Holy Spirit who is ‘Gift’ is also the bearer of the most prized and precious gifts of God. In the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation, we hear of them in the prayer accompanying the Laying on of Hands, said by the Bishop,
Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.
St. Paul, in the Letter to the Galatians, contrasts the fruits of the Spirit of God at work in us with a spirit of self-indulgence that we so often give into. The spirit of self-indulgence brings forth jealousy, bad temper, quarrels, wrangling, idolatry, sexual irresponsibility and all the other works of corrupt human nature. What the Spirit of God brings is very different: love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self- control. We must overcome those ‘toxins’ which disease us and prevent us from belonging to Christ.
Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit
Happy Feast of Pentecost,
The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Father glorify your Son
Let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him
The days between the Feast of the Ascension (last Thursday) and the Feast of Pentecost (next Sunday) have a special focus and significance; these days are days of novena to the Holy Spirit for all of us.
At the Ascension Jesus gave to his followers what sounds like ‘mission impossible’,
Go make disciples of all the nations
How could a small band of disciples realise what to us seems unrealistic, unbelievable and beyond human capacity? When something appears to us beyond the realms of probability, we often laugh. For instance, when St. Paul proclaimed the Resurrection to the Athenians, some burst out laughing. However, the disciples did not do so when Jesus spoke those words Go make disciples of all the nations! They knew already that they were not alone, for Jesus had promised he would not leave them orphans but would be with them until the end of time, and that he had also promised to send the Holy Spirit. Entrusted, then, with Our Lord’s own mission, the first thing the disciples did was to pray.
In the First Reading for mass this Sunday, taken from The Acts of the Apostles, this scene of prayer is described. The venue is an upper room where they were staying, and gathered together are the Apostles and several women, including Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and some of Jesus’ relations amongst his extended family. All these joined in continuous prayer. This is an image of believers united in prayer, bound in fellowship, awaiting God’s action and the coming of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the disciples did not laugh at ‘mission impossible’, but believed what is impossible to man is possible for God. This was something Mary had learned herself at the Annunciation when the angel declared The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Who knows, but perhaps in
the course of these days of deep prayer Mary recalled for the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit at her own conception of Christ, for at Pentecost, the Church, now conceived in believers, was to come to birth.
This scene of the disciples gathered in prayer and awaiting the Holy Spirit is one we should keep before our minds. It is an authentic image of the Church gathered as one around the Lord, in the Holy Spirit, turned to the Father, but directed to the salvation of the world in mission. Prayer is not just about ‘asking’, but about ‘being’ in the presence of God and sharing the divine life. In the Gospel Reading, from St. John, Jesus says,
Let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him
Prayer helps remind us that God had created us principally as spiritual beings capable of receiving and living the life of God. Indeed, at the beginning, God breathed life into us and so made us living beings. Now the Holy Spirit seeks to come and dwell within us and bring us into communion. As a practical suggestion, it can be helpful to say hymns to the Holy Spirit as payers during these days of novena.
THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you forever,
that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive
I hope you are all keeping well. Recently, the clergy have been updated on the ongoing closure of our churches. As matters presently stand, it appears that restrictions on the closure of public places of worship will continue for the moment, although there is some hope that initially there may be opening for private prayer. Meanwhile, it is good, where possible, to participate in Sunday Mass via streamed services or, if one is unable to do so, to set aside time to pray with a text of the readings and prayers of the Sunday Liturgy. Mass, of course, continues to be celebrated each day in church remembering both the needs of parishioners and all of society at this time.
As the weeks go by, we are now at the threshold of Ascension Thursday this week and the coming feast of Pentecost. The days between these two great feasts are marked by the Novena to the Holy Spirit in order that we might be focused and prepared to celebrate the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to believers and to the world.
