FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT – YEAR A

PRIEST:      In just two weeks time we shall celebrate the incomparable joy of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus foreshadows his own resurrection by bringing his friend Lazarus from the tomb into life. He reveals to all that he is victorious over death itself.  But the greatest victory Jesus wins is over the death that is sin, which distorts and wounds our world with its oppressive structures.  Let us repent, and invite Jesus to rise victorious over sin and oppression within us, unbinding us and setting us free.

READER:      For not setting free those trapped in the tombs
of war and violence, poverty, oppression and modern slavery;
                            for not loving enough to free people from loneliness & depression

                                              LORD HAVE MERCY…

When we bind each other by our criticism and condemnation;
                             for entombing others in our un-forgiveness and harshness

                                              CHRIST HAVE MERCY…

Because you call our name and draw us out of death and sin
                             into life, freedom, wholeness, holiness and humanity

                                              LORD HAVE MERCY…

PRIEST:    You are a God of Life, not of death:
                       may your mercy unbind us and heal us,
                       your word call us into life and reconciliation,
                       and your forgiveness lead us to perfect freedom,
                       drawing us to everlasting life…

                                                  AMEN!

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT – YEAR A

For our Universal Pastor, Pope Francis, that God will gift him with strength, wisdom and courage as he serves to unbind the Church from all dysfunction and disunity,  lead us along the paths of reform and renewal and inspire us for mission, that we might proclaim Life to a world seeking to discover how to live with renewed humanity: 

                    [READER]          UNBIND US,  LORD…
                    [response:]         SET US FREE!

For a world held bound by poverty, drugs, alcohol, injustice and exploitation; for a world imprisoned in cycles of war, violence and the lust for power that leads to aggression; for a world struggling to be free to live in harmony with creation and in peace with each other: that we may have the courage to be prophets of the Justice and Peace of Christ

                    [READER]          UNBIND US,  LORD…

For all held captive and bound by depression and their wounded past, that they experience healing’s freedom; for all who care for or counsel the depressed and emotionally wounded, that wise and profound listening might set free from inner darkness; for the healing of all scarred by memories of terror in the countries from which they have fled

                    [READER]          UNBIND US,  LORD…

For all bound up and entombed in poverty and modern forms of slavery, that they will know their dignity; that the leaders of nations and economies will work together to combat the global Coronavirus pandemic and create greater equality of health care provision in the developing nations; for all suffering from famine, racism and class inequality,  and for those surviving in the world’s refugee camps

                    [READER]          UNBIND US,  LORD…

For those who have neglected their life of faith, that in the enforced solitude of these dark days, they will hear and answer the call of Jesus to return to closeness with God;  that this Holy Week all will embrace the Christ who has died for love of them

                       [READER]          UNBIND US,  LORD…

For all serving the sick and victims of the Coronavirus: for nurses, doctors and carers; for the police, emergency services and the army drafted in to support our communities at this time; for those clearing refuse from our streets, those serving our supermarkets and food shops, and all other essential workers 

                           [READER]          UNBIND US,  LORD…

That the sick be unbound from their suffering by the healing voice of Christ: …
that the dead may be unbound for eternal glory, in particular those who died because of the Coronavirus and all killed in the cycles of war, violence and famine around the world;
and those whose anniversaries are at this time: …

                    [READER]          UNBIND US,  LORD…

Mary, Prophet of the Poor, pray with us to unbind the world of injustice    

HAIL MARY… 

Let us pray for other needs in a moment of silence…

 

A REFLECTION FOR THIS PRESENT TIME

“Jesus’ life of love is not a self-preserving love. It is not a hands-off-for-fear-of-getting-hurt love. It is not a passive love. It is not a love that refuses to deeply invest in relationship. What we see in Christ is sacrificial love. Merciful love. Love that values the well-being of others above itself. Love that will generously and fully pour itself out, whatever the cost, in order that the beloved might benefit, flourish, and thrive.” By Krish Kandiah

POPE FRANCIS REFLECTS ON JESUS AND THE STORM

The words of Pope Francis as he leads the global Church in prayer for the whole world. The famous columns reading out from the Basilica of St Peter’s symbolise the Church embracing the world in love and prayer – a ope that casts out fear and heals wounds. Will we be part of that loving, prayer-filled embrace?

