Newsletter Resources – April

You are welcome to use these resources in any parish newsletter distributed free of charge. 

Items included in the Liturgy Preparation pages may also be used (e.g. short summaries of the readings, homily thoughts, etc.) Please give credit to the author and this magazine.

 – Ed

Click here to download and print our April Newsletter Resources.

For more resources from our April issue, click here

 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Seeing your life through the lens of the Gospel

John 11:1-45

1. Martha and Mary were people of faith but Jesus led them to an even deeper faith. Who were the people who led you to a deeper faith in Jesus? Remember them and give thanks.

2. Martha and Mary were struggling to come to terms with their bereavement. What has helped you in similar situations?

3. The concern of Jesus is palpable and touching. Recall those who matter to you and to whom you matter. Such love mediates God’s love, which surpasses human love with the gift of new life and Easter joy.

4. One can imagine Lazarus as a symbol of people and groups that are written off as dead (sometimes by themselves), and yet through faith come back to life again. Have you had the experience of being revived by faith? Has faith helped to free you from what held you in bondage, or was destructive of
your life?

John Byrne OSA
Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

Musings: A Human Heart

His was a human heart. He liked friends and he found a home and a safe place with them, over the hill and away from the mob. We might picture him there – the talk, the chat, the prayers, the love; meals with other friends who dropped in, times of prayer and silence. The one who can share a laugh, eat a scone, have a drink or a cuppa. The one who’d give a wink at the sign of peace! Not always so serious, even about religion. There’s no such thing as a sad saint!

He is a good friend. Friendship gives new spirit. When life is ending we will give thanks for friends, and regret the way we have drifted from or hurt each other. Real friendship is when another’s thoughts and life become at least as important or more important than our own.

So the resurrection and the life is not just for after death. It is for now. We raise each other up in friendship and in love. In that is the grace of the Lord, himself a friend, for when we love, God
lives in us.

Picture your friends and those you love and give thanks to God for each of them.
Lord, help me to keep love and friendship alive in my life.

From Gospel Reflections for Sundays of Year A: Matthew
by Donal Neary SJ Messenger Publications

 

Deep Ends: Come Forth Lazarus

In today’s Gospel Jesus is surrounded by a culture of death. The disciples are afraid to go back to Bethany, the Jews want to stone Jesus to death, Mary and Martha are distraught over the death of their brother Lazarus, and Lazarus himself lies bound in the darkness of the tomb. It appears as if there is no hope. Jesus weeps for his friend and for those around him.

Yet, surrounded by a culture of violence and despair, Jesus gives hope, compassion, and resurrection to those in turmoil. It is easy to say that nothing can be done when we are faced with difficult situations in our own lives. Yet Jesus says ‘Lazarus, come out’ and to the people he says ‘Unbind him, let him go.’ It is a message for all of us to come away from a culture of death; to help unbind one another and to also allow ourselves to emerge from the tomb. We are called to take away the stone. Today’s Gospel is a story of liberation. Jesus gives a new insight into the power of faith over death.

‘Hope means to keep living amid desperation and to keep humming in the darkness. Hope is knowing that there is love, it is trust in tomorrow, it is falling asleep and waking to work when the sun rises. In the midst of a gale at sea, it is to discover land. In the eyes of another, it is to see understanding. As long as there is hope, there will also be prayer. And God will be holding you in his loving hands.’ (Henri Nouwen)

Jane Mellet
melletj@gmail.com

 

Sunday, 9 April

Seeing your life through the lens of the Gospel

Matthew: 26:14-27:66

The account of the Passion is a vivid story with a variety of characters and much action. To enter into the passage we can read the story slowly and see if we can identify with different characters in the story. Also any one scene within the story can provide us with much food for reflection and prayer. Keep in mind that one of the aims in reflecting on the passage is to discover the good news the story has for us. Here are just a few general pointers for prayer:

1. The identity of Jesus is revealed as the Messiah and the Son of God, not with a display of human power, but as one who was prepared to suffer unto death to show us how our God loves us. How does the Passion story speak to you as a revelation of how God loves you?

