April 28th 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. Sunday thoughts: April 2019

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading              Acts 5:12-16

The faithful all used to meet by common consent in the Portico of Solomon. No one else ever dared to join them, but the people were loud in their praise and the numbers of men and women who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily. So many signs and wonders were worked among the people at the hands of the apostles that the sick were even taken out into the streets and laid on beds and sleeping-mats in the hope that at least the shadow of Peter might fall across some of them as he went past. People even came crowding in from the towns round about Jerusalem, bringing with them their sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and all of them were cured.



Second Reading          Apocalypse 1:9-13.17-19

My name is John, and through our union in Jesus, I am your brother and share your sufferings, your kingdom, and all you endure. I was on the island of Patmos for having preached God's word and witnessed for Jesus; it was the Lord's day and the Spirit possessed me, and I heard a voice behind me, shouting like a trumpet, 'Write down all that you see in a book.' I turned round to see who had spoken to me, and when I turned I saw seven golden lamp-stands and, surrounded by them, a figure like a Son of man, dressed in a long robe tied at the waist with a golden girdle.

When I saw him, I fell in a dead faint at his feet, but he touched me with his right hand and said, 'Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One. I was dead and now I am to live forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld. Now write down all that you see of present happenings and things that are still to come.'



Gospel Reading            John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, 'Peace be with you,' and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.' After saying this he breathed on them and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.'

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, 'We have seen the Lord'; he answered, 'Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.'

Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. 'Peace be with you' he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.' Thomas replied, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him: 'You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.'

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name


Sunday Reflection Divine Mercy Sunday (2nd Sunday of Easter)

Is it always appearances that can be deceptive or our reading of them?

We use the word appearance to describe the outward form of visible, tangible matter. But we are also aware that what we see, touch, taste, smell, and perhaps hear, does not reveal matter's totality. Further, and probably lengthy, investigation is needed.

In physical appearance, Jesus would have been reasonably indistinguishable from other Jewish males of similar age and upbringing. What was it then that set him apart, that distinguished him? There is a clue, maybe, in Mark 9:14/15:
"When they (Jesus, Peter, James and John) came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him."
What was it about Jesus that overwhelmed the crowd? Other translations speak about the crowd being "amazed at his (Jesus') appearance. People familiar with Jesus' physical appearance could readily identify him. So, what was it that 'overwhelmed' and 'amazed' the crowd? Clearly it was nothing physical such his clothes as Jesus didn't wear eye-catching attire.

Peoples' eyes reveal their inner being. Parents claim they can tell whether their child is telling the truth or not by looking into the child's eyes. Baptised people, committed to daily prayer especially in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, carry within them the impact of having been in the Divine Presence. Their eyes, and overall demeanour, can exude a supernatural quality of life visible to others who are, themselves, searching for God. When God is wholeheartedly welcomed by an individual, He responds with an indwelling of his Spirit.

The people, to whom Mark refers, looked into Jesus' eyes. He had just come down from the mountain top, from what we call 'The Transfiguration' (Mark 9:2-8). His whole being had been alive with a non-earthly light that his eyes could not conceal. Recognition of that light in Jesus' eyes was what would have drawn people to Jesus. It should be remembered that the perception of holiness in another does not necessarily happen instantaneously. It is more a becoming aware over time, be that long or short. The same can be said about people who allow the Devil to possess them.

Our Gospel for this Sunday comes from John (20:19-31) and tells of one of Jesus' early post-Resurrection appearances. His eleven remaining Apostles had hidden themselves in a locked room. They were fearful for their lives from their fellow Jews, let alone the Romans. Inexplicably, Jesus appeared in their midst. Would they have accepted him as they had in previous times? Each one's level of acceptance would have depended upon each's personal belief in Jesus which, at that point, might well have been damaged by his apparent inability to save himself from crucifixion. Known as Jesus' associates, they would have been fearful which explains their being in hiding.

