This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost Sunday and it seems to be a new beginning for everyone as we emerge from the lockdown of the past 10 weeks or so. But our new beginning will result in many changes in our lives and our faith lives going into the future. As we go on through the process of getting back to a new normal we remember all those on the front-line who have done so much to keep us going throughout these weeks. We also spare a thought and a prayer for all the families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic whose lives are particularly hard during these weeks.
With the feast of Pentecost the seven weeks of Easter have come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance. By the time John wrote his gospel, Jewish Christians had been excommunicated for their belief in Jesus. Ostracised and socially persecuted, some Christians reacted in fear, while others boldly proclaimed the gospel. The First Christians needed a sense of stability, a sense of serenity and peace the same as we do these days. The words of Jesus, “Peace” was John’s prayer for his readers at the beginning as it is for us as we listen to this gospel reading in our current situation. With the sight of Jesus, fear turned into great joy. Anxiety turned into relief. Desperation turned into vindication. Most important, a lack of spiritual direction turned into a sense of deep spiritual grounding.
The divine presence stood close to them and with the divine presence came peace. We too have the divine presence in the Blessed Sacrament and it brings Joy and spiritual grounding to all those who come and Jesus says to each and every one you are welcome. We can’t ignore the problems that are there for ourselves and those around us especially during these days. Very often we need to stop and pray through the problems as well as thinking them through. Gathered together in prayer week in week out we bring ourselves to God especially when we celebrate the Mass. We each have our own needs Family and friends may be sick, Kids need work. The person who has been in our lives for so long has died. We bring these and all our concerns in prayer because they remind us of our need and they raise our hopes in the power of God made real to every generation through the Holy Spirit.
As we go forward into a new unknown future as we come out from the lockdown we are like the first disciples who did not know what was going to happen or when but Through the Holy Spirit everything made great sense to them. With the Holy Spirit as our guide the relationship we have with God produces fruitfulness, satisfies our longings, and brings us serenity and peace. Because of God’s faithfulness, we give thanks, offer sacrifice, and once again present our needs as we remember the presence of God with us in all our lives especially at this time.
As we continue to coexist with the COVID19 pandemic some of the restrictions are being eased. Our local Churches were I am are beginning to open for prayer and this is welcome and we are beginning to get used to the new normal with all of us keeping the required distance. This weekend we celebrate the feast of the ascension, In many places throughout the world this feast was celebrated last Thursday. Throughout our lives we see the departure of so many people, Perhaps it is a son or daughter leaving for university or maybe it was someone leaving to go to another country or the hardest departure of all someone close to us dying. Our lives are made up of so many different times and places of departure or leave-taking and really that is what Ascension is really about Jesus taking leave of his beloved Apostles.
In the Bible when people climbed a mountain they wanted to encounter God In the peace and the quiet. On the mountain top, God would reveal himself to the person. So, the mountain symbolized the place of teaching, revelation, and mission Now, on a mountaintop, he would commission his followers to make disciples of all the nations before ascending to the Father. The ascension is the completion of Jesus mission on earth. It was also the beginning of the church, however before the disciples begin their mission they must be clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus began his public ministry he was filled with the Holy Spirit. So in similar fashion the new church and its leaders needed to be clothed with the Holy Spirit before they began their mission to the world.
The programme of redemption and salvation was to begin at Pentecost and continue in every generation until the end of time. So many things have changed in the Church and society since the time of Jesus and the church continues right up until this present moment. The Church continues because two things have not changed they are the person of Jesus and his message. The message of Jesus is ignored by many people inside and outside the Church for many reasons. Again and again we as people of faith need to ask ourselves what are we doing to make disciples of all the nations remembering that Jesus and his message are always new for each generation. May we be heralds of faith by the lives we lead as we place the message of Jesus before others by what we say and the example we give.
This Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter it doesn’t seem that long since we celebrated Easter Sunday but it is 6 weeks as we head towards Ascension and Pentecost. We pray in a particular way for all those affected by the COVID19 virus as we begin to take the small steps to begin the end of lockdown and return to a new kind of normal.
In the Gospel for this Sunday Jesus promises us the “Paraclete,” or “Advocate.” The word “Paraclete” literally means “one called alongside” indicating one who accompanies another. This can refer to a Lawyer who intercedes for another in a lawsuit, a helper who encourages, or a companion who gives comfort. The Paraclete, or advocate, is the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his ascension, his going back to the Father. When he finally leaves He doesn’t leave his followers a detailed plan. Instead, he promised them and us a person, the Holy Spirit, who will never leave our side. This is why he says “I will not leave you orphans.”The Spirit is with us to open our hearts and minds to the fullness of the truth of Jesus’ words, and the commandment he gives to “love one another as I have loved you.”
