Yesterday, the second reading was taken from John’s Gospel. Today we look at the account from Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew 26:14-25 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I betray him to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, "The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples." So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, "Surely not I, Lord?" He answered, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" He replied, "You have said so." Pause for thought ... This day, the Wednesday in Holy Week, is often referred to as ‘Spy Wednesday’, as on this day we once again meet Judas and we remember his great act of treachery. At a Bob Dylan concert in Manchester in 1966, a man reacted loudly to what he perceived was an act of treachery and he cried out from the crowd, “Judas” at the star. The reason for this outburst? Dylan had abandoned his acoustic guitar for an electric one, thus infuriating huge numbers of his fans. Fifty years on, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan was still seething and smarting at having been compared to Judas. Judas, however, brings to the fore a profound truth about the Church. This truth is that from its very beginning there have always been difficult times and difficult characters in its midst. Indeed, the history of the Church is full of individuals and groups of individuals who have acted in a way abhorrent to the Christian faith. Saint John Henry Newman, a saint who spent much of his life in Birmingham, said that one of the signs of the Church’s sacredness is that it has been able to endure scandal and betrayal throughout its life. Indeed, any other human organisation subject to the betrayals and scandal the Church has known over two thousand years would surely not have survived. Unable to gather for acts of public worship, unable to join together for this holiest season of the Christian calendar, the Church is once again going through difficult times. However, just like a cork in the sea: the Christian Church can be submerged for a time weighed down by difficulties but the weight of these difficulties and challenges will not sink it. Another saint, Saint Theresa of Avila caused a stir many centuries ago when she prayed for Judas’s soul. To those who criticised her for doing this, she simply said that no one, not even Judas, was beyond God’s saving mercy and love. And so, as we continue to walk through Holy Week, let us all reflect upon the times when we have fallen short in our Christian lives and in the example that we should set. And let us ask God for the strength to do better. ‘O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins. Save us from ourselves and our own way of thinking and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy and love.”
Second reading on Holy Wednesday: Matthew 27: 33-54 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God’.” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared too many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Reflection on Holy Wednesday: (Please refer to today’s 2nd Bible Reading above.) “And when they had crucified him.” One of the striking things in all four Gospels is how simply they deal with the actual moment of the crucifixion of Jesus. There’s an almost disconcerting brevity in the narration. Matthew wants to draw our attention not so much to the agony of how Jesus died, but to the way his death fulfils the prophecies of the Old Testament. This section of the passion narrative begins with Jesus being offered wine mixed with gall, an echo of a verse from Psalm 69: “For my food you gave me gall, and in my thirst sour wine to drink.” The mockery that Jesus is subjected to draws our minds to Psalm 22: “All who see me scoff at me; they deride me … He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him.” Even Jesus’s cry “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” is to be found in Psalm 22, and we see him in the utter agony of feeling forsaken as he faces a terrible death. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Matthew is telling us, this self-giving death of the Son of God was always going to be how draws a humanity that is distracted and turned to falsehood back to himself. When Jesus entered Jerusalem the city quake in turmoil; now the very earth itself quakes and the sky is darkened (reminding us of the Old Testament prophet Amos who foretells of a darkened sky at noon on the Day of the Lord, when God would visit the earth to establish his kingship; or of the darkness at noon of the ninth plague in Egypt when God led his people to freedom). Christ is “no tame lion” who has things done unto him. This is the earth shattering event by which God has visited his people and changed things for ever, the definitive moment of the conquest of evil. Pray for those suffering at this time, especially for those driven to despair, that they may see God’s love. Pray for those approaching death, especially those approaching it with fear. Pray that your own approach to dying may be nourished and informed by Christ’s having died for us.
Tuesday in Holy Week Reading 1 - Gospel Reading Matthew 27: 26-32 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.
Reflection - Tuesday in Holy Week (Please refer to today’s Bible Reading 1 in a separate Note.)
