Newsletter Resources – December

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Sunday, 3 December 2017


Mark 13:33-37

  1. The coming of the Lord is not just the moment of death, but any moment of grace. Recall unexpected graces – good things that happened when they were not anticipated.
  2. Perhaps some of these were moments when you were particularly alert and aware of what was going on in you and around you, and this enabled you to be open to the moment of grace. Recall the contrast with moments when that alertness and awareness were not present.
  3. The servants were given charge of the household ‘each with their own job’. Identify with the servants as people given a responsibility within the household of God’s people. What has it been like for you when you have been shown trust in this way by another person? What is it like for you to see yourself trusted in this way by God?
  4. Jesus says that what he is saying to his disciples he is saying to all. Have there been times when you have been a messenger of hope to others, encouraging them to wait for a moment of grace. Who have been the ones to encourage you?

John Byrne osa


THE DEEP END: Keep Awake

We are surrounded these days by the commercial ‘circus’ of Christmas shopping and ‘getting ready’. It might seem far removed from the story that we are celebrating; the story of a poor refugee family 2,000 years ago who had a very special delivery. The story of God choosing to intervene in human history in such an intimate and shocking way; God choosing to be born into a situation of poverty and danger. It is good to ask ourselves at this time of year, what are we getting ready for? Advent is a wonderful season which invites us to use our waiting to grow spiritually. We are invited to make space for ourselves and for God in the midst of the rushing. Can we stop and be still and ask ourselves: ‘Where do I see God being born around me today?’ In those I meet? In kind words and gestures? In my community? In my own heart?

Have a more ‘aware’ Advent. Be mindful in all you do. Be aware in your rushing, be aware as you stand in that queue, be aware as you eat, be aware of your feelings, be aware of your thoughts. By watching all of this we become more awake, more able to recognise our true selves and more able to see God being born continuously each day within us and around us. Our awe and wonder grows and we can be prepared for the coming of the Gift himself. How we prepare determines what will be.

Jane Mellett


Sunday, 10 December 2017


Mark 1:1-8

  1. John the Baptist is presented as a messenger to prepare the way for Jesus. Who have been messengers to you, preparing the way for the Lord by alerting you to ways in which you could improve your life? To whom have you been such a messenger?
  2. John calls the people to repentance (i.e. a change of heart), as a way to a new life. Can you recall times when you had a change of heart, and the change led to new life for you?
  3. John baptised people with water as a gesture to mark their change of heart. Sometimes we perform an action to symbolise our change of heart – write a letter, throw away our last cigarettes, etc. Can you remember a symbolic gesture with which you marked a change of heart?

John Byrne osa


THE DEEP END: The beginning of the good news …

The second Sunday of Advent turns our attention to John the Baptist. John was an interesting individual. We are told he dressed a bit strangely, had an odd diet and spent a lot of time in the desert. Yet it seems he was very popular with the whole of Judaea and ‘all the people of Jerusalem’ went out to hear him. John must have been a dynamic speaker and one in whom people found hope and inspiration. Who are these attractive messengers for us today? Who brings us good news and hope? Whose message makes sense for us? Who do we flock to hear?

Today we might also reflect on the messengers in our own lives. Who did God send to you while you were in your own wilderness? Perhaps they brought with them a moment of grace reassuring you that you would not be drifting aimlessly forever. Perhaps the evidence at that moment in your own life stated the contrary, yet these words of encouragement or comfort gave you reason to hope and to hang in there. These ‘John the Baptists’ are messengers of the light. They are all around us. Sometimes we are the ones called upon to be a messenger of light for someone else. The good news of the gospel today is that even in times of desolation there is a hope, a promise that urges us on. How we prepare for this journey determines our experience. See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you …

Jane Mellett


Sunday, 17 December 2017


John 1:6-8, 19-28

  1. ‘There is one among you whom you do not know’. We can know about Jesus but do we know him? What helps you to know Jesus in a way that enables you to follow in his footsteps, trusting God as he did, and seeing other people as he did?
  2. John the Baptist came to bear witness to Jesus. Who have been the people who have borne witness to you of the good news that God loves you – a friend, a parent, a teacher, etc.? To whom have you borne that witness?
  3. John appears in the story as one who had the courage to be himself in the face of loud and aggressive people. He was also a person who knew his own value, did not make exaggerated claims and was content with his mission. Can you recall times when you have been able to be yourself, even in the face of criticism from others?
  4. John was ‘the voice of one crying out in the wilderness’ – announcing confidently to those in the wilderness that they must not despair because God’s grace may come to them at any moment. Have you had the experience of being in the wilderness, feeling lost? From whom did you hear a voice that gave you hope? Have you been able to give hope to other people when they were in the wilderness?

