First reading: Malachi 1:14, 2:2, 8-10.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 130(131).
Second reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13.
Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12.
Link to readings.
Our readings this week are both a harsh criticism of how some aspects of established religion can lead us to pride, and also a gentle teaching on simplicity and humility.
In the First Reading, Malachi has hard words for the priests who have strayed and led others to stumble.
Jesus, too, in the Gospel criticizes the leaders who lay heavy burdens on the people - those who only think of their own importance, rather than of teaching God's word and care for others.
However, the words of St Paul to the Thessalonians in the Second Reading are in great contrast. He reveals a maternal affection for his people, and is willing to give up everything for them so as to spread the Good News. He is full of thanksgiving for God's work in them.
The Psalm is a beautiful prayer of humble trust in the Lord, with the image of a child resting in his mother's arms. We are encouraged to hope in God whatever comes.
Perhaps this week, awareness of our closeness to God will lead us to humble prayer rather than empty practice.
Psalm: 130 (131)
I come to my place of prayer...
perhaps I light a candle to help me focus and remind me of God's presence.
Repeating the refrain 'Keep my soul in peace before you, O Lord' may also help me to enter slowly into prayer.
When I am ready, I read the psalm slowly, a couple of times. If I can, I try and place myself quietly in God's presence,
and remain there for as long as is comfortable.
If not, I move on to the text.
The words encourage me to be humble before my God -
to contemplate his greatness and glory, and not to focus on myself.
Can I Imagine myself as a child in the arms of God - my Mother or my Father? Or maybe I can unite myself with the young Jesus,
as Mary prayed this psalm with him.
I may remember others I wish to pray for,
that they may find peace and hope in the Lord.
As I end my prayer, perhaps I will remember the response throughout the day.
Matthew 23: 1-12
As I settle to pray, I take the time to quieten my mind and body.
I breathe in God's love and goodness, and ask the Spirit to be with me as I prepare to pray the Gospel.
Having read the text slowly a couple of times, I try and place myself in the crowd listening to Jesus.
His words are very direct. How do I feel as I listen?
Am I amongst the scribes and Pharisees, aware that I do not always act according to what I think or say? If so, perhaps I can speak to Jesus about this.
Or maybe I am among the crowd, and feel weighed down by duties and obligations. Can I speak of this to the Lord?
I sit quietly and endeavour to listen and to rest in God's presence. Maybe I think of my motivations - not allowing myself to be cowed, but neither seeking approval. I ponder on Jesus's respect for others.
I consider his words:'You are all brothers and sisters'. I pray for unity in the Church, in the world.
I finish my prayer with a slow 'Our Father...'
Prepared by St Beuno's Outreach in the Diocese of Wrexham