There seems to be a deeply ingrained trait in the human condition of mocking which we don’t understand. The soldiers are merely dealing with yet another difficult prisoner who has been handed over for execution; in their minds Jesus is inconvenient, making an already volatile situation more complicated through the claims he makes about himself, and so, confident of the status of the unshakable power of the Roman Empire they dress Jesus up as a king and mock and abuse him. Unwittingly they highlight an eternal truth that the whole sweep of Matthew’s gospel has been leading us to: This is the coronation of Christ as King, and all that has gone before has been telling us of how God in Jesus has been establishing his kingdom. The coronation is not the offering of those who honour him, but the sport of those who will murder him, and yet here the eternal God is subverting and unsettling human power. Mockery seeks to undermine faith and truth, but faith and trust is precisely what Matthew’s Gospel has been kindling in our hearts. In the face of the lies and the taunts and the opposition we are invited to see the Son of God and believe. ‘The universal Lord is he,’ says the sixth century hymn writer Venantius Fortunatus ‘who reigns and triumphs from the tree.’ The irony is that those who mock make it clear that Jesus is King for ever, for the death that they prepare him for is the gateway to the resurrection. Intriguingly, perhaps Simon from Cyrene grasps something of that. He comes from an outpost on the trading routes in North Africa, and he is in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. Mark’s Gospel gives us the detail that he is “the father of Alexander and Rufus”, the inference being these two are known to the readers of his gospel. Perhaps they were members of the Church for which Mark wrote? (But that Matthew is writing for a different Christian community so omits that detail.) Perhaps Simon was a passer-by, drawn by accident of time and place to an encounter with Jesus, in which he came to faith, and so his sons also became believers? The point is, some passers-by get it. They are drawn in to see and believe, and they pass on the message so that others believe through their word. There is a contrast that chimes in our own experience: maybe in the face of the present appalling suffering the COVID–19 virus has brought to so many, you have had people say to you “where is your God now?” This passage shows us that those with a mistaken notion of God and power always mock, but the suffering of Christ places God with the victim, and that makes faith possible even in the teeth of suffering and ridicule. Pray for all who are victims of the mockery and humiliation of others, and those who find themselves stripped of their human dignity as part of their position in life. Remember all who have helped you to bear burdens, and pray for all those whose work brings them alongside people who are carrying a heavy load.
Tuesday in Holy Week Reading 2 - John 13:21-33,36-38
Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, "Where I am going, you cannot come.” Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.” Pause for thought ... I am certain that you have heard someone described as being a ‘bad apple’. In our reading for today, taken from the Gospel of Saint John, Judas was a kind of ‘bad apple’: he clearly knew that he had gone astray – he was a thief and he betrayed Jesus for money. In fact, the name ‘Judas’ has become a by-word to describe any and every act of betrayal. Judas was tempted by the lure of money and betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. At today’s exchange rate thirty pieces of silver is approximately equivalent to £160.00. Of course, Judas ended up regretting it and returned the money but his act of betrayal will forever live on throughout history. In a recent article in the Independent, Hugo Dixon writes that this current situation in which we all find ourselves is making us all reflect upon what it is that is important to us and I’m sure that this won’t come as a surprise but it’s not money! He writes that people are now realising what truly matters in life and this, ‘marks a welcome change from the materialism and hedonism that dominates our culture’. He claims that we are now beginning to realise what it is that really matters and what it is that truly matters is not dependent upon people having money. This crisis is for so many, ‘bringing home how much we rely on friends and family for our sanity and meaning in life’. It’s also making us realise that, ‘ we need to care for others – and to be cared for by them.’ And so, as we continue to take these first steps through the Church’s holiest of weeks, let us all take time to reflect upon what it is that is important in our lives. Perhaps we could take time throughout the week that is to come to reflect upon the following questions:
What is it in life that is truly important to me?
What is it that I am tempted by?
All of us are very well aware of what Judas will be remembered for, and so,
What will you be remembered for?
What do the ways in which you answer the above questions say about you
Monday of Holy Week: Gospel Reading Matthew 27:11-26 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. Reflection ... We noted yesterday the turmoil that Jesus causes. The ground, physically and metaphorically, quakes in his presence. This section of the passion narrative in Matthew’s Gospel continues that theme. Christ is on trial before the High Priest and the religious authorities, and is then brought before Pilate. They are the ones who think they have power and who think that they know the mind of God. But the ground shifts beneath them. The wisdom of God revealed in Jesus Christ reorganises what they think they know in unpredictable ways. In the trial of Jesus the language of faith is used as a defence and a weapon by the authorities, and so we see they are blind to the truth that stands before them. Their exclusion of Jesus is the refusal of their own life and wholeness, and the fantasy of power has drawn them away from the path of truth and sincerity. One of the striking things about Matthew’s telling of the passion and death of Christ is how he draws out the way that Jesus dies in order to fulfil the Scriptures. Jesus is not killed as the result of a series of unfortunate circumstances, but his death is a self-gift that displays the redemptive, unstoppable love of God. The disturbing truth that Jesus is showing us in his trial is that this is where the world is turned on its head. God chose to be in the condemned and isolated Christ. God is not where the religious authorities thought he was. God is in this mortal man who is helpless and about to suffer a terrible death. Pray for the condemned in our time: those unjustly condemned, and others whose sentence we may think deserved – but would we if we knew their whole story? Pray too for those who administer justice, that they may have the wisdom for their task.
Monday of Holy Week - Reflection:
Even amid these unprecedented times, we begin our journey through the Church’s holiest of seasons. Historical documents tell us that as early as the fourth century the Church celebrated this week with a feeling of profound sanctity and despite not being able to gather publicly to worship, and unable to journey physically together through the week that is to come, Christian’s all over the world are still commemorating and remembering the last week of Jesus' earthly life. There will be many enduring images that will emerge from this time but perhaps, for Christians the world over, one such enduring image will be that of Pope Francis praying alone in an empty Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. In a square that has held more than 300,000 people, the image of Pope Francis praying for the world is a powerful one. “The pandemic,” Pope Francis said, “has exposed our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities.” Time is perhaps the most precious of all commodities. In the ‘normal’ fast paced lives that we all live, we never seem to have enough time and the time that we do have we fill with ‘superfluous’ tasks. This Holy Week, however, we have an opportunity like never before to be clear of unnecessary activities and to have the space and time that we need to ask ourselves questions that normally go unasked. What questions do we need to ask ourselves? What are the unnecessary and superfluous things that we normally fill our lives with? Is it perhaps time to choose a different lifestyle and to get your life back on track? And so this Holy Week, may we all take time to stop and reflect upon our own lives and may we all be blessed as we journey through Holy Week.
