March 3rd 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                  Ecclesiasticus 27:4-7  
In a shaken sieve the rubbish is left behind,
so too the defects of a man appear in his talk.
The kiln tests the work of the potter,
the test of a man is in his conversation.
The orchard where a tree grows is judged on the quality of its fruit,
similarly a man's words betray what he feels.
Do not praise a man before he has spoken,
since this is the test of men.


Second Reading             I Corinthians 15:54-58

When this perishable nature has put on imperishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. So let us thank God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Never give in then, my dear brothers, never admit defeat; keep on working at the Lord's work always, knowing that, in the Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain.



Gospel Reading            Luke 6:39-45

Jesus told a parable to his disciples. 'Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother's eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye," when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother's eye.

'There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. For every tree can be told by its own fruit: people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man's words flow out of what fills his heart.'




Sunday Reflection 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

"The Kiln tests the work of the Potter"

The meaning of this pithy short phrase is clear and memorable. Two centuries before the birth of Christ the grandson of Ben Sira collated his grandfather's aphorisms in what is now called the Book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus. Ben Sira, a popular philosopher of the time, set out to harmonise and synthesize the Mosaic tradition of salvation history with wisdom traditions that were more focused on creation. In Ben Sira's era, education was by word of mouth. Pithy, memorable phrases were more easily remembered. The early Christian Church used the Book of Sirach as a source of moral teaching. Nowadays, Catholics, but not all Christians, accept the Book of Sirach as part of the Canon of Scripture. The 1st Reading for this 8th Sunday comes from Ecclesiasticus (27:4-7) has six more memorably pithy quotes.

Jeremiah (18:1-11) describes God as the Master Potter.
"This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So, I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel…..
Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, "Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel."
The skilled, creative hands of a human, experienced potter can draw out of mouldable clay forms of great beauty and delicacy. If the soft clay develops faults or the artist extemporises the design, the potter's skill comes into its own and, perhaps in the process, adds more beauty and form. Only when the potter is satisfied will the finished piece be fired in the kiln, the ultimate test of the potter's skill.

This Sunday's 2nd Reading is an extract from St. Paul's 1st Letter to his Corinthian community (15:45-58). In it, Paul writes of a time:
"When this perishable nature has put on imperishability and when this mortal nature has put on immortality…"
Humanity, in this present world, is both mortal and perishable. Of itself humanity is incapable of effecting a change in its status. Immortality and imperishability are the prerogatives of God our Potter. He made such a translation possible for us when he took to himself our corrupted human nature in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, by freely choosing to pass through the kiln of intolerable suffering and a crucified death, opened up for us to way to his Father who thus became our Father when he adopted us as the sisters and brothers of his Only-Begotten Son.
Hebrews 2:14-15;18 expresses it thus:

"Since the children share the same flesh and blood, Jesus too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death ….. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."

Next Wednesday being 'Ash Wednesday' makes this the last Sunday before the start of Lent 2019. Imagining God as our Potter might help us adopt a Lenten mindset more in keeping with this 21st century world's needs. Human potters can alter their sculptures up to the point they are put in the kiln for firing. Likewise, we can choose to welcome the ministrations of our Divine Potter who lovingly wills to continue his creative work in us throughout our earthly life. As the potter, working at the wheel, continually dips his hands in water the better to shape and reform the mouldable clay, so our Divine Potter, we might say, continually dips his hands in our Baptismal water the better to effect the remedial work our sin-weakened will requires. We could set aside the chocolate and sugar of childhood and, instead, genuinely ask our Divine Potter to enable us to work with him bringing about the restoration that he sees we need. In times of surgery, consultants will often ask their patients, beforehand, to give them permission to make adjustments, in the best interests of the patient, to the proposed schedule of work as the operation unfolds. If patients can trust their surgeons, how much more should we be able to trust our Divine Potter who is also our Saviour.

The Divine Potter's engagement with us does not terminate on Easter Sunday. For it then begins a further extended journey, this time of 60 days, to Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the collaborative artistry of the Only Begotten Son, our brother by adoption, and the Holy Spirit.
Though the Ash Wednesday to Pentecost Sunday pilgrimage totals just 100 days, our Divine Potter is on-call to us the full 365 days of the year and for 24 hours a day too. Living, as we are, in this world of exile there is no let-up in Evil's hostility. Thank God, our Divine Potter loves us so unconditionally that we are free to engage with Him whenever and wherever we choose.

There will come a day when we are to be fired in the kiln of translation from here to eternity. That purgatorial experience will test not only the work of our Divine Potter but also the depth and quality of our commitment to Him, for as many days as we have been allocated for our Baptismal journey.
Perhaps you may have the opportunity to acquire some mouldable clay this Lent. Keep it moist and work it with moistened fingers for whatever time you allocate to daily prayer from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost. Have no particular design in mind but rather allow your fingers and the clay to engage in something that is, just like you and I, a 'work in hand' for our Divine Potter. When this harmony is realised there is no fear of the proving fire of the kiln.


Sunday thoughts: March 2019

By Monsignor John Devine

Some months ago I was celebrating a weekday Mass and noticed a group of four people sitting in the congregation: a couple and their teenage children. I didn't know them so at the end of Mass I greeted them at the back of church, automatically assuming them to be the family of the person named in the intention for whom we had just offered Mass. 'Oh no, Father', they said, 'It's Grandma's anniversary today so we just came along to Mass to pray for her.'

This family had made the Mass their own. No money had changed hands. It was their own initiative. The irony was that there was no trace in the congregation of anyone connected with the person for whom the Mass was being 'officially' offered. The priest was being 'paid' to offer Mass for them in their absence.

I've always felt uneasy about Mass intentions. The unease comes to the surface when someone asks, 'How much is a Mass?' The set answer is that it's an offering, not a payment. I painstakingly try to explain the difference (without much inner conviction). But the further question always follows: 'So how much then?' The impression remains that Masses can be bought.

Did Martin Luther have a point? When money enters the equation it can reinforce a transactional approach to our relationship with God. And even if we don't pay with money, there's an impression that we can only win God's favour, either for ourselves or for someone who has died, by earning it. Yet, as the saying goes, the best things in life are free. And best of all is God's love.

• In our parish we've introduced an additional option to traditional Mass intentions and Mass cards. Cards are available which state, 'I will pray for you next time I go to Mass.'