Easter 2 - Divine Mercy Sunday

Posted on the 11th April 2021 in the category Resources


Divine Mercy Sunday

11 April 2021

 

(As given at St Mark's Church, Swindon New Town)

 

An audio version of the sermon can be found here

 

Gospel

 

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

 

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But He said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.

 

 

Homily

 

‘I will sing for ever of your mercy O Lord!’

Psalm 89.2

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 

The gospel reading we have just heard from St John shows us the Risen Jesus going in search of His own – God urgently wanting to find and restore to His friendship those who through failure and fear during His passion and crucifixion were lost in confusion and guilt.

 

Notice first that it’s a gospel in two halves: two incidents, one week apart. First, Jesus appears on the night of Easter Day itself (Jn 20.19) to the disciples enclosed in the Upper Room; and then, because one of them, Thomas, was missing on that occasion, He showed himself to them again in the same place ‘eight days later’ (Jn 20.26). In these two stories, separated in time but connected in meaning, St John is teaching us what the other evangelists teach us through the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son, and the conversion of penitent thief on Golgotha – that God longs for, and searches for, finds and draws to himself, each single soul. No single soul is beyond God’s initiative. [And that is what we shall affirm when at the moment of confirmation I shall greet each of our candidates by name – Allen, Nicky, Meisha – God has called you by name and made you His own. He has longed for you, searched for you, found you and is drawing you closer to himself.]

 

But I want you to notice something else, something easily missed if you are over-familiar with the story. What connects the two is that on both occasions – both on the day of the Resurrection and eight days later – our Blessed Lord showed the disciples the signs of His crucifixion (see Jn 20.20 as well as 27): those deep and abiding wounds, in His hands, and feet and side, clearly visible and tangible, carved into His glorified and mysteriously transformed Body.

 

Surely that is why Thomas says, ‘Well, though you speak of the wounds you saw, I will not believe your report. I must see them, and touch them for myself.’ And then when he did see them, he ‘who was the last to believe, was the first to make the full confession of the divinity of the Risen Saviour’. Thomas went far beyond what the others may have said, for he who ‘touched Christ as a man, believed in him as a God’. (Fulton Sheen: The Life of Christ, 1958).

 

On those two occasions it was those wounds – wounds He has never lost – that reminded the disciples not only of their failure and denial in the previous days and hours after the Last Supper; but also of their failure, throughout their time with Jesus, to understand – or even accept – His teaching, that He must suffer and die and on the third day rise again.

 

But that is not all. They were also the most persuasive testimony to the unconditional love for the whole of mankind which had been His motivation in giving-up His life to the power of sin and death, and proof of the greatest gift of the resurrection: His forgiveness, peace and new life.

 

In a word those wounds are the greatest testimony to God’s mercy.

 

St John Paul II made a brilliant observation about this passage (Dives in misericordia 8): ‘Here is the Son of God, who in His own resurrection experienced mercy shown to Himself, that is to say He experienced the love of the Father which is more powerful than sin and death. He who had been brought back to life is ‘the definitive incarnation of God’s mercy, its living sign. He gives us all confidence that God’s mercy in our lives is not something small, a means to an end, an optional extra for the devout among us. It is an essential part of the largest and smallest aspects of our faith and prayer.

 

2

But how can we best understand mercy? It seems illusive; and before we know it we are off on a tangent thinking of God’s mercy in terms of human mercy – which seems to have to involve the one being merciful belittling and disempowering the one on the receiving end. But from the teaching and the behaviour of Jesus we can see that divine mercy isn’t like that at all. So let me try to use the encounter with Thomas to say a little bit about why.

