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Displaying items by tag: Celebrating At Home

Wednesday, 03 April 2024 12:14

Celebrating At Home - Second Sunday of Easter

A Joyful Meeting, the Spirit Received,
Doubts Transformed (John 20:19-31)

The great Easter feast of last Sunday began the Church’s fifty-day celebration of the Resurrection which concludes with the feast of Pentecost in six weeks.
The Gospel of each Sunday is a meditation on Jesus as: the resurrected Christ, made known in the scriptures and the breaking of the bread, the bearer of life in all its fullness, our way, truth and life, pledge of God’s love.
In today’s Gospel reading there are two stories of transformation through encounter with the risen Jesus.
Firstly, Jesus appears to a group of frightened and bewildered disciples hiding in a room. His first words are, ‘Peace be with you’. Fear and bewilderment turn into joy as the disciples recognise the presence of the Risen Jesus with them. But that’s not all. He then sends them out to be missionaries of peace and forgiveness.
In receiving the Holy Spirit they are transformed from a group of frightened people, hiding in a room, to bold proclaimers of God’s love and mercy.
The second story in today’s Gospel is the one we all know as doubting Thomas, though, really, it should be known as believing Thomas - doubt is only the beginning of the story.
Jesus doesn’t scold or rebuke Thomas. If Thomas is looking for proof, he has only to touch Jesus to see he is real. But Thomas doesn’t do that. It is his personal encounter with Jesus which transforms him from doubter to believer.
It is yet another Gospel reminder that faith is not about believing with our minds or in looking for proof.
It is found only in our living relationship with Jesus.
Perhaps these days give us a bit more time just to sit and chat with Jesus, to recognise him already present in our hearts, to allow our fears and doubts to be overcome by love, to find new, creative ways of transforming darkness into light, peace and joy for others.
May the new life we celebrate over the next fifty days bring us the creativity of Spirit we need to be the living heart of God in our world today.

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Friday, 29 March 2024 12:00

Celebrating At Home - Easter Sunday

An Empty Tomb, Lives Changed Forever,
Enduring Presence (John 20:1-9)

When someone dies, one of the things we often feel is their absence. The rooms where they lived with us, the places where they sat are now empty and our hearts ache.
It’s not hard for us to share Mary’s sense of emptiness and bewilderment when she arrives at the tomb.
If we were to read the next few verses from John’s Gospel, we would read a story of overwhelming joy as Mary Magdalen meets the risen Jesus. When Jesus speaks her name, Mary recognises him and sadness and emptiness give way to joyful reunion.
It’s a story of transformation - how things can change when we meet the risen Jesus.
In a way, we are all caught in tombs which hold loved ones, our experiences of hurt and harm, our fears and anxieties.
What we seem to need above all is presence. Yet, this can be the time when we experience absence most of all - being apart from loved ones, family and friends.
The practice of the presence of God can help us - just frequently reminding ourselves that we always in the presence of God, that we can talk to God as one friend to another, that God is in this moment with us, that God is on our side no matter what comes our way, that God is our constant companion.
Eventually, we will begin to feel more deeply God’s presence, not just beside us, but within us. Eventually, the fears and anxieties, the past hurts, and disrupted relationships begin to melt away.
Where once there was only absence, now there is calm, loving, healing Presence and we know we are not alone. Our tombs begin to empty, and joy becomes possible again.
Resurrection is all about death giving way to life, the impossible becoming possible, absence becoming presence.
May all your tombs be empty!

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Wednesday, 27 March 2024 08:00

Celebrating At Home - Good Friday

Love revealed in the passion
(John 18:1 - 19:42)

Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kedron valley. There was a garden there, and he went into it with his disciples. Judas the traitor knew the place well, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, and he brought the cohort to this place together with a detachment of guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons. Knowing everything that was going to happen to him, Jesus then came forward and said, ‘Who are you looking for?’ They answered, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said, ‘I am he.’ Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. When Jesus said, ‘I am he’, they moved back and fell to the ground. He asked them a second time, ‘Who are you looking for?’ They said, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ Jesus replied, ‘I have told you that I am he. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.’ This was to fulfil the words he had spoken: ‘Not one of those you gave me have I lost’.
Simon Peter, who carried a sword, drew it and wounded the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’

