Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’
Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’ People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.
The law of the Lord is perfect, it revives the soul. The rule of the Lord is to be trusted, it gives wisdom to the simple.
The fear of the Lord is holy, abiding for ever. The decrees of the Lord are truth and all of them just.
So in them your servant finds instruction; great reward is in their keeping. But who can detect all his errors? From hidden faults acquit me.
From presumption restrain your servant and let it not rule me. Then shall I be blameless, clean from grave sin.
John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us. ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward. ‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’
Mark 9:30-37 Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him. They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’
It is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change. By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created.
Accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.
Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.
The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready. Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ.’
Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’ And Mary said:
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other.
‘No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father. I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life.
‘I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’
Over the next five Sundays, the Church presents to us the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. I am going to take this opportunity to preach on a different aspect of the Eucharist each week.
As ever, you will find my homilies uploaded each weekend.
I would encourage you to get out your bibles and use the following weeks as an opportunity to reflect prayerfully with me on the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6).
God bless you all.
Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)
Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover. Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.
He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name. If I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil would I fear. You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort.
You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life. In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.
Mark 6:7-13 Jesus made a tour round the villages, teaching. Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
In view of the extraordinary nature of these revelations, to stop me from getting too proud I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and stop me from getting too proud! About this thing, I have pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me, but he has said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.
Death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living. To be – for this he created all; the world’s created things have health in them, in them no fatal poison can be found, and Hades holds no power on earth; for virtue is undying.
Yet God did make man imperishable, he made him in the image of his own nature; it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world, as those who are his partners will discover.
When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him. While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.
Prayer to Saint Joseph for a Happy Death
O Blessed Joseph, you gave your last breath in the loving embrace of Jesus and Mary. When the seal of death shall close my life, come with Jesus and Mary to aid me. Obtain for me this solace for that hour – to die with their holy arms around me. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I commend my soul, living and dying, into your sacred arms. Amen.
With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’
As usual, below are the scripture readings which I draw on in my homily. I have also included the full text of St Thomas Aquinas’ hymn ‘Pange Lingua’ which he wrote for this solemnity.
Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, ‘We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed.’ Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he directed certain young Israelites to offer holocausts and to immolate bullocks to the Lord as communion sacrifices. Half of the blood Moses took up and put into basins, the other half he cast on the altar. And taking the Book of the Covenant he read it to the listening people, and they said, ‘We will observe all that the Lord has decreed; we will obey.’ Then Moses took the blood and cast it towards the people. This’ he said ‘is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you, containing all these rules.’
Now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, which is better than the one made by men’s hands because it is not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption for us. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer are sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement and they restore the holiness of their outward lives; how much more effectively the blood of Christ, who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God through the eternal Spirit, can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God.
He brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant.
Hail our Saviour’s glorious Body, which his Virgin Mother bore; hail the Blood which, shed for sinners, did a broken world restore; hail the sacrament most holy flesh and Blood of Christ adore!
To the Virgin for our healing, his own Son the Father send; from the Father’s love proceeding sower, seed, and Word descends; wondrous life of Word incarnate with his greatest winder ends!
On that paschal evening see him with the chosen twelve recline, to the old law still obedient in its feats of love divine; love divine, the new law giving, gives himself as Bread and Wine!
By his word the Word almighty makes of bread his flesh indeed; wine becomes his very life-blood; faith God’s living Word must heed! Faith alone may safely guide us where the senses cannot lead! Come, adore this wondrous presence; bow to Christ, the source of grace!
Here is kept the ancient promise of God’s earthly dwelling-place! Sight is blind before God’s glory, faith alone may see his face! Glory be to God the Father, praise to his co-equal Son, adoration to the Spirit, bond of love, in Godhead one! Blest be God by all creation joyously while ages run!
The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’
Today the Church celebrates, only for the fourth time, the Memorial of Mary the Mother of the Church. In 2018, as he announced this addition to the liturgical calendar Pope Francis wrote that he wished to “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in its pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety”.
The title of ‘Mother of the Church’ is very ancient (it goes back at least to the fourth century), but it was forgotten for many years. However, this beautiful title was revived around the time of the Second Vatican Council, as the bishops sought to give a clear teaching on what the Church is.
When we think of the Church sometimes we will think first of the Church as an institution with schools, universities, offices and administration. But first and foremost of course the Church is us Christians. So the Council wrote a document (Lumen Gentium) which reflected on how the Church is made up of lay people, of religious, of ordained ministers, all of whom are journeying together as they follow there vocation to be saints.
