5th Sunday of Easter - Year A - 10th MAY 2020
Scripture Readings - ACTS 6:1-7; PSALM 32(33); 1 PETER 2:4-9; JOHN 14:1-12
The Hellenists were Christian Greek-speaking Jews. A common way of resolving community arguments is schism: you go your way, we'll go ours. Significantly the early Christians managed to maintain fellowship by allowing each group to manage its own affairs. As Stephen's speech later shows, the Hellenists bitterly opposed the Jewish Temple authorities, who drove them out of Jerusalem, starting the spread of Christianity. The Apostles were not expelled, and continued their work, with many Jews including priests being converted.
The psalm praises the Lord's power and kindness. Relying on His promises we can be confident he will rescue us.
Peter's letter continues encouraging persecuted Christians by reminding them that we are "a royal priesthood, ... a people set apart to sing God's praises". Every preface concludes with the words: "every land, every people exults in your praise". At Mass we - exercising our common priesthood that comes from our baptism - offer all we have done during the week, our presence together in community, and our material gifts, as a sacrifice to confirm our allegiance to Christ, just as God's sacrifice of his Son showed his love for us.
In John's Gospel, after washing the disciples' feet and foretelling his death, Jesus emphasises his intimate relationship with the Father, saying "to have seen me is to have seen the Father".
PSALM RESPONSE: MAY YOUR LOVE BE UPON US, O LORD, AS WE PLACE ALL OUR HOPE IN YOU.
From Bishop David
We keep hearing that these are unprecedented times. They are indeed! And when we come before the Lord in prayer, we may well find ourselves asking him, 'what are you saying to us Lord in all of this?' We all have our own circumstances in which to ask this question and seek a reply. I know my own situation. No sooner did I arrive in Northampton and be ordained bishop then the lockdown began. To be honest with you, it is all very frustrating! I really do want to visit communities and begin to know the parishes and the clergy, the religious and the schools.
All that said, I appreciate the many blessings I have and I worry about those who are less fortunate, those who
are feeling very enclosed at the moment, unsafe and vulnerable, those who are missing the sacraments.
One thing is for sure, the Lord is speaking to us from the midst of this terrible pestilence. Personally, I am being forced to reflect on some important truths. I am all too comfortable at times with activity rather than being still and listening to God. Too often, I want to tell God my plans and ask him to bless them, rather than seeking his agenda in my life. And yes, it has to be said, I have discovered zoom conferencing!
Every day, for most of my forty years of priesthood, I have prayed the Prayer of Abandonment, inspired by a meditation of Blessed Charles de Foucauld. (I will share this with you at the end of this reflection.) Well I may have said the words, but did I really mean them? A microscopic virus is certainly challenging my sense of really abandoning myself to the Father's will. Our civil and ecclesial societies has been forced to consider unprecedented measures (that word unprecedented again!) to deal with all this.
So how do I feel about it all? I have always been a fan of Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Papal household.
Here are some of the words he preached in St Peter's Basilica on Good Friday,
'But there is one effect that the current situation can help us to grasp in particular. The cross of Christ has changed the meaning of pain and human suffering ? of every kind of suffering, physical and moral. It is no longer punishment, a curse. It was redeemed at its root when the Son of God took it upon himself. What is the surest proof that the drink someone offers you is not poisoned? It is if that person drinks from the same cup before you do. This is what God has done: on the cross he drank, in front of the whole world, the cup of pain down to its dregs. This is how he showed us it is not poisoned, but that there is a pearl at the bottom of this chalice.' I can't stop reading these words!
Now the Prayer of Abandonment. I invite you to join me in praying this regularly, 'Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures - I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul: I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.' (✠ David J Oakley - Bishop of Northampton)
Let us Pray during the Week for
The Church; Pope Francis; Bishop David, the clergy; our Parish; the lonely and the frightened. The faithful departed and those who mourn; the sick and their careers. Those affected by the coronavirus - those in the front line of care - many at risk themselves, for world leaders that they will work together for a solution. For the third world where the risk of the pandemic is heightened by food and medicine shortages. In thanksgiving to God for his gifts and his unconditional love.
Prayer to Our Lady
Beloved Mother, you who know so well the paths of holiness and love, reach us to lift our minds and our hearts often to God and to fix our respectful and loving attention on the Trinity. And since you walk with us on the path of eternal life, do not remain a stranger to the weak pilgrims your charity is ready to welcome. Turn your merciful face to us. Draw us into your light. Flood us with your kindness. Take us into the light and the love. Always take us higher and further into the splendours of Heaven. Let nothing ever trouble our peace, nor turn us away from the thought of God. But let each minute take us further into the depths of the awesome mystery, till the day when our souls -fully receptive to the light of the divine union - will see all things in eternal love and unity. Amen (Prayer of Marthe Robin - 1902 - 1981 - co-foundress of the Foyers of Charity)
Pope Francis - The Beatitudes
The eight beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount reveal the path from selfishness to holiness. Pope Francis said, "The path of the Beatitudes is an Easter journey that leads from a life according to the world to a life according to God."
Those who follow the path of the beatitudes soon find themselves in conflict with the world, the Pope noted. "The world, with its idols, its compromises and its priorities, cannot approve of this kind of existence," he said. So it dismisses life according to the Gospel "as an error and a problem, therefore as something to be marginalized."
That is why the world has persecuted Christians throughout history, the Pope observed. He encouraged Catholics to express their solidarity with the persecuted, who he described as "bleeding members of the body of Christ which is the Church."
In off-the-cuff remarks at the end of his address, the he said: "In persecutions there is always the presence of Jesus who accompanies us, the presence of Jesus who consoles us and the strength of the Spirit who helps us to move forward."
"Let us not be discouraged when a life consistent with the Gospel attracts people's persecutions: there is the Spirit that sustains us on this road." (Based on a report in Vatican Media)
For those affected by the Coronavirus
Merciful Father, come to the help of your people. Be our shelter in this time of peril and strengthen the bonds of our community. Bring healing to all who suffer the ravages of disease and assist those whose skill and knowledge can put an end to this affliction.
Prayer of St Alphonsus Liguori for Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that you are most truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. I love you above all things, and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot receive you sacramental now, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as being already there and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen. (Daily Mass on line ww.northamptondiocese.org/live)
Some parishioners have indicated they would like to be able to donate by telephone during the time our Churches are closed. The Diocese is offering a 'Giving Tuesday' from the 5th of May when between 10:00am and 4:00pm, you can call this number, 01604 712065, and donate to our parish. All you need is your debit or credit card to hand when you call. You can make a one-off donation or an amount to cover any missed Sunday offerings - specifying the offering is for St Patrick's Duston.
Daily Mass Services are available on line ww.northamptondiocese.org/live
Diocese of Northampton Registered Charity Number 234091