Pause for quiet reflection

The cohort and its captain and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him. They took him first to Annas, because Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had suggested to the Jews, ‘It is better for one man to die for the people’.
Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest’s palace, but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who was keeping the door and brought Peter in. The maid on duty at the door said to Peter, ‘Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples?’ He answered, ‘I am not.’ Now it was cold, and the servants and guards had lit a charcoal fire and were standing there warming themselves; so Peter stood there too, warming himself with the others.
The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly for all the world to hear; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the Jews meet together: I have said nothing in secret.
But why ask me? Ask my hearers what I taught: they know what I said.’ At these words, one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying, ‘Is that the way to answer the high priest?’ Jesus replied, ‘If there is something wrong in what I said, point it out; but if there is no offense in it, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas, the high priest.
As Simon Peter stood there warming himself, someone said to him, ‘Aren’t you another of his disciples?’ He denied it saying, ‘I am not.’ One of the high priest’s servants, a relation of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, ‘Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it; and at once a cock crew.

Pause for quiet reflection

They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves or they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover. So Pilate came outside to them and said, ‘What charge do you bring against this man?’ They replied, ‘If he were not a criminal, we should not be handing him over to you.’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law.’ The Jews answered, ‘We are not allowed to put a man to death.’ This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die. So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him, and asked, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent me being surrendered to the Jews.
But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ Pilate said, ‘So you are a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is you who say it. Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this; to bear witness to the truth, and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’ Pilate said, ‘Truth? What is that?’ And with that he went out again to the Jews and said, ‘I find no case against him.
But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release the king of the Jews?’ At this they shouted, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas.’ Barabbas was a brigand.
Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him and saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ and they slapped him in the face.

Pause for quiet reflection

Pilate came outside and said to them, ‘Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case.’ Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said, ‘Here is the man.’ When they saw him the chief priests and the guards shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him: I can find no case against him.’ The Jews replied, ‘We have a Law, and according to the Law he ought to die, because he has claimed to be the son of God.’ When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased. Re-entering the Praetorium, he said to Jesus, ‘Where do you come from?’ But Jesus made no answer. Pilate then said to him, ‘Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?’ Jesus replied, ‘You would have no power over me if it had not been given you from above; that is why the one who handed me over to you has the greater guilt.’ From that moment Pilate was anxious to set him free, but the Jews shouted, ‘If you set him free you are no friend of Caesar’s; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.’ Hearing these words, Pilate had Jesus brought out, and seated himself on the chair of judgement at a place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha. It was Passover Preparation Day, about the sixth hour. Pilate said to the Jews, ‘Here is your king.’ They said, ‘Take him away, take him away. Crucify him!’ Pilate said, ‘Do you want me to crucify your king?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king except Caesar.’ So in the end Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Pause for quiet reflection

They then took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out of the city to the place of the skull, or, as it was called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side with Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews’. This notice was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was not far from the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate, ‘You should not write ‘King of the Jews’, but ‘This man said: I am King of the Jews’. Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’ When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another, ‘Instead of tearing it, let’s throw dice to decide who is to have it.’ In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled: They shared out my clothing among them. They cast lots for my clothes. This is exactly what the soldiers did.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.
After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed, and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, ‘It is accomplished’; and bowing his head he gave up the spirit.

Pause for quiet reflection

It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the Sabbath - since the Sabbath was a day of special solemnity - the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then the other. When they came to Jesus, they found that he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it - trustworthy evidence, and he knows he speaks the truth - and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture: Not one bone of his will be broken, and again, in another place scripture says: They will look on the one whom they have pierced.
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 the 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.

Pause for quiet reflection

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Tuesday, 26 March 2024 10:11

Celebrating At Home - Holy Thursday

Washing feet, sharing bread and wine:
Love poured out in service

On this night we recall Jesus’ commandment to love one another, his washing of the disciples’ feet and the breaking of the bread of his own life, not just at table, but also on the altar of the Cross, for the healing and nourishment of the world.
The liturgy on Holy Thursday is a meditation on the essential connection between the Eucharist and Christian love expressed in serving one another. Christ is not only present in the Eucharist but also in the deeds of loving kindness offered to others through us.
We are the ones who make ‘real’ the presence of Jesus in every smile, kind word and loving action.

