Reflections on Daily Readings

May 2nd - May 29th, 2021

May 2nd to May 8th, 2021

The Season of Easter – The Fifth Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle I.

Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 21; 1John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

Our first reading sees Saul after his conversion on the road to Damascus. The disciples still feared him but Barnabas speaks on his behalf and they accept him. However, his time with them is short lived because he has to flee from those who wanted to kill him because of his positive preaching about the Risen Christ. In the second reading, St John reduces the commandments to two basic instructions: belief in Christ and love of neighbour. This is nothing new for Christ had said this himself but John is reminding us to keep these two commandments knowing that if we do then God will live in each of us. In the gospel, Christ tells us that he is the true vine and we are the branches. Those of us who believe in Christ will be looked after but those who ignore him will wither and be gathered up for burning as rubbish. Only if we believe in him can we achieve eternal happiness and bear much fruit and thereby give glory to God.

Feast of Sts Philip & James the Apostles

1 Cor 15:1-8; Psalm 21; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8

Very little is known about St Philip beyond the few mentions of him in the Gospels. According to tradition, he preached the Gospel at Phrygia and died at Hierapolis, where he may have been martyred. Philip was originally a disciple of John the Baptist. The St James we celebrate today is the son of Alphaeus, also known as James the Less (that is, the Younger). He was the first Bishop of Jerusalem and the author of the epistle in the Bible which bears his name. He was martyred in 62ad either by stoning or by being thrown from the top of the Temple.

Acts 14:19-28; Psalm 144; John 14:27-31

In our first reading today we see that Saints Paul and Barnabas are still suffering for their preaching but they continue to preach and to give strength to the Christian communities which they visit. Paul also reminds the faithful that believing in Christ will cause hardship as he himself can testify but the reward is worth the suffering. In the gospel, Jesus gives his peace to the disciples before he leaves them. It is a peace which is not of human origins and therefore is greater and more liberating. It is a peace which this world badly needs but does not want to try. It is for us as Christians to convince the world that this is the only way to true happiness and fulfilment.

Acts 15:1-6; Psalm 121; John 15:1-8

In today’s first reading we see that Saints Paul and Barnabas are now back in Antioch following their first missionary journey to the Gentiles. We see them in a debate with other Christian preachers and Pharisees about circumcision and are being sent to Jerusalem to speak with the Apostles on the matter. In the gospel, Christ says that he is the true vine and that we are its branches. If we believe in him then we will bear much fruit, but if we do not believe, then we are good for nothing and will be pruned away. If we believe in him he will grant all our prayers especially if that prayer is a prayer for an increase in our own faith so that we can do his will.

Acts 15:7-21; Psalm 95; John 15:9-11

Today’s first reading marks a key moment in the early Christian Church. The first Council of the Church is held in Jerusalem at which the practice of preaching to the Gentiles without them having to undergo circumcision is approved. It is a turning point also because the new Church has now broken away from the Jewish faith and laws and begins making its own laws and traditions. It is also the last time that St Peter and the Apostles are mentioned as St Luke now concentrates on the growth of the Church among the Gentiles which is the particular ministry of St Paul. In today’s gospel text, Christ tells his listeners that they are to love one another in the same way that he has loved them. To love like Christ is to make our decisions in a Christ-like manner and so overcome the hurt that others may have inflicted upon us. To love like Christ is not always easy, but when we realise that Christ is present in each one of us, then we also realise that what we do to another person we do to Christ.

Acts 15:22-31; Psalm 56; John 15:12-17

The Council in Jerusalem now sends Saints Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with chosen helpers to strengthen the people and to inform them of their decision which was guided by the Holy Spirit. The letter which Paul and his companions carry to the new communities to explain the decision of the Council of Jerusalem is a prototype of the official documents and encyclicals which have been issued by popes ever since. Continuing yesterday’s theme of love, today’s gospel passage sees Christ giving his followers the commandment to love more forcefully than in yesterday’s text. In the Old Testament, Moses and the prophets were known as ‘servants of God’ but Jesus calls us his friends which implies a far more personal relationship which is available to each and every one of us. Christ was willing to give his life for his friends so we should be willing to give our lives for Christ – our brother and our friend.

