September 15th 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           From the Book of Exodus (32:7-11.13-14)

The Lord spoke to Moses, 'Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. "Here is your God, Israel," they have cried "who brought you up from the land of Egypt!" I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.' But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. 'Lord,' he said, 'why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.' So the Lord relented and did not bring on the people the disaster he had threatened.



SECOND READING         From the First Letter of Paul to Timothy (1:12-17)

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus. Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life. To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.



GOSPEL READING           Luke 15:1-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. "This man" they said "welcomes sinners and eats with them." So he spoke this parable to them: "What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends, and neighbours? "Rejoice with me," he would say "I have found my sheep that was lost." In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance. Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? "Rejoice with me," she would say "I have found the drachma I lost." In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.'

He also said, 'A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, "Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me." So the father divided the property between them. A few days later the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery. 'When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, "How many of my father's paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants." So he left the place and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son." But the father said to his servants, "Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found." And they began to celebrate.

Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. "Your brother has come" replied the servant "and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound." He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, "Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property - he and his women - you kill the calf we had been fattening." The father said, "My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found."


Sunday Reflection 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

What Prompts Authentic Rejoicing?

Authentic, as opposed to induced, rejoicing is experienced when the soul encounters The Truth. Humans, being made in the image and likeness of God, have an innate affinity with The Truth, because God is The Truth. Authentic rejoicing, therefore, is a deep, spontaneous, up-welling from the soul and the heart. It's manifestation can be experienced silently, within the soul and heart. Equally, it can audible and visible as, for example, when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain top in the presence of Peter, James and John - (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36). Likewise, when Elizabeth greeted Mary addressing her not as cousin Mary, but as "The Mother of My Lord" (Luke 1:43). The Good News of Jesus the Christ brings authentic rejoicing to those who courageously search for The Truth. Persevering courage is required for the discovery of authentic rejoicing because, in this world, there are innumerable obstacles and false trails.

It is lamentably true that Satan thrives on misrepresenting God. In his continuous attempt to invert The Truth, Satan has always cunningly involved flawed human thinking and methodology. For example, it is true that God chose the Jewish people to be his own. But in doing so, God did not endow them with an exclusivity that would forever separate them from the remainder of the human race. The Jews granted themselves his false aura of exclusivity. Jesus, himself a Jew, never lost an opportunity of exposing the falseness of his fellow Jews' claim to superiority.

We find two biblically classic examples of Jesus attempting to change the Jewish mindset in the Gospel for this 24th Sunday which comes from St. Luke (15: 1-32).
Jesus freely welcomed all sincere searchers after The Truth to his gatherings, including Jews who were tax collectors and sinners. In the eyes of the Pharisees and scribes and, therefore the main Jewish population, such Jews were definable as public sinners. This was no nitpicking disagreement. The Pharisees classified those Jews who did not observe the Mosaic Law - as interpreted by the all-powerful Pharisees - 'the People of the Land'. There was a complete barrier between the Pharisees and their fellow Jews so classified. The Pharisaic regulations laid it down that no male member of 'the People of the Land' could marry the daughter of an orthodox Jew - Jewishness being passed through the mother not the father. Nor could the 'the People of the Land' be entrusted with the monetary affairs of the orthodox. No testimony could be taken from 'the People of the Land', they could not be entrusted with secrets, or become guardians of orphans or charitable funds, nor could they be trusted as companions on a journey. Pharisees were forbidden to be guests of 'the People of the Land' or to invite them to their homes.

In case the point remains unclear, the Pharisees would have preferred Jesus to have said: 'There will be joy in heaven over one sinner (Jew or other) who is annihilated.' Jesus' outreach to his fellow Jews branded as 'sinners' appalled the Jewish religious leaders of the time.

The impact of the parables of 'The Lost Sheep' and 'The Lost Coin', that are at the heart of this Sunday's Gospel extract, is lessened for us who are largely unfamiliar with the reality of ancient Israelitic life, especially as it was lived in Jesus' day.

The Jewish Judaean shepherd had a hard and dangerous task. Pasture was scarce and not all that grew was edible. Animals could become dissemblingly sick by being allowed to eat the wrong food. The central plateau was narrow before plunging down wild cliffs to the devastation of the desert. There were no restraining walls as we know them and sheep wander. George Adam Smith wrote of the shepherd, "On some high moor, across which at night the hyaenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, armed, leaning on his staff and looking out over his scattered sheep, each one of them known to his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judaea sprang to the front in his people's history; why they gave his name (The Good Shepherd) to the king and made him the symbol of providence; why Christ took him as the personification of self-sacrifice."

The shepherd was personally responsible for the sheep. If a sheep was lost the shepherd must at least bring home the fleece to show how it had died. These shepherds were experts at tracking and could follow the straying sheep's footprints for miles. For good shepherds, it was all in the day's work to risk their lives for their sheep.

Many of the flocks belonged to village communities with two or three shepherds in charge. Returning sheep and shepherds would have brought news that one shepherd was still out on the mountain side searching for a lost sheep. The whole village would be upon the watch because their livelihood was at stake. When, in the distance, they saw the shepherd striding home with the lost sheep across his shoulders, there would rise from the whole community a shout of joyful thanksgiving.

That is the picture Jesus drew of God; that, said Jesus, is what God is like. God is as glad when a lost sinner is found as a shepherd is when a strayed sheep is brought home.
It is a wondrous thought and an amazing truth that God is more merciful than are we. The orthodox Jews wrote off tax-collectors and sinners; not so God. God loves the faithful who never stray; but in his heart there is the joy of joys when one that was lost is found and brought home.

How are we to understand the woman's lost coin? Well, have you ever seen a photo of a Middle Eastern woman wearing a headdress decorated with ten-linked silver coins? It signifies a woman who is married. The acquisition of the ten coins, the equivalent of a wedding ring for us, was highly personal, irreplaceable and so sacrosanct that it could not be taken from her even for the payment of a debt. The loss of one of those small coins would initiate a most thorough search in unpromising condition of a beaten-earth, dusty flooring covered with dried reeds and rushes. Equally, the finding of such an irreplaceable coin would occasion a whole family celebration. We can imagine the truly authentic rejoicing. God, said Jesus, is just like that when a sinner sets out on the daunting journey home (the parable of 'The Prodigal Son' Luke 15:11-24).

Turn our hearts and souls, Father, to search for The Truth, Jesus the Christ, when our spirit is tempted by the evils abroad in our world. May the anticipation of finding our Good Shepherd bring us true joy despite our suffering.