Pope Francis says:

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.

It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).

Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).

FEAST OF ST OSCAR ROMERO, MARTYR & BISHOP

This took place after the Homily of the Mass, an alternative ‘Litany of the Saints’

SUMMONING THE MARTYRS       Oscar and other names of El Salvadoran martyrs  are called, all respond ‘Presente!’ 

Not long before his death, Oscar Romero said:
‘My Life has been threatened many times. I have to confess that, as a Christian, I don’t believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the People of El Salvador. If they carry out their threats, I want you to know that I now offer my blood to God for justice and the resurrection of El Salvador. Martyrdom is a grace of God I do not feel worthy of. But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, my hope is that my blood will be like a seed of liberty and a sign that our hopes will soon be a reality.’

It is our firm belief as Christians that those who have died in Christ are now fully alive in the Risen Lord, and that they are present with us in the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that spurs us on to serve the Kingdom even at the cost of our own lives. Let us now, in a manner traditional in Latin America, recognise the living and life-giving presence of the martyrs for Justice in El Salvador and elsewhere in Latin America.

St Oscar Romero Archbishop of San Salvador, Saint of the Americas     PRESENTE

Bishop Juan Gerardi of Guatemala, killed for telling the truth     PRESENTE

Dom Helder Camara of Brazil, who lived for the Poor     PRESENTE

Fr Rutilio Grande, whose death challenged Oscar with reality     PRESENTE

Sr Maura Clarke and Sr Ita Ford, Maryknoll Missionaries in El Salvador         PRESENTE

Jean Donovan and Sr Dorothy Kazel, who loved the Roses in December         PRESENTE

Fr Alfonso Navarro, Fr Rafael Palacios, Fr Alirio Macias and Fr Manuel Reyes, 

who were buried by Oscar Romero and the prepared the way for him       PRESENTE

The Jesuit Martyrs of the University of Central America, who died because they unmasked the lies:

Fr Ignatio Ellacuria and Fr Segundo Montes     PRESENTE

Fr Ignatio Martin-Baro and Fr Amando Lopez     PRESENTE

Fr Juan Ramon Moreno and Fr Joaquin Lopez y Lopez     PRESENTE

Their co-workers Elba and Celina Ramos, beloved daughters of God            PRESENTE

And the 80,000 other men, women and children killed by the politics of terror and the servants of death     PRESENTE

ACT OF COMMITMENT      Pledge of our Commitment

On this 40th Anniversary of the martyrdom of St Oscar Arnulfo Romero, we stand alongside the people of El Salvador in their rejoicing and their sorrow; we stand alongside the oppressed and impoverished people through Latin America; we stand alongside everyone scattered over the face of our beautiful but unjust world who are dehumanised by injustice, oppression, violence and discrimination; we stand alongside our refugee and sanctuary-seeking sisters and brothers; and we stand alongside Pope Francis as he calls us to be ‘a Church of the Poor, a Church for the Poor’, a ‘field hospital’ for the oppressed.

And as we stand alongside them in this sacred moment of remembering, of solidarity and communion, we wish to renew our commitment to the Gospel as Good News to the Poor, and to humanity clothed in divine dignity.

ALL: We believe in a God who has created all the world and its resources to be shared by all the world’s people…

Therefore we commit ourselves to a life-style that seeks to share more than possess and to struggle for a more just distribution of the world’s resources and wealth.

 We believe in a God who has made every human person in the divine image and likeness, worthy of an infinite dignity and reverence…

Therefore we commit ourselves to working for justice and challenging everything that dehumanises and brutalises our brothers and sisters.

