January 7th 2018


  1. Parish Bulletin for Holy Family and Sacred Heart
  2. Newsletter for St Benedict's
  3. This Sunday's Readings
  4. Sunday Reflection
  5. News from ACN - Mass returns to Mosul

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading                   Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine out Jerusalem, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you, though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples. Above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears. The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness. Lift up your eyes and look round: all are assembling and coming towards you, your sons from far away and daughters being tenderly carried. At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart throbbing and full; since the riches of the sea will flow to you; the wealth of the nations come to you; camels in throngs will cover you, and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; everyone in Sheba will come, bringing gold and incense and singing the praise of the Lord.

Second Reading              Ephesians 3:2-3.5-6

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.

Gospel Reading                Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. 'Where is the infant king of the Jews?' they asked. 'We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.' When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 'At Bethlehem in Judaea,' they told him 'for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel'.

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. 'Go and find out all about the child,' he said 'and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.' Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

Sunday Reflection The Epiphany (07.01.18)

Impulse Driven - But Who Supplies the Impulse?

An impulse can describe a change made suddenly and without forethought. It can also describe a change made gently over an extended period of time. We probably apply the word impulse more frequently to the former than the latter description. Perhaps the journey of the wise foreigners to Bethlehem, celebrated at The Epiphany, resulted from a gentler impulse.

If we strip away centuries of myths that have attached themselves to the story of the 'Magi', what are we left with? An unknown number of wealthy, powerful foreigners, of unknown ethnic origins, who were free to travel. Were they known to each other or did each act independently? Did they commence their journeys simultaneously or were their journeys staggered over years? Did each begin his journey with a set goal or was their collective final objective the result of an unintended confluence on their individual paths?

The 'Magi' serve to remind us that God's ways are not our ways! From disparate people God can draw a purposeful unit and unity of which no human could conceive. In the story of the Magi is there, perhaps, a reflection of The Christian Church?

The Christian Church is called the Body of Christ on earth. Just as a human body is made up of many distinctive yet interdependent parts, so too is The Church. An individual's health and wellbeing is best served when his/her many parts, each fulfilling their intended purpose, collaborate for the good of the whole person. So, too, with the corporate entity of the Baptised, the Christian Church.

St. Paul makes the point:
"Now if the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body…."
"But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…."
"As it is, there are many parts, but one body."
(1 Corinthians 12:15)

Christians believe they are on a journey to a confluence of physical, mental and spiritual completion called Eternity. Although this journey is entirely individual, one person's pathway need not be a cause of impairment for another if we follow the teaching of Christ. In fact, on our individual pathway each will both share and accumulate experience through interaction with others. Some experiences will enhance the natural gifts with which each is endowed by God, our creator. Others will test our Baptismal commitment. The gifts of each will be needed for the well-being of another or ourselves at significant moments. There is a potential parallel here with the traditional gifts which The Magi individually carried significant gifts for the infant Jesus that would span his time on earth.

People familiar with the story of The Magi will know of the star that guided them. A single star can be seen simultaneously by people in places geographically far apart. So, the Magi may have set out from very different locations. The light of a star is best seen when the earth is in darkness. The pre-Christian world was a dark place physically and more especially spiritually. Because of artificial illumination our 21st world is no longer a physically dark place but it remains so spiritually

Scripture offers no insights about the individual journeys of The Magi. For sure, they will have had encounters en-route that will have tested their resolve in the furtherance of their initial impetus. It would seem that The Magi, at some point made contact with one another. The light quality of the star was evidently sufficient to draw them to journey on together. Through collaboration they discovered that they shared the same objective.

So, too, each Baptised person has many encounters on the road of life. Some will be beneficial and bring a blessing. Others will be potentially injurious either mentally, spiritually or physically or all three. Jesus made it quite clear that to be his disciples we would have to take up our Cross in order to follow him. The impetus that sustained the Magi on their journeys was, at heart, a burning desire for the unique illumination that is The Truth. A Christian's Baptismal formation and development, through a combination of home-life and Christian school, is intended to enable each to retain their grace-filled Baptismal impetus to reach for The Truth even in adverse circumstances. For sure, individual Christians need one another for the completion of life's pilgrimage.

