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Spiritual REFLECTION guide

Come, listen, live! Januar y 2010


Dear Vincentians and Friends, We are pleased to offer you a set of Spiritual Reflection Guides for the months of January, February & March, 2010. In three short months, the Church’s liturgical readings cover all 33 years of Jesus’ life from birth at Christmas to death at Easter. The cover of this series of the Guides suggests: Come…Listen…Live and points to reflection themes of: being invited into relationship with God, listening and being attentive to the call to discipleship, responding through our life and work and to becoming the person that God calls us to be. We repeat our regular invitation: we are always looking for assistance in producing the guides for members and volunteers. If you would like to help and could spare a day or so, please contact Wendy Scott or Bill Johnston on 02 9560 8666. Particular thanks are due to the contributors to this series of the Guides, Anne Bailey and Pat Mahony, who worked as members of the editorial team. A useful weblink for the full Sunday readings is www.litcom.net.au. All spiritual reflection guides for 2009-2010 can be accessed on the national website, www.vinnies.org.au and follow the publications link. Don’t forget that in addition to these guides, we have enclosed a short Bulletin, The Good Word, which seeks to put you in touch with other spiritual resources, both printed and electronic.

Bill Johnston Spiritual Advisor Our Mission The St Vincent de Paul Society is a lay Catholic organisation that aspires to live the Gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and joy, and by working to shape a more just and compassionate society. Our Vision The St Vincent de Paul Society aspires to be recognised as a caring Catholic charity offering “a hand up” to people in need. We do this by respecting their dignity, sharing our hope, and encouraging them to take control of their own destiny. Privacy Statement Because the St Vincent de Paul Society respects the privacy of the people it serves, the names of any clients featured in this guide have been changed and pictorial models used. The Spiritual Reflection Guides of the St Vincent de Paul Society are produced by Spiritual Advisor, Bill Johnston. Acknowledgements: Text: Bill Johnston, Anne Bailey, Pat Mahony Design: Rachel Anne Irvine ABN: 46 472 591 335 Copyright acknowledgements: All material taken from Sabbath Living by Susan S. Phillips, appeared in Radix Magazine. 32(3). 2006. Used by permission. Susan will be touring Australia in March, 2010. For futher details of her seminars and retreats, see www.eremos.org.au. Poems and prayers by Noel Davis from “Fallows Hundredfold” and “Heart Gone Walkabout”. Used by permission. Other material subject to copyright used under Licence 2262 Word of Life International.

Spiritual Reflection Guide January - March 2010


Arise, shine, Your light has come The Epiphany of the Lord

THIS WEEK...

Matthew’s story of the visit of the Magi to the newborn King of the Jews has a deep theological message about the universality of the Good News and an intriguing story line about the actions and motives of King Herod. The Gospel shows the providence that protects the child Jesus from being harmed by the king when, at the end of their visit, the wise men “left for their own country by another road”.

Prayer

Isa 60:1-6 Eph 3:2-3, 5-6 Mt 2:1-12

More essentially, the images of the light of the star and the bringing of gifts by people from way outside the Jewish world bring us a fresh reminder at the start of the New Year: everyone in the world is called to gather by the light of faith, to stand before God with our gifts, whatever they are, and to praise Jesus the light of the world in our own unique way as persons. A little further on in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus challenges his hearers: “You are the light of the world …your light must shine, so that all may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven. Do you know the words of the Little Drummer Boy carol? What gifts do I have to bring to the newborn king? How ready am I to include all people and all their gifts in my world of 2010?

I have no gift to bring, that's fit to give the King. Shall I play for you? Mary nodded, the ox and lamb kept time, I played my drum for Him, I played my best for Him. Then He smiled at me, me and my drum. 

Father of Light, unchanging God, Today you reveal to people of faith the Word made flesh. Your light is strong, your love is near. Draw us beyond the limits that this world imposes to the life where your Spirit makes all life complete. Amen. - Prayer from the Mass for the Feast of Epiphany

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Spiritual Reflection Guide January - March 2010


YOU ARE MY BELOVED CHILD The Baptism of the Lord

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Isa 40:1-5, 9-11 Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7 Lk 3:15-16, 21-22

Why wait for your awakening? The moment your eyes are open, seize the day. Would you hold back when the Beloved beckons? "No, I can't step across the threshold," you say, eyes downcast. "I'm not worthy". My meditation isn't deep, and my prayers are sometimes insincere. I still chew my fingernails, and the refrigerator isn't clean." Forgive yourself. Now is the only time you have to be whole. This is the day of your awakening. - Awakening Now, by Danna Faulds

