December 31st 2017


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

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading                             Genesis 15:1-6..21:1-3

The word of the Lord was spoken to Abram in a vision, 'Have no fear, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great.'

'My Lord,' Abram replied 'what do you intend to give me? I go childless...' Then Abram said, 'See, you have given me no descendants; some man of my household will be my heir.' And then this word of the Lord was spoken to him, 'He shall not be your heir; your heir shall be of your own flesh and blood.' Then taking him outside he said, 'Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants' he told him. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.

The Lord dealt kindly with Sarah as he had said, and did what he had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the time God had promised. Abraham named the son born to him Isaac, the son to whom Sarah had given birth.

Second Reading                           Hebrews 11:8.11-12.17-19

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.

It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.

Gospel Reading                              Luke 2:22-40

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, - observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord - and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel's comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

'Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.'

As the child's father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected - and a sword will pierce your own soul too - so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.'

There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God's favour was with him.

Sunday Reflection The Holy Family (31.12.17)

The Importance Of Footings

Footings are critical to a building's endurance and longevity. Yet purchasers hardly ever see the footings of buildings in which they invest. Instead, they trust the reports of structural engineers and surveyors. Likewise, people living or working in a building give little thought to the footings buried deep in the ground, unless the building develops structural faults.

The 'footings' of family life vary from nation to nation and era to era. In some cultures, child brides are the accepted norm whereas in other countries marriage is delayed until the 30s or 40s, if it happens at all.

In Western Europe, where Christianity has suffered an implosion, it would appear that the 'footings' of Christian marriage have become dangerously threatened. For both Jews and Catholics, what is called 'marrying out' is now the norm. In earlier times, a Catholic man or woman would have been encouraged to look for compatibility in faith as a foundational requirement of a lifelong relationship. Often a mother's first question to their son or daughter on being presented with a new boy/girlfriend would have been 'Is she/he a Catholic?'

As recently as the 1940s and 50s, a Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of England and Wales reminding Catholics approaching a marital age that they should seek a Catholic as a future partner, was read on at least one Sunday of the year. Dispensations for mixed marriage were hard to obtain and quite rarely granted by local bishops. The pastoral hope was that by bringing together two practising Catholics, the future of the Catholic Church would be secured in them and their children.

Who could have foreseen the massive impact of two population-decimating world wars in close order that changed many previous 'norms' along with decisive changes re the role of women in society? The Pastoral Letter, referred to earlier, quietly disappeared. Yet the granting of dispensations for 'marrying out' remained the exception rather than the norm. Over time many UK Catholics re-appraised their views on some of the Church's teaching regarding matrimony.

The construction industry has seen the development of many new types of footings. But the need for 'footings', as such, remains unchanged. In recent decades family life has suffered increasingly from relationship instability this has impacted most upon the children caught by separation and divorce. It was never guaranteed that parental oneness of faith would ensure the permanence of a relationship. But as a fundamental ingredient of wider footings a husband and wife's oneness of religious commitment might well enable that home to be 'founded on rock' and 'not on sand'.

As Jesus taught (Matt.7: 24-27)
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

As a community, a Church, how often are we regularly praying, both publicly and privately, for married couples, those approaching marriage and for parents? The role of parents in ensuring that their homelife nurtures the 'footings of faith' is as vital as structural 'footings' are to a building. Often, today, parents are heard saying: "I want my children brought up as Catholics." Might such a statement be revealing a parent's lack of confidence in the strength of his or her own faith for the demands of teaching their own children? The parish and school community needs to respond positively. For it is essential for parents to remain fully engaged with the faith development of their offspring. No Catholic school, whatever its calibre, can replace the 'footings of faith' that the homelife of faith-filled parents can provide. There are many faith-filled parents who successively raise committed Catholics whose education has been in non-religious schools. Sadly, there are many Baptised Catholic children who, when they leave a Catholic education system, effectively leave the Church of their Baptism because their homelife never provided them with the requisite 'footings of a lived and valued faith'.

Parents pray that their children will have children but what motivates that prayer? It may be because the parents, having themselves experienced the rewards of parenting, wish that same joy for their own children. But parents' desire for grandchildren must first take into consideration the marital wellbeing of their daughter/son and their son/daughter-in-law. The arrival of grandchildren should be an unconditional blessing.

Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, and Mary his Mother were evidently committed and practising Jews. They would surely never have dreamt that their humble origins would be the 'footings' chosen by God the Father for the Incarnation of his only-begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, God-made-Man. It is said that all Jewish women, believing in the promised Messiah, wished for such a motherhood but most probably felt that their circumstances ruled them out. Mary believed she had ruled herself out by her promise of virginity.

How mistaken she was. For, with God all things are possible:
"Again, I tell you," Jesus said, "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
"When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished and asked, 'Who then can be saved?'
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" …

Holiness cannot be bartered, won or manufactured. It is the free gift of God to a soul struggling to love him despite the punishing ordeal of a self-imposed exile. The lovingly combined commitment of a faith-filled husband and wife is the 'footings' of the Church. We know this through the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.