May 6th 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                     
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (10:25-26.34-35.44-48)

As Peter reached the house Cornelius went out to meet him, knelt at his feet and prostrated himself. But Peter helped him up. 'Stand up,' he said 'I am only a man after all!' Then Peter addressed them: 'The truth I have now come to realise' he said 'is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.'

While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners. Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter were all astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit should be poured out on the pagans too, since they could hear them speaking strange languages and proclaiming the greatness of God. Peter himself then said, 'Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?' He then gave orders for them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterwards they begged him to stay on for some days.



Second Reading
A reading from the first letter of Saint John (4:7-10)

My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.

God's love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him. This is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God's love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away


Gospel Reading
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (15:9-17)

Jesus said to his disciples:

'As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.

This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know his master's business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.

You did not choose me: no, I chose you;

and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name.

What I command you is to love one another.'


Sunday Reflection 6th Sunday of Easter (06.05.18)

TRUE LOVE DISMANTLES BARRIERS

In other circumstances, their paths may never have crossed. Peter was a local Jewish fisherman on the Sea of Galilee who likely didn't venture too far from home. Cornelius, an Italian, was a professional soldier of rank in the Roman Army. His current posting, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, was at the busy Roman port of Caesarea on the Palestinian coast not too far from the Sea of Galilee.

Most people have countless, unexpected and apparently haphazard, encounters in the course of their lives. Some are memorable. Some act as a catalyst in redirecting individual lives. Some blossom into a married love and family. But many are unremarkable and unremembered by us, but not by God.

It may appear haphazard that a Roman Centurion, equivalent in rank to a British Company Sergeant-Major, should be sent to the headquarters of the Roman Army of Occupation for Palestine at that time. In the Divine plan there are no haphazard events. As a Centurion, Cornelius would have been regarded as a man of proven courage and loyalty. Men of his rank were the backbone of the Roman army. Professional Roman military leaders, if they had any religious leanings, would have favoured the plethora of traditional Roman gods as a customary way of self-advancement in the army.

Cornelius, a God-fearing soldier, had grown weary of the hollowness of his ancestral deities and attached himself, though a Gentile, to the Jewish faith. He and his family had become monotheistic believers in the One God of Judaism though they accepted neither Jewish circumcision nor the Jewish Law. Nor would Cornelius have had a clear concept of the God of the Jews to whom he felt drawn lacking, as he was, a Jewish background. But in the light of the faith he had, he prayed and tried to live close to God. Cornelius was a man seeking God and God found him.

Romans attending synagogue, especially military men of rank, would be conspicuous. According to Acts (see Chapter 10), Cornelius, a man of prayer, was known for his charity. In the harsh circumstances of Palestine, charity would not have been a frequent characteristic shown by members of the Army of Occupation whose presence was deeply resented as well as feared.

The landscape of the historical Church is dotted with numerous significant milestones. Chapter 10 of The Acts of the Apostles details the events which led to the first recorded admission of a Gentile into the fellowship of the Baptised. Unfortunately, on this 6th Sunday after Easter, we are only given excerpts from the chapter (25-26,34-35,44-48). To do justice to the importance of Cornelius, may I urge you to read the whole of chapter 10.

Simultaneously with his change-of-life call to Cornelius, God was also calling Simon, whom we know as Peter, the Galilean fisherman. The backgrounds of Cornelius and Simon (Peter) were entirely dissimilar. Yet each was destined to bring God's blessing to the other. Simon (Peter) had still to grow into the fullness of his Christian faith. Chapter 10 of Acts gives us clues. Cornelius' divine messenger tells him to send to Jaffa (another costal port): "to fetch a man called Simon, known as Peter, who is lodging with Simon the tanner whose house is by the sea." (10:6-7)

" .. a man called Simon, known as Peter …" The Galilean fisherman's conversion from Simon into Peter is still incomplete. As chapter 10 discloses, Cornelius was to be instrumental in a major advancement in God's plan for Simon (Peter). But first God had to help Simon (Peter) face another of his religious taboos.

Simon-the-tanner's trade involved dead animals. In Jewish eyes he would be classed as permanently unclean. A strict Jew would have no contact with Gentiles and would certainly not accept hospitality from one, especially one whose work rendered him 'unclean' in Jewish eyes. Peter, while at prayer on the flat rooftop of Simon-the-tanner's house, (10:11-16) found his heavenly revelation challenging.

Mystified, Peter descended to greet Cornelius' emissaries, some of whom were strictly observant Jews. We know this because they "were standing at the door" - strict Jews would never enter a Gentile house. Peter persuaded them to enter and accept lodging.

Cornelius' emissaries, Peter and his companions eventually reached Caesarea. " … as Peter reached the house, Cornelius went out to meet him .." (10:25) Clearly Cornelius expected that Peter, a Jew, would not enter his Gentile house. Peter then declared that, as a result of the vision he had received, "God has made it clear to me that I must not call anyone profane or unclean." (10:28-29)

God's calls to humanity come in a markedly personal and individual way, even within a group or a community. The time you set aside today to reflect on Acts chapter 10 allows God to further your conversion. In addition, it will enable you to interact more spiritually with others

All our interaction either promotes or sets back other peoples' conversion of heart and mind to God. The making of a cup of tea or the not doing so; the saying of a 'please' or 'thank you'; there is nothing too small or large to be insignificant. Thankfully, we are mostly unaware of how our beneficent interactions with others are woven into their lives. Alternatively, our consciences should alert us when our interactions are detrimental and requiring of restitution. The discernment of how each day's interactivity has played out is a subject of each evening's examination of conscience. We need solitude and space to become aware of God's interactivity with us and through us with others whom he also dearly loves.

Finally, in the Centurion's house Cornelius' and Simon Peter's interactivity blossoms.

Peter makes a world-altering profession: "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him." (10:34-35)

The Holy Spirit confirmed Simon Peter's words:

"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, "Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days." (10:44-48)

Only God knows the true number of godchildren you have and who is included among your godmothers and fathers!