Using the Sunday Readings to reflect on our Journey in Faith From the Baptism of the Lord to the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C Because Easter is early this year; we have just five weeks to prepare our catechumens before Lent, and the period of Purification and Enlightenment, is upon us. Each RCIA group is organised differently and it is not possible to give specific advice on the subjects you may be discussing over the next five weeks so I have tried to give alternative subjects when the readings allow. Do not forget that the Word is flexible and can be approached in many different ways. If the Sunday Lectionary reading is not in line with your chosen subject on any particular evening I would suggest you choose an appropriate reading. If you do this it may also be helpful to your catechumens, who will be attending the Sunday Mass, to be given a brief summary of that weekend’s scripture before moving to an alternate reading. The Old Testament readings for this period come from the prophets; Isaiah, Nehemiah, and Jeremiah and are closely linked with the Gospel for that day. The second readings begin with the letter to Titus and then move to Corinthians for the Ordinary Time Sundays. The Gospel readings are from Luke with the exception of the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time when the Gospel of John is used. The Baptism of the Lord is the first Reading in this sequence. The Sacrament of Baptism is an ideal subject for this week and the readings are a great help when speaking and discussing this subject. We begin with an ‘Advent’ theme; Isaiah calling for a straight highway for the Lord. This reading is often associated with John the Baptist, a figure who is central to the Baptism of Repentance offered at the very beginning of Our Lord’s ministry. We need to focus however on the theme “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it” for the glory that is spoken of is Christ and his mission is to all the peoples of the earth. Psalm 103 is a great hymn of praise and should be included in your evening prayer if possible. Titus was sent by Paul to organise the Christians on the Island of Crete. He may have been the first Bishop for that Island. These two paragraphs capture the essence of the sacrament of Baptism; those who seek the sacrament are ready to change their lives and we “are saved by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit”. Our Catechumens are living through a period of transformation and preparing for their Baptism or Confirmation at Easter. The Gospel passage is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God through the words from heaven “You are my son the beloved”. The Sacrament of Baptism is full of symbols and actions which welcome those who receive it into the church. Tonight is an opportunity to explore these symbols, water, white garment, oils and actions, welcoming, naming, praying, pouring, anointing; one powerful way of teaching this subject is to have someone from last year speak about their experience. The second Sunday in Ordinary time begins a period when we look at the early days of Our Lord’s ministry. We begin with a familiar theme of scripture; the image of Bridegroom and Bride. Christ is often represented as a bride groom and the Church as his bride. Isaiah uses this theme in today’s first reading, he speaks of a people who have been ‘forsaken’ and ‘abandoned’ but who are now ‘My delight’ and ‘The Wedded’. Tonight you may want to speak about the Sacrament of Marriage and how Christ’s love for the church can be seen in the ideal marriage between a man and his wife. Paul suggest another theme for tonight; our giftedness. How we should use our gifts and talents within our church. It may be an opportunity to have your catechumens consider what they would like to do for the church. It is good to remember that they can use their gifts, in a limited way, in the church now in, for example, the Music ministry or perhaps in some administrative tasks. The Gospel passage is from John and his account of the Wedding Feast at Cana. This is a passage which speaks of the bond between Jesus and His mother Mary in a way that is not repeated in the Gospels. We see a strong Mary guiding her Son into His ministry through the miracle of turning water into wine. I am always amazed by the volume of wine produced; it must have been some party! In the Old Testament the people of God are governed by a set of Laws which cover almost all aspects of daily life and worship. The Third Sunday in Ordinary time speaks to us about the Law and how its rigidity comes into conflict with the new law that comes through Christ. The first reading from the Book of Nehemiah speaks to us of the importance of the Law and how it is reverenced by the people. This theme is continued in Psalm 18 where the Law is described as perfect, to be trusted, simple, right and clear. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us that we, in the church, are one body and each of us has a part to play. Tonight your theme may be the Church and how it is organised from the Pope down to the person who cleans the church we are all servants and each of our duties is vital if our church is to be alive and active in the world. Luke’s Gospel begins a sequence of passages around the early days of Our Lord’s ministry. Today we are in Nazareth and Jesus announces the coming of the Kingdom to his relatives, friends and neighbours in his home town. The words of Isaiah are a summary of the events, the miracles, that we will live through over the coming months. The people of God is the theme of the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings reassure us that no matter what trials we face we have God by our side. In the first reading form Jeremiah we are told that “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you came to birth I consecrated you”. This is difficult to take in; we were chosen before we were born to be numbered among his people and our God will stand by us no matter what. Wow! The reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is very familiar; it is often read at weddings and speaks of faith, hope and love. Tonight you may discuss the idea of love and how God’s love and human love can be compared. There is an opportunity to discuss how forgiveness is given through God’s love. As a comparison look at the Gospel passage, last week Jesus was speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom. This week his words have the opposite effect to what he hoped for as his own people turn against him and try to kill him. Human nature is difficult to understand and the idea of forgiveness without condemnation is difficult to grasp but this is what God’s love is about. The Fifth week of Ordinary Time is about how we live as the people of God. It is an opportunity to discuss vocation and possibly the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It would be good to have a priest, deacon or religious with you tonight to give an insight into how they were called and what their ministry means to them. The reading from Isaiah introduces the theme of “Who will be our messenger?” When I help new readers to proclaim the Word at Mass this is one of the readings I use. It is powerful, the text varies so that different emphasis is needed through the reading and the final line “Here I am send me” is an affirmation to the reader that this ministry is God given to them. You may have discussed the story of Paul in your group on a previous evening but if you have not then this passage to the Corinthians is a very good way of describing Pauls journey from the persecutor Saul to the apostle Paul. Paul’s letters are an integral part of our Sunday readings and it is important that your group have an insight into his life. I was in Rome recently and visited the Church of Saint Paul outside the Walls. It is a magnificent building, one of my favourites because although it is big, it is simple and there are none of the distractions you find in other Roman churches. It is built as a place of worship not as an art gallery. I find that sums up Paul’s character; he simply wants us to know Christ. The Gospel reading for this week is the call of the apostles from Luke. It is a simple story. Jesus asks for help; Simon Peter gives it willingly. Simon is then drawn to listen to Jesus. Then Jesus shows his power through a marvellous haul of fish; Simon knows that fish can only be caught at night yet this carpenter from Nazareth catches fish by the net full during the day! Simon is lost, shipwrecked by this miracle and falls to his knees in his unworthiness, Jesus calls him and James and John and they follow Him. How many times are we asked to do something for the church and feel unworthy? We are all called to be Apostles, all we need is a little faith.