The steeples of Saint Mary’s and Saint Bartholomew’s.
Brothers and sisters in Christ praying for each other, our communities and our world. May God bless us all abundantly at this time.
Palm Sunday Reflection:
(Please refer to the service of Spiritual Communion for Palm Sunday in addition to this reflection, for Palm Sunday readings and prayers - on the Services/Activities page. Also refer to this week's prayers on the Prayers page.)
The C S Lewis story 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is the story of four children who, whilst evacuated to the country home of a strange professor, discover a new world called Narnia. This new world is entered through a wardrobe, and the children enter and become participants in re-establishing the reign of the great lion Aslan. C S Lewis, a man of deep Christian faith, wrote the story as a way of communicating the truths of the gospel in an imaginative way. When he describes Aslan he uses his creativity to tell us something about what the experience of God is like. ‘Is he – quite safe?’ one of the children asks a talking beaver about Aslan at one point. The beaver replies, ‘Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good’. As the story unfolds the unsafeness of Aslan is referred to again and again. Aslan returns to a self-contained world that has been frozen in winter to turn over the tyranny that has held it captive with his uncontainable freedom. He turns things upside down with a disturbing power. He is, as is said of him in another of the Narnia books ‘no tame lion’. This image of disturbing, un-tameable power is one to hold in our minds as we read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. “The whole city was stirred up” as Jesus enters on the donkey, he says. “The whole city quaked” is another way of translating it. The point is clear: this is not the arrival of someone tame, someone safe. It is the arrival of someone who has come to turn the self-contained world upside down with uncontainable freedom: The King riding the donkey, redefining what power looks like; the Messiah who accomplishes God’s providential plan in self-giving love. “Who is this?” the crowds ask, and we are given a picture of a city that is in turmoil at his procession, quaking indeed, with their expectations heightened that the Messiah was at hand. “Who is this?” The answer to the question of the crowd on the first Palm Sunday is shattering in its power. Jerusalem quaked when Jesus entered it, the earth would quake as Jesus died, and there was a strong earthquake as the angel descended onto the empty tomb. The impact of Christ’s life, death and resurrection is without precedent. As we make our way through the events of this week as all around us seems to quake and be in turmoil, we discover that the good news of salvation is not to be tamed. It makes all the difference to everyone and everything.
Friday in the Fifth week of Lent (3rd April 2020)
St Richard of Chichester Today we remember another ‘local’ saint, Saint Richard of Wyche, also known as Richard of Chichester. Richard was born in Burford, near Droitwich, Worcestershire in 1197. He studied at Oxford, also in France and was ordained as a priest in 1243. After spending time as a parish priest he went on to be appointed as Bishop of Chichester in 1245. The remaining eight years of Richard's life were spent ministering to his flock and constantly demonstrated generosity to the poor and the needy. He died aged just 56 on this day in 1253 at a house for poor priests in Dover. He was declared a saint in 1262 and his tomb in Chichester Cathedral became a popular place of pilgrimage. Richard is widely remembered today for the following prayer that is ascribed to him: “Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly. Amen” Pause for thought ... Today we celebrate the life of another ‘local’ saint, an outstanding individual who was born just a relatively short journey from Wednesbury. Richard led a life of generosity, of caring for others, of holiness and virtue BUT it must be remembered that he was not born a saint. In fact, no one is born a saint! Someone once wrote, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future!” We all have the capacity to be a saint and so, why don’t you be a saint? Pope Francis recently said that, “To be saints is not the privilege of the few, but a vocation for everyone.” At this time then, perhaps more so than ever before in recent history, the world, our communities, need saints. Saints are those who truly love their neighbour and so be a saint … be that person that God has created you to be and love your neighbour … no matter who that neighbour may be!
