September 16th 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
  5. Archbishop Malcolm's homily for Adoremus Sunday Masses

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St Benedict's Newsletter is not available

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading             Isaiah 50:5-9

The Lord has opened my ear. For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.
The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed.
My vindicator is here at hand.
Does anyone start proceedings against me? Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me? Let him approach me.
The Lord is coming to my help, who dare condemn me?


Second Reading       James 2:14-18

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, 'I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty', without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead. This is the way to talk to people of that kind: 'You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds - now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.'


Gospel Reading        Mark 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, 'Who do people say I am?' And they told him. 'John the Baptist,' they said 'others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.' 'But you,' he asked 'who do you say I am?' Peter spoke up and said to him, 'You are the Christ.' And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, 'Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God's way but man's.'

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, 'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.'


Sunday Reflection 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (16.09.18)

How do you, for example, sympathise?

A phrase in frequent use is 'I do sympathise'. But perhaps consider if the users of the phrase appreciate that an emotion is not something in which to luxuriate but something that, with human cost, toil and self-discipline needs to be converted into action? Sometimes this will involve a physical engagement of some type, where appropriate and welcomed. Always, for the people of faith, it will involve intercessory prayer. Sympathy that equates to only a feeling isn't real.

The Apostle James, the Church's first Martyr, makes the point this Sunday's in a 3rd consecutive extract from his Letter (2:14-18):
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says they have faith but do not have works? …. So faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

People sometimes describe a good happening or event as 'a moment of grace'. God's grace is unchangeable and continuously available to us. Our recognition of it may be momentary because we are tempted to be distracted. Unlike the prophet Isaiah, in this 24th Sunday's first Reading (50:5-9), we do rebel and repeatedly block the flow of the Lord's grace. How many realise that every time they block, or allow to pass untouched, God's continuously graced invitation, they become ever less likely to respond positively

The fact that a person's claim to faith must be ethically demonstrable is an essential part of Christian teaching throughout the New Testament. St. Paul, whom, some might argue promotes the idea that a person is 'saved by faith alone' (Romans 3:28), also emphasizes (Romans 2:6), that "God will render to each according to their works". And in 1 Corinthians 3:8 says: "Everyone shall receive their own reward (from God) according to their labour".

However, purely intellectual beliefs do exist. For example, those skilled in mathematics will say that: 'the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle equals the sum of the squares on the other two sides'. And they can prove it in reality. I believe them but I do not understand them. My belief in the correctness of the mathematicians makes no difference to my life and how I live. It has no effect upon me

There is another kind of belief that, for example, two plus two equals four. No amount of clever argument that two plus two equals something else will change my belief. This belief is not only in my mind but it is also in my daily activity. If something has the price tag of 4p. I will refuse to pay 5p.

James is claiming that for a person's belief to be true it must have a visible or related expression. For example, we believe that the Devil believes in God and the evidence is in the Devil's continuous behaviour in tempting us to abandon God.

James' letter is focused on the enslaved Christians, themselves converts from Judaism, trapped with other Jewish exiles in servitude to their captors far from their homeland. The temptation not to antagonise both their captors and their fellow Jews with external manifestations of their new faith must have been strong. It's possible, even, that their fellow Jews blamed the Christians for their joint predicament. James encouraged each Christian not be afraid and to let her/his strength of faith be visible, not as a point of conflict, but as clear encouragement to all and especially to their fellow fledgling Christians.

Could a comparison be drawn between those early fledgling diasporan Christians and their 21st century counterparts in Europe?

The Diasporan fledgling Christians would have been exhaustively and unremittingly aware, in terms of daily pain and harassment, of the cost of their faith in Jesus of Nazareth that touched every aspect of their daily life. They would have had to hold on to their new faith and relationship with God, received through Baptism, in a doubly hostile environment. James urged them to live each day as people justified and sanctified by the life, suffering death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. They were to show themselves to be such people without concern for the hardships it brought them.

The dangers facing European Christians in the 21st century is very different. They are not external but internal. European Christians are already disappearing, not through physical or mental persecution, but by being subsumed. Many of our Baptised brothers and sisters are being cleverly yet ruthlessly absorbed by corrupted nations and societies ruled by selfish greed. If a person truly grasps that God really loves them unconditionally, however unworthy that person considers themselves to be of God's love, their response will be to try to love God by striving to prove to him that he is not loving them in vain. True love always gives rise to action.

That is why Jesus specifically cautions about Satan attempting to steal what is sown in the heart. When we yield to temptations we damage our capacity to nurture God's Word, lessening the spiritual fertility of our hearts. Not only in Europe but throughout the world there is ample evidence of Evil being at work in the growing hopelessness with which many people feel overburdened. Society seems unable to stem the tide of violence, discrimination, the abuse of power and the disregard for human rights and dignity. People of faith in God must not only recognise the stealthy role of Evil but work to sow and cultivate God's love as the only antidote to such evil.

The remnant 'shells' of Christianity, dotted across our landscape, have been left as a deliberate deception. It's as if the Devil would even fund the upkeep of empty church buildings to make all peoples, including Christians, believe that 'all is well'. The Baptised still resort to the external trappings of Christianity with less and less knowledge, let alone reverence, for their meaning and history.

The UK, for example, still professes to be a Christian nation listing Christmas, Easter and Pentecost on its official publications but, for the majority of its peoples, these are now no more than labels for public holidays. They have long since ceased in any sense to be 'holy days'.

In any well-proportioned life there must be both faith and deeds. It is only through deeds that faith can prove and demonstrate itself. It is only through faith that good deeds will be attempted and done. Faith, true faith, will always overflow into action. Faith-inspired action begins only when a person believes in a cause or principle that God has presented to them. In the well-proportioned life there must be prayer and effort.

The 25th chapter of Matthew's Gospel gives us three of Jesus' parables on faith in action - The Wedding Attendants, The Talents and The Last Judgment - each supports the words we find in James' letter
" So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless." (2:17)


Archbishop Malcolm's homily for Adoremus Sunday Masses

By Archbishop Malcolm McMahon

The homily preached by The Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool, at the Adoremus Pilgrim Masses - Sunday 9 September 2018 at 9.30am and 11.30am in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool.

I travelled through some of the towns of the Decapolis when I was on pilgrimage in Jordan some years ago and I was bowled over by the remains of these ancient Graeco-Roman cities. They are still magnificent even though in ruins. The desert sands haven't totally obliterated them, and a visitor gets a wonderful impression of theatres and main streets, of temples and meeting squares. These were places of pagan culture and trade. In fact, they existed not just to colonise the areas southeast of the Sea of Galilee but to be important stopping places on the main trade route to Arabia and the Red Sea. This shattered my idea of Jesus preaching to a crowd of believers in Jerusalem or in the relative peace of the meadows and pastures of Galilee. Jesus is moving through an area whose population is largely composed of gentiles and pagans in busy cities and towns. He is moving amongst people who are deaf to the word of God.

Let us ponder for a moment our present situation: the parallel is obvious: our society is deaf to the word of God too. When Jesus preached and healed in these cities it would have been in an alien culture. Well, I think that our society is more 'hard of hearing' than deaf. We have to learn to shout louder.

When Jesus encounters the deaf man, who is also dumb (the two go together), he doesn't stay in the crowd but 'he takes him aside'. In fact, this is emphasised by adding 'in private' and 'away from the crowd'. Jesus goes to him in the midst of the crowd and finds a moment and a space to be there just for him, and him alone. Surely this is what happens to us in the Eucharist. This is a moment of personal encounter when we are seen by God as unique and special and his Son comes to us to heal us, to feed us and to make us whole.

That is our experience. We are lost in the crowd in what is a secular age where Christianity and its ideals linger but are no longer the common basis of our society. Sometimes we feel lost as though we don't belong in our own homeland or we are simply alone. We find ourselves experiencing an 'aloneness' that may come from being unemployed or from a broken marriage; maybe because we are striving to live Christian lives against the pressures of modern life. Yet all the time we are surrounded by people. We are in the crowd and deafened by the noise around us. The noise of the media, of music and traffic. Noise (I remember one of my engineering teachers defining noise as unwanted sound) which fills our ears and minds to the exclusion of what we want or need to hear, the voice of God - the still, small voice of calm. In the words of the American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier:

'Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.'

During the last couple of days, we have discovered afresh that Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist comes to us to heal our hurt and open our hearts. Even though we are now in this full cathedral, or yesterday in the arena amidst thousands of people, Jesus has taken us aside, in private and away from the crowd. That's the beauty of the Eucharist: it is always personal as well as communal. It penetrates our hearts so that we become closer to Jesus; we become what we eat.

In the fourth century the great early Christian father Augustine wrote, 'If you receive the Eucharist well, you are what you eat. (Since you are the Body of Christ and his members, it is your mystery which you receive. As you come to Communion, you hear the words "The Body of Christ" and you answer "Amen". Be, therefore, members of Christ that your "Amen" may be true. Be what you see. Receive what you already are.' (Easter sermon 272) In this profound paragraph, Augustine says that the Eucharist is nourishment to us for what we already are. We are already united to Christ through faith and baptism. Each time we receive this Sacrament we grow in that shared life of Christ. We become more of the person that we already are.

The Church exhorts us to extend this union to the whole of Christian life. So that constantly reflecting on the gift that we have received, we should carry on our daily work of thanksgiving, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and should bring forth fruits of rich charity. (cf Para 25 Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass).

So just as with the deaf and dumb man whose ears were opened and whose tongue was free to speak, so we are transformed by the Eucharist. We are now able to cope with the crowd and the noise, because the centre of our life is now Jesus and the Good News that he proclaims. Our ears which are blocked by the pressure of noise are unblocked by the voice of Jesus. In Jesus we can find the space to receive, to think, test our opinions against the words of the one who spoke with authority. In the space that an encounter with Jesus gives us we can be become more like him and feel encouraged to change and to speak.

Isaiah encourages us; he says, 'Have courage', because the Lord is coming, and the earth and its people will flourish. This message of hope has been fulfilled in Jesus' life, suffering, death and resurrection but still has to come to fulfilment in us. As a Christian community we may say that we can no longer hold our heads high because of the current scandals and cover-ups, so let us keep our heads bowed in penance but stand erect nonetheless. Maybe our words won't carry the same authority as before, but we still have a gospel to proclaim, and let us continue to do that by our actions as well as words so that others may see Jesus in us. Let us shout above the noise and by our proclamation invite others to be with the Lord and find healing and peace.

Even though we may be humiliated as members of Christ's Body at this moment in time, we should always remember that it is His body, His church that we love. Let us then go forth with open ear and without ambiguity proclaim to the world the love and healing power of God in his Son Jesus Christ.