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes the celebration of Christmas and leads us into Ordinary Time. What a huge leap in imagery we take today. For the last couple of weeks, we have looked upon Jesus as a helpless, newborn baby but now, as Jesus is baptised or reborn into his public ministry 30 years later, our readings are full of images of the power and majesty of God. “Here is the Lord coming with power.” – Isaiah “Lord God, how great you are, clothed in majesty and glory … You make the winds your messengers and flashing fire your servants.” – Psalm 103 How do we reconcile or get our heads around those two such different images for Jesus/God? The people who lived in Christ’s time also had difficulty in coming to grips with how God revealed himself in the person of Christ. They were looking for a Messiah who would rescue them from their oppressors, those who had power over them. Instead they got Jesus who was committed to working amongst the poor and sinners, those living on the edge of society. He was sensitive to their needs, even calling the poor “blessed”. Most of us do not remember our Baptism at all and have only a small recollection of our Confirmation, so when have there been other times in your life when you have heard God’s affirmation or felt that you were a beloved child of God and that God was very pleased with you?

Prayer

May we ‘give up everything that does not lead to God’. (Titus) May we hear the words of the Father, when he says to us: “You are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.” Amen.

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Spiritual Reflection Guide January - March 2010


celebrating god’s love 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Isa 62:1-5 1 Cor 12:4-11 Jn 2:1-11

When we experience great, inspiring words and actions, they can fill us with enthusiasm, a new awareness of the meaning and potential of our lives, and enable us to make a difference in other people’s lives. If we have the faith to believe in the presence and power of God’s Spirit within us, the possibility of transforming our own and others’ everyday experiences is released. Celebration and inspiration are important in our work as Vincentians. Both in our meetings and our private prayer, we try to absorb the spirit that Vincent and Frederic taught, a spirit that healed and uplifted the self-worth of those to whom they ministered. All that is needed is that we believe, and act as if we believe, that God is at work in us. This then is our challenge: not so much to solve people’s problems, but to pass on to those we meet, by the joyful manner of our presentation, that God visits them through us, to celebrate with them. How do you bring the message of God’s love to your clients? How can visits become a celebration of the presence of God in our lives?

THIS WEEK... You will be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. It will no longer be said to you, "Forsaken," Nor your land will be called, "Desolate"; But you will be called, "My delight," And your land, "Married"; For the LORD delights in you, And to Him your land will be married. Isiah 62:3-4

Prayer Ever present Father, your watchful care reaches from end to end. Even the tensions and tragedies of life cannot frustrate your loving plans. May your truth live in our hearts and bring peace to those who believe in you. Amen.

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Spiritual Reflection Guide January - March 2010


This text is being fulfilled today 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

THIS WEEK...

In today’s Gospel, Jesus quotes the words of the Prophet Isaiah to explain his own ministry.

turned into One the world in my heart in our Heart is whole the world outside is not good God please help us turn our world inside out - Maryla Rose

Neh 8:2-6, 8-10 1 Cor 12:12-30 Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Who are the prophets of today and which people in 2010 would be considered as poor and in need of hearing Good News; as blind and in need of sight; as being oppressed and needing to be freed; as being captive and needing to be released? A group of friends from the InterPlay community in the Blue Mountains were sitting at the dinner table, talking about what they want more of in their lives. Answers came; more play, more quiet time, deeper integration of inner and outer life, more community … Then Jonathon said: “I want more boat people… I want things to get messy… I want my middle class values to be offended…” Laughter followed. Freeing, alive laughter, full of joy, not just amusement. There was so much life in his words, it broke the invisible walls within and around us. Blood began to flow freely from heart to heart. Life felt full. There must be another way to respond to the people knocking at our door. And yes even to the ones who try to get in through the back door. There must be another way, that dares to speak to the best in us. A way that will lead us forward, through fears and separation back to the Heart. Where the answer already is, turning us into One.

Prayer “When I am hungry, give me someone I can feed. And when I am thirsty, give me someone who needs a drink. When I am cold, give me someone to keep warm. And when I grieve, give me someone to console.” May these words of Mother Teresa, become our living prayer. Amen.

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There must be another way. Let’s find it.

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What if the guards and barbed-wire of the detention centres we are protecting ourselves with, were in reality the walls of our own prison?

