Sunday 11 April 2021


Infectious Joy

Read

Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’

From John 20:19-31

Reflect

I love Gerald Durrell ‘s books -which I devoured as a teenager. Not only did they feed my love of the natural world, they opened up the life and culture of a different country, and coloured the pages with the fascinating characters of his family and friends. One such person was his sister Margo who, as a single minded teenager, followed her heart and inclinations, causing all kinds of trouble and heartache for herself.

Like the time in Corfu Town, when the slippered feet of the Island’s patron Saint, St Spiridion, was on view for people to venerate by drawing close, touching, and kissing them. ‘Don’t kiss the feet!” cried her mother across the crowd, “Don’t kiss the feet, kiss the air!” Margo didn’t listen and, days later, she and the rest of the town went down with influenza.

In today’s gospel reading, perhaps the Apostles are, in their hearts, urging Thomas to do the opposite. They want him to see and touch Jesus, feel his wounded hands and side, as he said he needed to in order to believe. They want him, too, to share in the joy of the risen Lord. He hadn’t been with the other disciples a week earlier but now, here he was, and Jesus stands before him. On seeing Jesus, recognising him by his wounds, Thomas cries out in a profound credal statement, “My Lord and my God!” He is infectious with faith!

What if our faith was that infectious, inspiring others, and inflaming their hearts with joy in the Resurrection of Christ? We know all about the negative connotations of infections in this pandemic time. But other things can be infectious too – from yawning to laughing! How many people do we know with an infectious laugh which can spread through the room, and fill it with happiness. Imagine, then, the pandemic of love and joy that would spread if our faith was as infectious as that!

Pray

Lord God, with sorrow we pray, for our sins and the sins of the whole world. With thankfulness we pray for the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, who is Lord and King for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday 3 April 2021


Tears at the tomb

Read

After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus – though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews – asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away. Nicodemus came as well – the same one who had first come to Jesus at night-time – and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was near at hand, they laid Jesus there.

From john 19

Reflect

In the days before his own death, Jesus stood before the tomb of his friend, Lazarus whose sisters were beyond themselves with grief, and who had wished that Jesus had been there during his illness – surely then he would have been saved. Jesus weeps.

Perhaps now, as the rolled stone seals the tomb of Jesus, they recalled his grief and tears, and now beyond themselves with grief, they weep too. They had discovered him to be their teacher, their Master, and Lord, and on the night of his arrest, as they sat at table for Passover, he called them closer, called them friends.

They are not waiting for anything to happen, they let grief take its course. They have made no sense of the prophecy of Jesus. For them, there is no joy to come. And so they return to that upper room, lock themselves in, hide away from the world. Their only comfort is a shared sorrow. But the power of God’s love cannot be confined or locked away. ‘Unless a what grain dies and falls to the earth,’ said Jesus, ‘it cannot bear fruit.’ As Jesus’ body lies in the earth, so God is doing something new.

Pray

God our Father, I believe that Christ your Son died and rose again. Help me to be alert to your signs of new life in the world and in my own life, that having died with Christ we may also share his risen life. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Day 39: Memories


Thanks to Fr Martin Williams for his final guest post on the Holy Eucharist, this time exploring the theme of Memory

Loss of memory and severe dementia are always tragic, deeply painful, not only to the person concerned, who may lose both their bearings and the very sense of their own identity, but also to their loved-ones, who will experience a sense of loss and even of rejection if they are no longer recognized.

So memory is vitally important and particular memories are very precious. They represent continuity in our lives, a sense of who we are in relation to the people and places who have been important to us.

This is particularly so when a loved-one dies. We treasure our memories of that person, though it is always important to ‘let go’ and ‘move on’ into what is, in effect, a new relationship with that person.

The Church’s memory

Memory is an essential aspect of the Church’s life, above all in the celebration of Mass. “Do this in memory of me”, said Jesus on the night before he died on the cross. When the Church does this at the altar, she is not so much remembering an historical person, or a series of events associated with him – although Jesus is an historical person, indeed the centre and meaning of all human history – but she is being mindful of the present Reality: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified and risen and ascended into heavenly glory.

