September 30th 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          Numbers 11:25-29

The Lord came down in the Cloud. He spoke with Moses, but took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the spirit came on them they prophesied, but not again.

Two men had stayed back in the camp; one was called Eldad and the other Medad. The spirit came down on them; though they had not gone to the Tent, their names were enrolled among the rest. These began to prophesy in the camp. The young man ran to tell this to Moses, 'Look,' he said 'Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.'

Then said Joshua the son of Nun, who had served Moses from his youth, 'My Lord Moses, stop them!' Moses answered him, 'Are you jealous on my account? If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!'

Second Reading       James 5:1-6

An answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days. Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them - listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart's content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.

Gospel Reading        Mark 9:38-43.45.47-48

John said to Jesus, 'Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.' But Jesus said, 'You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.

'If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

'But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.'


Sunday Reflection 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (30.09.18)

The Delusion of this World's Permanence

James, in this Sunday's final extract from his Letter (5:1-6), pulls no punches. His theme is 'the worthlessness of riches'. Today's congregations could be forgiven for forgetting that James was writing in the 1st century AD, his letter sounds so contemporary! The unjust treatment of people by the powerful and the wealthy was an ongoing problem in the ancient world as much as it remains a problem in our 21st century. However, for all who have lived since the time of Christ there is even less excuse for injustice.

Fruit and vegetable retailers say that the British 'eat with their eyes'! If the product looks bright and fresh on display shoppers will more likely want to buy it. The same principle drives the retailing advertising industry in general. Whether in the shopping mall or on-line, the aim is to catch the prospective buyer's eye in the first place.

Avaricious is a posh word for greedy. History is packed with tales of peoples' avariciousness and the wars, local and international, that have resulted. In answer to the question, 'where did it all start?', the answer can be found with Satan successfully tempting Eve to want more and, through her, Adam. Their 'fall' is our inheritance.

The appetite for greed is a corruption of a wholesome impulse to look for 'the good' in everything. As Genesis reminds us: "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day." (1:31)
The identification and amplification of what is truly good is the reason for all creation and, in a unique manner, human life. God expresses his unfathomable love in creating human life in his own image and likeness so that, by our free choice, we can reflect back to him his goodness in breathing his life within us. This bond of love is the focus of all Satan's evil work.

This Sunday's extract from James' letter reflects the social and economic situation of Palestine during the first century A.D. The amassing of tracts of land in the hands of a few wealthy and powerful individuals, common throughout the Roman empire, tallies with tales of the wealthy hoarding countless riches, fine clothes and precious metals. Clearly, self-indulgence, pleasure and self-gratification have been primary and dominant driving forces in human behaviour since 'The Fall'.

James' letter reflects, the plight of day-labourers who depended on a daily wage to support themselves and their families. Peasant society, forced to live day by day, was unable to store up money, food or clothing for later times. Therefore, not to earn a wage for a day would lead to a dire situation for both the peasant and family. The rich, then, exerted power over the peasants denying them justice and imprisoning them in a life of poverty, hunger, as well as starvation and even death.

Given the situation he experienced, it is no wonder James wrote such a stinging letter of reproach to the economic powerbrokers, and, in this case, the wealthy landowners of his day. The unjust exploitation of people was in those times, and remains today, a crime crying to heaven for redress. Nowadays it is dressed up to appear what it isn't, to quote just one example, there is the injustice of 'zero hours' contracts.

James announces the woes that are to befall the unjust rich. James uses past tense verbs to describe the riches that have rotted away, the clothes that have become moth-eaten, and the gold and silver that have become corroded. In doing so he is suggesting that their day of justice has already begun. What the peasants have experienced at the hands of the rich, they will now experience themselves namely, devastation and economic insecurity.

Social or commercial success is often identified with acquisition that is limited to the material world which, as Jesus foretold and James echoes, will pass away and is doing so before our very eyes. Many have lost, both sight of and the will to aspire to, that just appetite for 'success' and 'achievement' that is in accord with our Creator's will for us. This is one of Satan's greatest areas of success.

Contemporary culture, which strongly influences society's attitudes, floods the minds of upcoming generations with ideas of becoming achievers which is not, in itself, injurious. But achievements limited to materialism and materialistic control, without reference to a higher good and often disguised as being for the common good, can be seriously detrimental. One example of this is the falling away of vocations to lives dedicated to God. This is not solely related to Ordained or Religious life, it refers just as much to married love. It may surprise some that Catholic teaching on Matrimony identifies the heavenly homecoming of the spouses as the primary objective of the life-commitment that is married love. True love is, after all, the giving of oneself for the good of another. The ultimate objective of Ordained and Religious life is the fostering, through a life of self-dedication to God, of the eternal salvation of all humanity.

By acting prophetically in his day, James became God's lightning rod and the people's conscience. This same roll is presented to each newly Baptised infant through the infusion of the Holy Spirit. Once planted, the seed of faith needs the nurturing love of parents, family and society. Today, in the 21st century, many have lost sight that 'nurturing to eternity' becuase of the skilful intervention of the Evil One. As Jesus reminded his disciples (Matt 16: 24-28)
"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done."

"If you knew what you were doing," James says to the unjust and avaricious, "you would weep and wail for the terror of the judgment that is coming upon you on the Day of the Lord."
James intensifies his meaning by choosing a word 'to wail' that, in English, means to shriek and howl with frantic terror. The same word is used to describe those undergoing the tortures of the damned.
James identifies the three main sources of wealth in his day. Corn and grain - which he says grows rotten. Garments - (in the East garments equalled wealth) that become food for moths. Gold and silver - that will be rusted clean through. The point here is that gold and silver do not actually rust. James is saying with great clarity that even the most precious and apparently most indestructible things are doomed to decay. Rust is the ultimate proof of impermanence. James compares the greedy and unjust desire for these things like a type of dreaded rust eating into men's bodies and souls. He identifies the only treasure finally possessed by those consumed by inordinate and unjust greed will be the unquenchable fire of eternity.

In this life we have to choose whether to make our own desires or the Will of God our main objective. If we choose our own desires, we have effectively separated ourselves from God as well as from our fellow humans. As St. Paul tells us in Hebrews (4:12) "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."