Acts 16:1-10; Psalm 99; John 15:18-21

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles sees St Paul setting out on his second missionary journey to the Gentiles which will take him as far as Corinth in Greece. He has a vision from God who tells him to spend time bringing the faith to what is modern day Greece. He is joined by St Timothy and also, scholars believe, by St Luke the Evangelist and author of the book. This is suggested by the use of the word ‘we’ in the last paragraph which tells us that Luke was a witness to part, at least, of what he records in the Acts. In the gospel, Christ tells his listeners that they will be persecuted for the sake of his name just as he too was persecuted. We all suffer in some way – from broken relationships, bad health, financial difficulties. But how much, if any, of our sufferings are a result of our being Christian? The world rejected Christ 2,000 years ago and, in truth, it hasn’t improved much since but continues to reject that which shows up its own weaknesses and shortcomings. As Christians we should be willing to be rejected by the world but that will only happen if we are brave enough to be real Christians. Paul was persecuted for Christ but it did not stop him carrying out his work for the Lord, and look at the legacy which he left. What sort of a legacy could we collectively leave were we to openly follow the path of Christ?

May 9th to May 15th, 2021

The Season of Easter – The Sixth Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle I.

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Psalm 97; 1John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

In our first reading St Peter is teaching a group of pagans who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as he speaks to them. Some of his Jewish followers are amazed that pagans should receive the gift that they believed only true followers could receive but Peter reminds them that God’s message is for all people regardless of their nationality or race or skin colour. St John speaks to us in the second reading about the love of God and tells us that God is love and that he revealed his love by sending his Son into the world for us. This theme of love is continued in the gospel where Christ tells us to remain in his love and we do this by keeping the commandments and loving God above all else. If we live in love we will reach out to others no matter where they come from and we will work to build up the kingdom of God in peace, harmony and love. In the text, Christ also tells us that he is commissioning each of us to go out and spread this love where ever we may find ourselves. He has called us and he is waiting for our reply and our full commitment.

Acts 16:11-15; Psalm 149; John 15:26-16:4

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see St Paul on his second mission to the Gentiles to preach the Gospel of Christ, this time in the area of Macedonia. He begins preaching in Philippi and is well received by the people. His preaching is so powerful and full of the Spirit that people readily accept Jesus as their saviour. In the gospel, Jesus is assuring his followers that he will leave them a strong witness to assist them after he has gone from them. The witness is the Holy Spirit. Christ is fully aware of the trials and persecutions which are to befall his followers but he is equally aware that with the aid of the Holy Spirit they will be able to endure and so be victorious. We too will be strengthened if we allow the Spirit to work in us.

Acts 16:22-34; Psalm 137; John 16:5-11

Today’s first reading tells us of the imprisonment of St Paul and his companion Silas. They had freed a girl of an evil spirit which now meant that she was useless to her masters. These same masters had Paul and Silas imprisoned because of their lost earnings now that she was freed from possession. However, this is turned into an occasion of teaching and conversion when they are freed from their chains and the gaoler sees this. As a result, the gaoler is converted to the faith. In the gospel, Jesus tells his followers that if he were to remain with them they would not receive the Holy Spirit. By his going all is accomplished and the reign of the Spirit in the hearts of all humankind can begin. The Spirit is always with us but unless we undergo personal conversion – like the gaoler in the first reading – the Spirit’s presence will be lost to us.

Acts 17:15, 22-18:1; Psalm 148; John 16:12-15

In the first reading St Paul is now in Athens, the artistic and spiritual centre of Greece in Paul’s day. Paul’s first impression of the city is not a good one and he resolves to bring about change in the hearts of the people. He preaches at the Areopagus and uses the philosophy of the ancient Greeks in his arguments. Some laugh at his teaching while others believe and follow him. Jesus, in the gospel text, continues to talk to the disciples about the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit we too will be led to the complete truth but only if we truly believe and are open to that truth and are willing to listen to the Spirit in our midst. If not, we will be no better than those who laughed at Paul in Athens.

Acts 18:1-8; Psalm 97; John 16:16-20

Today we see St Paul in southern Greece, in the city of Corinth, a city well known for its sexual immorality. Paul goes several times to the synagogue to persuade the people about Jesus but when they refuse to listen to him he goes instead to the Gentiles. Again his Spirit-filled teaching wins over many new believers. The gospel passage from St John sees Jesus preparing the disciples for his Ascension which quickly approaches. While they will be sorry to lose his physical presence they will rejoice in his glory and in the spread of the Gospel. So too, we should rejoice in the Gospel and its message to all peoples.

Feast of St Matthias the Apostle

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; Psalm 112; John 15:9-17

Very little is known about St Matthias except that he is the one who was chosen by the Eleven to take the place of Judas Iscariot. He appears to have spent time working in Judaea before going east to Cappadocia. He is believed to have been martyred at Colchis and his relics later brought to Rome by St Helena.

Acts 18:23-28; Psalm 26; John 16:23-28

In the first reading from the Acts we see St Paul visiting the Christian community in Antioch. From here he sets off on his third missionary journey, this time to Galatia in modern-day Turkey. We are also introduced to Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, who openly teaches about Christ and helps the believers. In the gospel, Christ is again reassuring the disciples as he prepares to leave them. He tells them that we should pray earnestly to God with full confidence while making all our prayers in the Lord’s own name.