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Spiritual Reflection Guide January - March 2010


BRING GOOD NEWS 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Jer 1:4-5, 17-19 1 Cor 12:31-13:13 Lk 4:21-30

Last Sunday’s gospel and that of today break up into two sections what is a continuous narrative in chapter four of Luke. After reading directly last week from the prophet Isaiah, we hear today the challenges of the prophet. Here in Nazareth was a person that was known to its synagogue community, presuming to state that the Lord’s anointed one would be given not to the children of Israel but to outsiders from Sidon and Syria. The result of this message was predictable; they were so angry that they literally ‘ran Jesus out of town’ and threatened to kill him. In the tradition of the true prophet, he was subverting the status quo, presenting his hearers with hard truths and unpleasant realities. The Vincentian way of following Jesus is such a prophetic way St Vincent de Paul says that we have to act so that those we visit will forgive us for the good that we do them. We also have to behave and think in a way that we can forgive them for being different. God is the God of all, the special place of the poor in the kingdom, the human dignity of all persons, these are the prophetic messages we proclaim. Is there a lesson for us here in the reaction Jesus’ own community had to his words? Can you think of rejected prophets of our time? Why were they rejected?

THIS WEEK...

The power of the prophets lies in the truths they teach. They catch the listener because they jar him or her. The truth they proclaim on the one hand does not seem immediately evident, but on the other hand it cries out to be believed. Robert P. Maloney CM

Prayer Send us prophets, Lord to challenge us and change us. Make us prophets, Lord, in our turn. So that all we meet, may learn of you through us. Amen.

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Spiritual Reflection Guide January - March 2010


THEY FOLLOWED HIM 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Isa 6:1-8 1 Cor 15:1-11 Lk 5:1-11

The call of the prophet Isaiah, the call to discipleship of Paul, the dramatic account of the call of the apostles Peter, James and John; these are the readings given to us this week. Jesus challenged Peter to put out the nets for a catch, even though he had had a disastrous night in which he caught nothing. Peter’s challenge was to trust the Master and do things differently, perhaps more creatively. The results were astonishing and disconcerting.

THIS WEEK...

The promptings of God are not always life changing. They occur in the details of daily routine, in small unexpected opportunities, in the course of human relationships. "I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." - Here I am, Lord, by Dan Schutte

Prayer May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith ...

The call of Christ to discipleship does not always come in such dramatic fashion. On October 11, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Jozef de Veuster, more familiarly known as Father Damien of Molokai. His comparatively short life looks almost accidental in its details. He went to Hawaii only because his priest brother Auguste was prevented by illness from going there. He volunteered as resident priest to serve the community created by the “Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy” of 1865, because the board of health refused to send physicians or nurses to aid the 600 people there. All that he did in his apostolate to the lepers had to come from his own energy and inventiveness. After some sixteen years of ministry there, he contracted the disease himself in 1884 and died in 1889.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

Where was the moment of call or vocation from the Lord in the life of Vincent de Paul or Frederic Ozanam?

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Can you describe such a moment of vocation in your own life?

May you be content knowing you are a child of God and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. Therese of Lisieux

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A TREE PLANTED BY THE STREAM 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Jer 17:5-8 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20 Lk 6:17, 20-26

How different are the two versions of the Beatitudes in Matthew and Luke. Matthew has Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount, extolling the blessed ones; Luke’s sermon on the plain contains as many “Alas for you..” statements as it does “Happy are you …” And in fact there is also in the first reading from Jeremiah a similar balancing of true and false human values in the eyes of God. A modern rewriting of this Gospel passage describes woes or troubles in the midst of blessings: “It’s trouble ahead, if we think we have it made. It’s trouble if we are satisfied and think there is nothing more to be done in our community or the world... There’s trouble, if we are too content with who we are, if we rest and sit back, happy with our accomplishments. Whereas:

THIS WEEK...

Those who trust in the Lord, will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

Prayer So let us place our trust in Him Lord let you mercy be on us As we place our trust in you. -Kevin Bates, A Trusting Psalm

You’re blessed if you have lost it all; you may find God. You’re blessed if you are hungry; you are ready to discover real food.

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You’re blessed in your tears; joy will come as the morning.

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You’re blessed if you are thrown out and thrown away; truth can come from you.”

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Rev Patricia de Jong, “Blessed Are You”, sermon preached February, 2007, paraphrasing the Gospel of Luke from The Message Bible.

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What is for you the tree planted by the water? Spiritual Reflection Guide January - March 2010


STOP!

