September 9th 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 Reading

First Reading                   Isaiah 35:4-7

Say to all faint hearts: "Courage! Do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming, vengeance is coming, the retribution of God; he is coming to save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy; for water gushes in the desert, streams in the wasteland, the scorched earth becomes a lake, the parched land springs of water.


Second Reading             James 2:1-5

My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, 'Come this way to the best seats'; then you tell the poor man, 'Stand over there' or 'You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.' Can't you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that? Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.


Gospel Reading              Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man's ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, 'Ephphatha', that is, 'Be opened.' And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. 'He has done all things well,' they said 'he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.'


Sunday Reflection 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (09.09.18)

Am I Discriminating or Discriminated Against, or Both?

Discrimination is as natural to us as is breathing. We don't think about it, we just do it! Discrimination - from the Latin to make distinction or to separate - is how we recognise and understand the differences between one person and another, one animal and another, one thing and another. The most fundamental discrimination, that humans have to practice, is between right and wrong, between God and Satan.
God has implanted himself within us by making us in his own image and likeness. The Holy Spirit, gifted to us at Baptism, is the living 'template' within us of what is good. But, for God's living 'template' to be effective within us, we have to choose to be in constant communion with Him. When we allow this living communion with God to falter, we become seriously at risk because we lessen our ability to accurately discriminate between good and evil

The Apostle James, from whose letter we have the second of five continuous extracts this 23rd Sunday (2:1-5), was clearly concerned for the spiritual survival of the fledgling Christian converts from Judaism caught up in the Jewish 'Diaspora'. The term collectively describes Jews who had been driven from their homeland by persecution, deportation, enslavement and who were known as the lost and scattered twelve tribes of Israel.
The fledgling Christian converts from Judaism, caught up in the general diaspora, were doubly at risk. Their fellow Jewish deportees regarded them with suspicion, if not open hostility. Their captors had no regard for their spiritual requirements. James, alert to the dangers facing these isolated fledgling Christian converts, penned his letter.

In today's extract, James says:
"
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ".
Jesus' teaching on treating all alike applied whether the person or people concerned were friends or foes. Discerning and holding a non-partisan moral balance in the unending daily skirmishes between God and the Devil was, and remains, both difficult and demanding. James, himself a convert from Judaism, would have known how deeply ingrained was his Jewish upbringing and how it continued to colour his understanding of Jesus' teaching.

James was empathetic to the plight of all Gentiles seeking Baptism as well as the particular circumstances of the Diasporan Christian converts from Judaism. Nevertheless, James urged them to treat Jew and Gentile and even, in the case of the Diasporan exiles, their captors with an equality of dignity even though it was not reciprocated. James emphasised for them the means by which they would be able to behave in this way:
"Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you with its power to save you. Act on this word" (James 1:21-22).
Hearing such a teaching is very different from faithfully implementing it through thick and thin. How often have we found ourselves, internally and momentarily, at one with a preacher or speaker but disconnected, even a short while later, when it came to a personal moment of implementation?

Like James and Peter and all early Christians who had converted from Judaism, we, too, can find our long-held understandings and practices challenged and questioned by God's Word. As adults we acknowledge, but can at times be unaware, of just how influential in shaping our character and colouring our opinions our accumulated ingrained attitudes are in the choices we make. One example, from among many facing older Catholics today, concerns the question of Inter-Communion. The German dioceses have failed, so far, to find a shared viewpoint that would allow the non-Catholic spouse, in good faith with his/her own church, to receive Communion when accompanying his/her Catholic wife/husband to a Catholic Mass.
Mark's Gospel (6:1-6) tells of the prejudice and negative discrimination shown to Jesus by his own Nazarenes when, as a mature preacher and teacher, he returned to his home town.

James understood how cultural discrimination and partiality, favouring one social group to the detriment of another, was and remains irreconcilable with the teaching of Jesus Christ. Reports of parents, for example, teaching their children to show hatred and discrimination is frightening. The evidence that they do so is still visible, for example, on the streets of Northern Ireland, and in the Middle East where major Muslim sects are at war. As believers in the Word, Christians are called to have magnanimity of heart, to see and value other people as God sees and values them.

Through parental formation, family influence, formal education and life experience we learn how to enfold and blend our senses-derived information with our decision-making. Our five senses, hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch, have informed us from when we came into being. Even before the time of conscious maturity, our senses have been engaged in our decision-making.

The Seven Sacraments are the Divinely provided channels of God's grace that can correct the biases we, perhaps unknowingly, develop, along with the partiality and negative discrimination that Evil has skilfully woven into our lives. As Pope Francis never tires of saying, we need the Sacrament of Reconciliation because we are sinners. Our unhealed sin not only disfigures our personal likeness to God, it contaminates our brothers and sisters.

Our world is plagued by invisible and deadly illness. Much time and resource is rightly given to discovering ways of combatting disease. But we have to care as much for our spiritual wellbeing that, unlike our physical being, has a hereafter. As James told his alienated and discriminated against brothers and sisters:
"Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?" (James 2:4)
God is partial to those who struggle to love him because their struggle invites his intervention. This is what it means to 'Humbly welcome … and act in concert with God's Word.'

We can draw a parallel between those early fledgling Christian converts from Judaism and ourselves. Their deportation and enslavement deprived them of all that was familiar in terms of kith and kin as well as their locality. Deprived of their holy landmarks and places, they had to carry within their hearts and souls their sense of the sacred and their relationship with the Divine.

We 21st century Europeans, on the other hand, live in countries festooned with landmarks of our forebears' Christian faith which, now, crowds of tourists, not worshippers, visit annually.
The Evil One has cleverly left us, Europeans, in our familiar settings but contaminated our sense of the Divine with a mirage that truly is desolate.
Jesus' words are apposite:
"'These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.'" (Matt 15:8-9)
Perhaps today would be a good moment to commence a daily exploration of how discriminatory we may have become?