In each generation, there seems to be particular things which cause so much fear and anxiety. Most recently, of course, there has been the COVID pandemic but there is the fear too of such things as climate change and environmental disaster, to name just a few. In other generations and in other places there has been the fear of war, of nuclear threat, of disease and famine – the list seems endless. We also have individual fears and anxieties caused by our personal situation. Fear can debilitate us, disable us, freeze us to the spot, cause us to have that terrible sinking feeling.
Today, in the gospel reading, Peter, in one brief moment, has that sinking feeling. The fear and anxiety that this figure walking to them across the water was a ghost or a ghoul is dispelled for a moment as they recognise it is Jesus who is calling out to them. Then, in that brief moment of trust, Peter walks across the water but the external stormy conditions cause him to lose focus. He begins to sink but Jesus holds him. ‘Why did you doubt?’ Jesus asks.
That could be a question for all of us. ‘Why did you doubt?’ Yes, there is much that brings fear, much that we worry about, much that concerns us, disables us, and gives us that awful sinking feeling. But Jesus is with us, he has come to save us, he is never far away – but we do need to be able to recognise that he is here, with us, holding us. He has come to save us.
God our Father, help us to be alert to the presence of Jesus who brings us comfort and healing, for he has come to save us. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St Terese of Liseux, who had a deep and intimate devotion to the infant Jesus, wrote in her diaries that all she wished to be was ‘a plaything for the Lord’, like a small ball that the child Jesus could play with at his pleasure and discard when he had finished. She simply wanted to be at Jesus’ disposal, a small thing, a little thing, for him to use her for his beautiful purposes of loving and transforming the world.
In the gospel reading today, Jesus is in a lonely place. There is little there, and his disciples think that there is little that can be done to feed the hungry hordes. How often have we or others dismissed people or whole communities as having nothing to offer? Jesus, though, is not, is never, dismayed by the little we have. After all, everything we have that is good comes from God, and so everything can and will be used for his purposes.
In the Eucharist, we offer such little things to God, we offer bread and wine, and he, in receiving them, transforms them and gives them to us as the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood. This work continues as we become what we have received, Christ’s Body in the world. God’s grace works in our lives, transforming us to be more beautifully the Body of Christ so that we in turn, as little as we are, can be a source of God’s transformation of the world.
God our Father, so often we overlook the small things of our lives and yet your grace works within us, surprising us, surpassing even our greatest expectations. Open our eyes and hearts to your transforming love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I love a good TV quiz show, and often marvel at the knowledge that other people have of the world. Sometimes, though, I wonder why some people put themselves forward as contestants bemused as I am by their perceived ignorance of simple things. Perhaps, ,though, it’s more accurate to say that I’m bemused they don’t know what I know, which is rather limited! The truth is that we all know some things, not all will know the same things, and no one knows everything!
Jesus had spent several years with his disciples, taking them aside from his other followers, opening up to them the mystery of God’s kingdom. Sometimes, though, they just don’t understand. Here, as he prepares them for what is to come, he tells them that the Spirit will lead them into all truth. He won’t fill their minds with facts and figures about the universe, they won’t suddenly get a full score at the local pub quiz, and their head won’t be filled with answers to every conceivable general knowledge question.
As the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary making Jesus present in her life, so the Spirit overshadows us, showing us Jesus, drawing us closer to him, making him present in our lives. Indeed, St Paul even says that when we pray it is not us who prays but the Spirit who prays in us “with sighs too deep for words.” There is a very real sense in which “knowing” transcends words or facts or figures. It is about having a sense of alertness and perception. It is something which involves the heart as well as the mind. It is about being drawn closer to Jesus, the Word of God, the eloquent expression of who God is and what we are called to be.
Lord God, open our hearts to accept your Holy Spirit that he may show us Jesus, and lift our hearts and minds to the truth of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
In the poetry of Genesis and the beautiful narrative of Creation, the Spirit of God hovers over the waters of chaos. God speaks, and there is light. God speaks, and there is sky and land, plants and trees. God speaks and there is sun and moon, creatures in the sea and sky, and upon the land, and last of all, God speaks, and God creates humanity, and looks upon him and sees a reflection of his very self. As a hymn sung at Evening Prayer goes, “In his own image God created man | and when from dust he fashioned Adam’s face | the likeness of his only Son was formed | His word incarnate, filled with truth and grace.”