This ‘remembering’ is the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes present to us all that God has done for us in Christ, and gives us a foretaste of heaven and the kingdom of God. It is as though we were allowed a share in God’s own ‘memory’, to which we and all time and all creation is simultaneously present! 

In the Liturgy of the Word, in the first part of the Mass, we are reminded of some aspects of God’s work in creation and redemption and above all of the promise of his kingdom. In the holy gospel we ‘see’ Christ himself and hear him speaking to us here and now. It is above all of Him that we are being reminded, with the aim of deeper communion with him in Word and Sacrament.

An eye opener

And to remember him is to remember who we are, the Church, Christ’s Body, of which we are individually members, each with our unique part to play in her life. So the celebration of Mass is not an isolated act of remembrance, but an ‘eye-opener’, a window on Reality, a mirror held up to me to tell me who I really am, the child of God, a member of Christ, an inheritor by the Holy Spirit of the Kingdom of God.

Let us not be like that man referred to by St James in his epistle ( 1, 23-24), who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror – and goes away and at once forgets what he was like!        

In a society forgetful of God, the Church’s celebration of the Eucharist remembers him as the ultimate Reality, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and the Redeemer of all humanity. At the same time she remembers her own identity as the People of God, the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit.


Friday 2 April 2021


King of Love

Read

Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground. Without beauty, without majesty we saw him, no looks to attract our eyes; a thing despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, a man to make people screen their faces; he was despised and we took no account of him.

From ISAIAH 52 FF

Reflect

In a moving scene in the movie, The Madness of King George, the King, who appears to be going mad with a then undiagnosed illness is being chased around the room by a group of heavies, appointed by the new doctor. He is distraught, as he has is captured and tied into a chair. “But I am the king, I am the king,” he tearfully demonstrates. “No, sir!” replied the doctor sternly, “You are the patient.”

Today, as we recall the events of Good Friday, we wrestle with the kingship of Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king,’ he had told Pilate in his interrogation and Pilate, despite the criticisms, had inscribed the words, ‘The King of the Jews’ above his head which itself had been crowned with thorns. He had been dressed in purple robes as the soldiers bow in mock adoration. Throughout his ministry, Jesus had spoken about the Kingdom of God, and yet, arms outstretched on the cross, his blood spattered, wounded body on display for all to see, it seems that the king has become the patient. The one through whom the world was made, is the one who has things done to him, powerless and pitiful.

And yet, Jesus is the one who lays down his life. He is certain that it has not been taken from him. The hour of which he had spoken has come. After the agony in the garden, when he prayed so intently, “Yet not my will but yours be done,” he lays down his life. He does not remonstrate, does not complain that he is the King. He submits to the will of God the Father, utters words of forgiveness, promises paradise to a dying thief, speaks love into the heart and home of Mary and John. He takes upon him the sins of the whole world, as he expresses perfect love. It is love which lies at the heart of this King’s law, a love which does and will transform, a love which brings life, new life.

Pray

Lord God, with sorrow we pray, for our sins and the sins of the whole world. With thankfulness we pray for the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, who is Lord and King for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday 1 April 2021


Love Divine

Read

He got up from table, removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘Never!’ said Peter ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ said Simon Peter ‘not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus said, ‘No one who has taken a bath needs washing, he is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.’ He knew who was going to betray him, that was why he said, ‘though not all of you are.’

From JOHN 13:1-15

Reflect

Miss Shepherd was an eccentric old woman who took up residence in a van in the driveway of Alan Bennet’s home. Writing about her in his diaries (which were turned into a film) he describes how, the Sunday before she died she went to Mass for the first time in a long time. Then, on the Wednesday, she allowed herself to be taken to be bathed, given clean clothes and then put to bed in the van with clean sheets. That night she died. Alan Bennet thought the shock of the bath had killed her. The doctor assured him she had experienced deaths in other similar situations. Far from a shock to the system, the bath was a preparation , an acknowledgement that death was in the offing.