 

The Bible gives no arguments for the existence of God. It is a story of a relationship, a series of covenants with a particular people, with plenty of moments of crisis and conflict with God, anger toward him, doubts about His intentions, and a sense of lostness when there is no real sense of His presence. The catastrophic and traumatic experience of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus was a climax to such moments. Despite Jesus’s clear teaching that the God of Israel never runs out of either love or liberty to renew His covenant, the disciples were ‘slow to believe’ the news of the resurrection. Thomas went further and refused to trust anything other than His own experience. Of course in part ‘slow to believe’ means ‘slow to understand’ what was happening – who wouldn’t be? But rather more deeply it means they were ‘slow to trust’ what was happening, because they knew, as never before, the abject failure of their love and discipleship toward Jesus in the hour of His greatest need. They knew their unworthiness and complicity. They were powerless, and they needed God to take the initiative – as He had repeatedly in the history of His people, the initiative that pours out of God simply because God is who Jesus Christ has revealed him to be – the initiative we call His mercy.

 

God IS the truth of His own nature; He IS Father Son and Holy Spirit; He IS an endless circulation of unconditional love and mutual justice and joy, which simply pours itself out on all that His love has created.

 

When that love reaches our sinful hearts and seeks entry we (who are not eternal and grow in faith only slowly) experience it in two ways: First we experience God’s truth. God sees us for the sinners that we are, our weakness, evasion, instability and wrongdoing. To be seen by such an eye of truth hurts, it stings. God sees us; and we know all our fears, pretences and evasions are exposed and judged. Such exposure would be too hard to bear did we not also, in the same moment, experience God’s compassion, the aspect of God’s love that, even while we are exposed before God, makes the truth of our condition bearable and healable. As someone once said, ‘truth makes genuine love possible; love makes real truth bearable’. Such is God’s mercy and it is the way God converts and renews our hearts. Divine mercy is how we finally accept the true God, the living God who will not be fitted into my identity and preferences. God is as the Risen Christ has revealed him: living Truth too great for me to see, but who sees, and judges, me, and because of Jesus does not turn me away but increases His mercy in me, helping me to see myself and others with the same eye of truth and love.

 

3

Thomas was not a doubter; Thomas’s problem was that he was not a truster! But when Jesus rebuked and challenged His unbelief, and bid him touch His wounds (not so he could forget the Cross but so as to make it unforgettable) divine mercy gushed forth from those wounds and Thomas saw and believed, and confessed the victory of divine love: ‘My Lord and my God’.

 

In the Saviour’s resurrection God’s mercy, immense and free, has won victory over sin and death; evil will never be victorious again. Dear Friends, may we be bold enough to open our hearts wide to God and to drink deep of His mercy – both His truth and His compassion – so that that His victory may also live in us, and through us may enliven and feed the lives of others.

 

 

Prayer

 

God, merciful Father, in your Son Jesus Christ you have revealed your love and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. We entrust to you today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman. Bend down to us sinners, heal our weakness, conquer all evil, and grant that all the peoples of the earth may experience your mercy, and find in you the source of hope.

 

Eternal Father, for the sake of the Passion and Resurrection of your Son:

have mercy on us and on the whole world!


Sermon for 2nd Sunday of Easter, 11 April 2021


Stations of the Cross - Station 15

Posted on the 3rd April 2021 in the category Resources


Jesus rises from the dead

 

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.

Because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

 

from the Gospel according to St Mark 16.6-8

But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; He is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as He told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

Meditate on the Scripture

 

Easter does not immediately remove the realities of human life and suffering, but tells us that since Christ is alive in the glory of God, alive in the Church and in history, and as a result of the Church’s testimony alive also in us, it is possible for us to love and hope and believe more and more. Christ assures us that those who live in love, even through the midst suffering and death, are not abandoned by God, but are welcomed, loved, and drawn nearer to the fullness of peace and joy. Those who love receive Christ’s Spirit and are made capable of transmitting life to others around themselves. Through this Easter joy, a joy rooted in the cross of Christ, we shall find ways to announce true hope to our brothers and sisters. ‘This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.’ (1 Jn 5.4) 

 

 

Pray to the Lord

 

We raise our prayers to the only Lord Jesus, who died on the cross and now lives at the Father’s right hand.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy … [Kyrie eleison. Kyrie eleison. …]

 

Lord Jesus, You have opened for us the way to eternal life: Lord, have mercy. …

 

Lord Jesus, You have risen to life to for our justification: Lord, have mercy. …

 

Lord Jesus, You share with us the love that overcomes death: Lord, have mercy. …

 

 

Contemplate …

 

This is the time when Christ visits the soul.

