February 4th 2018

Contents:

  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             Job 7:1-4.6-7

Job began to speak: "Is not man's life on earth nothing more than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery? Like the slave, sighing for the shade, or the workman with no thought but his wages, months of delusion I have assigned to me, nothing for my own but nights of grief. Lying in bed I wonder, 'When will it be day?' Risen I think, 'How slowly evening comes!' Restlessly I fret till twilight falls. Swifter than a weaver's shuttle my days have passed, and vanished, leaving no hope behind. Remember that my life is but a breath, and that my eyes will never again see joy.



Second Reading                       I Corinthians 9:16-19.22-23

I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.


Gospel Reading                         Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon's mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, 'Everybody is looking for you.' He answered, 'Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.' And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.


Sunday Reflection 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (04.02.18)

Jesus Gives Suffering A New Meaning

People, generally, do not welcome suffering. Yet, through its multiple manifestations, suffering embraces all humanity. The Scripture for this 5th Sunday may invite believers to view suffering from Jesus' perspective.

In view of where this meditation hopes to lead, it may be useful to clarify, from a spiritual perspective, the Christian view of suffering. Initially, in the 'Garden of Eden', with the perfect harmony between God and his creation, suffering was unknown. Satan, in successfully tempting our first parents to disobey God, caused them not only exile from Eden but also caused them a simultaneous and continuous experience of suffering. If there is truth in the statement that, in order to fully appreciate what we have received, we have to be the sole cause of its loss and be aware our self-inflicted loss is irremediable, then Eve and Adam's sense of suffering must have been incalculable, utterly decimating and forever increasing throughout their lives. By their own choice, our forebears suffered the devastating loss of familiarity with God which they had previously enjoyed uninterruptedly.

Since we have never experienced familiarity with God, we cannot know, except in theory, the suffering of a self-inflicted loss of such Divine familiarity. For Adam and Eve their suffering would have been inescapable. It would have tormented their every waking moment and stalked their repose. It fragmented their personal relationship - Adam lost little time in blaming Eve when challenged by God:
"And God said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man (Adam) said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." (Genesis 3:11-12)
It decimated their family. Cain, their firstborn and the tiller of soil, jealously murdered his brother Abel, the shepherd. (Genesis ch.4)

So, suffering began, and remains for the majority, synonymous with punishment that is sometimes self-inflicted and, on other occasions, is inflicted upon us, justly or unjustly, by someone other than our self. Our originating parents were not punished by God, as is often thought to be the case. They punished themselves by their deliberate choice of disobedience. People, when in pain of one form or another, maybe search for a culprit because they are refusing to acknowledge themselves as the culprit.

Humanity attempts to nullify or escape blame for suffering's uncomfortableness irrespective of its origin, be that an external source or self-generation. The 21st century secularised humanity refuses to acknowledge suffering as an inescapable legacy of our post 'Eden' world. We have learnt how to deaden its pain, at least temporarily. We have become adept, when the opportunity presents itself, at laying the blame for our suffering on someone or something other than ourselves. Satan, the author of untruth, strongly supports all our attempts at disavowal.

Satan has deceived humanity-in-exile into believing that life on earth should not involve suffering; that it is an aberration. Suffering does indeed result from an aberration namely, the disobedience of our first parents! Because this original aberration is no longer commonly believed may explain why we rarely hear used- or even use ourselves - the word 'atonement'.

The Oxford dictionary defines atonement as: 'the making of reparation for a wrong or an injury'. Before an individual or a nation can make atonement, there must first be an acknowledgement of culpability, of responsibility, to some degree, for the faults or wrongs in question. If a nation denies culpability for its sinfulness - or fails to acknowledge that sin exists - at either individual or collective level, then it is denying the need for atonement.

We can divide the word 'atonement' into 'at one-ment'. Humanity's core hunger is for an 'at oneness' relationship with its Creator and Life-Sustainer, God. No other 'at oneness' available to humanity can be compared with this hunger. Without this foundational 'at oneness' with God all human-to-human relationship remains incomplete and precariously unstable because it is defenceless against the wiles of Satan.