On these days following the Ascension, let us think about the person of the Holy Spirit who is the Lord the giver of life, as we profess in the Creed. We recall that Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, those who worship God worship in Spirit and truth. In today’s Sunday Gospel, Our Lord speaks of the Spirit of truth who is with us and dwells within us.
The world does not know him, though he is indeed present. The world closed in on itself excludes God’s Spirit, but those who believe and recognise him are ‘alive’. In the Creation, God brings all living things into being, breathing his life into them. In the new creation in Jesus Christ, God shares and bestows on us his own divine life.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, there is reference to those baptised receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation which involves the laying on of hands. In this wonderful sacrament, likewise, the Holy Spirit has come to us, but we do need to pray that this sacrament, which completes our initiation into Christ Jesus, may be at work in us each and every day. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Advocate who constantly makes intercession for us. He is in us and with us.
Let us pray,
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created and You shall renew the face of the earth.
May I mention an ecumenical initiative of local Christian Churches for the days between Ascension and Pentecost. It is called Thy Kingdom Come and consists of a scripture reading, reflection and hymn by local clergy and parishioners. Fr. Anthony’s turn is on May 28th. These can be found on Utube at the following link.
YouTube Channel- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMuYu-V3381Gn9HgE66NYjg
YouTube Playlist for Thy Kingdom Come- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhsTZcn46JG5PSWLKOvx2RKDx0I_12ORn
FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you know my Father too.
If someone had never heard those words before, but responded to them, the first remark such a person may make could well be, “I’ve never heard anyone speak like that before. Who said it?” Of course, we know who said it, Jesus Christ, and the response of the-would-be enquirer is correct; no one has ever spoken like this before! Who, indeed, could make such a claim? What is even more striking in Jesus’ words is that the Way, the Truth and the Life, is not some sort of programme, a book, a technique or any ‘thing’ for that matter. The Way, the Truth and the Life is a person, one unique person alone, Jesus Christ. The Way is a person, the Truth is a person, the Life is a person. There is nothing abstract here, but a tangible person whom the first disciples saw and touched and heard. Ultimately, what we find expressed in Our Lord’s words is the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God. The one who seeks truth and life must come to Jesus Christ and open the door to him. Moreover, Jesus’ words are not only words but are one with his life and are confirmed and demonstrated by the events of his life. Jesus’ way leads through death to Resurrection and the Kingdom of God. In the opening sentences of this Sunday’s Gospel, our Lord reveals the destination of His Way.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; …. I am now going to prepare a place for you.
Once again, the person who had never heard those words before might consider these extraordinary claims and actually desire to receive what has been offered. Such an open and receptive response is exactly what the Apostles experienced when, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, they first preached the Good News of the Gospel. In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that the word of the Lord continued to spread and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased. Such was the development of the
life of the Church that the Apostles made provision for growing needs by sharing their ministry with others by instituting the ministry of Deacons, just as today many forms of ministry, lay and ordained, work together to build up the Body of Christ which is the Church.
As we might expect, not everyone accepts and believes in Jesus Christ and the Gospel he has taught us. In the Second Reading, St. Peter speaks of the Lord as the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God but this stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone.
Throughout the Scripture readings for this Sunday, the theme of ‘trust in God’ is very much present. Jesus, himself, commands us trust in God still, and trust in me. This trust is a confidence in God which is born of faith, and in particular that God can bring positive things from negative things, good from evil. The Apostles underwent many trials on account of God’s word, but were undaunted, and from the seeds they planted, then watered by the Holy Spirit, countless numbers have come to know and follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
In these very challenging times for the whole human family, our first response must, surely, be to pray and trust in God.
GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY
I have come so that they may have life
and have it to the full
The parishes have received a message from the Archbishops of England and Wales under the title A People who hope in Christ, to be circulated in our communities. Please do take time to read this message which carefully considers the situation in which we find ourselves as a Church and the need for restrictions on the use of places of worship to stem the transmission of the virus, and so preserve life and the common good of society. Given that there is likely to be a phased return to travelling and gathering, Church authorities are planning for this time in consultation with the statutory public health agencies. We all desire the opening of our churches and access to the sacraments, and look forward to that day.
This Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is also known as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’, since in the Gospel Jesus speaks of himself and his relationship to each one of us in this way. “I am the Good Shepherd,” says the Lord. To his hearers, who knew and prayed the psalms, this was a familiar image of God, described in that most loved and sung psalm, Psalm 22, which begins with the words, The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. We should be able to recite it by heart as a most wonderful prayer and expression of intimate relationship with God, containing, as it does, the experience of placing one’s total trust in the guiding hand of the Good Shepherd who leads us along the right path and accompanies us on the journey of life in this world to the His own dwelling, where we live forever and ever. The psalm speaks of absence of fear, even if one should walk in the valley of darkness, and contains a prefiguration of the banquet of the Eucharist and the sacraments and, indeed, of Jesus, himself, the Good Shepherd. The trust, hope, faith and knowledge contained in this psalm make it a ‘must know prayer’, and one that brings consolation in adversity.
The picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is not a sentimental one. Some fundamental questions arise for us. Do I want to follow, to be taught and to be guided by the Jesus? The now sainted John Henry Newman reflected on personal experience, earlier in his life, in the poem Lead kindly Light. As he travelled, for a while, amid the encircling gloom, he reflects that I loved to choose and see my path and pride ruled my will: remember not past years. Many saints have not always followed the right path, but they are saints because they sought that path and, when found, followed the Good Shepherd wherever he led, and who says to us,
I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full
This Sunday is a Day of Special Prayer for Vocations. Also, now we have begun the month of May, let us keep it as a month of special devotion to Our Lady and pray the Rosary.
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
They recognised Jesus in the Breaking of Bread
As the ‘lock down’ continues and restrictions look set to remain in many places, Catholics throughout the world rightly experience a real absence in their lives in being unable to regularly receive the sacraments (except in an emergency). But, of course, faith teaches us that God is never absent and is with us always. The wellspring of God’s grace flows in many and varied channels. A crisis often brings out the best in people, even the heroic, as we are reminded each day. In adversity, some of the lessons God has taught us throughout the ages are often more readily learned. This is not just a case of being optimistic in difficult circumstances. Rather, the Resurrection of Jesus has transformed the very foundations of existence such that, even in the heart of darkness, the new life of Easter cannot be repressed but shines forever as the glorious outcome that awaits us. The Cross leads to the Resurrection and the Resurrection demonstrates that suffering and even death itself cannot restrict the power of God and the fulfilment of His purposes. Our faith, then, is not a mood of optimism, but the knowledge of what we might call a divine positivity that redeems the fallen and negative aspects of existence. We should read and re-read the Resurrection Gospels, as we do in the Easter Season, for here we are brought into the personal experience of those who first encountered the impact of meeting the risen Jesus and, as ordinary men and women, became a new person in Christ.
The Gospel Reading for the Third Sunday of Easter is the well-known and much-loved passage that recalls what happened to two followers of Jesus on the road to the village of Emmaus. These two disciples did not rank amongst the group of the Apostles but amongst the wider group of men and women who were also known as ‘his disciples’. Their faces are downcast; their hearts broken; their hopes and beliefs shattered; their world had fallen apart and apparently come to an end. Tragically, for some, this means there is no purpose to life anymore. It is in this state of turmoil that they meet one whom they perceive to be a stranger and, seemingly, not abreast of the latest news.
This mysterious stranger explains the meaning of sacred scripture to them such that they will later say, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scripture to us?” Thus engaged, and at a late hour in the day, they invite a fellow traveller on the road to stay with them in their home. When he takes bread, blesses it and gives it to them, they recognise it is none other than Jesus, now truly risen from the dead. This was the second time Jesus, in simple form, celebrated the Eucharist.