In the words of Saint Pope Paul XVI “the Church is not an institution, but a people… Mary is the Mother of us, the Church.”
At the foot of the cross, the Beloved Disciple (Saint John) represents all of us when Jesus entrusts him to his Holy Mother. From that moment, Mary was not just the Mother of God, but the Mother of all Christians. As such, we venerate her as the Mother of the Church.
Mary is truly our Mother, and she loves each one of us with a mothers heart.
She dwells now in the glory of heaven, and it is from heaven that she continues to accompany us with maternal love. She cares for us as a mother cares for her children, watching over our ever step and interceding for us. Today we celebrate the gift that is our Heavenly Mother.
We can, of course, always go directly to Jesus in our prayer. As Christians we are called to have a personal relationship with our Saviour and that relationship should be based on communion with him in prayer. But Jesus wants us to have a relationship with his Mother too.
As he died on the cross he gave Mary to the Church when he said to the Beloved Disciple (who stands in our place) “Son, behold your Mother.”
Jesus gives us his own Mother to be our spiritual Mother. She cares for us with a maternal love, praying for us each and every day. Having conceived Christ in her immaculate womb, cared for him as he grew up, and become the most perfect of his disciples, she is a saint we should have recourse to.
One of the forms of Marian prayer is the Holy Rosary. You will have seen Rosary beads and may well own some.
What is the Holy Rosary?
“The Rosary is my favourite prayer. A marvellous prayer! Marvellous in its simplicity and its depth.”
Saint Pope John Paul II
The Rosary includes four Mysteries: the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Joyful Mysteries, the Glorious Mysteries, and the Luminous Mysteries. Each mystery has five decades dedicated to different parts of the life of Christ. So the Rosary is like a bible study with beads. It is not simply a series of prayers, but a meditation on the gospels.
You will find a guide on how to pray the Rosary at the bottom of this blog post. But most importantly keep in mind what Saint Pope Paul VI said… praying the Rosary without meditating on the mysteries “is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas.”
A Spiritual Weapon
“The Holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
Saint Josemaría Escrivá
The Rosary is a weapon in so far as it defends us against evil.
When we pray the Rosary we are invoking the protection of our Blessed Mother. She truly hears our prayer and delights in interceding for us to her Son.
Mary did not give us the Rosary to then only abandon us in our time of need, but the opposite. When we pray the Rosary it should be with complete faith and trust that our prayers will be heard and answered.
How to start
There are loads of great videos and articles online about the Rosary.
If you don’t pray the Rosary regularly, I would really encourage you to take up this practice. But maybe don’t be too ambitious.
It is perfectly fine to begin by simply praying a decade of the Rosary each day. Or maybe you would like to start by praying the Rosary once a week.
And don’t be worried about distractions. They are bound to come. When you realise you are distracted, simply bring your mind back to the mystery you are meditating on.
I once heard a priest say that the beauty of the Rosary is that you cannot pray it well! This is so true! If you are focused on the meditation you are not focused on the words of the prayers and if vice-versa. Just go with it and see if this is a form of prayer that works for you.
My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit. We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God. We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.
Last week I wrote a blog post about Our Lady’s month of May. This weeks blog follows a similar theme, this time reflecting on the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph.
We are currently celebrating a Year of Saint Joseph, which Pope Francis proclaimed in his apostolic letter Patris Corde. If you haven’t read this letter from the Holy Father about Saint Joseph, I highly recommend it to you. But as well as his letter, Pope Francis has (just this month) approved seven new invocations to the litany of Saint Joseph.
This gives us with an opportunity to become familiar with the spiritual gem that is the litany to the Patron of the Universal Church.
The official english translation of these new invocations has yet to be released, but they could be translated as: Guardian of the Redeemer, Servant of Christ, Minister of salvation, Support in difficulties, Patron of exiles, Patron of the afflicted and Patron of the poor.
So at this half-way point of the Year of Saint Joseph I would like to invite you to draw closer to Jesus’ father. If you don’t have much of a devotion to this wonderful saint, there could not be a better time to get to know him.
You can find the litany (which has yet to be updated with the new invocations) by following this link , and I commend to you the prayer Pope Francis has written to Saint Joseph:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.