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Monday, 18 March 2024 13:22

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Love revealed
(Mark 15:1-39)

The Passion of Jesus according to Mark

First thing in the morning, the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “It is you who say it” he answered. And the chief priests brought many accusations against him.
Pilate questioned him again. “Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you!” But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.
At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone they asked for. Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate for the customary favour, Pilate answered them: “Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over.
The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead. “But in that case, what am I to do with the man you call king of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” “Why? What harm has he done?” But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the whole cohort together. They dressed him in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”
They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes. They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.
They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The inscription giving the charge against him read: “The King of the Jews.” And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.
The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, “Aha! So you would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!” The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way: “He saved others, he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.” Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.
When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani!” which means “My God, My God, why have you deserted me?” When some of those who stood by heard this, they said “Listen, he is calling on Elijah.” Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink, “Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.” But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, “In truth this man was a son of God.”
There were some women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger, and Joset, and Salome. These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And there were many other women there who had come up to Jerusalem with him.
It was now evening, and since it was Preparation Day, that is the vigil of the sabbath, there came Joseph of Arimathaea, a prominent member of the Council, who himself lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God, and he boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate, astonished that he should have died so soon, summoned the centurion and enquired if he was already dead. Having been assured of this by the centurion, he granted the corpse to Joseph who brought a shroud, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the shroud and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Jesus were watching and took note of where he was laid.

Quiet time for reflection

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Wednesday, 13 March 2024 10:28

Celebrating At Home - 5th Sunday in Lent

A new bond of love and life
(John 12:20-33)

The first reading this Sunday tells us that our journey to transfiguration happens from within, by our hearts being changed. The prophet Jeremiah looks forward to a new covenant between God and his people. This covenant will not be written in stone, but in human hearts. This new covenant cannot be broken since God always forgives and never remembers our sins. It is in our hearts that we learn the truth about the strength of God’s love for us and recognise ourselves as God’s own people.
There is a lovely phrase in the preface of Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I which captures this sense: You have bound the human family to yourself through Jesus your Son, our Redeemer, with a new bond of love so tight that it can never be undone.
The words of John’s Gospel help answer the question about how this covenant is made. God’s love is revealed in a weak and suffering human being through whom God offers his own life as the pledge of love and forgiveness which seals this new covenant.
When some Greeks come asking to see Jesus he knows his preaching is complete and that ‘the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’.
Unless the grain of wheat dies, it remains all alone. If it dies it yields a ‘rich harvest’. Jesus’ death yields a rich harvest of followers with whom and in whom he is always present. We are not left to make the journey from temptation to transfiguration alone - Jesus is our constant companion. He is the way by which we get from one to the other.
Faith in (seeing) Jesus, draws us out of temptation and into transfiguration – to be the living presence of God in the world, the meeting places between human need and God’s compassion, to be light and life for one another.
If we, too, ‘want to see Jesus’ we must look into our own hearts. It is there that God writes his law of love in the person of his Son. It is there that we discover the presence of One who loves us beyond death and who gently refashions us into the image and likeness of his Son.

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Thursday, 07 March 2024 10:29

Celebrating At Home - 4th Sunday in Lent

Being Light in the Darkness
(John 3:14-21)

This Sunday marks a change in the Lenten focus. We are no longer so absorbed by our own limitations and weaknesses in faith. We are more confident of God’s kindness, forgiveness and healing without which we would never dare embark on this journey. We look forward to the Easter celebrations with joy and hope.
On our journey from temptation to transfiguration we are becoming, through faith in Christ, the living presence of God in the world, the light in the darkness.
The first reading today speaks about the re-building of the temple in Jerusalem – a reference back to last Sunday’s Gospel. For the ancient Jews the re-building of their temple was a moment filled with hope and expectation.
Last Sunday Jesus promised the building of a new temple to house the living presence of God and to be the meeting place between God and us.
Our Lenten journey is rebuilding us into the living Body of Christ, into dwelling places for God and meeting places between human beings and God. This is clearly seen when human needs meet God’s compassion through us. That’s when God’s love and light shine in the darkness of human lives.
Today’s Gospel contains a number of important statements of our faith: God loved the world so much that he sent his Son, not to condemn, but to save; the Son must be lifted up (crucified and resurrected) so that all who believe might have eternal life; those who do the truth come out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that their good deeds are done in God.
The Gospel reassures us of God’s love and our salvation in Christ, and calls us to be the Light, to do the truth of God’s love by being God’s heart in the world.

