September 24th 2017

Contents:

  1. Parish Bulletin for Holy Family and Sacred Heart
  2. Newsletter for St Benedict's
  3. This Sunday's Readings
  4. Sunday Reflection
  5. Come and See 2017

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St Benedict's Newsletter was not available at the time of publication

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading Isaiah 55:6-9

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways - it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts

Second Reading Philippians 1:20-24.27

Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death. Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results - I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake.

Avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.

Gospel Reading Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus said to his disciples, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, "You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage." So they went.

At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, "Why have you been standing here idle all day?" "Because no one has hired us" they answered. He said to them, "You go into my vineyard too."

In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, "Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first." So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. "The men who came last" they said "have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day's work in all the heat." He answered one of them and said, "My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?"

Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.'


Sunday Reflection 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (24.09.17)

"But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first" (Matt.19.30)

Almost no tourists and few pilgrims ever witness it. As dawn breaks over the city of Jerusalem, the area just outside the Jaffa Gate becomes a hubbub of activity. As you watch the parable, spoken by Jesus 2,000 yrs. previously, is brought to life in our 21st. century. This is no theatrical presentation, it is real, daily life, except for the Sabbath, in the city of perpetual tension, the meeting place of the three great religions of the world. Matthew recalls Jesus' teaching for us (20:1-16) on the 25th Sunday of the Year.

Palestinian men, each carrying the tools of their trade, some water and a snack, jostle for position. Jewish landowners and contractors arrive in their pick-up trucks and drive slowly through the expansive area. They haggle briefly with the day-labourers before making their selection. Those hired climb into the open back of the trucks and so begins another day of work. There are no contracts, no union representatives, but the Jerusalem police are present in numbers should they be needed. A careful scrutiny of the archways high above the Jaffa Gate may even reveal some IDF (Israeli Defence Force) soldiers with telescopic rifles. If you substitute mules and donkeys for pickup trucks and clad everyone in the garb of Jesus' day and nothing much would have changed in two centuries. Instead of the IDF there would have been Roman mercenary soldiers.

People in the UK listening to the parable in 2017 may imagine Jesus describing an imaginary situation. Far from it! In fact, in the post 2nd World War major port cities of the UK, a similar scene was enacted daily at dock gates. Day-labourers queued from before dawn hoping to be picked to discharge cargoes from the endless stream of incoming merchant ships. Often it was a case of a day's work only 'if your face fitted'. To be unsuccessful in finding a day's work in the Jerusalem of Jesus' day, or the port city of Liverpool in the 20th century, meant hardship for all the family.

The truth of this parable goes to the very heart of the Christian Faith. There was a warning for Jesus' disciples in his parable. It was as if he were saying to them: 'You have the great privilege of becoming members of the Christian assembly from its inception. Later, others will come and you must not claim any honour because you were Christian before them. Every individual, no matter at what stage of their life they commit to Christ, is equally precious to God.

There are cradle Christians who develop a 'proprietorial' attitude towards their faith. Some resent, what they describe as, '11th Hour or deathbed converts'. They also resent the intrusion of a new generation whose outlook differs from theirs. In the Christian family seniority does not necessarily infer honour. Jesus' disciples asked him who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven: "Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (Matt.18:2-5)

The parable also has a warning for the Jews who, conscious of being God's 'chosen people' looked down upon Gentiles. The founding members of the Christian Church were all Jews who attempted to dictate that Gentiles could only become Christians if they first became Jews. "In God's economy," someone said, "there is no such thing as a most favoured nation clause." It may be that long-established Christian communities, in say Western Europe, may well have to learn from younger Christian communities in other parts of the world.

This parable has lessons for today. The 'comfort of God' is extended to any person irrespective of at what state or stage of life that person commits them self to Christ. There is a saying: 'Some enter the Kingdom in an hour; others hardly enter it in a lifetime'.

We live at a time of unprecedented migration often occasioned by dire circumstances of persecution and hunger. Unemployment caused by an absence of opportunity follows the migrants in all their wanderings. In the marketplace described by Jesus men stood waiting because no one had hired them. We do not know whether it was his compassion or the threat of imminent rain that prompted the landlord to take on more workers. Was he personally aware how continuous enforced unemployment can be utterly demoralising? This parable states implicitly two great truths at the very heart of Christianity - everyone has a right to work and the right of every working person is to receive a just and living wage. A 'wage' is not necessarily money. It may be a person's contribution to the running, say, of a home and family or a communal enterprise such as a farm.

The love with which we serve matters more than the amount we give. We are called to give our all. We can neither earn nor merit the grace God gives us. God's grace is not pay, nor is it a reward, it is pure gift.

This brings us to the supreme lesson of the parable. The spirit in which our work is contributed is more important than the work itself. The landlord, in the parable, entered into a contract with the first workers - a day's work for a day's pay. Those who were taken on later - especially the last comers - had no contract. All they wanted was the chance to work that they might feed their family. They trusted themselves to the landlord who knew the circumstances.

A person's depth of commitment to Christianity maybe questionable if their first concern is material remuneration. Even Peter asked Jesus: "What about us, Lord, who have left everything to follow you?" Jesus's response was to paint a word-picture of the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven where the first will be last and the last will be first.


Come and See 2017

Biennial conference comes to Southport in October

Spirituality, prayer and reflection are the essence of 'Come and See', the biennial conference organised by the Irenaeus Project in Liverpool Archdiocese, which this year takes place in October.

The appeal of the conference is clear. As we move around the diocese and listen to people, it becomes apparent how important it is to take time out in our busy lives for reflection and prayer. This helps to make the connections between faith and life. Some people really struggle to make those connections and others are just very grateful for the chance to think and pray.

We are very blessed this year to have Father Timothy Radcliffe, the Dominican preacher, as our main speaker. He is a former Master of the Order of Preachers (1992-2001) and is the only member of the Dominicans' English Province to have held the office since the Order's foundation in 1216. He is currently director of the Las Casas Institute of Blackfriars, Oxford which focuses on the promotion of social justice and human rights.

Father Timothy is a well-known preacher and speaker, and author of several books including What is the point of being a Christian?. Pope Francis named him in 2015 as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. So we are extraordinarily lucky to have him in Liverpool and it is an opportunity not to be missed.

We have great workshop leaders including Fiona Castle, Dave and Mary Matthews, Pat Kennedy, Dermott Donnelly and our own Steve Atherton. Music and prayer will be led by Jo Boyce and friends from Birmingham Archdiocese and there will be mime and drama led by Steve Murray who has an international ministry. On the Sunday we will be joined by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon to celebrate Mass.

The 2017 conference takes place at Christ the King High School in Southport on 14/15 October. The Southport location should, of course, mean plenty of residential accommodation available for those who do not wish to travel or for those coming from a distance. If you want more information about the conference or indeed about the Irenaeus Project and the work we do, contact us on 01519491199, email jenny@irenaeus.co.uk or visit our website www.irenaeus.co.uk.