2. Jesus gives us an example of patient endurance and faithfulness in suffering. Suffering is something we all encounter. It is not something that anyone likes but sometimes we cope with it better than others. What have you found helps you to cope better with suffering?

3. As you read through the narrative of the Passion where do you find yourself resonating with a character in the action? Is there any message there for you that is life-giving?

John Byrne OSA
Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

Musings

Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity. This is clear when we read the Book of Exodus. How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom. This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be ‘holy’ for us too! (Pope Francis)

Look at Judas and watch him – fearfully betraying Jesus. Look at Jesus as his heart goes out to the weakness of his disciples. In all sorts of weakness in our lives, the love of God is triumphant. Let him be the strength in your weakness and sinfulness.

Is Judas motivated by anger and disappointment? Had he a different vision of the messianic kingdom than Jesus? did he resent that Jesus saw through him when he protested at the waste of Mary’s costly ointment at the feast? One thing is clear: he refused to accept Jesus as he was. Like us, he didn’t see that it is we, not God, who must change.

From Sacred Space for Lent 2017, Messenger Publications

 

The Deep End: Palm Sunday

Today we read Matthew’s account of the death of Jesus; yes it is the long Gospel but we should not miss out on the journey that spending time with this account offers. As you read perhaps you might notice the various characters and their roles, their words and actions. A good question to ask as we enter into this text is ‘Where do I stand?’ Are you looking on as a bystander, are you in the group of disciples or some other character: Pilate? Pilate’s wife? Perhaps it is a more difficult journey as you relate to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, a Jesus who is ‘grieved’ because of many things: isolation, the disappointment he must feel because of the abandonment of his friends, betrayal, loneliness, mocking, torture? This is not an easy journey. We know the story does not end here, but for this week we enter into the

Jane Mellet
melletj@gmail.com

 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Seeing your life through the lens of the Gospel

John 20:1-9

In some ways this gospel is a difficult one for prayer. It only presents a part of the story.

1. The disciples are in a state of shock and suffering from a traumatic loss. Jesus, the one in whom they had placed so much hope, has been murdered and buried. Then, another shock – the body of Jesus is missing. Have you had experiences in which one tragedy or crisis follows quickly after another? What was that like for you? How did you cope? What, or who, sustained you then?

2. Mary and Peter, and possibly others, came and discovered that the tomb was empty. They are left in a state of bewilderment ‘for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.’ Have you been in that kind of situation, faced with events you cannot explain, events which have dashed your hopes in another person, or in God? What has that been like for you?

3. Yet in spite of the lack of explanation, the beloved disciple ‘saw and believed’.

  • Have there been times when others have done something that you could not understand, and which they could not explain at the time and yet you believed that all was not as it seemed? Times when you decided to trust in spite of the evidence?
  • Have there been times when others have shown this kind of faith in you, and all you could say was ‘trust me’?
  • Have there been times in your relationship with God when you have felt that you were faced with an empty tomb and still you believed?

Where have you found life in such experiences?

John Byrne osa
Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

Musings: Easter is verb

Christians are Easter people. What that means to me is that we are dynamic: always growing, changing, moving, and engaging. Even those of us who cannot be ‘in motion’ physically – because of necessary employment, family responsibilities or health issues – can experience the interior ‘movements’ of the soul. Every day the Risen Christ invites us to move, to allow the breaking open that happens in a heart that is open to God and to all that divine love brings to us. We sense the inner movement, we listen to the voice of the Spirit, we pay attention to even fleeting emotions and responses that can be, in God’s hands, tools for our ongoing creation.’ (Vinita Hampton Wright, from her blog ‘Days of Deepening Friendship’)

Neither Peter nor John come to believe in the Resurrection without enduring confusion and uncertainty. But out of the confusion comes clarity. The empty tomb can only mean that Jesus is truly alive – raised and transformed by the Father. If Jesus is truly risen, then so are we. As we were one with him in his suffering, so are we now one with him in his risen joy. Alleluia!

