Following our slightly confusing pattern of alternating between separate, Friday and All age Sunday groups for Lent, this Sunday found us in St Agnes hall for lunch and study before Mass.

The theme for this week looked at penitence and reconciliation, with the gospel being Jesus’ talk to Nicodemus and the Eucharistic reflection focusing on the Act of Penance at the start of each Mass.

After an opening prayer, some of us shared some photographs of when we were younger, looking at how different people had changed. We then thought about spiritual changes that had taken place in each of us. The younger children were asked ‘What have you learnt about God since you were little?’ while older people in the group thought about ‘Where are you aware of when God has brought about transformation in your life?.’ We heard some input on how our world view affects us and heard an extract form the catechism:

‘The heart is the dwelling place where I am, where I live; according to the Biblical expression, the heart is the place ‘to which I withdraw.’ The heart is our hidden centre, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision…it is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation; it is the place of covenant.’ (CCC 2563)

We thought about the seeds from last week. Just as we have to co-operate with God when we listen to the Liturgy of the Word, this has to happen in the whole of our lives. With this co-operation God brings about the Fruit of the Spirit that St Paul talks about in his letter to the Galatians:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Gal 5:22-23.

The whole group listened to the gospel from week 4 and talked about what people had noticed:

“At this part of Lent the cross is on the horizon: “The Son of Man must be lifted up’.”

“Indeed everyone does wrong hates the light and avoids it.” This is something we all face. Is this a stage? Do we all wrestle with evil? Hiding nesecsitates an awareness of the light, that we are hiding from it. Do we hide from ourselves the nature of our evil? Do we avoid being challenged by the gospel. Often the first encounter someone has with the Gospel brings anger. St Ignatius talks about two types of person: Those who are moving away from God and those who, despite sin, are moving towards God. A good picture for this is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. At the beginning of the story he moves away from his father, at the end he returns. This movement is in all of us.”

We watched a clip from “Chicken Run.” Rocky the rooster has allowed hens in a chicken farm to believe he can fly. When a chicken pie machine is installed by the diabolical Mrs Tweedy, the hens look to Rocky to teach them to fly to freedom. Ashamed, Rocky runs away the night before the planned escape. He returns in time to help all the chickens escape in a chicken powered flying machine.

People then said what they hid from others:
o Things we are not proud of.
o When you know you have done something wrong.
o When you don’t want others to think badly of you.
o If you are told you can’t take a toy with you, you hide it under your coat so it stays close to you. If you have others coming to play, you hide your favourite toys so they won’t be played with.
o Thoughts you are not pleased with.
o Wearing lipstick- as a teenager!
o Things we are ashamed of or embarrassed by.
o What we think others will disapprove of.
o When it is time for friends to go home we hide them so they can stay.

People were then asked to write general sins on a mirror. It was a strange experience because as you wrote, you could see yourself clearly. The Act of Penance was explained as was the Priest’s Absolution, when the mirror was wiped clean.

To finish, we looked at Sieger Koder’s “The Last Supper’ and heard the following readings:

“Jesus said to Nicodemus: “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. No one who believes in him will be condemned;” from the Gospel for Lent 4.

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” From 1 Corinthians 11.

“[Penance] is allowing ourselves simply to be before God, without pretence, warts and all. It is in this state of true humility that we are then able to approach the altar in the right frame of mind and heart – open to the loving mercy of God. Then we can offer up ourselves with Christ to the Father in a spirit of thankfulness and confidence. In return, we are able to receive the life-giving presence of Christ in the form of bread and wine. This communion with Jesus Christ in the form and manner of a meal nourishes and supports our spiritual life, just as ordinary food sustains us in our physical life. God’s purpose in his great work of reconciliation through his Son is to draw us into that communion of love and truth, that fellowship with him and each other.” From the reflection on the Eucharist from “Communion in Christ’