As Jesus gathers with his disciples for Passover, death is in the offing. His time has come, and he prepares his disciples in the gift he offers of himself as he gives them bread as his body, the wine as his blood. In John’s gospel though, there is no mention of this, but the foot washing serves as a prophetic sign, an acknowledgement that death is in the offing, as he offers himself for the life of the world. If they do not allow him to wash their feet they can have nothing in common with him.

At the beginning of the three great days of the Paschal Triduum, as Jesus invites his disciples to share in his life and his love, he gives us a command to love. How so very human of us that, at times, we need to be reminded to love. Love, surely, is such a human emotion, so natural, so necessary, and yet so often we fail to love. And yet love, so Jesus reminds is of God, for God is Love. Far from being a simple human thing, love is divine. We love because God first loved us, and the only real and fruitful response to being loved is to love in return. On that first Maundy Thursday, death was in the offing for Jesus, a death that is the ultimate expression of God’s love for us.

Pray

Lord God, we love because you first loved us. During these days may we experience afresh the love you have for us and be moved to share your love with others. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Day 38: Remembrance


Thanks to Fr Martin Williams for his fifth guest post exploring the theme of remembrance

Fr Graham Francis used to say that the vocation of a priest and his principal work is to say Mass for the living and the dead. That is not all he does, of course, and we don’t accept the idea that the clergy work only on Sunday!

If you think of someone like Fr Graham, you see someone saying Mass every day, reciting the Divine Office (i.e. the official daily prayer of the Church, morning, mid-day, evening and night), preparing and conducting liturgies and homilies, hearing confessions, preparing candidates for baptism and confirmation, going into School, visiting the sick and dying and going about among the people, both the faithful and the not so faithful, extending the love of God to all, whether or not they respond.

This, of course, is the work of the whole Church, not just of the clergy, though they have an indispensable vocation of leadership and initiative in succession to the Apostles. All of us gathered to celebrate Mass are there to intercede for the living and the dead.  And not just the ‘Intercessions’ but the whole of the Mass is an intercession – for all, that all may be saved.

In solidarity

Fr Graham notoriously hated confrontation (though he did admit to running the parish as a benevolent dictatorship!). He would rather be alongside someone to work out an acceptable solution to a difficulty or controversy than to confront them or argue. Standing alongside in solidarity is the essence of intercession.

Think about it: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5.19). Jesus has taken our humanity upon himself, born as one of us, living our life, dying our death – for us – that we may be reconciled to God and to one another in the name of Jesus. This work of reconciliation continues through time in the Church, work that begins, but certainly does not end, with the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the living and the dead.

We are the Body of Christ

We are the Body of Christ, standing with Jesus in the midst of a sinful and suffering world, praying that the Father will make his Church ‘a sign of unity and an instrument of [his] peace among all people’ (Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II). This should encourage us if we are tempted to think that we are in any way being selfish by continuing public worship at a time of pandemic..

Besides the intercessory power of the Mass in and of itself, there are points in the liturgy at which explicit remembrance is made of the living and/or the departed. We may think of our acts of remembrance as an entering in on our part to the mystery of God’s eternal ‘remembrance’ of his whole creation. The Mass may be offered for a particular ‘intention’, at the request of a lay person or at the priest’s discretion, which the priest will announce at the very beginning of the liturgy.

At every Mass in St Mary’s The Prayer of the Faithful or Intercessions are made after the Liturgy of the Word and before the Preparation of the Gifts (Offertory). If every need of the Church and of the world were to be mentioned, these prayers would be endless! We have to confine ourselves to what is most immediate and of local concern.

According to ancient tradition, the Eucharistic Prayers include intercession for the Bishops and all the faithful of the universal Church and for the departed, with commemoration of our Lady and all the saints. Heaven and earth are at one in Him “who ever liveth to make intercession for us”, in anticipation of the kingdom when all will be made new.


