February 17th 2019

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Contents:

  1. Parish Bulletin for Holy Family
  2. Newsletter for St Benedict's
  3. This Sunday's Readings
  4. Sunday Reflection

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading  Jeremiah 17:5-8
The Lord says this:
'A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands: if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness, a salt land, uninhabited.
A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.'


Second Reading  I Corinthians 15:12.16-20
If Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached,
how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead?
For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised,
and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins.
And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished.
If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.
But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead,
the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.


Gospel Reading    Luke 6:17.20-26
Jesus came down with the Twelve and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said:
'How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.
'But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.
'Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.'

Sunday Reflection 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

No Man's Land / Blessings and Woes

'Contrast' is one theme that threads through the 6th Sunday's Scripture extracts. The prophet Jeremiah (1st Reading) contrasts those who trust in themselves with those who trust in God. St. Paul (2nd Reading) contrasts those whose vision is limited to the here and now with those who believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, Jesus contrasts those who bring blessings with those who bring curses.

Most people have heard of the phrase 'No Man's Land'. It describes ribbons of land that divide and contrast hugely different regimes of power. A long established contemporary political example is the 'DMZ' (demilitarised zone) that has separated North and South Korea since 1953. The Korean 'DMZ', 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, forcibly divides one people. But no 'DMZ' is a barrier to Evil.

Mythology contains many falsehoods about supposed protection from Satan, for those who continue to believe in Evil. Some wear a gold cross as a protection. Others continue to hang up garlic. A commonly heard misconception is: 'I don't do anything wrong'. Hospital chaplains tell of the clusters of 'miraculous medals' attached to a patient's pillow in the belief that they will bring about that patient's recovery. Just as a physical 'DMZ' or the wearing of a 'holy' symbol may give the impression of a secure barrier, we know in our hearts, it is not. Our defence against Evil is nothing we wear or have near to hand. A person's only defence is the vitality of their heartfelt and lived faith in Jesus, which cannot be conjured up in a moment. The religious furniture of our churches may be a comforting sight but they cannot substitute for faith.

It may be helpful to reflect that contrasting opposites, in the physical world, actually touch one another without the intervention of any type of 'DMZ'. For example, an oasis in an arid desert. Look at the Egyptian capital of Cairo. It is the world's 15th largest metropolitan area. Yet it is encapsulated, on its landward fronts, by the enormity of the Saharan desert. You can, as it were, step off the edge of city life and into the sand-dunes.

The analogy of the cheek by jowl existence of an oasis in a desert also aptly identifies the daily dilemma for Christians in this earthly exile. While the Son of God walked on this earth there was no 'DMZ' between Jesus and Satan. The battle between them was unceasingly very close. At every breath of his earthly journey, Jesus would have been intensely aware of the devilish closeness of his, and our, implacable nemesis. The encounters we read of in the Gospels (e.g. Herod's murder of the Innocents Matt: 2:16; Satan's temptation of Jesus Matt. 4:1-11; Peter's rebuke of Jesus Matt.16:22-23) are but snippets of the incessant battle that reached from Bethlehem to Calvary and which continues today in Christ's Body on earth, the community of the Baptised. For, as St John tells us, this world is in the power of the Evil One (1 John 5:19)

Some members of our Christian family, who face daily physical persecution, quickly learn to distinguish fellow Christians from persecutors. Christians faced with neighbourly indifferentism have a significantly more difficult task. For, lurking beneath that indifference, could be a potential persecutor. Committed Christians, in the UK, are more likely to be faced with apparent indifference than with out and out persecution, at least for the moment.

But the constant proximity of apparent indifferentism can be injurious to the Christian. It can weaken and undermine the spiritual commitment of the Baptised. This is the more true when both share the same living space. No one can forcibly take God's love and grace from the Baptised, as Jesus said:
"The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand." (John 10:27-28)

But besieged Christians can be induced to relinquish their thirst for God's sustenance, his grace, substituting for it the abundance of false life that is so prevalent in an ever more secular Europe. Christians need one another to sustain an ever- watchful alertness faced, as we are, with rampant Evil. God's Word is our light.

The Letter to the Hebrews (4:12-13) tells us:
"For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."
If the Word of God penetrates soul and spirit and divides marrow from the bone, then it is as well for us to remember that the Evil One will have similar access, while we abide in this land of exile. For Satan not to have such access would upset the equilibrium God promised for our free will. God wants us to love him because we choose, freely, to do so.
It is helpful to remember always that, in this world, love is not a state of perfect being. We think of the word love as a verb. But it is also an active noun, like the word struggle. To love God, as He calls us to do, is to struggle to be like God as we have seen God express Himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Shadowing our every effort to love God will be our nemesis. This battle, in which there is no 'DMZ', was initiated with our Baptism and it continues until our last breath when, please God, we can say "Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit".

Someone said, "I hope I remember the words when I am dying." A fellow Christian and good friend responded, "My friend, those words of Psalm 36 prayed by Jesus as he breathed his last, have been on your lips daily throughout your life. You know them by heart."

Each moment of each day is sacred because in it we make a choice. There is no 'DMZ', no middle ground, God and Satan are before us and the choice is ours.