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Tuesday, 27 February 2024 12:41

Celebrating At Home - 3rd Sunday in Lent

Cleansing our hearts
(John 2:13-25)

The Gospels of the last two Sundays showed us that the Christian journey is from Temptation to Transfiguration. The Gospels of the next three Sundays of Lent present Jesus as the road (or The Way, as the early Christians referred to him) from temptation to transfiguration.
In the Old Testament scriptures the idea of the people of Israel being ‘the people of God’ is clearly established. By their behaviour they were to be a ‘light to the nations’, and the dwelling-place of God’s presence. Only much later did the idea of God dwelling in a building called a temple develop. Even so, the Jews never lost the sense that they were to be God’s own people.
The reading from Exodus commonly known as the Ten Commandments gives a pattern for God’s people to live in right relationship with God and neighbour; to be the dwelling-place of God’s presence.
In today’s Gospel we find a deeply passionate Jesus causing a near-riot in the outer precincts of the Temple. In John’s Gospel Jesus’ prophetic actions have less to do with ‘cleansing the Temple’ than with saying that the Temple is no longer the way to be in right relationship with God.
According to John, Jesus is the new, living temple of God’s presence and the meeting place between God and his people. Jesus is the way to be in right relationship with God and neighbour.
In our Catholic tradition we often refer to ourselves as ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’. We recognise that
we are sacred beings destined for union with God, people in whom the reign of God’s goodness
should be clearly seen in word, thought and action.
Lent is a time to decide what our life is about and what is important. Like Jesus in the Temple maybe we need to put an end to ways of thinking and behaving which clutter our lives, obscure God’s presence and fail to bring life to others.
As members of the Body of Christ we, too, are to be the place where God is found on earth.

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Tuesday, 20 February 2024 08:50

Celebrating At Home - 2nd Sunday in Lent

From temptation to transfiguration 2
(Mark 9:2-10)

This Sunday’s Gospel of the Transfiguration completes the ‘little parable’ formed by the Gospels of the first two Sundays of Lent.
These Gospels tell us what Lent is about and what Christian life is about: a constant journey from temptation and doubt to transfiguration and faith.
Transfiguration means to be ‘shot-through’ with the presence of God. Being transfigured is about allowing the presence of God to completely transform us. It is a revolution of mind and heart driven by God’s Spirit and enabled by our open heartedness. Our life as Christians is about being transfigured by the Spirit of God so that God is seen in, and experienced through, us. That is what Peter, James and John saw in the transfigured Jesus.
The journey to transfiguration requires faith and perseverance. The story of Abraham in the first reading is a story of great faith and trust. Abraham faced the loss of his dearly loved son, the source of all his hope for the future. He trusted and his son was spared. That was a clear sign to Abraham that God is about bringing life, not death, to his people.
It takes faith and perseverance to dare to allow ourselves to be driven by the passion, hope and vision of God rather than our own desires and wants.
Listening to the living word of the ‘Beloved Son’ forms in us the heart of God.

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Thursday, 15 February 2024 08:35

Celebrating At Home - 1st Sunday in Lent

From Temptation to Transfiguration
(Mark 1:12-15)

Our great Lenten journey has begun! It’s a journey which begins in ash and ends in water. Fire is a profound part of our experience. We know its power to destroy, blacken and reduce to ash.
We know that evil can do the same - destroy our wholeness of spirit, blacken our lives and reduce the beauty of human life to so much dust.
We begin Lent in the ash of acknowledging our own part in harbouring, creating and doing evil - those places in our hearts where the fire of anger, bitterness, selfishness or narrowness of mind and heart has left nothing but cold ash.
The ash is a reminder that our true life is not found in mortal things which eventually turn to dust, but in eternal things. We also know that out of ash new life can bud, grow strong, bloom into fullness - that’s the Easter miracle.
As always, the Gospels of the first two Sundays in Lent provide a road map for our Lenten journey from temptation (this Sunday) to transfiguration (next Sunday).
We allow ourselves to be tempted out of the ash of selfishness and narrowness of heart and into a life of open-hearted goodness. We celebrate God’s graciousness to us by sharing what we have with those in need whether it be food, wealth, time, love, friendship or compassion. That’s what it means to ‘repent and believe the Good News’.
In these days when we are so conscious of the impact of human life on God’s creation, perhaps we could think about some permanent fasting from our excessive consumption of power, food and petrol in order to allow our earth to heal, to breathe and to continue to be a source of nourishment and life for the whole human family.

Quiet time for reflection
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