The Bishop's homily for the Mass of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (the 5th of April)
"Today, I want to emphasise that, even under the restrictions of the Coronavirus Pandemic, this Holy Week can still be one of the most prayerful and spiritually uplifting weeks in the Church’s calendar. Here are a few suggestions.
- Make a daily schedule for Holy Week.
Since many of us have already spent a few weeks together in our homes, and the walls might feel as if they are beginning to close in on us, why not create a daily schedule which includes times for the following:
* Prayer (create a simple prayer-space with a Crucifix and a Candle as a focus)
* Spiritual Reading (the Passion of the Lord - both today’s Passion account from the gospel of Matthew and Good Friday’s from John can be downloaded free from Magnificat)
* Simple meals
* Practical things that have to be done (bigger projects Monday – Wednesday); necessary work only Holy Thursday – Holy Saturday
- Set yourself a Spiritual focus for each of the days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday & Holy Saturday, so that you can truly encounter the Lord each day and so unite Christ’s suffering, death and Resurrection with the reality of your own life. Here are some simple suggestions."
"Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening here at 7pm – spiritual focus: Offering
"As you follow the Mass by means of streaming from here at St Barnabas Cathedral or by reading the scripture texts of the Mass in your Missal or by means of Magnificat, focus in on the words of Jesus at the last Supper, which we hear at every Mass: ‘Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is my body which will be given up for you’. In response make an offering of yourself to the Lord, offer him your life, everything on your heart, good things as well as any fears and anxieties, particularly at this time of the Coronavirus pandemic.
"The traditional time of ‘watching with Jesus’ after Mass will be streamed nationwide from St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham. You might find it helpful to try and be still during this time of ‘watching’, emptying all that is in your mind, so as to ‘be there with Jesus’ for a little while. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but be patient with yourself!"
"Good Friday Passion of the Lord Service at 3pm – spiritual focus: Surrendering
"As you follow the Good Friday Service by means of streaming or by reading St John’s Passion in your Missal or by means of ‘Magnificat’, focus on ‘surrendering’. Just as Jesus surrendered everything to the will of his Father, and especially through his final words on the Cross, ‘It is accomplished’, try to enter into this by surrendering to Jesus all your dreams, your hopes, desires, prayers, and seeking instead his will for you. The prayer of Jesus to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: ‘Not my will, but yours be done’, might become your prayer. Then kiss the Crucifix you have in your ‘Prayer Space’ or the crucifix on your rosary as an expression of your surrender, your desire to do God’s will in your life. Then simply say, ‘Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Lord!"
"Easter Saturday – spiritual focus: Waiting
"Today is a day to remind ourselves here is nothing that Jesus would not do for love of us. On this day we remind ourselves that Jesus went down into the very depths of hell to redeem those there. You may wish, in the absence of the opportunity to go to Confession this Holy Week, to make a perfect Act of Contrition: expressed in the confession of your sins to God, an Act of true Contrition, and with the desire to go to Confession as soon as is possible; that will obtain for you, in these exceptional circumstances, forgiveness of all your sins, including grave sin."
"Easter Vigil Mass – spiritual focus: the light of the Risen Christ
"I would encourage families who wouldn’t normally be able to come to the long Easter Vigil ceremonies and Mass to think about ‘joining in’ this year the more restricted Easter Vigil Mass from St Barnabas Cathedral, which I’ve asked to be at the earlier time of 7pm. If you are unable to do so, I would encourage you to light a candle in your ‘Prayer Space’, read the Easter Vigil gospel and then quietly reflect upon the theme of the Risen Jesus as the ‘light of the world’. His light can overcome any darkness, even that which we feel in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic; so ask the Risen Christ to light and guide your way through life."
"Easter Sunday Mass – spiritual focus: renewing our commitment as disciples of Jesus
"If you’re unable to join in the streaming of Mass from St Barnabas Cathedral, then I would encourage you to find in your missal or download from ‘Magnificat’ the Easter Sunday scripture readings and the Baptismal Promises. Pray these before a lit candle. The Easter renewal of our baptismal promises is a wonderful way of expressing again the ‘Yes’ made for you or by you in baptism to know, love and serve God in our daily lives as disciples of the Risen Lord Jesus.
"May this Holy Week, with all its restrictions this year, be a grace-filled time for each one of you, and may the Risen Christ this Easter bless you and all your loved ones."