We believe that human beings are capable  of living together in peace and sharing together with equality and justice…

Therefore we commit ourselves to challenging the violence and naming the evil that is war and the arms trade, to live in peace with all people and our creation, and to seek peaceful ways of resolving every conflict.

Inspired by St Oscar Romero and the multitude of unnamed prophets for Justice who have given their lives in the struggle, we commit ourselves to walk the same path of the Kingdom, to live out our lives in solidarity with the poor, in communion with our planet and to build always the ‘civilisation of love’ for all the world’s children.

FEAST OF ST OSCAR ROMERO, MARTYR & BISHOP

Romero was a courageous Bishop who listened to the cries of the poor – we pray for the whole People of God that with Pope Francis leadership we might truly become ‘the Church of the Poor, the church for the Poor’

[reader]          LORD WE PRAY
[response]    Give us courage 

Romero spoke Truth to Power, who then tried to silence his voice by murder – we pray that we will too will speak Truth to power whatever sacrifice this demands: we pray all political leaders that they will listen and know they are servants of the people

[reader]          LORD WE PRAY
[response]    Give us courage

Romero was a man of peace in the midst of war and terror – we pray for the peace of our world in these conflicted times, especially in the Middle East, Central Africa and Cameroon

[reader]          LORD WE PRAY
[response]    Give us courage

Romero was the voice of the voiceless in El Salvador – we pray for the marginalised and impoverished whose voices are rarely heard; for the millions of refugees and asylum-seekers that the rich world will listen to their cries, especially at this tim o f international emergency; for the victims of torture, abuse and exploitation, in particular victims of modern slavery that they be set free and healed

[reader]          LORD WE PRAY
[response]    Give us courage

Romero was a model Bishop – compassionate pastor and powerful prophet – we pray for our bishops and all pastoral leaders that they will learn from Romero as they lead and encourage the People of God 

[reader]          LORD WE PRAY
[response]    Give us courage

Romero had a passion for Justice and love for the Poor that led him to sacrifice friendships and eventually his life – we pray that we might love with the sacrificial love of Christ in order to bring True Justice to the nations

[reader]          LORD WE PRAY
[response]    Give us courage

Romero found in Mary the poor virgin of Nazareth inspiration to abandon himself into God’s hands – may we too drink from the same well of the Spirit

[reader]           HAIL MARY…

We pray for the poor and exploited of the world in a moment of silence…

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A

That God’s People will reject every darkness and choose the Light of Christ, and free our world of injustice and poverty so that all can live together in joy, freedom and equality

SHINE ON US,  LORD…
              [response]         WITH THE LIGHT OF YOUR LOVE

Before the harsh darkness of war and violence in Syria and Yemen, before the harsh darkness of the millions in refugee camps yearning for freedom, peace and a place to belong: we stand with their afflicted peoples; we pray the light of peace to come and never be extinguished;

SHINE ON US,  LORD…
              [response]         WITH THE LIGHT OF YOUR LOVE

We pray for all of us unable to share in Mass and sacraments at this time because of the Health Crisis, that being deprived of that which we love so much might deepen our hunger, make more profound our faith and enlarge our love:   may we each know God’s closeness and blessing and may the joy of following Christ touch their hearts

SHINE ON US,  LORD…
              [response]         WITH THE LIGHT OF YOUR LOVE

We pray for all who are suffering from the effects of Global Warming: rising oceans, more extreme weather conditions and pollution of the oceans – may we see the light and change our life-styles so as to heal our planet for future generations; we pray especially on this Mothers’ Day for all mothers who have to watch their children suffer or die of famine and preventable disease 

SHINE ON US,  LORD…
              [response]         WITH THE LIGHT OF YOUR LOVE

We pray for our mothers on this Mothering Sunday, thanking them for choosing to love us; we pray for mothers who know the sorrow of bereavement or separation, especially those mothers who are forcibly separated from their children because of having to seek safe refuge in a foreign land;  for single mothers as they seek to give all the love needed by their children; and for children who do not experience a mother’s love; for all women whose yearnings for a child has not yet been fulfilled