Jesus' greeting addressed their uncertainty: "Peace be with you." The words and the voice would have been familiar but could they accept them as real? So, Jesus repeated his words and showed them the wounds of his crucifixion. John, in his Gospel, tells us that: "The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord." The question is, did they really accept that what their eyes saw namely, their Resurrected Lord, truly was present in their midst? Did their inner but now insecure faith fail to accept the evidence of their eyes and could Jesus have seen this reflected in their eyes? Judging by Jesus' repeated appearances in that locked upper room, he had work to do to win back the belief of the Eleven.
Today's Gospel features Thomas. He continues to be tagged with the label 'Doubting' whereas, as a result of Jesus specific attention resulting in Thomas' own proclamation of renewed faith, "My Lord and my God", he surely deserves re-identifying as 'Believing'. Sadly, human nature, weakened through unforgiven sin, often continues to favour the negative stance in preference to reaching out and embracing the possibility of a positive change.
Could it be that our own faith is insufficient when we fail to identify God's presence in the eyes and faith-inspired demeanour of another? People who are infused with the Spirit exude a confidence based on their awareness that God is working through them; that in speaking the Truth they are doing God's work. Not just their eyes but their smile and words convey the sense of God's spirit within them despite their, perhaps, deprived human condition. Do others, knowing us to be Baptised believers, find a measure of disappointment because they cannot see in our eyes, hear in our words and observe in our actions the life-sustaining fulfilment of the badge to which we make claim namely, 'Christian'?

Jesus would have been under no illusion when he appeared in the locked upper room in the evening of the first Easter Day. Evil's howls of frustration at recognising that it could no longer win the war with God were far from silenced then or now, but on the Day of Judgement they will be forever silenced. Our lacerated Church in the 20th going 21st century resembles the lacerated body of our Lord and Head who appeared still carrying the wounds humanity had inflicted. It is hard to acknowledge a healing when the body remains so traumatised. It must have been significantly difficult for Thomas, and maybe others too, to experience tactile contact with the wounds Christ bore. They were, and remain, the open wounds of Calvary not the scar tissue that we are accustomed to seeing on our own and other's bodies.
It is said that our Saviour's open wounds will remain open until the end of the world for, even now, Jesus goes on working to recover us sinners and bring us, his scattered, at-risk and much-loved flock, home:
"Jesus said to the Jews,
"My Father goes on working, and so do I." (John 5: 17-30)
There are many who, like Thomas, are called to touch in some real or metaphorical way the wounded Body of Christ on earth. They find the strength, like Thomas, to say: "My Lord and my God" to the most unappealing and, perhaps, ungrateful victims of human disfigurement - even when such disfigurement has, in part, been self-inflicted. Jesus' words to Thomas come to mind: "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

It is said that 'appearances can be deceptive' and first appearances can be the barrier we have to overcome. For it is only when we have eye-contact with another that we truly begin to communicate. I remember a diminutive Poor Clare Extern (non-cloistered) Sister named Gerard, now long since gone to God. Clothed in a rough brown ankle length habit with a black veil over her head, she, with a companion sister, used to go begging around the dockland pubs in Liverpool on a Friday, the dockers' pay day. Irrespective of whether she was sworn at, spat at or received a small coin, Sr. Gerard stopped and looked up into the eyes of each burly docker and with clarity said: "God bless you". Sister Gerard meant it and the docker knew it!



Sunday thoughts: April 2019

By Monsignor John Devine

John Humphreys is to retire from Radio Four's Today programme. Let off the lead by spin doctors, politicians are fair game. Innocent-sounding questions are used to flush out privately held and well-disguised opinions. Are they racist or sexist? Do they want to abolish the NHS or the nuclear deterrent? One slip of the tongue or hesitation by a politician on Today provides headlines for the rest of the day.

To go on record with inappropriate views is the death knell for anyone with aspirations to high office. A politician with a 'safe pair of hands' is one who is sure-footed under pressure. Having earned their stripes, they are wheeled out in times of crisis to clean up the mess left by hapless colleagues who have let their guard down: 'What the Northern Ireland Secretary really meant to say was…..'

Jesus would have been a natural on the Today programme. 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?' 'Why do your disciples pick corn on the Sabbath?' 'Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?' 'Moses has ordered us to condemn women like this to stoning. What have you to say?' These are questions asked by Pharisees. None of them are inspired by concern for the hungry or by compassion for those betrayed by the infidelity of their partner. Jesus adroitly deflects them all.

Nor are such questions intended to provide definitive guidance to those of us hearing them 2,000 years later. Yet these very same questions appeal to modern-day Pharisees equally motivated by the desire to score points. Their purpose is to discredit and to incriminate.