Thursday in the Fifth week of Lent (2nd April 2020)
Saint Francis of Paola Our saint today was a man who longed for silence and solitude and who strove to live a humble life. Saint Francis of Paola was born in the town of Paola, which lies in southern Italy. After travelling with his parents to Rome and Assisi at the age of 14, he began to live alone as a hermit in a remote cave near Paola. Before he was 20, however, his life of solitude was interrupted and he received the first followers who had come to imitate his way of life. Seventeen years later in 1474, when his disciples had grown in number, Francis established a community who were given the name the Hermits of St Francis of Assisi. In 1492, Francis changed the name of his community to ‘Minims’, which means ‘the least’ as he wanted humility to be the hallmark of his followers life. Francis was a man who wished only to be the, “least in the household of God” and yet, whenever he was called upon to be active in the world and to leave the solitude of his hermitage, his wisdom helped so many and even influenced the course of nations. On one occasion he was asked by the pope to visit the King of France and to help him as he neared the end of his life. Whilst ministering to the king, Francis was able to influence the course of national politics and he helped to restore peace in France and bring an end to war. Francis died on this day in the year 1507 and was made a saint in 1519. Pause for thought ... It was Francis’s desire to live a life of silence and solitude and yet despite this, he was often called to emerge from his life of solitude and prayer and to go out into the world on active ministry. For some, this may seem a life of tension, a life torn between solitude and action. Yet, in Francis’s life it was a productive tension, for he clearly utilised the fruits of silence and solitude in his ministry and the wisdom that came from his solitude was put to good use helping others. He responded so readily and so well to the call to go into the world and help others and this active ministry was only possible because it was grounded in a life of silence and of prayer. When he did go out into the world, it was not he who worked but Christ working through him. Are we able to look upon this time of isolation as preparation for when we emerge once again into the world? Are we preparing ourselves through prayer to God’s will in the world?
Wednesday in the Fifth week of Lent (1st April 2020)
Saint Hugh of Grenoble (Saint of the Day for 1st April) Today’s saint is Saint Hugh of Grenoble. Saint Hugh was born in France in the year 1053 and it is said that he had many gifts but was also incredibly shy. He became a Bishop’s secretary and later on went on to hold a senior post at a cathedral and then became the Bishop of Grenoble. Hugh served as a Bishop in France for 52 years and during this time he set about reforming the diocese and attempted to bring to an end the financial irregularities that had been going on and the abuse of church funds.Ironically, despite his shy nature Hugh was incredibly effective in his reforms and this was due to his Christian faith and because of his strong character. Hugh was very much loved by the poor but disliked by the rich and during his time as Bishop he had a bridge built; he started a marketplace to help with the supply and distribution of food to the poor. He had three hospitals built for the people in his care and he also restored a church and cathedral. In addition to these, Saint Hugh is especially remembered as being instrumental in helping to found the Carthusian order. Hugh gave Saint Bruno the land on which the first Carthusian monastery, the Grande Chartreuse, was built thus starting the Carthusians. Hugh spent a great deal of time at the monastery himself and even asked the Pope for permission to resign from being a Bishop so that he could live as a monk. His request was always refused. Hugh died on this day in the year 1132 and he was made a saint only two years later. Pause for thought ... Saint Hugh could be described as being a Patron Saint for all those of us who feel so overwhelmed by the current difficulties that we are all facing. Hugh himself lived through some incredibly difficult times and he saw many challenges in his life. Throughout all of his own personal difficulties and challenges however, he always sought to do good for all. It was this care of others, along with his steadfast faith in God that saw him through all of these challenges. In the midst of these confusing and difficult times for us all, let us all pray for the strength that we need to see us through this difficult time and, also, to have the strength to persevere despite the challenges placed before us. And, may we always be mindful of others and be there for them in their own suffering.
Tuesday in the Fifth week of Lent (31st March 2020)
John Donne, Priest and Poet Today we commemorate the life of John Donne. He was born some time between 24th January and 19th June in the year 1572. He was born in London and brought up as a Roman Catholic. He was a great-great nephew of Thomas More, although this seems to have had little influence on him, as he was extremely sceptical about all religion. He went to study at Oxford when he was fourteen and later at Cambridge and during this time he discovered his Christian faith in the Church of England. After much heart-searching, he accepted ordination and on 23rd January 1615 he became a priest. He went on later to hold a senior post at St Paul's Cathedral. The people of London flocked to hear his sermons and the power and eloquence of his sermons soon secured for him a reputation as the foremost preacher in England and he became a favourite of both Kings James I and Charles I. Interest in his poetry and religious poems took on a renewed life in the twentieth century and his place, both as a scholar and as a theologian, are confirmed by his prolific writings and the publication of his sermons. He died on this day in the year 1631. Pause for thought ... John Donne wrote the poem ‘No Man Is An Island’. In that work of poetry he wrote: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Perhaps there is no greater time than the present to reflect upon these words for we are all passing through this time of difficulty and challenge together. It is through supporting each other, showing care and through all of us doing what is asked of us that this time will pass and we shall once again have a glimpse of normality in our lives. Although Donne’s words were intended to illustrate the unity of all Christians in the Church, they also serve to remind us today that this is a collective crisis that we are all experiencing and it needs a collective response. John Donne’s words remind us all of our interdependence and that we are all in this together and that we can emerge from this time with a renewed sense of community. It is therefore a good time to re-evaluate our lives and our attitudes and to ask ourselves are we striving to be an island at the moment or are we, through our care and love of others, part of a greater continent? None of us is an island … To see the images clearly you may need to click on them.