 

 

Store up the Lord’s word to you

 

O Father, who through Your only Son have overcome death and opened for us the gate of life eternal:  grant us to be daily born again in the light and life and love of Your risen Son; through the same Christ our Lord. 

 

O holy Mary pray for us:  that the wounds your Son endured, which pierced your soul also,

may be imprinted in our hearts, and revealed in lives of mercy and peace.

 

 

A Final Prayer

 

Almighty God, it is You who made the heavens and the earth by Your great power, and by Your outstretched arm. Nothing is beyond Your power.  We turn to You in our need, to ask Your protection against coronavirus, which has claimed lives and affected many.  We pray for those afflicted.  May they soon be restored to health.  Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 


2021 Stations of the Cross - Station 15


Stations of the Cross - Introduction

Posted on the 2nd April 2021 in the category Resources


Stations of the Cross 2021

 

On the evening of Easter Day, on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples asked Jesus if He was the only person in Jerusalem who didn’t seem to know about the troubling events leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion, and the even more alarming reports of His resurrection (Lk 24.32).  Jesus turned their question back on them:  ‘How foolish you are; how slow to believe all that the prophets declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things? And beginning with Moses and the prophets, He interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.’

 

On their way to Emmaus Jesus opened for them the meaning of the way of the cross, the via crucis.  It was a personal testimony from Jesus as to how the Messiah had fulfilled the words of the prophets before him.  No wonder their hearts burned within them as they listened. God wants to speak to us too;  He longs for our hearts to burn within us also, as we hear and contemplate the words, and actions, and sufferings of Jesus, and His Passover to glory.

 

Each of these stations is laid out in a traditional format.  With each station this is the pattern:

 

  • Open your heart to the Lord – invocatio
  • Read the Scripture – lectio
  • Search the Scripture by meditating – meditatio
  • Pray to the Lord who has spoken to you – oratio
  • Contemplate – contemplatio
  • Store up the word in your heart
  This devotion is especially suitable to be prayed throughout Good Friday.  The images are the Eric Gill’s original sketches for the sequence of bas reliefs now in Westminster Cathedral:  www.westminstercathedral.org.uk/tour_stations.php.    Several stations could be taken at a sequence, or one at once. You may want to have a cross or an icon of the crucifixion and near it a lighted candle;  alternatively you might find a sequence of images on the internet.  You do not need a copy of the Bible:  all scripture is provided here.    This year, of course, like last year, it will be impossible to gather around the Stations that grace the walls of so many churches around the world.  But nothing prevents us from following it at home, alone or with others in your household.     You may be free of the virus, staying as safe as possible at home;  you may be a health care worker or other key worker risking your life for the common good;  you may be self-isolating or shielding;  or like so many around the world you may have covid-19 or some other troubling illness.   The way of the cross is the way that the whole of humanity travels together this Good Friday, and I pray that this mediation may help you walk the via crucis in your own life, in fellowship with Jesus Christ, and that in His company you may grow in faith and courage. 
+ Jonathan Goodall
 Bishop of Ebbsfleet

Introduction

 

from the Gospel according to St John 13.1 

“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”

 

The painful story of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion can be for each of us a school of life. We too must walk the ‘via crucis’ – in His company, as He is the great teacher of life – if we want to be fully human, if we want to experience and give witness to life and salvation. May Jesus Christ, teach us from His cross, and by His cross, to know who God is. May He teach us to know who man is;  and teach us to know who we are.

 

A year into the pandemic, let us not cease to pray for all those who suffer the consequences in any way, that God our Father may grant health, strength, comfort to those who are affected, and salvation to all who have died.

 

Almighty ever-living God, only support of our human weakness, look with compassion upon the sorrowful condition of Your children who suffer because of this pandemic; relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care for them, welcome into Your peace those who have died and, throughout this time of tribulation, grant that we may all find comfort in Your merciful love. Through Christ our Lord.