1st Sunday of Lent Deut 26:4-10 Rom 10:8-13 Lk 4:1-13

Susan Phillips, who will be visiting Australia in March this year, has written an article called “Sabbath Living”. This week and in the coming two weeks, we will consider a section from that article. Stop! Refrain from trampling the Sabbath. The Hebrew word Shabbat means, simply, “Quit . . . Stop . . . Take a break”. Stop. Empty your hands. Sit down. Breathe. Look around. Notice. This is the invitation. God made many things, and they were good. The seventh day arrived, and God made it holy. Stop from our doing, and experience our being. This can be done everyday in Sabbath moments. Most of our spiritual disciplines are under our control. A sundown Sabbath cannot be postponed. Stopping isn’t easy. We notice what things inside and outside ourselves keep us busy and preoccupied. When Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here’” (Mark 10:49). Jesus stops for us. On the Sabbath, we can choose to stand still, notice what we’re feeling, and anticipate encountering God. How do you honour the Sabbath days in your life? Is there anything you stop doing on those days? Where are the “Sabbath moments” in your everyday life?

THIS WEEK... It takes time to bake a loaf of bread To grind, to knead, to wait... Time for friends to break and share their lives. It takes time to still within And merge with life Time in the wild to slow you down. - It Takes Time, Noel Davis

Prayer Refrain from trampling the Sabbath; from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honourable; honour it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs. Isaiah 58:13

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Seek the face of God 2nd Sunday of Lent Gen 15:5-12, 17-18 Phil 3:17-4:1 Lk 9:28-36

“Turning Toward – Call the Sabbath a Delight and the LORD’s Holy Day Honourable.” “Isaiah doesn’t write, “call the Sabbath a chore and the LORD’s holy day onerous.” In fact, the word delight appears twice in this short description of Sabbath living. Savouring that delight is part of the commandment. How we do that is personal and relational, and we discover more and more about it with practice. God takes the first step by creating the holy day and inviting us into it. The Ten Commandments do not command the building of a temple or altar; they do command sanctification of the seventh day. God made the Sabbath holy, and no person can demolish that sanctuary. We stop and turn from our occupations and preoccupations in order to orient toward God. Stopping and turning toward God is the foundation of contemplative practice... It is sometimes called the practice of the presence of God. In all contemplative practices, receptivity is essential. We open our minds, hearts, and senses to God, not knowing how God will be experienced. Perhaps as a wind, an earthquake, a fire . . . or a gentle whisper. Unlike other time that we manage, make, take, give, spend, and organize, consecrated Sabbath time arrives for us to enter. Or not.” - Susan S. Phillips “Sabbath Living” What prompts you to turn towards God? When God invites you into Sabbath time and space, what is delightful for you about that?

THIS WEEK... A time... one day a week one year in seven a moment of repose A place... a temple, church, ashram, mosque, a mountain top where spirits abide a sacred site within A meeting of people... who pause a while... - Mother Sabbath, Noel Davis

Prayer One thing I ask of the LORD,        this is what I seek:        that I may dwell in the house of the LORD        all the days of my life,        to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD        and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27: 4)

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TURN AND BE FAITHFUL 3rd Sunday of Lent

THIS WEEK...

“Turn From—Pursuing Your Own Interests, Going Your Own Way.”

Lubricate your life with ease and grace. There's rough stuff to be toughed. Bumps and shocks to be absorbed along the way. So stop a while and reduce the wear and tear. Take the time in a quiet place to lubricate your life with ease and grace. - Pit Stop, Noel Davis

Ex 3:1-8, 13-15 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 Lk 13:1-9

“It’s important to notice what we turn from when we stop and turn toward God’s holy day. In Eastern Orthodox prayer there is a movement which involves guarding the heart against fears and doubts that turn one away from God. We live in a noisy, cluttered culture. Walking down the city street, a quick look reveals that each person is, seemingly, talking to him or herself. Closer scrutiny identifies small metal objects attached to ears, lapels, and pockets. Each person is talking on a phone. What seals us into our own bubbles of buzz and hum? Sometimes it’s habit. We gradually increase the pace and density of our lives, and barely notice the change. Sometimes fears imprison us. Pride, too, is encapsulating: “I’m busy; therefore I’m important.” The fourth commandment specifically instructs us, on the seventh day, to stop all work, and to rest. This command is also for those who live with and work for us, including animals, and the aliens in our land (and, we might include today, those in other lands who labour for us). This is a practice of justice as well as devotion; we are not to expect others to work for us while we enjoy Sabbath rest.”

Prayer Slow me down Lord. Hold me still in your arms. Empty me of all that is not of you And fill me with your love. Make my heart your home – A wide and patient land Where time hangs around And distance is never too far, Where all can sit around a fire And tell stories that draw close to our lives.