From Sacred Space for Lent 2017, Messenger Publications

 

The Deep End: Easter Sunday

In today’s Gospel Mary Magdalen is highlighted as the woman who is the first witness of the resurrection. Mary and the two disciples must have been very confused and upset as they tried to understand what had happened to Jesus’ body. Reading this story can bring many emotions for us: fear and confusion at death, or even a feeling of euphoria and joy at the realisation that death is not the end. If we have lost a loved one, we might feel comforted in the knowledge that we will be reunited with them once more. Jesus comes into situations of despair, disappointment and doubt and, as with Mary after this incident, comes in the form of a stranger, gently calling her name. The Risen Lord seems to meet us in familiar territory, where we least expect it.

We might ask the Lord today for the strength and courage to allow him to break into our lives once more, to help us to be free of whatever it is that causes ‘death’ in our lives, to help us to let go, to be open to recognising him in our most painful moments and in the most familiar places.

‘God of openness, of life and of resurrection, come into this Easter season and bless me. Look around at the tight, dead spaces of my heart. Bring your gentle but firm love … Open me. Open me. Open me. For it is only then I will grow and change, for it is only then that I will be transformed. For it is only then that I will know how it is. To be in the moment of rising from the dead.’ (Joyce Rupp)

Jane Mellet
melletj@gmail.com

 

Sunday, 23 April

Seeing your life through the lens of the Gospel

John 20:19-31

1. ‘Peace be with you’ was the greeting of Jesus on meeting his frightened apostles. Who has come to you bringing peace at times when you were frightened? For whom have you been an agent of peace?

2. Thomas, doubting and questioning, is possibly a person with whom we can identify. What part have doubting and questioning played on your faith journey? How has your faith been strengthened by such moments?

3. Note the way Jesus dealt with Thomas. He did not give out because he doubted. He took him where he was and led him along to see the truth of his resurrection. Who has been that kind of a teacher for you, gently taking you where you were and leading you on to a deeper knowledge of some truth about life? For whom have you been that kind of teacher?

4. ‘Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believed’. That requires great trust. Perhaps you have had the experience of being trusted without having had to prove every step along the way. What was it like to be trusted in that way? Who have you been able to trust in a similar manner?

John Byrne osa
Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

Musings

Jesus reveals himself with his wounds: his whole body was clean, beautiful and full of light but the wounds were and are still there, and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, we will see his wounds. Before he could believe, Thomas wanted to place his fingers in the wounds. He was stubborn. But that was what the Lord wanted – a stubborn person to make us understand something greater. (Pope Francis)

St Thomas the Apostle
‘We do not know … how can we know the way?’
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
and cut through their evasion and abstraction.
o doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things:
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after him and find him in the flesh.
Because he loved your awkward counterpoint,
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
o place my hand with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.

Malcolm Guite (From Sounding the Seasons – Seventy Sonnets for the
Christian Year, Canterbury Press)

 

Deep End: Shalom

The disciples in today’s Gospel must have been so excited to tell Thomas their news: ‘We have seen the Lord’. Sometimes, when we try to share something of our faith experience with others, we can meet similar responses – doubting, cynicism – we can even be made fun of. The Risen Jesus bears the wounds of his suffering and even invites Thomas to touch them, to get in touch with the reality of his suffering. We might recall times when we have been overwhelmed by pain but looking back on those times we can see that they sometimes brought us to a different place, to new life. Perhaps today recall those times of ‘wounded-ness’ – and hear Jesus’s ‘Peace be with you’, the promise that he is with you. The word ‘Peace’ (Shalom) is more than a wish for a good evening or peaceful day. It expresses the desire that the person receiving the blessing might be whole in body, mind and spirit. The Risen Jesus brings a peace that is life-giving. The disciples were locked away, afraid, closed off from the world. When Jesus is present with them, their hearts are opened again, they rejoice. The Risen Jesus in today’s Gospel moves the disciples from total fear and despair to ‘rejoicing’. The same Risen Jesus is active in all our lives and in the world around us.