Monday in the Fifth week of Lent (30th March 2020)
Today the church remembers another truly outstanding individual, Saint John Climacus. He is honoured as a great writer; he wrote a renowned Spiritual book called The Ladder, and as a person who lived a holy life. Saint John of the Ladder (“of the ladder” means Climacus) was born in Constantinople around the year 570 ad. At the age of just sixteen he went off into the desert to find himself a teacher and guide. He found one in a wise old monk called Martyrius. After four years, John himself became a monk and it was predicted that he would go on to become someone who would do great things. For nineteen years Saint John lived as a monk guided by his teacher. After the death of Martyrius, John lived a solitary life, living a life of silence, fasting and prayer. His humility was remarkable and through his studies he became renowned for his Spiritual wisdom with many visiting him seeking guidance for their own Spiritual journey. Knowing of the wisdom and Spiritual gifts of Saint John, an Abbot of a monastery asked him to write down whatever advice he could give to help those who lived the monastic life. Although John felt that such a task was beyond his ability, out of obedience he wrote the book and although the book was written initially for monks, any Christian will find it a sure and helpful guide for their journey through life and towards God. Pause for thought … Saint John Climacus wrote these words,“The friend of silence comes close to God.” We live in a loud and distracting world, where silence is increasingly difficult to come by ― and that may be negatively affecting our health. In fact, a 2011 World Health Organization report called noise pollution a “modern plague,” concluding that, “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.” Although we continue to live in very difficult and challenging times, we may want to consider what positives could emerge from these long periods of isolation that some of us are undergoing. One such positive would be to perhaps consider building times of silence into our daily lives. All of the great religious traditions believe in the benefit that can be derived from having periods of silence and stillness in our daily routine. And the benefits that can be derived are not just Spiritual. In 2006, a study published in the journal Heart found two minutes of silence to be more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain. Not all of us can live lives of solitude like Saint John Climacus, but we should all consider his advice because silence not only helps us in our relationship with God, but it has also been proven that even short periods of silence each day can yield positive results for our physical and mental wellbeing … try it … you have nothing to lose!
READINGS FOR TODAY (29th March 2020)
First Reading Romans 8:6-11 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. Gospel Reading John 11:1-45 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it, he said, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them." After saying this, he told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right." Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world." When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
Saturday in the Fourth week of Lent (28th March 2020)
“If you are being taught the Christian message, you should share all the good things you have . . .” The above verse is taken from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and is a reading that can be read today for prayers that are said in the afternoon. Traditionally, this service is known as None(*) and it is a short service that is said around 3 pm. The above words teach us that we should, “share all the good things you have.” Sharing, however, does not always mean the sharing of material things with others. A precious commodity, perhaps the most precious of all that we can share with others is our time. In these difficult times for us all, we need to be generous in sharing our time. We can do this by contacting those who we know are vulnerable, those who are struggling with loneliness. We should all strive to be generous with our time … we have so much of it to be generous with at the moment. We can also be generous through listening. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian in the last century and he wrote that the first service that we owe to others is to listen to them. Finally, as Christians, we can also share that most precious gift of our faith. Tell someone that you will pray for them at this difficult time. Let them know that you will pray for them and for their loves ones. It’s a comforting thing to know that someone is praying for you! (*) If you want more information regarding this word, use the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nones_(liturgy)
Saint John of Egypt Friday in the Fourth week of Lent (27th March 2020)
Today we remember and celebrate the life of another saint who, although he lived 1700 years ago, is still someone that we can learn from in these present times … perhaps now more than ever. St John of Egypt was born in the year 214. He was born in Lycopolis which is now Egypt and he worked with his father who was a carpenter. At a young age he felt a calling from God to live a solitary life of prayer. He went into the desert and for ten years he was the disciple of an elderly hermit. When his teacher died, John chose to live in various monasteries to learn the life of a monk. Eventually, John decided to leave the monastery and he went to live in a cave he had found in the desert. The cave had three rooms; a living room, a workroom and a chapel. He had a single window through which he would talk with people who came to him for his advice. He devoted himself to a life of prayer and meditation as a hermit and would spend five days of the week in solitude with God, but on Saturday and Sunday he would listen to and give advice to people who sought it. People brought him food and necessities and he attracted many followers who became his disciples. In spite of his growing