January 14th 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. Sunday Thoughts: January 2018

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading                            I Samuel 3:3-10.19

Samuel was lying in the sanctuary of the Lord, where the ark of God was, when the Lord called, 'Samuel! Samuel!' He answered, 'Here I am.' Then he ran to Eli and said, 'Here I am, since you called me.' Eli said, 'I did not call. Go back and lie down.' So he went and lay down. Once again the Lord called, 'Samuel! Samuel!' Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am, since you called me.' He replied, 'I did not call you, my son; go back and lie down.' Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. Once again the Lord called, the third time. He got up and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am, since you called me.' Eli then understood that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, and he said to Samuel, 'Go and lie down, and if someone calls say, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening."' So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord then came and stood by, calling as he had done before, 'Samuel! Samuel!' Samuel answered, 'Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.'

Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground.

Second Reading                      I Corinthians 6:13-15.17-20

The body is not meant for fornication: it is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. God, who raised the Lord from the dead, will by his power raise us up too. You know, surely, that your bodies are members making up the body of Christ; do you think I can take parts of Christ's body and join them to the body of a prostitute? Never! But anyone who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.

Keep away from fornication. All the other sins are committed outside the body; but to fornicate is to sin against your own body. Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God.

Gospel Reading                       John 1:35-42

As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, 'Look, there is the lamb of God.' Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, 'What do you want?' They answered, 'Rabbi,' - which means Teacher -'where do you live?' 'Come and see' he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' - which means the Christ - and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas' - meaning Rock

Sunday Reflection 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (14.01.18)

Graced Encounter

How many people would recognise a moment of graced encounter? Indeed, would the words 'graced encounter' have meaning for many people? A graced encounter might be described as a positive (blessed) experience that occurs in a meeting, between two or more persons, that is greater than the sum of the individuals involved and which the participants may not necessarily be able to explain. It is a gift from God and reminds us of the time Jesus said: "For where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt.18:20)

Both the First Reading and the Gospel, for this 2nd Sunday of the Year, provide examples of graced encounters.

The First Reading this Sunday (1 Samuel 3:3-10,19) shows how both teacher and pupil make progress in identifying the graced encounters God offers. Eli, a Jewish High Priest, had become the tutor of the young prophet-to-be Samuel.

The implied synchronism between the voice of God and that of Eli, as understood by the young Samuel, is significant. Samuel hears his name being called and presumes the call came from Eli. As Samuel was to learn, he could hear God's will being voiced by his mentor, an indication of Eli's own unreserved dedication to God. Three times, Samuel heard his name being called and each time ran to his teacher. On each occasion Eli denied calling the boy and sent him back. Finally, Eli, understanding that the call the young Samuel heard came from God, instructed his young pupil to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening".

What lessons might there be for us in this passage? Well, for one thing both Eli and Samuel exemplify how, for humans, our life here on earth is a continuous schooling in the ways of God. Graduation is reserved for eternity. Clearly, Eli loved God profoundly. For only a person of faithful religious commitment can recognise and welcome a moment of graced encounter. Eli, high priest though he was, was comfortable with his on-going spiritual formation.

In our 21st century, it is both illuminative and encouraging when Pope Francis has no hesitation in declaring himself to be a recovering sinner, as are we all. Can we identify with Eli in the midst of our own journey to God? Are we willing to be God's visible and audible signposts for others, despite our shortcomings, on our own pilgrimage of faith? Equally, if we have benefitted from Hannah and Eli-like persons in our life have we remembered to thank God for them?

Hannah, Samuel's mother, gave her child his name in thanksgiving because, in her childlessness, she had prayed to God for a son. Moreover, Hannah had promised God that, were she to be granted a son, the child would be dedicated to God. For his part, the young Samuel evidences the influence of grace in his response to his mother and his teacher. Trust in God was to be the hallmark of his life both as a prophet and as a leader of Israel.

What a contrast this makes with our 21st century world of unrestricted individualism and selfishness. There have been, and continue to be, stupendous advances in both pre and postnatal health and in the care of the elderly. Yet society's dismissive attitude to life, as evidenced by direct abortion, 'designer' babies and euthanasia, is such an affront to God, the giver of life.

How many believing parents, like Hannah, are willing to offer their Baptised child to God? How many react positively when a sibling announces that she or he wishes to serve God in a religious setting?

The extract from John's Gospel for this Sunday (1:35-42) identifies three living 'signposts' of graced encounters. John the Baptiser, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter and Simon Peter himself. Signposts are, as we appreciate, waystations along the route. If they are authentic they should point the way to, but not be confused with, the terminus.

