September 2nd 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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St Benedict's Newsletter is not available

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading                        Deuteronomy 4:1-2.6-8

Moses said to the people: 'Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you. You must add nothing to what I command you, and take nothing from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God just as I lay them down for you. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, "No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation." And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?'



Second Reading                   James 1:17-18.21-22.27

It is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change. By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created.

Accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves. Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.


Gospel Reading                    Mark 7:1-8.14-15.21-23

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round him, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, 'Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?' He answered, 'It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture: This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations. You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.' He called the people to him again and said, 'Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men's hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean. '


Sunday Reflection 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (02.09.18)

The Lost Art of Letterwriting

It is estimated that one in four UK residents has not received a hand-written letter for at least ten years. Numerous people intend to write letters but very few carry out their intention. Yet a hand-crafted, well-composed, letter can be informative as well as constructive on multiple levels unlike a text or telephone call. The time, care, thought and composition, involved in a handwritten letter, is as expressive, if not more so, of the writer's feelings and attitude as is the message conveyed. Modern instantaneous communication is monotone by comparison.

St. James the Apostle composed his letter at some point before AD 69. He addressed it to Jewish converts to Christianity dispersed far and wide among the twelve Jewish 'lost tribes' of Israel. This Sunday (the 22nd), and for the next four, our 2nd Reading at Mass gives us extracts from James' Letter. Its rich content makes it significantly important for the Baptised of the 21st century, but more of that later. The commentary on James will run continuously through the five-week period.

What might have prompted James to write his significant epistle? As a Jew, he would have been all too aware of the semi-continuous decimation of his race. A decimation, believed by some, to have been a self-inflicted running-wound resulting from the Jews' multiple failures to uphold the covenants with God to which they had freely committed themselves over the passage of time.

Early Christians, being entirely Jewish in origin, retained their 'Jewishness' while transitioning into a distinctly different set of religious beliefs. Unless forced to do so, convert Jews did not sever, totally, their contact with the synagogue. To have done so would have brought them outright ostracization by their fellow Jews. Gentile converts to Christianity only began to number significantly through the later ministry of St. Paul, the former persecutor of Christians and leading Pharisee previously known as Saul. It would have taken many decades for early Christians, from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, to have coalesced into basic Christian communities.

Early Christians also encountered persecution from both Jews and the Roman Army of occupation. Some escaped to less hostile territories choosing locations where there existed remnant populations of Jews from earlier periods of deportation and enslavement. These Jews of the Diaspora (the word means 'scattered' in foreign parts) had been deprived not only of their homeland, with its traditions and customs, but of the focus of their life, The Temple, that gave tactile expression to their national integrity and identity. To appreciate this deprivation, imagine the sense of loss were the English to lose, overnight, their visible history - the Houses of Parliament, the Cenotaph, Westminster Abbey, church and other significant buildings throughout the land!

Deprived of all that was familiar, the 'scattered and lost' Jews cherished their sacred history in their hearts and souls. Parents handed-on this sacred knowledge to their children, for upon it depended their continuous living relationship with God who had chosen the Jews to be his people. The Deuteronic daily prayer of a Jew (6:4-7) says it all:
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."

James chose to address his letter to the Jewish converts to Christianity living among the Jews of the diaspora. These new Christians would have shared in safeguarding the sacred knowledge of their ancestor's living relationship with God but they were also called to upgrade their belief to an entirely unprecedented and new level because they professed belief in Jesus of Nazareth being truly God-made-Man.

Perhaps a word of explanation would be of help here. For the Jew, the 'past' is indistinguishable from the 'present'. Many nations, for example, categorise their nation's history as 'the past', thereby indicating something closed and concluded. Whereas 'the present' is now and happening. The Jew sees no such distinction. For the Jew, the present incorporates the previous in an uninterrupted continuity which, for the orthodox, incorporates God's relationship with his chosen people.

So, for example, when orthodox Jewish families gather on Sabbath eve (Friday) to recall 'The Passover' it is not an historical enactment, like a play or a religious performance of their ancestors' deliverance from captivity in Egypt. The Jewish Sabbath Eve Passover is experiencing, in 2018, that very deliverance with unbroken continuity. Every Sabbath Eve, God continues to draw his people on their journey to the promised land - not to be confused with the State of Israel. In fact not a few orthodox Jews refuse to set foot in the State of Israel because it is made by man not God granted.

Roman Catholic belief in The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, in His Word, in The Church and the Sacraments should enable Catholics to empathise with their Jewish brothers and sisters in the matter of continuity. The Roman Catholic Mass is not an historical play or a performance of an historical event that took place on Calvary some 2,000 years ago. The Mass is Christ himself making real, in our here and now, his continuing self-offering on the Cross on Calvary for the Redemption of humanity. Why? Because humanity, still trapped in the 'diaspora' of this sinful world, continues to be needful of redemption.

For some undisclosed reason, James must have felt for the new Christians of Jewish origin doubly isolated, as it were. They would not be as fully integrated into the Jewish community as they would have been before their conversion. They were distant from the practical support of the early Church in Jerusalem.

On this 22nd Sunday, we hear James encouraging his isolated Christian brothers and sisters whom he may never have met:
"Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding your selves."
These Jewish converts to Christianity would previously, as believers through Judaism, have had great respect for The Torah and indeed for all of Jewish Scripture. But now, their Christian faith invites them to welcome The Word (of God) as Jesus, God-made-Man, who, through Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist, is planted within them.
James, sensitive to the plight of these Christian fledglings living in exile, deprived of comforting familiarity and exposed to distracting and discomforting influences, reached out to them with his letter.

What does James mean - 'humbly welcome the Word'? The word James uses for 'humbly' is the same as that used to describe the purging process used to remove impurities from, for example, coinage enabling it to be described as unalloyed. We are used to cleansing skin and clothing of invisible and unhealthy substances that we pick up as we work and move around. How aware are we of the faith-undermining material that clogs air-waves, the internet, and the media? Such material, so easily integrated into everyday speech and behaviour, begins to undermine a faith and a belief that is more dormant than active.

Could you be a 'James' to isolated Christians who might be uplifted and supported by a handwritten, thoughtful and encouraging letter from you?