The tenets of Christianity place love for and belief in God at the very summit of faith. Christian worship expresses this relationship in countless formulae spoken by believers both individually and collectively. Gathered for Sunday Mass, in response to God's Commandment, 'Keep holy the Sabbath', English speaking Catholics may pray: "I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words; in what I have done and in what I have failed to do …"

But how many, regularly at Mass, are conscious that in praying the 'I confess' they are making not just a public 'confession' but also a public willed act of atonement (a one-to-one with God) and an act of expiation not only on their own behalf but on behalf of all humanity?

The collectively spoken words unite not just the worshippers, they further express a desire for communion with the worldwide community of believers who have already lived or will ever come to life here on earth. The question that then arises is how many Catholics consciously understand and appreciate The Mass, in which they are sharing, as the pinnacle of all 'atonement' because it is being made "through Him, with Him and in Him" by God-made-Man on behalf of humanity?

Calvary, and all that that word signifies, is being enacted today as often as Mass is being validly celebrated. Those consciously present are being invited to actively participate with Christ, in the offering He continues to make to His Heavenly Father, by the offering of their whole life, not just their words, but also their sufferings and their joys. Jesus teaches us: "If anyone would come after me, let that person deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) Atonement through suffering is implicit in Christian discipleship.

'Yom Kippur', is the annual Jewish day for communal and personal atonement for sin. For practising Jews, it is the holiest day of their religious year. We have no equivalent day in the Catholic Church. Ash Wednesday, Lent, Good Friday, Advent and even the restyled 'Friday' abstinence have lost much of their significance even among believers. Most contemporary Europeans no longer know the religious significance of these days or periods.

Jesus, the Son of God, became Man, and willingly chose to offer his life in atonement for the entirety of humanity's sinfulness. In so doing, Jesus is demonstrating to humanity the incalculable depth of his heavenly Father's love for us. The use of the present tense - 'is' - is intentional. Jesus' self-sacrifice continues today at the Consecration of each celebration of the Eucharist. A lapsed Catholic once said to me, "The Mass is boring! It's always the same!" How can the living, loving self-sacrifice of God-made-Man for each and every one of us be described as 'boring'? I asked the lapsed Catholic if that was how he regarded his wife's daily proclamation of her love for him, a love that cannot be compared to God's love for us? Even should a priest, presiding at the Altar, be incomprehensible and shambolic we, who form the congregation, are called to look with the eyes of faith beyond the obvious and see Jesus-the-Christ on Calvary expiating the continuing sin that afflicts this world now!

Moreover, if we are in communion with Jesus then we too, 'through Him, with Him and in Him', are able to unite our contrition for personal sin and the sin of the world (to which we have contributed) and whatever pains, sufferings and discomforts we may have, in support of Christ's expiating self-sacrifice. It is our choice to be united with Jesus in his act of atonement which, apart from Him, we would be incapable of making.

Though not all believers sufficiently appreciate the fact, to be a part of the Body of Christ on earth - and that is what we are through Baptism - is to become co-expiators with Christ who is the Head of the Body. Where and how the Head is, the Body follows. By embracing 'Life in Christ' on earth we are embracing a daunting and demanding 'Calvarific' pilgrimage of following in the footsteps of our Saviour. The pathway of each is personal and particular and cannot be compared with any other save that of Jesus Himself.
To be a part of the Body of Christ in heaven is eternal peace, joy and incomprehensible fulfilment.

Yet unless we are united with the Body of Christ on earth in atonement and expiation, not notionally or spasmodically, but wholeheartedly on a daily basis in spite of our failings, we will not be recognised by the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep.

Through a process of loving and patient submission to the Will of God, we try to allow the Holy Spirit, as we go about our daily lives, to lead us, at times, into the depths of the mystery of suffering for the sake of others as well as ourselves. With such a disposition, suffering, far from being an end in itself, becomes the pathway from this place of exile to our true home in heaven.