John the Baptiser declares himself willing to fulfil his vocation in this passage from the Gospel of John (3:30):

"The friend of the bridegroom stands by and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
He (Jesus)must increase and I must decrease.
The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks as one from the earth. The One who comes from heaven is above all.…"

The evidence for Andrew's vibrant faith was the close attention he paid to John the Baptist. When John identified the Lamb of God, Andrew, and his unnamed companion, did not hesitate in following Jesus.

In today's digital culture of the instantaneous, with its plethora of claims, discerning true from false is challenging. The evil of deliberate deception is rife and, for many, costly. Evil abounded in the time of Jesus, too. Andrew's ability to discern the truth, in the midst of counterfeit voices, and his commitment to it identifies the depth of his own spirituality.

With the new year still relatively young, now may be a good moment to ask ourselves how consciously attuned we are to the discernment of the Truth in our daily life? And whether we are sufficiently alert to the counterfeit, subtly convincing falsehoods, that daily bombard us? Do we engage with the Word of God on a daily basis for even a fraction of the time we engage with the word of the world? Are our companions in life, by observing and hearing us as they share our company, being encouraged to identify and follow the Lamb of God for themselves or are we leading them away from God?

Andrew, St. John's Gospel tells us, having been pointed in the direction of Jesus, "first found his own brother Simon and told him, 'We have found the Messiah, the Christ. Then he (Andrew) brought Simon to Jesus".

How willing are we to accommodate the spiritual needs of another? Especially, if the other's needs threaten our schedule or our finance or our comfort? There's a cost to being a living signpost. Pope Francis has spoken about the 'conversion of the feet', by which he meant our choosing to move out of our comfort zone. When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, the then Cardinal Bergoglio used to take the underground railway to stand with his priests who were defending the poorest of the poor in the barrios against the torments of the moneylenders and local mafia. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires knew the poor people would never come to him in the city, so he made 'the conversion of his feet' and went to show solidarity with them where they existed on the periphery, out of sight and forgotten. It is a habit he has brought to the Vatican!

Some whom Jesus approached, as well as some who approached Jesus, found the cost of being living signposts too high! Jesus willingly became the signpost of signposts on Calvary in giving his life for us.

You might find it helpful to look up any or all of the following:
Matthew 10:37-39 / Mark 10:21 / Luke 9:61-62 / Luke 18:22-23 / Luke 9:59-60 /

On earth, the ultimate in graced encounters for Baptised believers is our communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. With the single word - 'Amen' - we acknowledge this Divine intimacy that remains so far beyond our ability to appreciate it. We need to express our one-word response, 'Amen', with gentle humility and love.

In a recent programme called 'A Culture of Encounter' on BBC Radio 4, the presenter said: "We maybe more connected digitally than ever before but we are, in so many ways, strangers to each other." If you are Baptised, you have the Holy Spirit within you to effect a 'graced encounter' today, though it may require 'a conversion of feet'!

Sunday thoughts: January 2018

By Monsignor John Devine

On an individually directed retreat over 20 years ago I was encouraged to use my imagination to meditate on the nativity scene; to imagine that I was really there; and then to imagine what I might have to say to Mary and Joseph and what they might say to me. It took me back to my childhood when I loved to visit the crib in church. It always looked really cosy. Unlike the small crib at home, I could easily have climbed into it and snuggled down in the straw with Mary, Joseph and the baby.

As I entered into the meditation I found myself knocking at the stable door. After a while Joseph answered. I didn't need to introduce myself. Amazingly Joseph knew me. 'Who's that?' a woman's voice called from the back. 'It's John,' said Joseph. 'He's come to see the baby.' And so I was beckoned in. And there was Mary holding the child. She looked up and smiled at me. I was lost for words. And then she said, 'Would you like to hold him?' And so I did.

After the retreat the group spent a few days reflecting on our experience and how it had helped us. To my surprise I discovered that all those who had done that particular meditation on the Nativity had had a similar experience. Each of us had been invited by Mary to hold the baby.

One feature of the Gospel accounts of the birth and childhood of Jesus is that in Matthew's Gospel Joseph dreams, and in Luke's Gospel Mary ponders. It has been suggested that Luke's source for the events surrounding Jesus' birth comes from Mary herself. She pondered these sacred moments throughout her life. And Joseph dreamt. At Christmas time we too are invited to relive these events at the crib; to dream and to ponder.