The second reading is one that I always love to hear as It speaks of us having reverence for God and that we should always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks about the reason for our hope, the reading goes on to tell us to give our answers with gentleness and reverence” What is the answer for our hope simply put the reason for our hope is Jesus Christ the Son of God the Father. If we live for Christ, we will be criticized and many people over the centuries lost their lives for their defence of the faith. Would we be able to stand up and tell those around us the reason that we have for the hope that is within us today? Would we be prepared to stand up for the faith that so many have turned their backs on and point towards Jesus Christ the reason for the hope that we have both these questions are hard to answer for people of faith in the world we find ourselves these days. If we share our faith with courtesy and respect for others who might not hold our belief then we will find that they will show respect for the things we hold dear as we stand up for the faith we profess wherever we are.
These past few weeks now nearly 2 months have been hard going for everyone who has been experiencing lockdown. So many people have experienced the loss of loved ones and were unable to say a proper good bye there is much sadness about as a result of this pandemic them but there is also a lot of hope around these days. Over the next weeks and months we will be getting back to the New Normal what that will be we will have to wait and see and work with it. but the one thing that will remain as it has up to now is the reason for our hope and simply put the reason for our hope is Jesus Christ who is with us in all our troubles whatever they are.
This weekend our gospel reading could have been written for the current situation we are in with the corona virus pandemic. As a result of this many people are fearful for what might happen going forward and Jesus calls us to have faith and trust in him. This Gospel is about Jesus helping the Apostles get ready for his suffering and death. For the apostles this would be a huge reversal from the adulation of the entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Remember when he asked them whether they would leave him, along with the rest of the crowd or stay with him? Now it is he who is leaving. They are stunned. ” Jesus tells them as he tells us now “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”
The straightforward meaning of this directive is, you know how to trust, you do it with God. Use that same trust with me. Jesus speaks to us not at us. His presence is in the word proclaimed in the Assembly of the people of god gathered together via the internet during these days. His word is proclaimed to us in the readings from scripture as well as in lived example of others in the community where we live especially those who are on the front line working to help and protect all of us from covid19. We come to Pray week in week out to hear the Word of God. We come to share the joys and sufferings of all the community gathered together. During these days we make a spiritual communion with Jesus, risen from the Tomb as we cannot meet together in our churches. When we’re confused about what might happen Jesus Himself will show us the Way.
When we don’t know what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong, the Holy Spirit through the Church and its members will enlighten us and guide us to trust Jesus and one another. The disciples learnt soon after Jesus had left them that they didn’t have ready answers to everything the same as ourselves today. As we learn from the divisions in the early Christian communities, they all had to work together to find a way forward. There are many things Jesus did not tell them, and they had to face the future together with honesty and that too is what we need to do face the future together. Jesus trusted his followers down the ages right to you and me today to face the confusion and complexity of the world. That’s why he doesn’t leave us answers to everything. There’s still a lot of working out to be done by all of us especially theses days.
Looking to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life doesn’t actually solve every question effortlessly. But Jesus knew that! Clearly he wants us to put our faith to work and solve the problems that we encounter in our daily lives and living especially during these more difficult days. During these days of pandemic lockdown we pray that we will trust in the love of God shown to us through Jesus who asks us to trust in him when he said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”
This weekend we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday and the readings especially the Gospel are about Jesus the Good Shepherd. It is also the day when we are requested to pray for vocations to the Priesthood and religious life. Over the past 5 weeks we have been in lockdown with little or nothing happening as a result of COVID19 with the result that all of us wondering when the lockdown will end and it will end but when that will happen is a question that none of us can really answer at this time. The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a lovely thought especially in our current pandemic because it is a well known fact that the shepherd never leaves his sheep outside the sheepfold. If any are outside the sheepfold the shepherd will seek the lost sheep at all costs until they are found. In the same way for us Jesus will seek us out and help us to find our way back into the sheepfold of the faith. In the Old Testament, the shepherd was a metaphor for the leaders of the people of God.
Most often those leaders failed in their responsibilities and many were corrupt. God excoriates the incompetent and sinful leaders who were appointed to shepherd the people which they did not do. With the failures of the leaders of the people, God decided to take on the shepherding role. “For thus says the Lord: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. (Ezekiel 34:11). In today’s gospel Jesus likens Israel’s corrupt shepherds to the “hired man” who has no real interest in the sheep who deserts them when danger approaches, leaving them in peril. The hired shepherd may leave the sheep behind but Jesus the Good shepherd the Son of the Father does not leave his sheep. One of the most comforting of the Psalms which is also a hymn begins with the line: “The Lord is my shepherd.” It ends with this line: “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. “Goodness and mercy, in the person of Jesus the good Shepherd are with us even now in these most difficult of times. The Gospel of the Good Shepherd teaches us how to embrace the gift of redemption by hearing and recognizing the voice of the Good Shepherd.
There are numerous voices calling us to believe and to practice things that might seem nice, but those voices are not of or from the Lord. We need to tune our ears and hearts into recognizing the voice of truth that comes from Jesus, the Good Shepherd. We are his people the sheep of his flock and that means that we are people who are able to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and to follow him faithfully. So In these days of uncertainty we remember Jesus the Good Shepherd and we know that he is with us to help us to get through the current COVID19 crisis.