Jesus wants the same Spirit to be given to the Apostles, and indeed to the whole of Creation. The Spirit who will reveal to them the truth about so many things. As Jesus speaks to them, their hearts appear to be in turmoil, filled with deep sadness as he talks about going away. Chaotic scenes will soon follow, as they scatter, and run from the Garden of Gethsemane, and his torn body stretched out upon the cross. But glory follows.
Jesus is the Word of God through whom and for whom the whole of Creation came into being. He is the eloquent expression of who God is, and when he returns to the Father, the Spirit of God will be poured out upon all creation, so that God may look again upon the ones he has made and glimpse a reflection of God’s only Son, his word incarnate, filled with truth and grace.
Lord God, we have marred your image and fallen short of your glory. Open our hearts and our lives to receive afresh the power of your Spirit who shows us Jesus, your incarnate Word, full of truth and grace. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Some years ago, on a flight to and from Budapest, my travelling companion and I got talking to the same couple, sharing as we did the same flights. As we waited to board the plane on the homeward journey, we compared notes about our visit. We absolutely loved the city and a had a great time. Meanwhile, their experience of the same place was quite different, and they spent most evenings in the ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ whilst we had taken delight in wandering away from such places, dining out in more ‘local’ places, tried to get to know the city as it was. It is all too easy to dismiss a places, to say “there is nothing there.” But get beneath the skin of a place, community, a town or suburb or city and one discovers a rich life worth living.
Perhaps the crowds who have followed Jesus appear to be in such a place. There, on the hillside, it appears there are no resources, there seems to be nothing there. After a little exploration, they discover a small boy with a few loaves and fish, and yet this, so the disciples think, still isn’t enough. ‘What is that between so many?’
As Jesus uses the small amount available in that place to feed thousands of people he shows us many things: his Lordship and kingship, his care and compassion, and he gives us a foretaste of the Eucharist, a small gift or gigantic proportions. He shows us, too, not to undervalue or overlook the ‘small things’ we think we have. We all have something to offer. Every person and place has something to offer, if only we scratch beneath the surface.
Lord God, open our eyes to the gifts and resources you have given us, and to use them to your glory and in your service and the service of others. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
‘What is truth?’ asked Pontius Pilate of Jesus during his trial. Was he sincerely asking Jesus the question, or was it a question he posed to himself? Did he utter those words with a dismissive tone, as though truth was unimportant or too difficult to grasp? Whatever he meant by the words, they form an age old question. Surrounded by fake news and misleading social media posts, we can be left asking the same question – what, actually, is the truth?
As John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus, he raises the question of truthfulness. We know that John was related to Jesus in some way, possibly cousins. But no reference is made to this by John for the credentials of Jesus run deeper than his Nazareth home and upbringing. Jesus is the one who ‘comes from Heaven’ and ‘who ‘speaks God’s own words, the truthfulness of God.’
Surrounded as we are by so many stories and opinions, beliefs, news and newsworthy items, we can drown in a world of words and mixed messages. Jesus is the Word of God, an eloquent expression of what God wants to say to the world, and in Holy Scripture we encounter Jesus, we hear him speaking to us. The words he spoke are words from God. They are words in which we can trust, and through which we are given the hope of Heaven – from where Christ came and to where he wants to lead us.
Lord God, help us to be attentive to what you are saying to us, so that your Word will take deep root in our lives. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St Anthony of Padua’s powerful and public preaching came unwittingly after he was encouraged forward to speak without preparation after the ordination of Dominican and Franciscans in 1222. As they gathered for a meal afterwards, the provincial suggested that one of the friars give a short sermon. Everyone respectfully declined. So they turned to Anthony who was was asked to give “just some thing simple.” They presumed he had no education. And so he began, simple and artless at first, until the fire within him became obvious. His knowledge and eloquence shone through, yes, but it was his holiness which impressed his listeners. In the years to come, as his preaching developed, he “preferred to present the grandeur of Christianity in positive ways. It was no good to prove people wrong. St Anthony wanted to win them to the right.”