Wednesday 31 March 2021


What’s our worth?

Read

One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

From MATTHEW 26:14-25

Reflect

In recent days there has been much comment and dismay by those working for refugees and asylum seekers at the government’s attempts to crack down on those arriving in the UK through illegal means. The Government says it is to discourage and prevent those who traffic human beings for financial gain, putting lives at risk and treating people as a commodity. The Governments approach has been widely criticised. However, the terrible truth remains – that there are many people who seize the opportunity of treating human beings as a commodity for financial gain.

We can only imagine and conjecture what was going through the mind and heart of Judas Iscariot. We know that, after he has handed Jesus over to the authorities and the terrible scenes play out before him, that he is filled with deep remorse, and hangs himself from a tree. Maybe the money wasn’t really important to him but in the exchange they have put a price on Jesus’ head, turned him into a simple transaction, a commodity for their convenience.

As it happens, Jesus is the one who hands himself over, he is the one who fulfils all that he has been sent to do. In the gospels, he talks about laying his life down and, when Pilate questions him, Jesus reminds him that he would have no power at all if it had not been given to him from above. The only power that Jesus wishes to use is the power of love, as he receives upon his shoulders the sins of the whole world. An exchange of pure love. He places infinite worth upon each one of us, our value is beyond words, and certainly beyond silver coins. His death shows us that.

Pray

Loving Jesus, help us to know our true worth, and the worth of all people, for you have laid down your life for us. Amen.

Day 37: Enter the mystery


Thanks to Fr Martin Williams for another guest post today who explores what we mean by the sacrifice of the Mass

During the pandemic we have all needed to make sacrifices, that is, to put it crudely, to do some things we find tiresome or disagreeable and to abstain from things we habitually enjoy doing or feel we need to do.

Lent is another time associated with ‘giving things up’. ‘Sacrifice’, properly speaking, may include some such elements of self-denial, but the fundamental meaning of the word is ‘making holy’. “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy … You shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord “ (Leviticus 19. 2, 18).

He gave thanks

At the Last Supper we hear that Jesus “gave thanks”. We don’t know the precise content of that prayer, but it may well have been a Passover prayer, giving thanks for God’s choice and redemption of his people Israel, especially in his rescue of them from Egypt, of which we hear every year in the Exodus reading at the Easter Vigil.

Jesus may well have included thanksgiving for his own vocation as the Redeemer of the world. After all, he was about to declare the bread of the Passover to be his Body and the cup of wine  to be his Blood.

The seventeenth chapter of St John’s Gospel, which records a thanksgiving prayer of Jesus at the Supper, includes the words, “For their sake I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” So to say that Jesus died for the sins of the world, is to say that he consecrated himself for the sake of his brothers and sisters, that they might be made holy.

What is holiness?

So what is ‘holiness’? It is nothing less than communion with the Holy One. “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” As Jesus himself says, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5.48). In Scripture ‘perfection’ and ‘sacrifice’ are closely connected. The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of God “bringing many sons to glory” by making “the founder of their salvation [i.e. Jesus] perfect through suffering” (Heb. 2.10).

If the essence of sin is self-love, then the essence of holiness is sacrificial love – love for God and for our brothers and sisters whatever the cost. Of human beings, only Jesus has achieved that perfection of sacrificial love, but the wonder of the Cross and of the Eucharist is that he communicates that love to us. Hence we call the Eucharist the ‘Holy Sacrifice’.   

In what sense is the Mass a sacrifice? Only insofar as it is the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice. “Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” Romans 8.34). “[Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7.25).

Enter the Mystery

St John the Divine, in his Revelation or Apocalypse, saw at the throne of God “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain,” and he heard the heavenly host singing a new song, “… for you were slain,  and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God.” (Rev. 5.6,9-10).

Our offering of the sacrifice of the Mass is an entering in to the mystery of Christ’s perpetual offering of himself for the salvation of the world and a sharing in his heavenly intercession.

It is a response in obedience to his command to “Do this in memory of me” – and to love God with our whole being and our neighbour as ourself.