John Byrne osa


THE DEEP END: Light and Darkness

Last week we were introduced to John the Baptist as part of our Advent journey. We hear his story again today, and in this account, from the fourth gospel, we hear John’s voice and his testimony about Jesus. Light and darkness is a key theme of the fourth gospel and its opening verses proclaims that this light has always shone in the dark; the darkness cannot overpower it. The evangelist goes on to tell us that John the Baptist’s mission is that he has been sent by God to ‘speak for the light’. John is a light-bearer, he is not the light, but he points to the light. He is a witness to the light of God in our world, a light that cannot be put out.

We celebrate this light today on Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means ‘rejoice’; we light the pink candle and we celebrate with joy. It might be a good opportunity to ask today: ‘who have been the light-bearers on your own faith journey’? Who testified to the Light of God and passed the torch on to you? We thank God for them.

‘Lord there is much darkness in society and in our church … We become cynical and settle for mediocrity. We thank you that someone always comes on the scene, sent by you as a witness to speak for the light … teachers, community leaders, grandparents, children, a friend … they bear witness to the rest of us that somewhere in the dark a light shines that darkness cannot overcome.’
Michel de Verteuil


Jane Mellet


Sunday, 24 December 2017


Luke 1:26-38

  1. We are all favoured ones and God is with us. Sometimes we are more aware of this than others. How have you experienced being a favoured person, one blessed by God? How have you experienced God’s presence? Who has been Gabriel to you – a messenger of good news?
  2. ‘Do not be afraid.’ Mary was perplexed by the words of the angel. Perhaps you too have sometimes been perplexed by life’s path and wondered what it all meant. Perhaps at times you have doubted if God was really with you. In your troubled moments who has been an ‘angel’ helping to lower your anxiety?
  3. Mary was taken by surprise by the invitation, but she did not tell the angel she was not ready, nor ask him to return later. She was prepared to go with the invitation even though it was not the ‘right moment’. ‘Here I am Lord.’ What invitations have come to you at the ‘wrong time’ and how have you responded?
  4. Mary’s response serves as a model for us – she is one who says ‘yes’ to what life offers. What is it like for you to say ‘yes’ to life? Perhaps at this moment in your life you are being invited to say ‘Here I am, Lord’?

John Byrne osa


THE DEEP END: Born on the Margins

The situation into which Jesus was born was one of huge stigma with dangerous consequences. God’s physical birth into this world was condemned socially; Jesus was marginalised from the moment of his conception. Imagine God choosing to be involved so intimately in this world and in such a shocking way. Even the town of Galilee is problematic for this news, as Galileans were considered by the religious leaders of the time to be ‘second-class Jews’. So the fact that God would send his messenger there is controversial in itself. Galilean Jews were considered to be less faithful than others, so it is ironic that in this particular situation Mary’s response is the exact opposite. God surprises. God stands with the marginalised. God is present in the most hidden places at times. On the first Sunday of Advent we were invited to ‘keep awake’. As we approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, what have you noticed this Advent? What has your waiting been like? How have you prepared? Where have you seen God present this Advent? Where have you seen God being born around you? In the most unexpected places? In the most marginalised? Is your heart more open to receive a new birth of God again?

‘Quiet me within, clothe my body in peacefulness, that your Word once again may take flesh – this time, within me – as once it did in holy Mary; long Advent days ago.’
Edward Hays

Jane Mellett


Sunday, 31 December 2017


Luke 2:22-40

  1. What started out as an ordinary day for Joseph and Mary turned out to be a day with an encounter they would remember for a long time. Perhaps you too have had significant encounters on what you expected to be just an ordinary day?
  2. Simeon gave thanks because his eyes saw the salvation God had prepared. In what ways have you experienced God’s salvation in your life: an experience of being loved, or discovering a sense of purpose in life, or being touched by the wonders of creation? Give thanks for those memories.
  3. Simeon also acknowledged that not all would accept the light that would shine through Jesus, and this rejection would be a cause of pain to Mary. It can be a source of pain to parents, teachers, church ministers, and all who work for others when some reject values, projects, advice which would be for their good. Perhaps a sword has sometimes pierced your soul as well. What has helped you to maintain hope in such times?
  4. The final sentence speaks of Jesus as one who grew and became strong and was filled with wisdom. What has helped you to grow in wisdom? Have you seen others grow in wisdom through the experience of life? Recall times when you had a sense of growing up in some way. What brought that about? Think also of how you have seen growth in another person.