SHINE ON US,  LORD…
              [response]         WITH THE LIGHT OF YOUR LOVE

For our nation and many nations around the world faced with the challenge of the Coronavirus crisis; for  our NHS and other nations Health Services as they struggle to bring healing to their populations; for those who jobs are threatened by the measures imposed: may we all act responsibly, caring for each other and seeking the common good
                                             SHINE ON US,  LORD…
              [response]         WITH THE LIGHT OF YOUR LOVE

For healing for all afflicted with blindness;  for light for all trapped in the darkness of depression; for those suffering from the Coronavirus and those who care for them: and especially for …
For all who have died recently, especially … and those who have died because of contracting COVID 19
and all whose anniversaries are at this time

SHINE ON US,  LORD…
              [response]         WITH THE LIGHT OF YOUR LOVE

Mary,  bring the light of Christ’s love to all mothers…

                                                   HAIL MARY…

Let us pray in a moment of silence…

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A

PRIEST:    Today we rejoice:  it is ‘Laetare Sunday’ – a day to celebrate that the call to Lenten conversion is a call to a deeper joy. We hear the Gospel of the healing of the blind man at the pool of Siloam. Our deepest joy is to grow into Christ; to reflect his light onto our tragically war-torn and poverty-stricken world; to embrace his world with a love that will heal humanity’s blindness to injustice and oppression.  That today is also ‘Mothering Sunday’ gives us yet more reason to rejoice as we thank God for the gift of the mothers who have given us life and love.  Let us ask forgiveness for so many refusals to recognise the depth of God’s love for us,  sometimes our mother’s love for us…

READER:      When we refuse to see the evil of war
                            when we will not see the suffering or joy of those around us;
when we have closed our eyes and hearts to another’s need for friendship and caring …

                                              LORD HAVE MERCY …

For ignoring the injustices in our world or in our own hearts;
when we take for granted the love of our mothers and families and fail to give thanks –
                             when we do not tell those to whom we are close that we love them …

                                              CHRIST HAVE MERCY …

When we will not see and trust in God’s deep love for us;
                               when pain or crisis makes us blind to the God who holds us,
and to friends who care for us …

                                              LORD HAVE MERCY …

PRIEST:      May the God of joy set us free with loving mercy;
                         may Jesus our Brother heal us of wilful blindness to love;
                         may the Holy Spirit wash us clean in the pool of God’s compassion and forgiveness;
                         and bring us all to everlasting life…

                                                 AMEN!

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A

PRIEST:      Jesus comes among us, to offer the Water of New Life to all the peoples of the world.  He calls us to drink deeply of His Spirit and come to a new beginning. As with the Samaritan woman of today’s Gospel, so with us – Jesus knows us through and through! Being the Face of the Father’s mercy He reaches out to the most excluded and scorned! Sadly the LGBT+ community is too often the victim of such treatment. However we can all treat others with rejection with words and actions that wound and condemn! Let us all with honesty recognise when we judge and so exclude others from our hearts. Let us bring our need for repentance and forgiveness to Him, and then drink of His mercy and His Spirit.

READER:      When we take God’s presence and love for us so much for granted,
                            neglect to pray, to drink from His well…

                                               LORD HAVE MERCY…

When we neglect the mission of Christ locally or globally,
when we reject others rather than offer the water of the Holy Spirit
                              to those around us thirsting for meaning and healing in their lives…

                                               CHRIST HAVE MERCY…

When we do not want to know God’s will for us,
when we will not recognise God’s love and acceptance of those we want to reject
                              when we will not allow our plans to be disturbed by another’s need…

                                               LORD HAVE MERCY…

PRIEST:    May the all-loving Father draw us to himself,
                      May His Redeeming Son, our brother Jesus, give us to drink of His mercy,
                      May the Holy Spirit be water of Life to forgive, cleanse and heal us,
                      and may we all come to everlasting life…

                                                AMEN!