Within the Church’s liturgical year different aspects of our faith are given special attention. Most notably of course we have the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. Less well known is how the Church sees each month and week as an unfolding of the mystery of Christ.
You will know that each Sunday is a ‘mini Easter Sunday’ when we commemorate the resurrection. In a similar way on Friday we abstain from meat (or something else if you don’t eat meat) in memory of Christ’s saving death on Good Friday. But did you know that each day of the week has a theme?
Mondays – Most Holy Trinity Tuesdays – The Holy Angels Wednesdays – St. Joseph Thursdays – The Holy Eucharist Fridays – Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Saturdays – Blessed Virgin Mary Sundays – The Resurrection
We are encouraged to consider these different aspects of our faith on these different days of the week. For instance, on a Saturday we may say an extra prayer to Our Lady or attend a Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin.
In a similar fashion, each month of the year has a theme (click here for the full list) with the month of May being dedicated to Our Lady. For centuries the Church has set aside this month to honour the Mother of God. This is a beautiful custom, after all, Mary is our spiritual mother and it is therefore fitting to have a good amount of time set aside in her honour.
Pope Francis has launched a prayer initiative for this month. He would like all Christians to join him in a marathon of prayer, asking the Lord for the end of the pandemic and the resumption of social and work activities. The Holy Father has coincided this initiative with Mary’s month of May, so that we can make these prayers through her, entrusting this intention to her.
The Holy Father has particularly entrusted the rosary to us for this month. If you regularly pray the rosary, I would invite you to unite your prayer with Pope Francis’ intention. And if you’re not a regular rosary prayer, why not consider taking it up for the remainder of the month?
In the words of Pope Francis: “The Rosary lays before our eyes the beauty of a simple contemplative prayer that is accessible to everyone, great and small.”
Finally, if you would like to hear a bit more about the rosary, I am including below a really good video I came across recently.
My dear people, if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience, we need not be afraid in God’s presence, and whatever we ask him, we shall receive, because we keep his commandments and live the kind of life that he wants. His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to. Whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him.
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.’
‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.
‘I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, and one shepherd.
‘The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as it is in my power to lay it down, so it is in my power to take it up again; and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’
The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread. They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’
John 20:19-31 In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
“My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.”
Jesus Christ to Saint Faustina Kowalska
Under the pontificate of Pope Francis we have seen the Holy Father place a great emphasis on the Mercy of God. In doing so, Pope Francis has been closely following the teaching of St Pope John Paul II, who in the Jubilee Year of 2000 named the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.
By doing this St John Paul II fulfilled a request made by Jesus Christ himself during a series of mystical revelations to a polish nun named St Faustina. Divine Mercy Sunday focuses on the gift of mercy and love given through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. As Pope John Paul II stated, “Divine Mercy reaches human beings through the heart of Christ crucified.”
According to the vision, which has been approved by the Church, those who receive communion and celebrate the Sacrament of Penance (confession) on the Feast of Mercy receive total forgiveness of sins and receive a plenary indulgence.
Jesus also asked St Faustina to commission an image of himself, which you can see here. This image is connected to the gospel reading we hear at Mass this Sunday. The Divine Mercy image depicts Jesus at the moment he appears to the disciples in the Upper Room, after the Resurrection, when he empowers them to forgive or retain sins.
This moment is recorded in John 20:19-31, which is the Gospel reading for this Sunday in all three yearly Sunday liturgical cycles.
This reading is placed on this day because it includes the appearance of Jesus to the Apostle Thomas (in which Jesus invites him to touch his wounds). This event occurred on the eighth day after the Resurrection, and so it is used on the liturgy eight days after Easter.
There is so much which I could say about this beautiful feast. Let me conclude by offering you an invitation and recommending some further reading.
You are invited to join us at St Peter’s Church (Leamington Spa) for Eucharistic Adoration from 3pm – 4pm this Sunday. During adoration special Divine Mercy devotions will be prayed and I will be available to hear confessions. At 4pm I will celebrate Benediction. You can join us physically in church, or on the live-stream.
My homily for the Easter Vigil Mass is based upon two words from the Easter Proclamation, an ancient hymn which is sung at the beginning of the Mass. I have included the text of the Easter Proclamation below, as well as a slightly ropey recording of me singing it!
I hope and pray that you all have a wonderful Easter.
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven, exult, let Angel ministers of God exult, let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice, arrayed with the lightning of his glory, let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.