John Byrne osa


THE DEEP END: The Presentation in the Temple

Simeon and Anna welcome Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the Temple. They have been waiting for this moment. What kind of Messiah were they expecting? Simeon welcomes this family who must have seemed ‘ordinary’ and poor. He can see that this child will be ‘a light … for the glory of your people’. Already there is a note of reversal; of boundaries being stretched. Mary is told that this child ‘is destined for the fall and the rising of many’. There will be trouble ahead; there will be challenges for many. Simeon knows that many thoughts will be exposed, what people really think will be revealed, who they welcome and who they exclude will be challenged; for God’s invitation and welcome have no boundaries. This will be uncomfortable for some. Anna rejoices for all those who were looking for a change, for hope; she knows that this child will overturn systems of oppression and exclusion.

Luke is interested in how humanity responds to the gospel. If Jesus’ message is really good news, then this requires a shakeup; a shakeup which challenges comfortable assumptions about the way God works. God’s abundant invitation to all may not sit comfortably with many. While Anna prays and fasts for a change of heart in the way Jerusalem operates, Simeon warns Mary that this will not be an easy road. What situations in our own society and in our Church require a shake-up, an uncomfortable but necessary change so that God’s love and welcome can shine through?

Jane Mellett

Sunday, 7 January 2018


Mark 1:7-11

  1. John gives an example of humility as a person confident in his own role but not seeking to claim to be more than he is. He is able to acknowledge that Jesus is greater. There is a freedom in being able to acknowledge the gifts of others without losing a sense of one’s own giftedness. Recall times when you were able to do this.
  2. The baptism of Jesus was an extraordinary religious experience for him. Something happened that was a major step forward for Jesus in coming to know that he was the beloved Son of God. We all have events in our lives that are milestones along the road of discovering who we are. What have been these milestones for you?
  3. ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ Bring to mind memories of experiences in which you knew you were the beloved (of God or of another person) and that the one who loved you was well pleased. Bring these experiences to mind with gratitude, knowing that the only proper response to love received is thankfulness. Perhaps you have also given that experience to another.
  4. It is easy to lament the growing secularisation in the world today, but the Spirit of God who spoke loudly to the world in the Christ-event is active today. How can we be open to the new things the Spirit is saying to the Church today?

John Byrne osa



THE DEEP END: A searching God

He came in search of John.
He came in search of baptism.
He came in search of blessing.
He came in search of the Spirit.
He came in search of God’s favour.
He came in search of God’s love.

The first active step that Jesus takes as he begins his ministry is to search. He journeys from Nazareth to the River Jordan to find John, in order to be baptised. While John feels he is ‘not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals’, Jesus still seeks him out. He needs this moment of baptism and blessing to begin his ministry. This is his moment of divine calling and endorsement from the Father: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

We know what it is like to search. We yearn for meaning, for love, and our hearts are always searching for God. Today’s first reading from Isaiah speaks of this great thirst: ‘Oh come to the water all you who are thirsty’; ‘Seek the Lord while he is still to be found’. We must seek constantly to bring ourselves into the presence of God, who will give us his blessing and strength for the road ahead.

‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.’
St Augustine

Tríona Doherty
Athlone, Co Roscommon


Sunday, 14 January 2018


John 1:35-42

  1. John pointed the disciples towards Jesus as the one they should follow. Remember the people in your life who have pointed you in a new and life-giving direction? Perhaps in some cases this may have involved directing you away from your association with them – e.g., leaving home, changing jobs, etc.
  2. Jesus invited the disciples to come and see how he lived. How have you come to learn how Jesus lived, and what he was looking for in life? How has this attracted you to follow him?
  3. What is your experience of gathering in small groups to learn to live like Jesus by listening to the gospel together? Where two or three are gathered in his name, Jesus is there in the midst of them.
  4. Andrew did not keep the good news to himself but invited his brother to join him in following Jesus. What is your experience of receiving, or giving, an invitation to join in some worthwhile venture?

John Byrne osa



THE DEEP END: Come and see

Today is the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and this year’s theme is ‘Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees’.

In his message to mark the day, Pope Francis spoke of our responsibility, as individuals, communities and Church, to welcome everyone, particularly those who have been forced to leave their home in search of a better future.

‘Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age … This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.’