fame, St John remained humble and lived a very frugal life. In his old age he was visited by the historian Palladius and his account of their meeting still exists to this very day. He died at the age of 90 from natural causes and he was found on his knees as if in prayer. Pause for thought … There are some people who never struggle at all with solitude. St John of Egypt was one such person for he, along with many others from the world’s monastic traditions over the centuries, longed for silence and solitude. There are those, however, who find it difficult to be alone. There are those who struggle with silence. We are fortunate to live in an age where we no longer have to be alone. We are fortunate to have telephones, mobile phones and computers that allow us to see those we talk to no matter where they are in the world. No-one at this time needs to feel isolated and vulnerable. Just like those who came to see St John for wisdom and out of compassion brought him food and supplies, let us too show that same care and concern for others by contacting friends and family each day. No-one needs be alone! And, St John spent hours in prayer … there’s no need for you to spend hours … but consider saying this prayer for those you love: "Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy. Sustain and support the anxious, be with those who care for the sick and lift up all who are brought low; that we may find comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen" For those who are finding these challenging times difficult, the Church of England has published resources to help those who seek hope, reassurance and comfort at this time. They can be accessed at: https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/supporting-good-mental-health/supporting-good-mental-health Additional help and advice is also available from the Mental Health Foundation website at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
Harriet Monsell Thursday in the Fourth week of Lent (26th March 2020) It’s not every day in the life of the Church that we have a huge celebration where we celebrate the life of a well-known saint, someone like Saint Francis, for example. But, nonetheless, we are able, almost every day of the year, to look back at the life of an outstanding individual who has made such a difference in the lives of others. Today is a perfect example of that! How many of you have heard of Harriet Monsell? Not many I would think. Harriet O'Brien was born in 1811 and married Charles Monsell. Sadly, Charles was to die in 1850 but Harriet, a devout Christian, decided after his death to give her life to God and to devote her life to the care of others. She founded a religious community for women, the Community of Saint John the Baptist, on 30th November 1852. She became Mother Superior and under her care, the community grew rapidly and undertook a range of social work in a variety of locations, with communities helping the poor in India and America by the 1880s. The sisters cared for orphans, ran schools and hospitals and opened mission houses in parishes. Harriet died on this day 26th March in 1883. The community still exists today and in 2012 the Community moved to new purpose-built accommodation, Harriet Monsell House, at Ripon College, Cuddesdon in Oxfordshire. Pause for thought … In the Collect, the special prayer said for Harriet today, we have these words: (please see the Prayers for today for the remainder of the Collect) Gracious God, who led your servant Harriet Monsell through grief to a new vocation; ... Harriet is a perfect example of someone who, despite knowing difficulty in her life, went on to do amazing things. Her vision of starting a religious community was realised and through those women who served God under her care, the lives of literally 1000s were touched. Because of her, orphans knew what love was, children knew the gift of an education and the sick were cared for. All of us are, in one way or another, going through a difficult time at the moment; tragically, some more so than others. Let us all then reflect and pray that we too, just like Harriet, may emerge from this time of difficulty and be able to bring joy into the lives of others through acts of love, kindness and care.
The Annunciation of Our Lord (25th March 2020) Today is an important day for Christians all over the world. It is a day that has been celebrated in the Church since at least the fourth century and it is the day upon which we remember the Archangel Gabriel’s visit to Mary to tell her that she was going to be the mother of God’s Son, Jesus. Despite having questions and fears herself, Mary had the courage to answer ‘yes’ to God. It is also a day upon which we remember that we too are called on to say ‘yes’ to God every day of our lives and to trust in His goodness as completely as did Mary. The Story of the Annunciation The story is found in Luke 1:26-38: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Pause for thought … The Annunciation celebrates Mary’s courage to say “Yes” and to allow God into her life in the most amazing of ways. That plan and hope that God had for her is announced to her by the Angel Gabriel. We are told that after the initial greeting the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid”. Mary simply trusted that God had her best interests in mind. The future gave both joys and hardships for her but Mary trusted, she had the willingness and the courage to say, “Yes” as long as it meant following what God wanted. Angels still visit us today; the question is, “Who is your angel?” Who are the angels in our society at the moment? Are the angels the carers who visit and sit with others throughout the day to ensure that they are given dignity and care? Are the angels the nurses or doctors risking themselves and caring for others at this time? Are the angels midwives who will bring new life into this world today? Are the angels friends who telephone to see if others are okay? Are the angels those? Who are your angels? The fact is, we are all called to be angels. WHO ARE YOU BEING CALLED TO BE AN ANGEL FOR?
