Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, March 31, 2020 Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30 The Israelites, as we heard in our first reading today, lost patience with God. They were not happy with the type of food God (and his servant Moses), was giving them. So, they rebelled against God and Moses. As a punishment, the fiery serpent invaded them and many were bitten to death. God in his mercy directed Moses to make a bronze replica of the serpent, put it up as a sign, and anyone bitten by the snake who looks at it will be saved. In the Gospel, the people refused to accept Jesus. But he told them that they would know who he is when they must have lifted him up as Moses did the bronze serpent in the desert. Jesus lifted up on the cross is the sign of our healing and salvation. The hope of humanity lies in Jesus crucified. On Friday 27th March, Pope Francis led the world in prayer for healing and for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. The image left in my mind is that of the Pope standing and looking up in prayer to the giant miraculous Crucifix. He kissed the crucifix, whispering some prayers. I don’t know what he said to Jesus at that moment, but I guess he must have said something like this: ‘As you healed the Israelites from snake bite after they looked up to the bronze serpent, so may you heal the world from the scourge of this deadly coronavirus as we look up to you.’ We are always healed and restored to life through Jesus, crucified. Amen
Monday of Fifth Week of Lent, March 30, 2020 Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62; John 8:1-11 The two readings of today's Mass are on the same theme: the accused and the accuser versus God, the Father of Mercy and love. In the first reading Susanna, the wife of Joakim, was accused falsely of committing adultery by two wicked elders. The punishment for this, according to the law of Moses, is death by stoning. The stage was set for stoning Susanna when God intervened through Daniel, and Susanna was saved and her accusers, who were really the actual villains, received the ultimate punishment. In the Gospel reading the Scribes and Pharisees were about to stone a woman caught in adultery to death when Jesus intervened and set her free. Listen to this transformational request: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Surprisingly, they started leaving one after another, indicating that they were equally sinners. What an irony! You condemn your neighbour to death for the same offence you are guilty of. When you point an accusing finger at your neighbour the other four fingers are pointing at you. ‘We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’. Jesus, the Lord of mercy, lover of the humble, source of our life, is always ready to forgive us. He said to the adulterous woman, “Neither do I condemn you, go away, and don’t sin anymore.” Lord, enrich us with your blessing and enable us to pass from former ways to newness of life, so that we may be found worthy of your heavenly Kingdom. Amen
Homily 5th Sunday of Lent Year A Lent is coming to a close and for the past few Sundays we have been reading some very important passages from the Gospel according to John. Most of them are centered on the new life which Jesus Christ brings. What is the life that is being talked about? It is a type of transformative live which creates a new being out of the old. St Paul talks of that which no eye has seen, nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love him. Today we read about the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Of all the miracles Jesus did the raising of Lazarus ranks as the most astonishing to the people of his time. Why? Traditionally the Jews believe that the soul of dead person somehow remains with the body for 3 days. After that the soul departs finally from the body never to return again. And it is at this time that corruption sets in. When Martha says to Jesus that ‘Lazarus has been dead for 4 days’, she was expressing the common view that this is a hopeless situation. In traditional Jewish mentality bringing back to life a person who is already dead for four days and is decaying is impossible. G. K. Chesterton once said, “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.” The story of the raising of Lazarus is more than a pointer to the raising of Jesus. Jesus rose on the third day; his body never saw corruption. This miracle is a challenge never to give up hope even in a hopeless situation in which we find ourselves, as individuals, as a church, or as a nation. But first we must learn how to cooperate with God so as to experience his resurrection power in our lives and in our world. The way we cooperate with the miracle working God is through practical obedience. That is the point John is making in this Gospel story. To work this miracle Jesus gave three commands and all were obeyed to the letter. That is how the miracle happens. First, “Jesus said, ‘Roll away the stone.’… So, they rolled away the stone” (vv 39-44). Did they understand why they should do this heavy work of rolling away the stone? Not at all. They were just expressing practical agreement (obedience) as opposed to intellectual agreement. Divine power seems to be always activated by human cooperation and stifled by non cooperation. The second command Jesus gives is directed to the dead man: “Lazarus, come out!’ and the dead man came out” (vv 43-44). We do not know what happened inside the grave. All we know is that the dead man gropes his way out of dark tomb. Even a man rotting in the tomb can do something to help himself. The third command again is addressed to the people, “Unbind him, and let him go” (v 44). Lazarus could not unbind himself. He needs the community to do that for him. By unbinding Lazarus and setting him free from the death bands the community is accepting Lazarus back as one of them. Many individuals and communities today have fallen victim to spiritual death. We are being tied up by many things: bad habits and attitudes, bad memories of past events, unhealthy relationships, and so on. Jesus is ready for a miracle. Are we ready to roll away the stone that stands between us and the light of Christ’s face? Are we ready to take the first step to come out of the place of death? Are we ready to unbind (forgive) one another and let them go free? May the Lord Jesus unbind us all, set us free and give us new life. Amen.