 


2021 Stations of the Cross - Introduction


Stations of the Cross - Station 1

Posted on the 2nd April 2021 in the category Resources


Station 1 - Jesus is Sentenced to Death

 

Read the Scripture

 

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.

Because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

 

from the Gospel according to St Matthew 27.1-2, 26

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about His death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

 

from the Gospel according to St Luke 23.20-25

Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’ A third time he said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.’ But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

 

from the Gospel according to St John 19.14-16

Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

 

Meditate on the Scripture

 

By meditating in silence on the way of the cross, and reflecting on the mystery of the cross, we realize that, during His passion and in His death, Jesus loves man as he is – with his sin, with his separation from God, with all his self-inflicted pain and tragedy. Humanity is loved by Jesus with its harsher, harder to accept realism. Only days before His passion Jesus had encountered death in His friend Lazarus; and was greatly troubled in spirit and wept in the face of the degradation of the human form when it is the captive of Death. And from this man too, Pontius Pilate, so realistically loved, Jesus does not recoil, does not flee, does not reject;  but through a love that does not know limits He tries to awaken in him – as in us – the most beautiful capacities of repentance, of conversion, of faith.

 

 

Pray to the Lord

 

Lord Jesus, who loved us to the end, listen now to our prayers.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy … [Kyrie eleison. Kyrie eleison. …]

 

Lord Jesus, You made us rich through Your poverty:  Lord, have mercy. … [Kyrie eleison. …]

 

Lord Jesus, You make us a new creation: Lord, have mercy. … [Kyrie eleison. …]

 

Lord Jesus, who live in us, hope of eternal glory: Lord, have mercy. … [Kyrie eleison. …]

 

 

Contemplate …

 

This is the time when Christ visits the soul.

 

 

Store up the Lord’s word to you

 

O God, whose Son Jesus Christ was put to death for our sins and raised to immortal life, confirm us with Your Spirit of truth, because, with the joy that comes from You, we are ready to answer anyone who asks us reason of the hope that is in us; through the same Christ our Lord.

 

O holy Mary pray for us:  that the wounds your Son endured, which pierced your soul also,

may be imprinted in our hearts, and revealed in lives of mercy and peace.


2021 Stations of the Cross - Station 1


Stations of the Cross - Station 2

Posted on the 2nd April 2021 in the category Resources


Jesus Carries the Cross to Calvary

 

Read the Scripture

 

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.

Because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

 

from the Gospel according to St Matthew 27.27-31

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on His head. They put a reed in His right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put His own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

Thanks be to God.

 


 

Meditate on the Scripture

 

Contemplating the Crucified One, we must learn to see Jesus with the eyes of faith: He is the obedient Son, the Son of God, true man and true God, who as such makes totally real a unique relationship of obedience with the God of His ancestors, who is His Father. Jesus, in the mystery of His passion and of His cross, lives obedience to God with great confidence, and self-abandonment that does not fail in the face of His encounters with those who are not His Father. All men and women can be against him, but He goes straight ahead, in fidelity to His mission.

 

 

Pray to the Lord

 

Let us pray to the eternal Son of God, who came among us to teach us obedience to the Father.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy … [Kyrie eleison. Kyrie eleison. …]

 

Lord Jesus, whom men killed and God released from the anguish of death: Lord, have mercy. … [Kyrie eleison. …]

 

Lord Jesus, servant of God and author of life: Lord, have mercy. … [Kyrie eleison. …]

 

Lord Jesus, who give us the gift of peace: Lord, have mercy. … [Kyrie eleison. …]

 

 

Contemplate …

 

This is the time when Christ visits the soul.

 

 

Store up the Lord’s word to you

 

Make us, O Father, faithful disciples of Christ raised upon the cross.  Help us to overcome the temptations and fears that rise within us, and to walk with him the way to Calvary; through the same Christ our Lord.

 

O holy Mary pray for us:  that the wounds your Son endured, which pierced your soul also,

may be imprinted in our hearts, and revealed in lives of mercy and peace.


2021 Stations of the Cross - Station 2


 

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