Saint Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador (24th March 2020)
Today we remember someone who has only been made a saint in recent times. Oscar Romero was born on 15th August 1917 in El Salvador and he was one of eight children. His father taught him carpentry as he knew that having an education in El Salvador did not always mean that people could find employment. At a young age Oscar also felt a calling to become a priest and was ordained in April 1942. He was known as being a quiet and unassuming priest and he embraced a simple lifestyle. He was a popular priest who responded with real compassion to the plight of the poor and gave dedicated pastoral care to all. In February 1977 he was made the Archbishop of San Salvador. Courageously, amidst the political and social unrest at the time in his country, he began to speak out against the injustices in society and he called for more support for the poor and for social justice. Despite threats, he refused to be silenced and on 24th March 1980, whilst celebrating mass in church, he was assassinated by a gunman. He fell at the foot of a huge crucifix. Oscar Romero’s memory is a source of strength and encouragement for millions of people throughout the world. He was canonized a saint on 14th October 2018 and he is now recognised as Saint Oscar Romero. Reflection: Oscar Romero devoted his life to the care of others. Today, we remember and pray for all those who care for the elderly and vulnerable in our society today. We especially pray for those who work in care homes and nursing homes in our parish. Today, they have all been held in prayer and we give thanks to God for their devotion to the care of others. We pray for their safety and for their own loved ones. "Aspire not to have more, but to be more." Saint Oscar Romero
Monday in the 4th week of Lent (23rd March 2020)
Amongst our readings for today we have Psalm 30 and in that particular psalm the psalmist writes these words: At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn. There is no doubt that these are difficult times for everyone. They are especially difficult for those who are either suffering themselves or have loved ones who are suffering. But, just as each night has a dawn, a coming of a new day, so then will this night through which we are all passing also end and a new day begin. Instead of sleeping throughout this night, however, we all need to be awake and aware of either putting ourselves, our loved ones or anyone else in danger for that matter. If we observe all of the guidelines and all act responsibly, then the quicker this night will pass . . . and the sooner joy will come with the dawn. Let us all reflect and pray perhaps upon the words of Saint Julian of Norwich: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Fourth Sunday of Lent … Mothering Sunday
Today is Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday is always on the fourth Sunday of Lent and on this special day we give thanks to, and for, our mothers. It is a day that offers us all an opportunity to express both love and thanks for the work that they do. This year however, Mothering Sunday will be different for almost everyone. Despite wanting to be with our loved ones, we have to keep them safe too. At a time when we have been told to avoid ‘non-essential travel’ and gatherings with friends and family, the likelihood is that so many will not see their mothers. This is however, a sacrifice that needs to be made. If we look at the life of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, she too made a sacrifice. She said “Yes” to God and became the mother of our Lord. She placed her life in God’s hands and she trusted in God. Can you imagine what dreams she must have had as a young girl? The moment she said “Yes” to God, however, she knew those dreams would have to wait. Sacrifice is the surest sign of love. And so, perhaps Mothering Sunday is a day to realise that too often, we take others’ sacrifices for granted. Once there was a young boy who hated how twisted and ugly his mother’s hands looked. And then one day she finally explained why her hands looked that way: because of the countless jobs she’d had to clothe, feed and put a roof over his head. In short, her hands looked that way because she loved him. So then, let us, on this Mothering Sunday, give thanks to God for His love for us, for mother’s everywhere, and for all those women who have touched and influenced our lives, in one way or another. And, as we remember mothers everywhere, perhaps you would like to quietly pray the prayer of the Mother’s Union. “Loving Lord, We thank you for your love so freely given to us all. We pray for families around the world. Bless the work of the Mothers' Union as we seek to share your love through the encouragement, strengthening and support of marriage and family life. Empowered by your Spirit, may we be united in prayer and worship, and in love and service reach out as your hands across the world. In Jesus' name. Amen” This night, the steeple of Saint Bartholomew’s will be lit on this National Day of Prayer. It will be a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer. People all over the country are being encouraged to light a candle and place it in their window at 7 pm. We are asked to, "join in prayerful solidarity with this witness". Please see the website of the Churches Together in England for further details: https://www.cte.org.uk/Publisher/Article.aspx?ID=569010 The following prayer can be used when lighting your candle: “For all that is good in life, thank you; for the love of family and friends, thank you; for the kindness of good neighbour and Samaritan stranger, thank you. May those who are vulnerable, hungry or homeless, experience support; may those who are sick, know healing; may those who are anxious or bereaved, sense comfort. Bless and guide political leaders and decision-makers, with wisdom; bless and guide health workers and key workers, with strength and well-being; bless and guide each one of us, as we adapt to a new way of living. And may the light shining from our windows, across road and wynd, glen and ben, kyle and isle, be reflected in our hearts and hands and hopes. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen”
For all that is good in life, thank you, For God bless you all
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5.7
BIBLE READINGS FOR TODAY (Sunday 22nd March 2020)
Now that we cannot attend church for public services, Father Mark will provide service sheets with the Bible readings for each Sunday, if you are able to pop into church between 9 am and 11 am each Sunday for private prayer. Today’s readings: First Reading - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. Gospel Reading - John 19:25-27 Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
St Enda (21st March 2020)
Today, as well as being Saturday in the third week of Lent, it is also the day upon which the church remembers Saint Enda. When we think of saints, we tend to think of them as hailing from distant lands. Saint Enda, though, is one that hails from a little closer to home. Enda was a warrior-king from Ireland who lived in the fifth century. According to legend, he was a military man known for his great feats in battle. He was, however, converted to the Christian faith by his sister, Saint Fanchea. Enda went on to establish the first Irish monastery and is described as being the, "patriarch of Irish monasticism". He led an austere life and his holy way of life attracted many followers and each day in the monastery that he founded, as is the case with all monastic communities now, was divided into times for prayer, work and sacred study. In this time of self-imposed isolation, perhaps we could also look to the monastic life for inspiration and comfort. Below is a short article entitled, ‘An Unexpected Sabbath’ written by a Benedictine nun at Howton Grove Priory here in the UK that speaks of the positive that can be found in the experience of social distancing and self-isolation. May God bless you all, keep you safe and may Saint Enda pray for us.