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- Susan S. Phillips “Sabbath Living”

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What sort of things constitute the “buzz and hum”, the distractions of your daily life?

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How might you cultivate more “ease and grace” in your life?

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THE FATHER’S LOVE 4th Sunday of Lent Josh 5:9-12 2 Cor 5:17-21 Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

This beautiful parable, unique to the Gospel of Luke is the third of three that occur together; the first is of the lost sheep, sought out while leaving the other ninety-nine in the wilderness, and found with great joy. Unbridled joy is also the picture of the woman rejoicing at finding the lost drachma. Then comes the family tale of the father and his two sons. Everything about this story went counter to the accepted Jewish way of seeing things: the younger son asking for his share of the inheritance before his father’s death; the father with full abandon running to greet the child who had socially shamed him, not just forgiving him but restoring him to the family and its life. The parable almost suggests that the prodigal’s return is a trigger point for the already disgruntled older son and that his resentment of his brother makes him refuse to be part of any reconciliation with his sibling. Most strikingly, we are not given any sense of outcome... Did the younger son remain reunited with the family? Was there reconciliation between the sons? Luke leaves that unresolved; there is just one certainty and that is the unfailing and complete love of the Father. With which of the three people in the parable do your sympathies lie? Has there ever been an occasion in your Vincentian work where you have gone beyond hurt to offer forgiveness and acceptance?

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I have spread my money widely, my fortune sweetly burned And though my friends all told me once you've left, you can't return Will they let me stay or will they turn me away? Can I return and call this place my own? - Prodigal, by David Bird, 1997 Whole World Publishing

Prayer Father, Your word, Jesus Christ, spoke peace to a sinful world. Teach us the people who bear His name to follow the example he gave us. May our faith, hope and charity turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, death to eternal life. Amen.

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NOR DO I CONDEMN 5th Sunday of Lent Isa 43:16-21 Phil 3:8-14 Jn 8:1-11

The gospel of today from St John is full of drama and power; we witness the mischief of the question put to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees, the strength and composure of the Lord, the embarrassment and shame of the woman in front of her accusers. It is hard to know what is the key element of the narrative. Is it a message not to be judgmental or is it more simply forgiveness without conditions? Whatever reading we make, the theme of God’s encouraging, unfailing love is present. It is there in the first reading from Isaiah: “No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before”. It is repeated in the passage from Philippians: “All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come”. It is most patently shown when Jesus tells the woman, “Neither do I condemn you, go away and don’t sin any more”. These last two Sundays of Lent leading up to the contradictions and the drama of Holy Week bring a message of quiet reassurance, of looking to the future, even as they solemnly prepare us to commemorate Christ’s betrayal, passion and death. In an earlier gospel reading, the apostles were called to move from all that had been in their past, to ‘leave their boats behind’. How do you respond to the call to live in the present and focus on what is to come in your life? What are the things that help you to look forward to the future in hope?

THIS WEEK... For I know the plans I have for you, (It is the Lord who speaks) Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, Plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11

Prayer Lord, In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the Easter of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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we remember, we celebrate, we believe Passion (Palm) Sunday Isa 50:4-7 Phil 2:6-11 Lk 22:14-23:56

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Christ entered in triumph his own city, to complete his work as our Messiah: To suffer, to die, and to rise again... Let us follow him with lively faith.

What is summarised in the liturgy of Palm Sunday is expanded on throughout Holy Week. The events we read about today are starkly contrasted as we are drawn into accompanying Jesus on his journey from the apparent triumph of the entry into Jerusalem, through his passion and death.

“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Do this in memory of me.”

“Into Your hand I commend my spirit.”

Prayer We remember how you loved us to your death; and still we celebrate, for you are with us here. And we believe that we will see you when you come in your glory, Lord. We remember, we celebrate, we believe. - We Remember, Marty Haugen

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How can the events of Christ’s passion and death give hope and direction to our work in reaching out to the marginalised?

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Spiritual Reflection guide

Spritual Reflection Guides are a publication of the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Spiritual Advisor, Bill Johnston and are designed by Rachel Anne Irvine. For more information about these Guides, contact Bill Johnston on (02) 9560 8666 or email bill.johnston@vinnies.org.au.


http://vinnies.org.au/files/NSW/Spirituality/SpiritualReflectionGuides/SpiritualReflectionGuides_JAN  

http://vinnies.org.au/files/NSW/Spirituality/SpiritualReflectionGuides/SpiritualReflectionGuides_JAN10_web.pdf

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