Every week, while we cannot be together at Mass, you will find here a very short reflection on the Sunday Gospel, and a suggestion for prayer. There is also something for every day for the rest of the week. Each day consists of one phrase from the Gospel, one or two sentences as a thought for the day and a prayer for ourselves and others. (If you begin after Sunday you are recommended to read the comments for Sunday first).

Sunday Reflection
How are you doing during this enforced shutdown? Maybe you are feeling at a loss with time on your hands, or maybe life is busier than ever coping with children at home when they should be in school. We are probably all feeling the loss of the usual direct contact we have with family and friends; a contact we normally take for granted. Our freedom has been curtailed, we are no longer able to make our own decisions about where and when to go to wherever we please. Whether we are self-isolating or just faithfully following the instructions of the government life is so different that it can be physically, mentally and even spiritually stressful. 

The Gospel for today is all about how to live through stress and how to be free within. It is about a family who are incredibly stressed for they have lost a loved one. Sadly, there are many now and will be many more families in this situation in the weeks to come. 

The story is in the Gospel of John, chapter 11. It is the story of the raising of Lazarus. When the story starts Lazarus is ill, seriously ill, and his sisters, Martha and Mary send a message to Jesus to come and sort things out. He doesn’t come – or at least he delays his arrival so long that Lazarus dies before Jesus gets there. So, when he does finally appear, the sisters round on him, “Why weren’t you here?” The first point we can take from this story is about being honest about how we feel. There will be many during this pandemic who will ask a similar question to Martha: “So where is God when we need him?” Perhaps you are feeling a bit like that too as we live through this unfolding crisis. If you do, there is no need to feel guilty. Look at the story. Jesus carefully listens to the sisters and he has come to them and his presence will produce a result beyond their wildest dreams.

The second point from this story is that Jesus also feels the grief and loss of Lazarus who was clearly a close friend. So much so that he bursts into tears. Whatever we are going through, the Lord shares this with us; is in this with us. He is not remote or uncaring, he is here.

The story continues with Jesus going to the tomb and demanding that it is opened. He prays and then, amazingly, calls the dead Lazarus to come out. Then, as Lazarus stands still clothed in his shrouds, Jesus demands “Unbind him – let him go free”. That is the third point in this story. It’s about being set free, whatever we are going through. It’s about being unbound and entering into freedom even if we are tucked up at home for hours on end. Jesus shows, in Lazarus, what he will do through his own death. That death “unbinds us and sets us free”. At a time when we are not physically free to do what we want, this story points to the truth that it is still possible to be free in spirit.

To think and pray about:
How are you feeling today about the current lockdown?
Speak to the Lord openly about your fears, hopes, worries, stresses and strains.
Ask him to give you freedom of spirit.

You may like to say this prayer every day this week:

Lord for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray.
Just keep me, guide me, love me Lord,
Just for today.

From the Gospel: Jesus had received the call from Martha and Mary but “stayed where he was for two more days.”

Thought for the day: It is often hard to see what God is up to. Why he doesn’t seem to act? This is where trust comes in. God knows what he is doing even if we can’t always see it. Sometimes believing that can be really hard.

To think and pray about: (take your time over this)

What does it really mean to you to trust God? What difference does it make?

Make a prayer of trust in your own words.

Pray today especially for all NHS staff, and all those on the front line as they serve the sick under such stressful conditions. Pray too for those shielding the vulnerable.

From the Gospel: “Martha (and Mary) said to Jesus, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.”

Thought for the day: We can imitate the sisters because they pour out their grief, stress and anger to the Lord and so can we.

To think and pray about: (take your time over this)

Imagine you are Martha or Mary meeting Jesus as he comes towards you in your situation. What would you say to him? Be honest!

Make these words from Isaiah 43 your own; hear God speaking them to you:

“Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you
I have called you by name you are mine”

Pray today for all those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19. Pray that the Lord will comfort them in their grief and dismay.

Pray for those who have died.

From the Gospel: “Jesus said to Martha, I am the resurrection and the life”

Thought for the day: Jesus states that he is the life-giver; the one who brings new life from death. That life is ours now – not just after we physically die – but in the here and now, even in the midst of this pandemic.

To think and pray about: (take your time over this)

Think back over the last few days. What has been life-giving? Think of the little things that have warmed and sustained you. Thank God for them.

Pray today for those who have given you new life in whatever way.

Pray for those working in social care who are looking after the vulnerable.

From the Gospel: “Jesus asked, ‘where have you put him?” (Lazarus) They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.”

Thought for the day: We too can say to the Lord, about our own situation, “Lord, come and see.” We too can invite Jesus to come to the source of our dis-ease. We too can know that Christ is not far from us but weeps with us.

To think and pray about: (take your time over this)

Pray, “Lord, come and see… (complete the sentence with your own needs)

Pray today for all shop workers and those in the front line as they keep the supply chains going at this time.

From the Gospel: “Jesus cried in a loud voice, ’Lazarus, come out’.”

Thought for the day: This is a command. This is Jesus in control of all things, however desperate the situation may seem.

To think and pray about: (take your time over this)

What tone of voice do you think Jesus used as he said, “Lazarus, come out”?

What does it mean in my situation to know that Jesus is in control, that he can be trusted to bring life out of death? 

Pray today for those who, in little ways, bring hope to others. Pray especially for any you know who are doing just that in our area.

From the Gospel: Jesus said, “Unbind him, let him go free”.

Thought for the day: Jesus’ own life and death brings freedom. He unbinds us. He is about liberation so that we may know what St Paul calls “the glorious liberty of the children of God”.

To think and pray about: (take your time over this)

What parts of your life need to hear these words?

Speak to the Lord about this.

Pray today for all prisoners and prison officers.

Lent – Week 5
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