‘Life will always prevail, through all the layers of death in which we try to contain it.’ (Margaret Silf)

Jane Mellet
melletj@gmail.com

 

Sunday, 30 April

Seeing your life through the lens of the Gospel

Luke 24:13-35

1. Jesus joined the despondent disciples and listened to them. ‘We had hoped …’ When you have been upset or disappointed, who has joined you along the road? To whom have you been able to pour out your heart? Who was a ‘Jesus person’ to you, listening to you in respectful silence? To whom have you been a Jesus person?

2. Jesus then helps them to see things in another light by opening the scriptures to them. When did you have the experience of finding your heart ‘burning within you’ with new hope for the future? Who/what helped you to change after a setback?

3. The disciples invite Jesus to join them at table – there follows a recognition of who he is. We meet many people on the road of life. Usually we meet and pass on. Occasionally we meet someone whom we invite into our homes, into our hearts, in a deeper way, in a way we had not done before. With whom has this happened for you? Where in these relationships have you experienced the presence of God or of Jesus?

4. After Jesus had gone the disciples went to bring the good news to others. When have you met others who told you what happened to them along their road? What effect did this sharing have on you? When have you done this with others? When was such a conversation ‘good news’ for you or others?

John Byrne OSA
Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

Musings

Pounding hearts, wounded hearts and burning hearts … the image of the human heart permeates the beautiful Easter Gospel of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It is a very human story, full of pathos; stylized in pattern, and suggesting a Eucharistic celebration. The disciples come with their questions and doubts; the Scriptures are recited; words of clarification and instruction are exchanged on the road; and finally, the moment of recognition comes in the context of a meal.

The stranger on the road to Emmaus takes the skepticism and curiosity of the disciples and weaves them into the fabric of the Scripture. Jesus challenges them to reinterpret the events of the past days in light of the Scriptures.

At table in Emmaus, the disciples’ hearts began to gradually burn within them as they came to understand with their minds the truth about the suffering Messiah. The ‘Good News’ descended from their head to their heart, and they experienced that strange and wonderful feeling of their hearts gradually on fire. The analogy of the ‘burning hearts’ is the only way for them to adequately describe their recognition of the Lord. I remember a beautiful phrase of the great French Catholic author of the last century, François Mauriac: ‘If you are friends with Christ many others will warm themselves at your fire … On the day when you no longer burn with love, many will die of the cold.’

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB CEO Salt + Light Catholic Television Network

 

Deep End: Didn’t our hearts burn within us?

Today’s Gospel finds Jesus’ friends downcast and confused at all that happened in their world. His death had devastated them; rumours of his resurrection amazed and confused them.

Into their sadness and confusion Jesus comes; walking with them, talking with them even though they didn’t recognise him and yet they said later ‘didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road?’ It’s a reminder to us that he is always with us as believers even if we don’t recognise him. Sometimes he speaks to us through the love and kindness of others; the friendly word or gesture, the willingness to listen , the acceptance of us for all our faults and failings. There is surely someone in all our lives who makes us feel better just for knowing them; they reflect God’s goodness and love and care in the simplest ways.

The great gift that Jesus left his followers to remind them of his constant presence was the Eucharist when he promised to be with us wherever it was celebrated in memory of him. And when we have listened and nourished ourselves in communion with each other we go to bring this word and this nourishment to others. Because the religion that Jesus Christ taught was one of giving and forgiving; of living life to the full and making the most of each day. In the words of St Catherine of Siena, ‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’

Padraig O’Connor
Co Louth

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