November 10th 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
  5. Reflections: November 2019


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This Sunday's Readings

FIRST READING       From the Second Book of the Maccabees (7:1-2.9-14)

There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig's flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said 'What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the Law of our ancestors.' With his last breath the second brother exclaimed, 'Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever.'

After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands, with these honourable words, 'It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.' The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man's courage and his utter indifference to suffering. When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture. When he neared his end he cried, 'Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men's hands, yet relying on God's promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life.'


SECOND READING     From the Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians (2:16-3:5)

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord's message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone. But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you. May the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.



GOSPEL READING           Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees - those who say that there is no resurrection - approached Jesus and they put this question to him: 'Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man's married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well, then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all the seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?'

Jesus replied, The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all are in fact alive.'


Sunday Reflection 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Continuity

We, earthlings, are creatures encapsulated by successive uninterrupted contiguous (connected but separate) moments. Our life and activity is measured in nano-seconds, days, years, centuries. We are always in motion, even when asleep. For us, contiguous continuity is the only known way of life.

The contrast with the Divine could not be more different. God describes Himself as "I am, who am". In the Book of Exodus (3:13-14) we read:

"Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
God said to Moses, "I am who am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has sent me to you.'"

God's self-definition helps us engage with a concept of continuity that is entirely foreign to us, namely, the unchanging and unchangeable; without beginning or end. Though beyond our experience, such a concept is not beyond our partial comprehension. We believe in it because it is God's self-definition and we have faith in God's word. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews (4:12) 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."

So, continuity has one meaning when we speak of God and another when we speak about God's creation.

God's selection of the Israelites to be his chosen people is unalterable. In the same way, God's adoption of us, at our Baptism, is irrevocable. Jews are God's 'chosen' and the Baptised are God's 'adopted'. This remains so even when individual Jews or Christians publicly revoke their status as Jew or Christian. There is perpetuity in the words and actions of the Divine

Gifted, as we are, with free will each of us must choose, moment by successive moment, to re-engage with all that defines us spiritually, physically and socially. We do most of this, normally, by habit just as we breathe by habit. But, sometimes, the habitual - what we regard as 'continuous' - is challenged by ever-evolving circumstances. On such occasions, the depth of a person's commitment can be tested up to and including the point of dying. The faith of many Christians has been tested by persecution that resulted in their suffering and death; the pre-eminent exemplar being the Son of God-made-Man, Jesus of Nazareth. Martyrdom has been a hallmark of God's adopted family since the Fall.

The Scripture passages for this 32nd Sunday of the year each focus on the choice humans make that can be labelled as 'continuity'.

The First Reading (2nd Book of the Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14) dates to about 161 BC. Its author, Jason of Cyrene, displays in the scenario of the seven brothers and their mother living the belief, prevalent at the time, that martyrdom was a valid expression of a Jewish person's express wish to maintain their continuity of faith in the God of Abraham.
As today's fragmented extract from Maccabees does not portray the full picture of this family's martyrdom, may I commend the reading of the whole of chapter 7?
Notice how the mother is the 'bedrock' of her son's fidelity and is, herself, the last to be martyred. This may help the reader appreciate the Jewish belief that, for them, the Saviour will be born through a Jewish mother. (Christians believe that this has already happened through the Jewess of Nazareth, Mary) Moreover, Jews believe that it is only through a Jewish mother that Jewishness can be inherited.

Family continuity has always been precious for the Jews. For this reason, 'marrying out' ('mixed-marriage', as it is known in the Catholic Church) is abhorrent among orthodox Jews. So, the scene is set for this Sunday's extract from Luke's Gospel (20:27-38).
Celibacy has no role in the Jewish religion. Jewish households always have room for children for they are the race's future, its 'continuity' as God's 'chosen'. Even among non-practising Jews - that is those who do not often attend synagogue - there is a commitment both to their procreation and to the sustaining of those procreated. Jews limit the 'continuity' of their race to genetics. The process for Gentiles to become Jews - and to be accepted as such - is to say the least precarious. Though one synagogue may welcome a 'convert', the next may not do so.

The Sadducees, in the time of Jesus, did not believe in a resurrection. They set out to entrap Jesus. Their verbal semantics fail when Jesus explains that, in heaven, there is no marriage between humans. For, in heaven, each person is subsumed into the fullness of Christ, the head of the body of which Baptism has made us members.

For Christians, 'continuity' is the daily choice to live, practice and preach God's Word by example as well as speech. Membership has no barriers of gender, race or location nor of language or custom provided that God's Word and its injunctions are respected. 'Continuity' is effected through careful and protracted catechesis in both the individual home and the Christian school (the process of Christian Initiation) is confirmed by the grace of the Holy Spirit through the pouring of water, the saying of the words, and the anointing with the Oil of Chrism.

Because Christians, being preoccupied with many distractions like their fellow citizens, can take for granted their adoption into the Body of Christ, it may be helpful to read Psalm 77 making use of verse 12 as an introduction:
"I reflect on all that the Lord has done,
I ponder all his great deeds."
In fact, do we ever, outside of worship, reflect on what God has done and is doing for us, for those of our community, our ancestors, our spiritual forebears? Moses laid great emphasis on his people remembering, generation after generation - the essence of 'continuity' - what God had done for them. They are to observe special days of celebration marking how, without God's direct intervention, guidance, leadership and sustenance, they would be but forgotten slaves. For Christians, too, the historical relationship between us, today, and our forebears is not something to be carelessly acknowledged and then forgotten. It is a living relationship to be treasured and nurtured.

Without God, where would we be? Do we share with others our understanding of God's redemption? Do we nurture our knowledge of God's part in our people's history by reading Scripture and reflecting, which is another word for prayer? Our generation has become dangerously 'me', 'my' and 'instant' orientated and where's the 'continuity' there?


Reflections: November 2019

By Father Chris Thomas

Will you come and follow me?

Many years ago I came across a man called Steve who worked with people who had disabilities. His life had been tragically marred by childhood abuse. He was so badly damaged that much of his way of thinking, particularly about himself, was twisted and broken. We became good friends, but he struggled with life and particularly with trust of God and of others.

Then he was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare cancer and something happened within him. He told me that he turned around and 'God was there'. The healing that he had always desired began to take place. He was transformed within as the cancer ravaged his body. He began to know that he was loved by God and by those around him. He forgave people who had damaged him so badly and he learned how to trust. He eventually died aged 64, a healed, whole, free man who finally knew that God can be trusted.

The whole of the Scriptures are an invitation to trust that God is on our side and that whatever may be going on in our lives, God is there for us.

I don't think that there is any better example of that than Mary in Luke's Gospel. Luke paints a beautiful picture of Mary and an angel coming to visit her to make the point to us that however God breaks through into our lives, we have a choice. We can trust that God will be God, or we can wonder and question and never ultimately do what Mary did and say: 'Let it be.'

I often wonder where we get the picture of gentle Mary from and how we interpret her in the way we do in religious artwork - meek and mild, dressed in blue and white with her hands joined looking into the skies. This was a strong lady who was willing to face her fears and walk into the darkness, trusting in the God she experienced. She was pregnant, alone in a society where at the very least she would have been shunned if not stoned to death. Despite that: 'Let it be'.

The challenge she gives us is to open our hearts and allow God to break through into our lives trusting that He will be there for us and, even in the most difficult circumstances, will bring good about. Luke presents Mary as the prototype of the disciple, the one who says 'let it be', the one who trusts and who follows. Are you willing to trust in the God who is present and who is with you as Mary did? Are you willing to follow the Lord wherever He may lead?