April 8th 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

April 8th_p1.jpg

April 8th_p2.jpg

St Benedict's Newsletter is not available

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-35)

The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.
The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, and they were all given great respect.
None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need.


Second Reading
A reading from the first letter of Saint John (5:1-6)

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God; and whoever loves the Father that begot him loves the child whom he begets. We can be sure that we love God's children if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us; this is what loving God is - keeping his commandments; and his commandments are not difficult, because anyone who has been begotten by God has already overcome the world; this is the victory over the world - our faith. Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God: Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness - since the Spirit is the truth.


Gospel Reading
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (20:19-31)

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, 'Peace be with you', and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.' After saying this he breathed on them and said: 'Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.'

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, 'We have seen the Lord', he answered, 'Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.' Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. 'Peace be with you' he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.' Thomas replied, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him: 'You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.'

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.


Sunday Reflection 2nd Sunday of Easter (08.04.18)

The Guide of Guides

A knowledgeable guide, gifted with communication skills, can enthuse the less experienced. A non-expert's appreciation of, say, a Titian or Rembrandt landscape can be enhanced by such a guide. The skill of a good art guide is in effortlessly helping others visualise what inspired the artist including not only the subject but also, in the case of a landscape, the location with its surrounding flora and fauna. Such background helps to build a person's appreciation of a painting in a way that an unaccompanied viewing may not. Of course, we cannot see through the artist's eyes but we can be led to see more of what those eyes captured in oil on canvas.

God has gifted his adopted daughters and sons with the Guide of guides, his Holy Spirit, through the Sacraments of Initiation - Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The first two are received once in perpetuity, the third is, literally, "our daily bread". God is equally present in His Word, the Scriptures. Whenever we read or have read to us God's Word, we are invited to be in communion with Christ the Word, through the Holy Spirit, just as when we receive The Eucharist.

The Spirit is not only the most knowledgeable and gifted of communicators but also the bearer of God's abiding and merciful love. What better guide could we have? We have no need to make an appointment, to queue or to pay for the inestimable privilege of having God's Holy Spirit as our one-to-one guide. And yet, many of the Baptised appear to lack in depth appreciation of the magnificence of God's gift.

Take, for example, the dialogue between the proclaimer and congregation that introduces the celebration of the Gospel at liturgical celebrations.

"The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to -----

Glory to you, Lord."

By participating in this dialogue we are asking a triple blessing. The proclaimer traces the Sign of the Cross on the page of the relevant Gospel text and then on their forehead, lips and heart. Meanwhile, the congregation gives accompaniment by tracing the Sign of the Cross on their own foreheads, lips and heart. The words and actions combine in a prayer shared by all.

We are asking God:

1. to enlighten our inadequate understanding and appreciation of what we are about to hear (the signing of the Cross on our foreheads);

2. to enable us to promote the Truth of the Gospel in whatever we say not only in the liturgy but throughout the day (the signing of the Cross on our lips); and

3. to show God's love for his people by our own loving disposition for all peoples (the signing of the Cross on our hearts).

Only God can know how consciously the members of a congregation enter into this prayer. Each individual's level of deliberate consciousness, on each occasion of prayer, is what sets the limit for the participation of the Holy Spirit in that believer's life. God cannot force his presence where He is not consciously welcomed. The pre-Gospel dialogue-prayer is completed in seconds but its effects reverberate for much longer. This is true for all prayer. However, inattentive repetition of words can so easily nullify prayer. Imagine how alert we would be were we to know that this pre-Gospel prayer-dialogue would be our last moments on earth!

The Word of God, we hear read at Mass, was composed nearly two thousand years ago. While we know something of the overall history of that time, we have no personal experience of the particular circumstances then prevailing. The Holy Land that can be visited today has changed dramatically since the time of Jesus and the Apostles. John wrote his first letter towards the end of the 1st century AD. An extract from his letter (5:1-6) is the 2nd Reading for this Second Sunday after Easter.

It is thought that John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, composed his letters in support of his Gospel because, even at that early stage of the Church, there were disagreements about beliefs. Those who listen, in our 21stcentury, to these few extracted lines will likely be unaware of the accompanying background of that time. Yet without such knowledge how are we to contextualise the excerpt we hear?

St. John wrote, both his Gospel and his letters, for his Christian communities mainly composed of Jewish converts, dispersed through persecution. There were at that time, in the words of the late Scripture Scholar Raymond E. Brown, "life and death struggles" in these communities ('The Epistles of John' Doubleday, New York 1982). There were two conflicting interpretations of the role of Jesus. There were differences about the ethical demands of the Christian life, the Holy Spirit and eschatology. One group held to the deposit of faith as it had been handed down to them. The other group refused to accept the Incarnation of Jesus as the Son of God-made-Man. John referred to this second group as "Anti-Christ" offering his contemporaries criteria for recognizing and refuting their errors. In the end, this second group seceded from the Church.

In the extract from John's letter we hear this Sunday, John is calling on his communities to further their faith in the Divinity of Jesus as The Christ by keeping his commandments to love one another. John had previously pointed out that anyone who claims to love God but who hates their brother or sister is a liar.

As Raymond E. Brown has pointed out - "… it has become fashionable to affirm that what is demanded (by faith) is not belief in an intellectual truth about Jesus but belief in a person with whom one enters into a relationship." Without denying this, Brown also insists that there is an intellectual aspect in the Johannine challenge to believe. Each of us must know and understand Jesus correctly in order to have a salvific relationship with him. In other words, we must accept and believe Jesus' own definition of himself as God Incarnate, the only-begotten Son of the Father.

When properly focused on the Word of God, the Baptised, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, are invited to perceive more than is possible with purely human eyes. This perception is something distinct from a person's intellectual capacity through education. The Baptised see with eyes of faith. Christians believe that the Gospels, the Apostolic Letters and the Acts of the Apostles have dual authorship, one human and the other Divine namely, the Holy Spirit. Like the Evangelist John, the Baptised see through the indwelling of the Spirit.

This is not a skill that can be learnt, it is a gift of God to those who sincerely love him. St. Basil the Great (330-379 AD) was one of the giants of the early Church. He was responsible for the victory of Nicene orthodoxy over Arianism in the Byzantine East, and the denunciation of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople. Basil wrote:

"Love of God is not something that can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same - perhaps even more so - with our love for God: it does not come by another's teaching. As soon as a human being comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God's law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it gently, skilfully nurtures it, and with God's help beings it to perfection.
Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence an innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside of ourselves, but each one can learn this from him or herself. It is natural for us to want that which is good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near to us, though we have not been taught to do so."

Now we can read the first sentence from our 1John extract for this Sunday (5:1) with new understanding of what was driving the author.

"Beloved:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God - and everyone who loves the Father loves also the One begotten by him."

Stillness, silence and an openness to God are the necessary predispositions if we wish to be guided by the Guide of all guides.