We live in the era Christians call AD - Anno Domini, the year of the Lord. Incidentally, have you noticed how often AD is now replaced by CE - Common Era? The light of Christ is present in our world but is more and more obscured by His and our enemy, Satan. Among Satan's destructive activity has been the fragmentation of the Body of Christ proving that our world is still held in the power of an evil darkness. (1 John 5:19) People who recognise and accept the Light of Christ urgently need to come together, as did the Magi, and make visible a reunited Body of Christ on earth. The fostering of Ecumenism is not an optional extra for Christians. True ecumenical collaboration carries the light of Christ to the darkest places of our world namely, the souls of many individuals where, presently, Satan rules.

The 'Our Father' is, for now at least, a commonly known prayer. Therein lies the problem. Do we pay sufficient attention to the meaning of the words they speak? Take, for example, the phrase from the 'Our Father'- 'Deliver us from Evil'. Are we asking for deliverance from some bodily pain or financial stress or the difficult neighbour? Are we praying, in other words for our self? Or, are we praying for the world that so badly needs peace? Both are legitimate intentions but are we missing something?

The phrase 'Deliver us from Evil' is a confession that we are already subjects of the Evil One. But is that what people understand? People are more likely to be praying for some future deliverance from evil and failing to be aware that human nature has already been captured by the Evil One. The deliverance for which we pray is from the evil that already has us in its clutches. We have many images of Jesus - the Good Shepherd, the man of prayer, the healer. But do we pray to Jesus - The Exorcist?

"In the synagogue, there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, "Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!"
"Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!" Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him." (Luke 4:33-35)
Some may feel uncomfortable addressing Jesus as 'The Exorcist' - they can be sure of the full support of Satan.

The Magi fulfilled the required diplomatic protocols and visited King Herod. Did they sense they were in the presence of a king of darkness? We know they were guided to avoid Herod on their return journey. A soul in communion with Jesus Christ, accepting the impulse of the Holy Spirit, will have a 'sixth sense' of the presence of Evil. This must be so because, when confronted by temptation, we have reached a moment of decision - to proceed or to retreat. Either a line will be crossed when we detach our self from the Lord or we will hold back. Such moments are frequent because we are exiles living in Satan's kingdom.

The impact of encountering the Infant Son of God-made-Man was an experience greater than the star for 'The Light of the World' penetrates the soul as well as captivating the eyes. We, like The Magi, have access to the Son of God-made-Man. The impetus of the Holy Spirit remains within us, thank God, but we need a constant spiritual alertness as Satan is the king of duplicity. May your Light, Lord, protect us in our daily struggle against evil.

News from ACN - Mass returns to Mosul

As we prepare to celebrate Epiphany we have received wonderful news from Iraq - the bells rang out in Mosul for the first time in more than three years when a church in Iraq's second city opened its doors for Christmas Mass.

Up to the last minute, plans for the service at St Paul's Church in Mosul's Al-Mundshen suburb hung in the balance - until a group of young Muslims helped clean the church and make it ready - including erecting the cross. Around 2,000 people attended the service, travelling to Mosul from displacement camps near Erbil, the capital of Kurdish northern Iraq.

Presiding at the Mass was Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad. Also taking part was Syriac Catholic Archbishop Butros Moshe of Mosul and in attendance was Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Nicodemus Douad of Mosul. Muslim representatives were also present at the service, which went ahead amid high security.

Father Najeeb Michaeel, who also took part in the Mass, said: "Let us hope that the light of Jesus may shine in their hearts and bring light to our wounded world."

When Mosul was taken by Daesh in June 2014, almost all of the city's Christians left after Daesh gave them an ultimatum of either converting to Islam or be killed. For the first time in almost 1,800 years, no Mass was celebrated in the city.

With Daesh now flushed out of Iraq, Aid to the Church in Need is committed to helping Christians return to their towns and villages, rebuilding homes and other vital structures which were badly damaged during the Islamists' occupation.

Thanks to the compassion and generosity of our benefactors in 2017, you have helped stem the exodus of Christians from Iraq - latest reports estimate that only 250,000 Christians remain in Iraq. For many of the remaining Christians, Aid to the Church in Need is their main source of aid.

Find out how to support Aid to the Church in Need