February 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  Jeremiah 1:4-5.17-19

In the days of Josiah, the word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying:

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.
So now brace yourself for action. Stand up and tell them all I command you.
Do not be dismayed at their presence or in their presence I will make you dismayed.
I, for my part, today will make you into a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, and a wall of bronze to confront all this land:
the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests and the country people.
They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you
¬ it is the Lord who speaks."


Second Reading  I Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them. If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever. Love is always patient and kind: it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes: Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge, for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.

When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known. In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.



Gospel Reading    Luke 4:21-30

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue: "This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen." And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said: "This is Joseph's son, surely?" But he replied, "No doubt you will quote me the saying, "Physician, heal yourself" and tell me, "We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside." And he went on, "I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country. There were many widows in Israel, l can assure you, in Elijah's day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to anyone of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha's time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman." When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

 

Sunday Reflection 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (03.02.19)

Home Truths

Centuries ago God's choice identified a nomadic Middle-Eastern desert-dwelling tribe. God settled his tribe, the Israelites, under the leadership of Abraham, the founding father of the covenant between God and his chosen. Through Abraham, God revealed to the Israelites their mission. They were to promulgate knowledge of the Messiah promised by God. God's Messiah, his only-begotten Son become man, would be an Israelite. Over time the Israelites morphed into the people now known as Jews. They spread all over the globe and, in so doing, disseminated knowledge of the Messiah they had been promised who would be one of their own. In this sense the Jews have been successful in fulfilling their mission to share widely knowledge of God's promised Messiah. But, in rejecting belief in the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth as that Messiah, the Son of God made Man, they have denied themselves, up to the present time, access to the salvation that God had promised them. Jesus himself felt the pain of their refusal to acknowledge him, as Luke recalls in 19:41-44:
"As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

In choosing the Jews to be his people, God did not institute a superior race. He did not make the Jews special in a hierarchical sense. It was they who, over time, ascribed to themselves a superiority that was to manifest itself in behavioural attitudes which brought them enemies and persecutions. Jews globally are not renowned for their integration with local communities. They live, at least the orthodox among them, by a different calendar and mindset. It is really only in financial, legal and commercial professions that the Jews have integrated and then only to shore up their position. Ecumenism as understood among the Christians is not practised by the Jews.

On his first return visit to his Nazareth synagogue Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2), as we recalled last Sunday. The opening words with which he then began his address to the congregation were well received. We read them, again, today, this 4th Sunday of the Year (Luke 4:21)
"Today this Scripture passage
is fulfilled in your hearing."

With the hindsight of centuries, it would be fair for us to say that the Nazarian Jews who heard Jesus did not comprehend the truth being revealed by his words. Nevertheless, their appreciation abruptly changed to condemnation when Jesus went on to explain and exemplify that he, whom many of them would have watched grow up in their midst, was announcing himself as the living embodiment of the promise, that he was the Messiah. But what they knew of Jesus did not tally with what had come to be their expectation of the Messiah; namely, the restoration of their sovereignty as a people by military might. Jesus brought not a great army of liberation from Roman domination but a ragtag and bobtail group of followers.

Jesus gave them the hard-to-swallow examples from the prophets Elijah and Elisha in an attempt to exemplify for them how far his own people, the Jews, had distanced themselves from God.

God has sent Elijah, as his agent of relief, not to one of the many starving Jewish widows in a time of famine but to a Sidonian widow in Zarephath. And, though there were many Jewish lepers at that time, Elisha had been directed to be God's agent of healing for a Syrian called Naaman.

The implication that it was the covenantal unfaithfulness of Jesus' own people, the Jews, that made it impossible for God to come to their relief, was too much for the assembled Nazarenes. Moreover, they would have resented Jesus' complimentary words regarding the Gentiles. By this stage in their ethnic development the Jews were so sure of their superiority as God's chosen, that they utterly despised all Gentiles whom they regarded as fuel for the fires of hell.

Their indignation would have been compounded by such an unwelcome message being delivered by, in their eyes, a whippersnapper from their home town. They wanted rid of Jesus and were prepared for violence. But, as Jesus would say on other occasions, it was not his hour. He left them with their unsatisfied fury.

Notice how, in verse 16, Luke tells us: "Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did."

It may be helpful to realise that, in the synagogues of Jesus' day, there would surely have been many practices and behavioural anomalies with which he would have been in radical disagreement and which grated on him. Yet, he went each Sabbath! The worship of the synagogues might have been far from perfect but Jesus never omitted joining himself to God's worshipping people on God's Day. Is there a message here for those Baptised who have given up church attendance?

For some, visits to the Holy Land - effectively Israel - are marred by the superior attitude displayed by some Jews in the country they call their own. I make no defence for such behaviour. However, I was reminded by a Rabbi friend that he, on his first visit to Israel, discovered that, as he walked along Jerusalem's streets he was not feeling his customary need to be 'looking over his shoulder', for the first time in his life. It was a comment that made me think.

The teaching of the Second Vatican Council makes clear that we, Christians, are Baptismally obligated to pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters. We cannot seek oneness with the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, if we are not willing to seek communion with his Jewish brothers and sisters despite their current refusal to believe in his Divinity.

Jesus is the complete antithesis of superiority and exclusivity. St. Paul invites his Philippian converts to adopt the mind of Christ Jesus:
"Who, being in the form of God,
did not count equality with God something to be grasped.
But He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are;
and being in every way like a human being,
He was humbler yet,
even to accepting death, death on a cross."
(Philippians 2:6-8)

Aware of our constant need to ensure we are not 'taking a splinter out of our neighbour's eye while ignoring the plank in our own' (Matt.7:5), this Sunday's Gospel may prompt us to review how lovingly we are fulfilling God's adoption of us … today!