For the early Christians, the expression ‘The Breaking of Bread’ was the term used to refer to the mass and here we observe its principal elements. The reading and proclamation of God’s word in sacred scripture and the enactment of what Jesus did at the Last Supper form the basic shape of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. In a missal, or on the mass sheet, we note the headings Liturgy of The Word and Liturgy of The Eucharist. In faith, we recognise the sacramental presence of the risen Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine and his Word spoken to us in scripture, not just to be received and heard, but to be lived. The mass corresponds with one of the names prophesied of Jesus, Emmanuel, a word meaning ‘God-is-with-us’. How, close God is to us! He is our Eucharistic Lord who wants to walk the road of life with us. When faith is lacking or insufficient, the risen Jesus is made a ‘stranger’.
It is instructive to recall, especially at a time when we are prevented from attending Church, that two disciples encountered the risen Lord ‘on the road’ and ‘at home’. The Church does not consist of bricks and mortar, but ‘living stones’ and ‘active members’ who form the body of Christ wherever they are. In this sense, we are all disciples on the road of life, not to a village, but to the destination of glorious Resurrection.
SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
The doubting Thomas exclaims
“my Lord and my God!”
The days following Easter Sunday until today are known as the Easter Octave. Each day is celebrated Joyfully as Christ’s rising day with the Gospel at mass recalling how the risen Jesus showed himself to his disciples, to their great joy and utter astonishment which words cannot describe. The same Jesus whom they knew to be crucified and buried in the tomb was now before them in person, somehow different yet truly Jesus risen from the dead. How could this happen? How was it possible? How do you explain it? This just doesn’t happen! Once you have died you have died. But the fact of the matter is that the women and the Apostles do actually behold Jesus risen from the dead and cannot deny their senses! How was this possible? The Resurrection passages in the Gospels do not investigate that question in the form of a thesis. The reality is that Jesus is truly risen from the dead and is present there before their very eyes. The Resurrection of Jesus is the work of God, testifying to the Father and the Holy Spirit in whom Jesus is raised, thereby vindicating him as Lord and Saviour beyond doubt.
Beyond doubt? Doubt and being beyond doubt are very much at the heart of the Gospel Reading for this Octave Day of Easter. Where do we stand ourselves? That Jesus is truly risen is now beyond doubt for the women and the Apostles who have seen him on different occasions. There is one, however, who does doubt, one who is also an Apostle and so one of the Twelve called by Jesus to closely collaborate in his work. His name is known to posterity as ‘The Doubting Thomas’. He actually says in categorical terms, “I refuse to believe”. He insists that his own proof criteria of ‘seeing and touching’ be met, and refuses, as well, to believe the others who tell him that they have seen the Lord. The risen Jesus cedes to Thomas’ demands, but adds, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”. Obstinate doubt, at once, is turned to deep and true faith. Thomas now exclaims in no uncertain terms, “My Lord and my God!” In the risen Jesus, Thomas beholds the divinity of our Lord, but not just as an objective fact. The risen Lord is “my Lord” and “my God”. In faith, Thomas experiences that personal relationship God seeks with all of us, not in isolation, but in the communion of believers with him which is his body the Church. The doubts of the Apostle Thomas have been blown away. He is now the ‘Believing Thomas’. He has travelled a journey from doubt to being beyond doubt.
The Resurrection of Jesus is not to be thought of as merely the happy ending to a sad story. Jesus is now in a totally new existence. The women and the Apostles do not just see the risen Lord, but find themselves transformed themselves by the new reality of the Jesus’ Resurrection. From now on they will live a new way of life in Christ who lives in them and also in us. This is exactly what happened to St. Paul when, some years later, he experienced the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Likewise, Paul’s refusal to believe in the risen Lord accompanied by violent attempts to persecute such faith, was turned to utter conviction of the Resurrection. Paul’s Damascus Road conversion follows that of Thomas, from doubt to being beyond doubt. If Christ had not risen said Paul, our faith would be in vain. This is the new normal!