Having already written posts about social distancing and self-isolation and the importance of maintaining a welcome attitude in times of pandemic, you would think I had said quite enough COVID-19. Probably I have, but yesterday I was struck by the number of people who are troubled about the prospect of being cut off from everyone and everything familiar and they are struggling to make sense of what, at the moment, looks like total negativity. Perhaps that is the problem: seeing everything as negative. Would it help to look upon the limitations imposed by the spread of this new kind of coronavirus as providing us with an unexpected sabbath? The cessation of travel, the staying home, the curtailment of work to what is strictly necessary, the rediscovery of the joys of solitude and family life — aren’t these elements of sabbath we can find positive? For us in the monastery the increased physical silence caused by less traffic on the road is already a blessing, reinforcing as it does the inner silence we cultivate as a means to prayer. Not everyone experiences silence as a blessing, of course, not at first anyway. It has to be learned, but perhaps the new circumstances in which we find ourselves will provide us all with an opportunity to discover why silence matters and to practise it in a way we’ve not had time for before. Call it an unexpected sabbath or making a cloister of the heart and we reclaim all that is positive about the experience of social distancing and self-isolation. At the beginning of Lent we were invited to go into the desert with Jesus. The desert is a place of silence, demons, strange contests, immensely important to the monastic tradition as an image of the spiritual quest on which we are engaged. It is the place where Israel learned to love the Lord, where the Covenant was made, where the sabbath was given and where Jesus triumphed over temptation. The ‘new normal’ of COVID-19 takes many of us further into the desert than we ever expected. Let us go into it with faith, hope and joy, knowing that where we go, the Lord has gone before. Available from: https://www.ibenedictines.org/tag/covid-19-coronavirus/
Blessed Francis Palau y Quer Friday of the 3rd week of Lent (20th March 2020) (1811-1872) Not all of the saints are as well known as Saint Francis of Assisi. There are so, so many outstanding men and women who although ordinary have lived ‘extra-ordinary’ lives but aren’t as well known as him. Today, we remember one such individual and another Francis, Francis Palau y Quer. Francis was born in 1811 in Spain and became a priest in 1836. His life was a combination of times spent living alone as a hermit and also times spent as an outstanding preacher. He wrote three books on living the solitary life and he encouraged others to seek solitude. Perhaps, it is those like Francis that we need to learn from in these days. Many look upon being isolated and solitary as being some form of punishment. However, if we look at how Francis lived his life we, too, can perhaps take something from his example. He used periods of isolation to prepare himself before going out into the world and preaching. His solitude helped prepare him for what was to come and he used that time wisely in study, prayer and reflection. In these difficult times, a time when so many face the prospect of being isolated, perhaps we too could reflect upon how we could use this time wisely. In addition, in our current situation, we’re also able to take something from the bible reading for today. The reading is taken from the Gospel of Mark (Mark 12:28-34): One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one's neighbour as oneself,’ — this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question. In this particular reading, Jesus stresses again the importance of loving our neighbour and in addition, he adds one more commandment: that we should love the Lord our God with all our mind! Please, do think of your neighbour, whoever that neighbour may be at this difficult time, phone and ask a friend if they need anything, make sure that those who perhaps haven’t been well recently are okay. Just calling someone may make all the difference to someone who lives alone. Finally, we are told to love God with all our mind. God has gifted us all with intellect and the capacity to think. With so many of us having time now and perhaps wondering what to do, use that gift and spend some time reflecting upon the BIG questions in life. You could sit and perhaps read a passage from the bible, or a book that you’ve always wanted to read. Whatever you do, just like Francis Palau y Quer, spend your time wisely. Use your time to do that which makes the world a better place … love your neighbour and use your mind! God bless Fr Mark
Joseph of Nazareth (19th March 2020) The first item from Mark is as follows and it includes relevant prayers: Today we remember Saint Joseph who was the foster-father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph is depicted as being a good man, a working carpenter and a humble man who trusted in God. Joseph was a simple village carpenter who became the guardian of the child Jesus. From the very beginning, Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus’ upbringing. He was entrusted with the care of God’s greatest gift to us, Jesus, and he proved himself worthy. We too can learn from the example of Saint Joseph today. For just as he cared for the child Jesus and his wife, we too, especially in these difficult and challenging times also need to care for others. Let the example of Saint Joseph, therefore, prompt you to reach out to someone you know and care for and ensure that they are safe. Saint Joseph is also the Patron Saint of Workers. With this in mind, let us pray for all those who are at work this day, for those whose future seems uncertain and especially for those who work in our National Health Service. We pray for their safety and we give thanks to God for them and the care that they provide. God our Father, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph the carpenter to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and husband of the Blessèd Virgin Mary: give us grace to follow him in faithful obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen Lord Jesus Christ, you taught us to love our neighbour and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. In this time of anxiety, give us strength to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love, for your name’s sake. Amen