Pope Francis has spoken often of our ‘brotherly responsibility’ towards our fellow human beings, and how our welcome ought to be a response to the Lord’s supreme commandment to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves. We all have opportunities to do this in our communities.

In today’s gospel Jesus invites the disciples to ‘come and see’ where he lives. He welcomes them into his home and they stay with him for the rest of the day. The example of Jesus encourages us to be welcoming, to extend a warm invitation, and to spend time with others in friendship.

Tríona Doherty
Athlone, Co Roscommon


Sunday, 21 January 2018


Mark 1:14-20

  1. ‘The time is fulfilled’ – this is a decisive moment in the life of Jesus. His public ministry is about to begin. Recall turning points in your own life when something new happened and with hindsight you can say the time was ripe for it to happen, ‘the time was fulfilled’.
  2. ‘Repent and believe the good news’. Jesus was not preaching a new doctrine, he was proclaiming an event that had already happened. The time has come. Jesus called for a change of heart as a response to the good news of the gospel message. A new way of understanding God leads to a conversion in how we relate to God, a change of heart. A growth in awareness of who we are can lead us to a new level of self-confidence, another change of heart. Can you recall times when ‘good news’ led you to a change of heart?
  3. The Spirit of God who was at work in Jesus calling the disciples continues to work in our day and in our lives. That is why the gospel message is one of good news. When has your understanding of the gospel message led you to a different style of life? Who was the Jesus person through whom the call came to you? To whom have you been a Jesus person in this way?

John Byrne osa


THE DEEP END: The call

‘Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown in you, and you in me?’

The hymn ‘The Summons,’ by John L. Bell, consists of a list of questions from Jesus as he calls each one of us to be disciples. Each one begins with the words ‘Will you…?’ The final verse is our response as disciples: ‘Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.’

Today we reflect on Jesus’ call to the very first disciples. There is a simplicity to the scenes where Jesus gathers his first disciples. He issues the invitation to follow him, and the fishermen respond with a resounding yes, leaving their nets, boats, and even their families behind, no questions asked. In the opening chapters of Mark’s gospel everything happens ‘at once’ or immediately. There is a sense of urgency; the time has come, the kingdom of God is near, and Jesus needs helpers to work alongside him.

Jesus asks the same of us, his modern-day disciples: ‘Follow me’. We are summoned too. We are challenged to leave aside our worldly concerns, see the world in a new way, and to begin a new adventure with Jesus.

Tríona Doherty
Athlone, Co Roscommon

Sunday, 28 January 2018


Mark 1:21-28

  1. In this first chapter Mark familiarises his readers with the type of things Jesus did to proclaim the kingdom, the reign of God. Our passage today touches on two of these, the first being that ‘he taught as one having authority’. It makes a difference when you listen to someone who is clearly speaking from experience and personal knowledge. Remember people who impressed you in this way.
  2. Jesus combined teaching with healing, and he drove the evil spirit out of the man. The power of God that worked this wonder through Jesus is also at work in and through us today. When have you been freed from some bad habit?
  3. The evil spirit convulsed the man before it left him. The path to liberation can be a painful struggle. If you have found it so, who was the Jesus person that helped you through the struggle to freedom?
  4. It is not only individuals but groups that can be struggling with an evil spirit – jealousy, rivalry, malicious gossiping, abuse of power, etc. Sometimes a Jesus person comes into the group and drives out that evil spirit. Have you experienced this? Perhaps you yourself have been this person on some occasion?

John Byrne osa


THE DEEP END: Genuine authority

‘But man, proud man,
Dress’d in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d…’

Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare

We probably wouldn’t have to look too hard for examples of public figures who seem to fit the above description. Puffed up with a sense of their own importance, they are anxious to be seen as the expert on a given subject, in spite of their limited knowledge or experience. We criticise politicians if we feel they are blind to the struggles of ordinary people. They don’t know what it’s like, for example, to live on a minimum wage, or to be at risk of homelessness. On the other hand, it is refreshing when those in power have faced some of these issues themselves, or have made the effort to do their research and to listen to people. We can tell when someone is speaking with genuine authority and care.

Those who listen to Jesus teaching in the synagogue know there is something different and exciting about him. His teaching is in sharp contrast to the scribes they are used to hearing. The difference, stated twice in this passage, is his authority, and it leaves his audience ‘astonished’. He does not use it the way we might tend to use our ‘little brief authority’, to make ourselves look good. Instead he uses his authority to serve, to love, and to bring mercy and freedom.

Tríona Doherty
Athlone, Co Roscommon