Archbishop Bernard intends to celebrate 11am Sunday Mass on 29th March for the Re-dedication of England as the Dowry of England and celebrate the Holy Week liturgies via live- streaming at St. Chad’s Cathedral. It is hoped that Watching on Holy Thursday night will be live- streamed until Midnight from St. Chad’s Cathedral and this will be a focus of prayer for all Catholics in England and Wales.
SATURDAY of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 28, 2020 Jeremiah 11:18-20; John 7:40-52 A GENTLE LAMB LED TO THE SLAUGHTER After Holy Mass on a Sunday morning last month one of the school children walked straight up to me and asked ‘What is the Lamb of God’? Her mum was standing few meters away watching us. I guess the child heard these words during Mass and really desired to understand what they meant. I told her that it was one of the titles of Jesus. That as the Jews used to sacrifice a lamb to God, especially for the cleansing of their sins, so Jesus offered himself for sacrifice for the sins of the world. She nodded and said, "Thank you Fr Stan," and her mum smiled. Jeremiah in our first reading talks of ‘a gentle lamb being led to the slaughter-house’. Jesus is the innocent, trustful, gentle lamb that was sacrificed for our sins. The Father did not send His Son to come and die, rather he commissioned him to do all within his power to save humanity. And when he came the weight of our sins weighed heavily on him, that he had to offer his life. What a great sacrifice! Jesus got the title of the Lamb of God from the type of sacrifice he made for us. The school child was struck by Jesus as the Lamb of God. The people of Jesus’ time said of him “Nobody has ever talked the way this man does.” What about Jesus attracts you most? “May the working of your mercy, O Lord, we pray, direct our hearts aright, for without your grace we cannot find favour in your sight”.
FRIDAY, 4th Week of Lent, March 27, 2020 Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22; John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30 Our two readings today point to the gathering plot to have Jesus arrested and put to a shameful death. Why must he be put to a shameful death? The two readings give different awkward reasons. For the first reading, he is a virtuous man and rebukes our philosophy of life. He thinks he knows God more than us and claims he is a son of God. Again, he says that the virtuous will have a happy end. For the Gospel reading, Jesus has to be put to death simply because they claim to know where he comes from, while they thought that when the Messiah comes no one will know where he comes from. These are clearly human parameters for actions but they seem to be forcing God to be like human beings. But the truth is that we are supposed to seek the mind and will of God for us. God cannot bow to human standards rather humans have to conform to the standards of God. We ought to think and act the way God wants. The Gospel reading says that the Jewish authorities would have arrested Jesus but they couldn’t because his hour had not yet come. Everything has its hour. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is time for everything: time to be born and time to die, etc. Jesus cannot be taken before his time. No matter the conspiracy, no matter the efforts the Pharisees conjure, they can never arrest Jesus before his time. Everything is the hands of God. Nothing happens outside of God. He is the Alpha and Omega. Our live is in his hands. He alone can define our future irrespective of the tsunami approaching us. Let us abandon ourselves in his hands. Do not be afraid! This evening, Friday 27th March, Pope Francis will preside over a time of universal prayer for an end to the Pandemic. The ceremony will consist in readings from the Scriptures, prayers of supplication, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and will conclude with Pope Francis giving the Urbi et Orbi blessing, with the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence for all those who listen to it live through the various media. The blessing is normally only given on Christmas and Easter. You can watch the broadcast at 6pm Rome time (5pm in London) on the Vatican website: www.vaticannews.va/en/epg.html#schedules(The page also lists the Vatican Radio schedule)
Thursday 26th March, Fourth Week in Lent Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47 The Israelites, as we heard in the first reading of today’s Holy Mass, still on their way from Egypt to the promised land, got disenchanted and rebelled against God. They made for themselves a molten calf and worshipped it as their god. They credited to this molten calf the great and wondrous things God did for them in the past. Understandably, God was very angry with them. He wanted to destroy them, sparing only Moses, his beloved servant. However, Moses pleaded with God and God relented and did not punish his people. Two this stand out here: first, God’s readiness to listen to Moses and how quick he was to relent; his love for his people is so deep. Second, Moses was not only concerned about his personal safety but he wanted God to extend his mercy to the rest of the people. in this way, he manifested deep love of his neighbor. Jesus often talked about the power of good example. Good example makes more impression on people than many words. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus says, “these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me.” The good works Jesus did was evidence of his Father’s support and authentication. How are your actions bearing witness to the type of person you are? Does your action show that the Father is backing you? Keep us safe, Lord and defend us, so that we may persevere in your love.
Wednesday 25th March SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD Is 7:10-14,8:10; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38 Today 25th of March, exactly 9 months before Christmas, the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord. The feast of Annunciation is also the feast of the conception of Jesus. Angel Gabriel announces the news the world has been longing for, the news of God extending hands of reconciliation to the lost humanity through the Incarnation of the Word. God in his infinite mercy does not forget his people. He constantly seeks the well-being of the people he created in his image. He does this through human cooperation. The opening prayer of today’s Holy Mass says that ‘God willed that His Word should take on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary’. Mary made herself an instrument in the hands of God so that through her, divine plan for humanity will unfold. The first Eve disobeyed God and lost his friendship; the second Eve obeyed God and won his friendship. The first Eve was not committed to divine invitation; the second Eve was committed to divine proposal and so brought us the Saviour. Mary’s ‘yes’ followed by total commitment made the coming of the savior to us possible. It was not easy for her to say ‘yes’ considering the fact that she was already betrothed to Joseph. It takes a great deal of will power to set aside our plans for any other calling. Mary said ‘yes’ to divine plane. Let us imitate Mary and always say ‘yes’ to God and back it up with commitment. Our ‘yes’ to God is a sacrifice. Accepting to do God’s will pleases God, and brings happiness and fulfilment to our lives. HAPPY FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD TO YOU ALL BELOVED PARISHIONERS.
Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent, March 24, 2020 Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12; John 5:1-3,5-16 “DO YOU WANT TO BE WELL AGAIN”. This is the question Jesus asked a man who has been sick for thirty-eight good years. Probably Jesus wanted to elicit faith in him from this man. For most part of the 38 years the man had been coming to the miraculous Sheep Pool to get cured, but because he was crippled and only the first person to enter the pool gets cured, he kept on coming hoping that one day he will receive his own miracle. He did not give up. He saw sick people who had helpers getting well. He has every reason to give up, but he didn’t. He had faith; he had hope. Faith is hoping for things unseen and unheard of. Today Jesus the Pool of pools, the helper of helpers, the father of the fatherless and the mother of the motherless, the LIVING WATER, came to him and he was cured. It was of this LIVING WATER that Prophet Ezekiel prophesied when he said, “Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live.” Jesus is the hope of humanity. Terrified and wounded by the dreaded COVID-19, the world is like the sick man at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem. Cure seems unachievable. But I pray that Jesus the LIVING WATER will flow into every aspect of our lives and society, so that we may live. May the peace of Christ be with you! Fr. Stan
Dear Parishioners, In view of the menace of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Catholic Church in England and Wales have suspended public worship and gatherings in any setting beginning evening of Friday 20th March. These really are very difficult and challenging times for all us. As we suspend all parish gatherings and events (including Holy Masses) till further notice, there is the need to remain steadfast in our faith and prayers. I will keep on celebrating the daily Masses in private (9 am on Sundays; 9.30 am on weekdays at Sacred Heart Church only). The parishioners of our two churches are encouraged to join in spirit from wherever you may be and you can make spiritual communion. Be assured that the Masses you booked and the intentions of our parish will be included in these private Masses. Our churches will be open for private Eucharistic Adoration every Sunday (Sacred Heart Church 9am to 10.30am; St. Joseph’s 11am to 12.30pm). For these private devotions and prayers in the church, adequate social distance must be maintained and you must sanitize your hands before entering the church. Because of the serious nature of this virus and based on Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181 the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is removed. I urge all parishioners to be faithful to the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary at your private time. Let us also be united in praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3pm every day for God’s mercy in eradicating this coronavirus pandemic. The parish bulletin with all necessary information will be provided every week and it can be accessed through our websites: www.thesacredhearttunstall.org.uk and www.stjosephsburslem.org.uk Copies of the bulletin will also be available in the churches during the set times for private prayers. Our parish telephone line 01782838357 is accessible anytime, and please do not hesitate to contact us for any assistance, including emergency sick calls. Our parish office will also be available for essential services. Suspending public worship does not mean an end to our Catholic faith. Let us keep the Church alive in our hearts and homes. We ought to pray often; and do not be afraid, “Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Fr. Stan
Dear Guardian Angel, go for me to the church, there kneel down at Mass for me. At the Offertory, take me to God, and offer Him my service: What I am, what I have, offer as my gift. At the Consecration, with your seraphic strength, adore my Saviour truly present, praying for those who have loved me, for those who have offended me, and for those now deceased, that the blood of Jesus may purify them all. During Holy Communion, bring to me the Body and Blood of Jesus uniting Him with me in spirit, so that my heart may become His dwelling place. Plead with Him, that through His sacrifice all people throughout the world may be saved. When the Mass ends, bring home to me and to every home, the Lord's blessing. Amen.
Please join us at 3pm daily, from the comfort of home, in saying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. We are asking for God's Mercy in eradicating this Coronavirus pandemic.
Please find below a 'How to Pray the Rosary Guide'.
During these uncertain times we will try to keep you all as up to date as possible. As a Parish the last public service will be tomorrow morning at Sacred Heart Tunstall. Mass begins at 9.30am. Both Churches will then stop public services until the restrictions are lifted. However, Mass will still be held but behind closed doors. The Divine Mercy will also be said everyday at 3pm. The Parish Office phone line is open 24 hours please leave a message on the answer machine. Please feel free to message me over Facebook with questions, queries and concerns. We will still be taking Mass requests, 1 per day, with stipends to be paid when possible. Prayer requests will also be taken. If you want the prayer public, then please post it straight to the Facebook page. Otherwise private intentions will be recorded as x intentions. I will be updating the websites as we get more information. Stay healthy, strong and safe. Look out for each other. Pray.
Prayer intentions are being gathered on our Facebook page.
A letter from the President and Vice-President on behalf of all the Bishops of the Conference 18/03/2020