May 16th to May 22nd, 2021

The Season of Easter – The Seventh Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle I.

The Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 46; Ephesians 4:1-13; Mark 16:15-20

Our first reading today recounts the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. It was now forty days after his resurrection and he had appeared to the apostles on numerous occasions but now they see him face to face for the last time. As they are speaking he is taken up into heaven. St Paul in the second reading implores us to live a life which is worthy of our vocation. We all have the common vocation of being God’s sons and daughters and living as Christians but the vocation manifests itself in different ways according to the skills each of us has. In the gospel we read St Mark’s account of the ascension and before he leaves them we see Jesus sending his disciples out into the world to preach in his name. As the successors to the disciples we too are commissioned to go out and to preach the word of God to all peoples and to let them see and feel his compassion and his love.

Acts 19:1-8; Psalm 67; John 16:29-33

In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles today we see St Paul on his third missionary journey in what is present-day Turkey. Paul arrives in the port town of Ephesus, where he will remain for almost three years – the longest he stayed anywhere. Today we learn from him that baptism in to the Christian faith does not complete our lives. Only the gift of the Holy Spirit can do this. In the gospel, Christ tells the disciples that they are about to leave him and be scattered. They will do so in order to spread the Gospel throughout the world. He also tells them that this will not be an easy task. We, as heirs of the first disciples, have a duty to help spread the Gospel and we should have no fear in this for Christ, as he says in the text, has already conquered the world.

Acts 20:17-27; Psalm 67; John 17:1-11

Today’s reading from the Acts sees St Paul bringing his time with the Ephesians to a close after almost three years. He is leaving to go to Jerusalem though he does not know what lies in store for him there. The parting is sad and emotional. In our gospel today, Christ is praying to the Father and making an account of his doings on earth. His work has finished but those who are left behind must now continue the spread of that work.

Acts 20:28-38; Psalm 67; John 17:11-19

Today’s first reading continues St Paul’s emotional farewell to the Ephesians. He warns them that they will face trials of faith after he has gone but he commends them to God’s protection. The reading also reveals the affection the Ephesians had for Paul. Jesus is praying to the Father in the gospel and asking that his followers be kept faithful and unified in their work and belief. He then calls them together so that they may dedicate themselves to the work he is leaving them.

Acts 22:30, 23:6-11; Psalm 15; John 17:20-26

Today’s reading from the Acts sees St Paul on trial in Jerusalem where many of the Jewish community are not happy that he has abandoned aspects of the Law of Moses. Paul has been arrested – partly for his own safety – and he now stands trial before the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Supreme Court. From this too he has to be rescued by the tribune who fears for Paul’s safety. In a vision at the end of the text, the Lord tells Paul that he is now to go to Rome. In the gospel, Jesus prays to the Father and asks that all believers may be unified. He also prays for strength for his followers who carry his Gospel to all peoples. We too are called on to witness to Christ wherever he may send us knowing that he is always with us to guide and protect us.

Acts 25:13-21; Psalm 102; John 21:15-19

In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see that following his unfinished trial before the Sanhedrin a group of Jews conspire against St Paul. He is now in Caesarea but knows that he won’t get a fair trial in Jerusalem and so asks that, as a Roman citizen, he be tried in Rome itself. In this Paul is complying with Christ’s vision for him to go and preach the Gospel in Rome from the end of yesterday’s reading. Today’s gospel text is a well-known one in which Christ asks St Peter if he loves him. He also gives Peter a hint as to how Peter is to die. Peter, having denied Christ three times, now affirms three times that he does indeed love him. While it is easy for us to say we love Christ, would it be easy for others to see it by how we live our lives?

Acts 28:16-20, 30-31; Psalm 10; John 21:20-25

St Paul has now arrived in Rome in our first reading, and quickly sets about teaching about Christ while still under house arrest. This is the conclusion of the Acts of the Apostles and St Luke ends it here to show that the fledgling church has now spread well beyond Jerusalem and has now reached Rome – the centre and capital of the world as they knew it. In today’s reading from St John’s gospel we have the closing verses of that gospel. The author tells us that though a lot has been written about Christ there is so much more that could be written. What we have is all that we need for our faith – if we are willing to accept it.

May 23rd to May 29th, 2021

Ordinary Time – The Eight Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle I.