(Therefore, dearest friends, standing in the awesome glory of this holy light, invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty, that he, who has been pleased to number me, though unworthy, among the Levites, may pour into me his light unshadowed, that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).
Priest: The Lord be with you. People: And with your spirit. Priest: Lift up your hearts. People: We lift them up to the Lord. Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. People: It is right and just.
It is truly right and just, with ardent love of mind and heart and with devoted service of our voice, to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father, and, pouring out his own dear Blood, wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These, then, are the feasts of Passover, in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb, whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.
This is the night, when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night that even now throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed. O wonder of your humble care for us! O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour when Christ rose from the underworld!
This is the night of which it is written: The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light, for it is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.
O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle, hallowed to the honour of your name, may persevere undimmed, to overcome the darkness of this night. Receive it as a pleasing fragrance, and let it mingle with the lights of heaven. May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
See, my servant will prosper, he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.
As the crowds were appalled on seeing him – so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human – so will the crowds be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him; for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before: ‘Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?’
Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground. Without beauty, without majesty we saw him, no looks to attract our eyes; a thing despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, a man to make people screen their faces; he was despised and we took no account of him.
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried. But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God, and brought low. Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us. Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth.
By force and by law he was taken; would anyone plead his cause? Yes, he was torn away from the land of the living; for our faults struck down in death. They gave him a grave with the wicked, a tomb with the rich, though he had done no wrong and there had been no perjury in his mouth.
The Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering. If he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.
His soul’s anguish over he shall see the light and be content. By his sufferings shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself.
Hence I will grant whole hordes for his tribute, he shall divide the spoil with the mighty, for surrendering himself to death and letting himself be taken for a sinner, while he was bearing the faults of many and praying all the time for sinners.
(This year I am using the RSV translation at Mass tonight, rather than the lectionary translation).
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.”
When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
The missal instructs the preacher to give a ‘brief’ homily on this Sunday due to the lengthy gospel reading of the Passion of Christ. My short homily focuses on the alternative entrance gospel, John 12:12-16.
I will be uploading my homilies for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil as the week progresses.
May the Lord bless you as we enter into this Holy Week.
A great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel!’ And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Sion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt!’ His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him.
This Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, when the Church celebrates the most sacred liturgies of the year.
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are marked by three services which are in fact one liturgy. Through this three day liturgy we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist and Holy Orders (Maundy Thursday), Jesus Christ’s passion and death (Good Friday) and the Lord’s resurrection (Holy Saturday night).
This year these celebrations will be a little different. In the video below I discuss what will be different, as well as what it is that happens in each of these services.
Exodus 20:1-17 God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ‘You shall have no gods except me. ‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. ‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it. ‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred. ‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you. ‘You shall not kill. ‘You shall not commit adultery. ‘You shall not steal. ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’
Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18 God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’ When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son. The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.
It is wonderful news that scientists have been able to develop vaccines for COVID-19, thereby helping to defend human life from this lethal pandemic in the very near future. Yet at the same time I have been concerned when reading that some vaccines have been developed using cell lines which were originally obtained from aborted unborn children.
When tissue samples were collected from these babies’ bodies (decades ago) it was a continuation of them being treated without the dignity due to them as human beings and it trivialised the fact they had been deliberately killed. The fact scientists continue to grow and use these cells in continues this injustice.
This is a very complex moral issue, which involves cooperating in a wrong that someone else has done.
We must bear in mind that using human tissue/cells is not wrong in itself and can be a great good (just think of voluntary organ donation). The Church’s teaching is therefore balanced: we can use vaccines which have been produced, developed and tested in this way with a clean conscience when there is no realistic alternative as it will provide a great social good.
Although our bishops encourage you to do you own research, they understand that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have only been tested (not developed and produced) using these illicitly obtained cells. In contrast the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has made use of them at every stage, making it the most problematic.
I was recently vaccinated (as a hospital chaplain) and received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. I am delighted to have been vaccinated to protect both myself and everyone I come into contact with. However, I do not wish to ignore the ethical issue. I have therefore written to AstraZeneca to express my views and voice my opposition to the use of immorally obtained human cell lines. You can read this letter, I have included it below.
I welcome the arrival of the vaccines and thank God for them. I would personally encourage you to take up the offer of vaccination when you have the opportunity to do so. I also pray that in the future we will move towards more ethical means of vaccine production.
Mark 1:12-15 The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him. After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’
‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.’ Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’