Day 36: Give it up

Thanks to Fr Martin Williams for his fourth article on the mystery of the Mass


During the pandemic we have all needed to make sacrifices, that is, to put it crudely, to do some things we find tiresome or disagreeable and to abstain from things we habitually enjoy doing or feel we need to do.

Lent is another time associated with ‘giving things up’. ‘Sacrifice’, properly speaking, may include some such elements of self-denial, but the fundamental meaning of the word is ‘making holy’. “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy … You shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord “ (Leviticus 19. 2, 18).

At the Last Supper we hear that Jesus “gave thanks”. We don’t know the precise content of that prayer, but it may well have been a Passover prayer, giving thanks for God’s choice and redemption of his people Israel, especially in his rescue of them from Egypt, of which we hear every year in the Exodus reading at the Easter Vigil.

Jesus may well have included thanksgiving for his own vocation as the Redeemer of the world. After all, he was about to declare the bread of the Passover to be his Body and the cup of wine  to be his Blood.

The seventeenth chapter of St John’s Gospel, which records a thanksgiving prayer of Jesus at the Supper, includes the words, “For their sake I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” So to say that Jesus died for the sins of the world, is to say that he consecrated himself for the sake of his brothers and sisters, that they might be made holy.

What is holiness?

So what is ‘holiness’? It is nothing less than communion with the Holy One. “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” As Jesus himself says, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5.48). In Scripture ‘perfection’ and ‘sacrifice’ are closely connected.

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of God “bringing many sons to glory” by making “the founder of their salvation [i.e. Jesus] perfect through suffering” (Heb. 2.10). If the essence of sin is self-love, then the essence of holiness is sacrificial love – love for God and for our brothers and sisters whatever the cost.

Of human beings, only Jesus has achieved that perfection of sacrificial love, but the wonder of the Cross and of the Eucharist is that he communicates that love to us. Hence we call the Eucharist the ‘Holy Sacrifice’.   

The sacrifice of the Mass

In what sense is the Mass a sacrifice? Only insofar as it is the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice. “Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” Romans 8.34). “[Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7.25).

St John the Divine, in his Revelation or Apocalypse, saw at the throne of God “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain,” and he heard the heavenly host singing a new song, “… for you were slain,  and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God …” (Rev. 5.6,9-10).

Our offering of the sacrifice of the Mass is an entering in to the mystery of Christ’s perpetual offering of himself for the salvation of the world and a sharing in his heavenly intercession.

It is a response in obedience to his command to “Do this in memory of me” – and to love God with our whole being and our neighbour as ourself.


Tuesday 30 March 2021


Uncertain times

Read

While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is he means’, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it, Lord?’

From JOHN 13: 21ff

Reflect

For those brought up in the 1970s, the game show “Mr and Mrs” was a staple diet among many other game shows for Saturday night viewing. Various married couples are asked questions about each other. The couple who know each other the best wins the game and the prizes. Years later, the show was revived for a time with a new presenter and a new format and more inclusive contestants. The embarrassment and humour comes when couples falter and display a slight ignorance of the other, usually on some insignificant matter.

As the disciples gather around the Passover table, when Jesus speaks of his betrayal and death, the air is filled with fear and ignorance. They look at each other, wondering who the betrayer is. Peter, filled with so much uncertainty, even asks Jesus, “Is it I?” He doubts himself as well as others. It seems that they don’t know each other or even themselves very well at all.

Perhaps the same can be said of all of us at times. What sense of self awareness do we have? Do we spend time in reflecting on our lives, on our day? “Lord, you have searched me and you know me,” says Psalm 139. God, being God, knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows us through and through. Perhaps at the end of each day, we can spend some quiet time looking back, reflecting, asking God to show us who we are in a new light so that, certain of his love, he can be certain of us, assured of our faith and our love.

Pray

Loving Father, open our it’s hearts and our lives to your Holy Spirit to show us Jesus and help us understand who we are. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.