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 103; Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:26-27, 16:12-15

In our first reading we read of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and how they immediately went out and began preaching to people about the Risen Lord. Not only did they preach but they were able to do so in many languages so that everyone who heard them that day could understand what they were saying, such was the power of the Holy Spirit at work in them. St Paul urges his readers in the second reading to live by the Holy Spirit because if we don’t then we cannot inherit the kingdom which has been promised to us. The Spirit is life and so we must allow ourselves to be directed by the Spirit. In the gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that he will send them the Holy Spirit and he tells them that the Spirit will help them to come to the complete truth. They will then be his witnesses before the whole world and what they proclaim will be Christ’s message.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

Genesis 3:9-15 or Acts 1:12-14; Psalm 87; John 19:25-34

From the cross Jesus entrusted Mary to his disciples as their mother and entrusted his disciples to Mary as her children. Mary, present with the disciples at Pentecost, prayed with them as the Holy Spirit descended. Mary has never ceased to take motherly care of the pilgrim church on earth.

Ecclesiasticus 35:1-12; Psalm 49; Mark 10:28-31

Today, our first reading calls on us to “honour the Lord with generosity” and to keep his laws. What we have has come from the Lord and therefore we should share it with others so that they too may feel the love of God through us. The author – Ben Sirach – also tells us that those who give will be rewarded, but that our generosity must not be for any show of piety but must be genuine. In the Gospel passage we are reminded that the reward promised to us is nothing short of eternal life. If we place Christ before all else then he will reward us but he also reminds us that fully living the Christian way of life will bring persecutions from those who are against the kingdom of God and against his believers.

Ecclesiasticus 36:1, 4-5, 10-17; Psalm 78; Mark 10:32-45

Ben Sirach, in the first reading, today calls on God to let the nations see that there is no God but our God – the true God. He asks the Lord to witness to those he created in the beginning and bless those who wait for their reward. He is writing at a time when Palestine had just come under Greek rule in the second century before Christ, and is asking for freedom for the Chosen People. The Psalm asks that the Lord not hold the sins of our forefathers against us but that we be judged on our own merits. In the Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples of his impending death and they are greatly disturbed. He also reminds them that as he came to serve the Father and not to be served, so too we should serve the Father in our daily life and also serve our fellow men and women in helping them to come to the Father and so enter eternal life. He is reminding them that authority is really about service rather than about power. Christ’s life is the prime example by which we should live.


Memorial of St Philip Neri, Priest

Philip was born in 1515 in Florence and spent most of his life in Rome. He became known as ‘the second apostle of Rome’ because of his untiring work for all those in the city whether they be Pope or servant boy. After his ordination (1551) he founded the Congregation of the Oratory and was particularly well known for his ministry in the confessional. He died in 1595.

Ecclesiasticus 42:15-25; Psalm 32; Mark 10:46-52

Our first reading today comes from the final section of Ben Sirach’s book of wisdom and so is a hymn of praise for all the works of God. We are told that the glory of the Lord is to be found in creation which is all around us. Everything that the Lord has made is perfect for “he has made nothing defective.” And whatever has been made compliments something else. In this way Ben Sirach was hoping to keep the Jews from being distracted by the new Greek culture which had just taken over control of Palestine. The Psalm praises God for all that he has done. In the Gospel we read of the restoration of Bartimaeus’ sight by Jesus. Bartimaeus was healed because he asked to be healed and because he had faith in Christ. If we too ask for something and are people of faith then our prayer will most certainly be heard and answered.

Ecclesiasticus 44:1, 9-13; Psalm 149; Mark 11:11-26

In our first reading today we are told to praise illustrious men. But the men we are to praise are not those who were wealthy or powerful but those who did good deeds, who kept the covenants and who passed these on to their children – these are the ones who are truly illustrious and worthy of praise. Ben Sirach, in writing about these men, is trying to show his readers and listeners that those who live God-fearing lives have already achieved wisdom and therefore do not need the philosophies and culture of foreigners. In the Gospel we are reminded of the importance of the house of God as a house of prayer and how it should be kept sacred through Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. We are also reminded of the importance of faith and of forgiveness – not just the forgiveness we receive from God but the forgiveness which others receive from us. If we come before the Lord to seek forgiveness then we must be willing to forgive those who have wronged us.

Ecclesiasticus 51:12-20; Psalm 18; Mark 11:27-33

In the first reading, from our final passage from Ecclesiasticus, the author speaks of seeking wisdom and of following wisdom’s instruction. As Christians we know that the wisdom of God is his Son, Jesus Christ, and that if we seek him we will find him and, having found him, he will guide us, through the Holy Spirit, in all things. In the Gospel we see Jesus being confronted by the chief priests and the scribes because they are not happy with the way he teaches and what he teaches. They ask where his authority comes from but when they fail to answer his question he does not answer theirs. We know that his authority is from God because he is the Son of God who was sent to redeem us.

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