Divine Mercy Sunday On this Octave Day of Easter, which is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, we celebrate the mercy that God has poured out upon the world through the mysteries of the saving life, death and glorious resurrection of Our Lord. Praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy is a beautiful and meaningful way of recalling God’s merciful love. The prayers are said on the Rosary
The celebration of Easter 2020, no doubt, will be of particular remembrance in years to come. On this day of all days – The Day of Resurrection – the Church here, and in many places, is unable to assemble to greet and worship the Risen Jesus whose first words to us are, “Peace be with you”, and, as a community, to proclaim his victory over sin and death. But, is this the way we should remember Easter 2020? An eccentric Easter! Surely, the Resurrection, which shows us how God draws good out of evil, and turns the ‘negative’ to ‘positive’, invites us to express our faith with renewed conviction and vigour in the restrictions we experience. Easter 2020 could be remembered as how our faith was renewed and expressed in a creative way in the domestic church of our own homes. If we are missing Church, that’s a really good sign. If we are not missing Church, then something is missing in our personal faith and we can see that as a symptom of a need, a need for faith ‘to wake up’!
The other morning, I heard the dawn chorus, nature’s own symphony greeting the new day. Just as nature is uninterrupted, so also the life of faith remains uninterrupted. Church doors closed on Easter Sunday do not interrupt the reality of the glorious Resurrection of Jesus and its power to transform our personal lives and the whole world too. Easter is not cancelled! In a crisis, there are always opportunities. The Resurrection of Jesus teaches us that the faith and new life he has revealed to us, are irrepressible. Restrictions and frustrations do not contain faith, or imprison it, but challenge us to express our faith and celebrate it in a given set of circumstances, strange though they may be.
First, in the greater time available to many, but not of course to all, there exists an advantage to take hold of, not just for leisure or to kill boredom, but to gain profit from such time. Recalling that this year is a A Year of the Word, perhaps it is a while since we last opened our Bible? Let’s read the Resurrection passages in particular. One favourite for many is the account of what happened on the Emmaus Road, a Gospel reading especially relevant to present circumstances. Where did the two disciples meet the Risen Jesus whom, at first, they did not recognise? They met him on a road and, subsequently, in a house and home, where they recognised Jesus in the Breaking of Bread, which is how the early Christians referred to the mass. In other words, we meet Jesus in all sorts of places and situations. There is the opportunity to dedicate time to prayer. Hymns, with their words and glorious melodies, can be a helpful place to start, since they are inspiring and uplifting. Perhaps, we could think over and pray one of the glorious Easter hymns at this time. Why not sing a hymn at home? For those who have gardens, why not build a little Easter Garden. Last Year the Holy Father, Pope Francis, strongly urged and reaffirmed the building at home of the Crib. Why not an Easter Garden? The Christian faith is very creative. That is why the world has so much great religious art and so many iconic buildings.
Secondly, there is the Internet with many good websites. To be recommended are those of an American, Catholic Bishop and contemporary Evangelist, Bishop Robert Barron.
Thirdly, there are the glorious mysteries of the Rosary to pray which recall the Resurrection, the Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit, as well as the Mysteries of Light. Perhaps, as do Eastern Christians, we could create a ‘holy hearth’ in our homes with a religious image before which we could pray. We could pray the Angelus at 12noon and 6.00pm before an image of Our Lady, who was also the sorrowful mother at Calvary.
A particular feature of the Liturgy of Easter Sunday mass, and the preceding Easter Vigil, is the renewal of Baptismal promises in the Creed presented in the form of questions. This Easter, let us recall our baptism into the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and with full heart and faith as conviction greet the Risen Jesus with the words, Christ has died, Christ is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia and Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son, endless is the victory thou o’er death has won.
Wishing all our parishioners and, indeed, everyone, the grace and blessing of the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead.