January 6th 2019

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Contents:

  1. Parish Bulletin for Holy Family
  2. Newsletter for St Benedict's
  3. This Sunday's Readings
  4. Sunday Reflection
  5. On a liturgical note: January 2019

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading    Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine out Jerusalem, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you, though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples. Above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears. The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness. Lift up your eyes and look round: all are assembling and coming towards you, your sons from far away and daughters being tenderly carried. At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart throbbing and full; since the riches of the sea will flow to you; the wealth of the nations come to you; camels in throngs will cover you, and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; everyone in Sheba will come, bringing gold and incense and singing the praise of the Lord.


Second Reading  Ephesians 3:2-3.5-6

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.


Gospel Reading    Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. 'Where is the infant king of the Jews?' they asked. 'We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.' When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 'At Bethlehem in Judaea,' they told him 'for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel'.

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. 'Go and find out all about the child,' he said 'and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.' Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.


Sunday Reflection The Epiphany of the Lord

Commitment

Many 'New Year resolutions' lack persevering personal commitment. Without it, any resolution is doomed to fail. Commitment is costly in terms of faith, personal discipline, trust and conviction. A person's commitment to God will inevitably bring them the added pressure of Satan's tireless opposition. He specialises in the undermining art of compromise to weaken a person's faith in God. Jesus exemplifies for us how our commitment, supported by the Holy Spirit, can triumph over compromise - see Luke 4:1-13.

At the outset of each new freely-chosen venture that has God at its core expect Satan to test your resolve from every angle. We know from personal experience how Satan's temptations can be thoroughly uncomfortable. They should not be feared for they can, with God's grace, not only be withstood but actually deepen our sense of faith and trust in God's presence.

The Epiphany, which we celebrate today, commemorates some men of means, possibly unconnected, who set out on journeys without an identified destination. Traditionally, Christians call them 'The Wise Men' (Matt. 2). But how wise, in the worldly sense of the word, would it have been for each to commit himself to such an unknown? Commitment is generally founded upon layered trust with a generous dose of experience. In the Epiphany, we have no clue about the previous trust and experience of these Wise Men other than their being mesmerized by a significant star.

Only the barest outline of detail remains about why these 'Wise Men', from the East, were individually enthralled by a particular star. There is no certainty about their names, their number or their ethnic origin. All we can deduce is that these astrologically alert Easterners must have had an unusually strong sense of commitment to undertake such journeys. Having embarked on their expeditions into the unknown, guided by the same star, it is presumed their paths converged. One benefit would have been a renewal of impetus for their newly combined expedition.

The distinct lack of recorded detail about these 'Wise Travellers' has allowed much mythology about them to accumulate. There is no Biblical record of their receiving inspiration, individually or collectively. There is just the brilliance of one particular star. Lengthy and arduous might best describe the daily conditions of their journey. They may possibly have set out long before Jesus was conceived, let alone born.
They would have gained knowledge from the peoples through whose territory they passed as well as imparting their own knowledge. This cross-fertilization of knowledge, ideas and beliefs is akin to a form of pre-evangelisation. St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, mentions something similar in Ch.3:7-9:
"Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."

Perhaps along the way, they had contact with believing diasporan Jews who shared their expectation of a Messiah. How else are we to explain the Wise Travellers' question when they eventually reached Jerusalem as recorded in Matthew? (2:1-2):
"Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it arose and have come to do him homage."

Every day, each Baptised person has not just the opportunity, but also the vocational responsibility, to, as it were, cross-fertilize by sharing their Baptismal grace with their companions at home, in work or in recreation. This is best achieved by sharing in gentle and small ways the essential gifts of Christ our brother namely, mutual love and forgiveness. Christians who trust in The Truth, who is Jesus, become themselves communicators of God's gifts for others by their presence.

Before Jesus, God spoke through his prophets to his Chosen People. Other peoples took guidance from the elements and in particular the stars in the heavens. In the era of The Wise Men, the night sky was infinitely more clearly visible that it is for us living in our highly illuminated conurbations. The word, Epiphany, now sadly stripped of its Divine connotations, has been subsumed into our language to describe any awakening or realisation.

The strength of our commitment does not, of itself, negate effects of apprehension and caution with which the unknown confronts us. No matter how well we have prepared, or been prepared, the potentially destabilising element of the unknown remains alive throughout any period of commitment, which includes the entirety of our life on earth.
Our personal circumstances are subject to change, voluntary or imposed. The same is true for those for whom we have taken on a responsibility. Therefore, our daily renewal of commitment requires our informed and willed consent. Changes in health, employment and environment, for example, can happen without warning and have repercussive consequences.
For this reason, our commitment to daily as well as lifetime choices and decisions needs to be confirmed at the outset of each new day. If our daily Morning Offering has become a perfunctory prayer rattled off while we are starting our daily early morning routine, then perhaps we need to stop and take stock. It is God our Father to whom we are speaking! A symbolic nod or gesture will not suffice.

Commitment should not be confused with completion. Jesus re-committed himself to his heavenly Father's will at his Baptism by John in the Jordan having previously committed himself on the occasion of his bar mitzvah in the Temple in Jerusalem aged 12. On that occasion, Jesus said to his Mother and foster-Father: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49)
The completion of Jesus' commitment came only briefly before he breathed his last on the Cross on Calvary: "It is accomplished." (John 19: 30)

While the details of our daily Christian pilgrimage are unknown and unpredictable until they occur, our destiny has been well identified by Jesus. Christian discipleship rarely offers a black and white agenda or clearly mapped-out path. It does require daily trust in God's guiding hand and, on our part, a courageous and loving heart.



On a liturgical note: January 2019

By Canon Philip Gillespie

'What will my future be? I wonder'

The question posed by Maria in The Sound of Music lies at the heart of the idea of making a new year's resolution - we look into the future but we know that 'I' will indeed help shape the future because given the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the coming months, it is ultimately for me, by the grace of God and under His guidance, to respond to the challenges, seize the opportunities, and make the fullest use of the gifts and talents entrusted to me in this new year which opens before us.

There is a sense in which our New Year's Day was not 1 January 2019 but 2 December 2018, the Sunday when the Liturgy began afresh with the season of Advent, a season which came to a crescendo with the hopeful and trusting cry of the Church: 'O come, O come Emmanuel.' Christmas Day and the Christmas season celebrate and rejoice in the response of God to the heartfelt desire of his people: 'O Come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel' (from the carol O Little Town of Bethlehem).

It is the coming of Jesus into the world and more specifically into my world, my choices and ways of living which, quite literally, makes all the difference in the world; perhaps this is the real essence and foundation of all evangelisation - to share with others the fact that, having Jesus in my life, makes all the difference, or as Saint Paul puts it: 'Nothing surpasses the supreme value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.' (Philippians 3:8)

Now that the tinsel and wrapping paper of Christmas Day are all boxed up and tidied away, it is good to reflect on the challenge of the letter to Titus which the Church received at the Mass during the night of Christmas itself: 'Jesus gave Himself for us - to purify a people so that it could be His very own and would have no ambition except to do good.' (Titus 2:14)

A challenging text indeed, and a good examination of conscience at the end of each day; have I lived this day with no ambition except to do good? And if we are still looking for a new year's resolution then perhaps St Paul has just helped us out.