3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 1: 1-4, 4: 14-21)

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.

He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
 

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

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Prayer

As I begin my prayer, I try to relax and focus my attention on my regular breathing. I may close my eyes or gaze at a candle. Gently, I slow down and become aware of being in God’s presence.

When I am ready, I read the text carefully a couple of times.

Perhaps I can imagine Jesus in the synagogue setting. The people know him, he comes here every Sabbath. But now he returns, having gained attention elsewhere in Galilee for his teaching and preaching.

As one of the crowd, what am I expecting from this familiar, but now renowned, Jesus?

As I listen to the words of Isaiah spoken in Jesus’s own voice, do they strike me anew? Does Jesus read gently or forcefully? What, in particular, causes me to pause?

This is not an abstract message – what is it saying to me today? How can I live out something of this message as his disciple?

I spend some time pondering this with the Lord and talking to him.

I give thanks for the many ways I see others putting Jesus’s words into practice around me.

I end my prayer with the ‘Glory be’.

(From ‘The Prego’ by St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centred, North Wales)


2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (John 2: 1-11)

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’, and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said, ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.’

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.

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Reflection

“Mary, at the very moment she perceives that there is no wine, approaches Jesus with confidence: this means that Mary prays. She goes to Jesus, she prays. She does not go to the steward, she immediately tells her Son of the newlyweds’ problem. The response she receives seems disheartening: “What does it have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). But she nonetheless places the problem in God’s hands. Her deep concern to meet the needs of others hastens Jesus’ hour.

“And Mary was a part of that hour, from the cradle to the cross. She was able “to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286). She accepted us as her sons and daughters when the sword pierced her heart. She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands; she teaches us to pray, to kindle the hope, which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns.”

(Pope Francis, Homily in Ecuador on 6 July 2015)

A Prayer for the UK

“In this time of turmoil…

We pray for the Prime Minister and Party Leaders
as they negotiate the political future of our nation:
Father, give them your wisdom and vision.

We pray for all in Parliament as they represent their communities:
Jesus, give them your humility and strength.

We pray for the media as they interpret events for the nation:
Holy Spirit, give them your truth and compassion.

We pray for ourselves as we show your love to our neighbours:
May we speak hope, embody courage and model unity in diversity.

Almighty God, we place our trust in you:
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
now and forever, Amen.”

(By Carla Harding, National Director for 24-7 Prayer Great Britain)

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Prayer for Peace Sunday and Christian Unity

R.  Help us to sow the seeds of peace and justice.

In a world crying out for love but still filled with too much hatred and violence. R.
In a country that speaks of equality but often fails to live up to that promise. R.
In our communities in which some people are considered worth less than others. R.
In our churches where we often neglect Jesus’ teaching of compassion. R.
In our families when words or deeds hurt each other. R.
In ourselves, when we are tempted by the world to desire more and to neglect what really matters. R.

(From ‘The Way of Peace: Exploring Nonviolence for the 21st Century’, Pax Christi USA)


The Baptism of the Lord (C)

Gospel  (Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22)

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

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Prayer & Reflection

On Christmas night, angels proclaimed to the shepherds of Bethlehem that a Saviour had been born.

Last Sunday, on the Solemnity of the Epiphany, some wise men recognised the new-born king as the Son of God.

Today, on this last day of Christmas, God himself proclaims that Jesus is his Son as he is baptised in the River Jordan.

During Mass this weekend, we will renew our Baptismal Promises as a way of making a new start as Christians at the beginning of a new year:

Do you believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth?
I do.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered death and was buried,
rose again from the dead
and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
I do.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting?
I do.

Scripture Passage from ‘The Jerusalem Bible’ © 1966 by Darton Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday and Company Ltd.  Excerpts from ‘The Roman Missal’ (c) 2010 International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.


The Epiphany of the Lord

Christian Christmas scene with the three wise men

Gospel  (Matthew 2: 1-12)

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
for out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

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Blessing of Homes

The Blessing of Homes is a time-honoured custom on the Feast of the Epiphany. It reminds us that Christ is with us in the love and care we show one another in our ordinary, everyday lives together. Why not have a little celebration at home today? One custom is to trace the Cross, the initials “CMB”, and the numerals of the year on the doorway of your house (either using chalk, holy water or simply with your finger), and then share your usual Sunday meal together. “CMB” stands for “Christus mansionem benedicat” – “May Christ bless this house!”

20 + C + M + B + 19

 

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SETTLEMENT SCHEME FOR EU CITIZENS

Bishop Paul McAleenan, the lead Catholic Bishop for Migration and Asylum, has issued a statement on the Government’s forthcoming Settlement Scheme for EU citizens living in the UK. Any EU citizen who wants to remain in the UK after Brexit (with the exception of Irish citizens) will have to apply through the scheme, which is expected to launch in March 2019.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales stands in solidarity with all EU citizens who have made their home here. As the majority are themselves Catholic this is a special pastoral concern for us.

The Church has experienced first-hand the extensive contribution that people from across Europe have made to our society. They are an integral and valued part of our parishes, schools and communities. We also recognise the evidence that immigration from Europe has not undermined opportunities for UK citizens, but rather brought considerable economic and social benefits.

It is clear that since the 2016 referendum many people living here have faced profound uncertainty and insecurity about their future. Although the reassurances offered by senior politicians are important, people have been given far too little information or binding commitments about their right to stay. For some this has been worsened by the appalling rise in hate crime, which has left them feeling unwelcome or even threatened in the country that has become their home.

The government will soon launch a Settlement Scheme, offering EU citizens living here a legal route to remain. While this is an important step we understand that, especially for people who have contributed to our society over many years, it may feel unjust and divisive that they are now required to apply for permission to stay. We also expect that some people, particularly those who are already vulnerable, may face difficulties in practically accessing the scheme, leaving their immigration status at risk.

We strongly oppose the decision to charge people for securing the rights they already have. This is not only unprincipled but will also create a barrier for larger families or people facing financial difficulties.

The Bishops’ Conference has made representations on these issues to ministers and through the Home Office working groups set up to discuss the Settlement Scheme. We will continue to do so as it is implemented.

Notwithstanding our concerns about these principles and practicalities, it remains a fact that EU citizens must apply if they are to protect their existing rights and their place in our society. We therefore ask Catholic parishes, schools and organisations to bring the Settlement Scheme to the attention of all who need to avail of it and to be aware of vulnerable people who may face barriers to applying or not realise that they need to apply.

In particular we encourage you to signpost people towards the official information on the Settlement Scheme: www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families And to make use of the various information resources available: www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-community-leaders-toolkit

Finally, we urge the whole Catholic community to take up Pope Francis’ call to welcome, protect, promote and help to integrate everyone who has made their home here – with particular concern at present for our European brothers and sisters.