Some people think that Christianity is built upon condemnation or judgement, armed with a list of rules of what’s right and wrong, claiming ownership over people’s lives. Perhaps they have had a bad and personal experience with the church in the past which has given them this opinion. The exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus in the depths of the night take us back to the heart of the gospel, and to the heart of God. Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world but because God loves the world.
It is God’s desire that none should be lost and so, when Christ takes to the cross and when he is raised from the dead, we are given a sign of God’s love, its cost and its power to save. We can sometimes lose sense of our calling as Christians, and it goes without saying that we make mistakes and get things wrong at times. In all that we do and say, we must remember that it is love that brought Jesus into the world, and it is love for God and love for others which should influence us, through and through – not being too quick to tell people when they are wrong but trying to show them what we believe to be right.
Lord God, you loved the world so much that you sent your only Son. Help us to accept that love, and to share your love with all whom we meet. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ask a child to draw a picture of heaven and you’ll get an array of images. Sometimes it will be scenes of natural beauty like mountains and sunshine and streams, or there may be a flourish of football, or an endless supply of sweets. Perhaps there will be clouds in abundance with a few angels flying through the sky. Likewise, adults too will often describe heaven as a place where we catch up with loved ones and where your can enjoy in abundance all the things they loved in this life like bingo and football, parties and laughter.
When it comes to describing heaven we only have available to us the limited language of our present living. Jesus described heaven as being his ‘Father’s House’ in which there are many rooms. He didn’t mean a house of bricks and girders but he used the limited language available to express heaven as dwelling place, a living with God for ever.
The conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus illustrates the difficulties of expressing and understanding the Mysteries of God using our limited language. If you can’t grasp the things of this world, says Jesus, how can you cope with heavenly things? There is much that mystifies us, confuses and confounds us. But Christ has come from heaven to draw us into a living relationship with God. He speaks to us in ways we can understand although we can never master the Divine. We are drawn into a Mystery of Faith. Our questions will continue but perhaps like the father of the boy who came to Jesus asking for him to be healed we can say “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Lord God, I believe. Help me in my unbelief. Open my eyes and mind and heart to the mystery of your love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It’s night when Nicodemus draws near to Jesus. He’s not so much a secret admirer but a secret enquirer. Believing in the signs and miracles he’s witnessed Jesus do, he has questions in abundance. Afraid perhaps of disturbing his reputation as a Pharisee and even of the dangers of becoming a public disciple, he comes to Jesus under cover of darkness for a little illumination.
Even in our own day, there are places where to be a public disciple of Jesus is a dangerous way of life. Persecution abounds as we dwell in a world where difference doesn’t do. Likewise, other religions have been all too sadly and tragically familiar with persecution and which takes so many guises, all a permanent imprint on the human memory and a scar on the human heart.
Nicodemus is a seeker, stepping into darkness for a little illumination, searching for the truth with a head full of questions and a heart yearning for meaning in life. Perhaps, today, we can give some deeper thought and consideration to those who remain unpopular or who take risks simply for asking questions, seeking truth, or who live in a place where freedom of religion doesn’t exist. Who knows – we may even be enlightened by those who are different from us and with whom we disagree.
Lord God, we pray and yearn for a world where everywhere there is freedom for religion, space for questions and room for difference. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Whilst the momentum of Mass and prayer each day has continued at St Mary’s during the Easter Octave (and will do so in the days to come!) we took a little break with our daily online prayer posts – but now we’re back in the room!
Each day, our post offers a brief reflection on one of the Scripture readings from the Mass of the Day along with a short prayer which we hope may be of some use to you.
If you’d like us to offer prayer for anyone or anything then please do get in touch. More details about our ministry of prayer and worship can be found on the parish website www.stmaryscf10.com