May 12th 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. Reflections: May 2019

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading             Acts 13:14.43-52

Paul and Barnabas carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the Sabbath and took their seats. When the meeting broke up, many Jews and devout converts joined Paul and Barnabas, and in their talks with them Paul and Barnabas urged them to remain faithful to the grace God had given them.

The next Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly: "We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said: I have made you a light for the nations, so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth."

It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside. But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.


Second Reading           Apocalypse 7:9.14-17

I, John, saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. One of the elders said to me: "These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and because they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb, they now stand in front of God's throne and serve him day and night in his sanctuary; and the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them, because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes."



Gospel Reading              John 10:27-30

Jesus said:
"The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life; they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me,
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one."


Sunday Reflection 4th Sunday of Easter

What happens when you listen?

Spiritually deep-listening to God is a whole-body experience. It involves the coordination of the soul, in conjunction with all the senses, focusing exclusively on God. Deep-listening is distinctly different from casual hearing where we give low-level attention to a whole host of separate activities and noises. Only when a single focus attracts our whole fixed attention are we able to engage deep-listening.

The perfect exemplar of deep-listening is Mary. The profundity of Mary's immaculate listening to God's messenger, Gabriel, made real the Incarnation; the coming among us of the Son of God-made-Man. The committed and intense listening of multitudes of the Baptised, from all nations, over the past two thousand years has revealed the presence of God's Holy Spirit dwelling in his adopted family of recovering sinners.

When faith inspires and sustains our deep-listening to God, our vision begins to change. We begin to see through, as opposed to with, the eyes of Christ. Little by little we learn to shed our culturally-imposed singularity of mind, presently embraced by much of the world, in favour of seeing ourselves as numbered amongst the multitude described by the excerpt from Revelation (7:9) that is our 2nd Reading for this Sunday:
"I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
Then one of the elders said to me, "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

John's vision is of a great and united community, rather than a gathering of individuals. The way of salvation, while requiring individual commitment, is not an exclusive 'Jesus and me' affair. This great and united community, this 'flock', is brought together from multiple nations, races and languages without any loss of individual identity. The single source of unity, common to all, is the communal shouldering of the tribulation that makes us one with our Saviour God who, bearing the agony of Calvary, gave this great community everything it needs, including each other. On this 4th Sunday of Easter, the Scripture readings invite us to reconsider our identity, taking care to root out any tendencies to self-sufficiency. Instead, Jesus encourages us to live in solidarity with Him and with one another. In the Gospel for this day (John 10: 27-30), Jesus tells us:
"My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me."
Our simple, yet profound, assignment is to deeply-listen to the voice of the Shepherd and to follow him. It is a life-giving assignment that draws the Baptised into an amazingly multifaceted world of relationships.

Pope Francis tells us that a committed deep-listening to God "commits us to serving others ... learning to find Jesus in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas" ("The Joy of the Gospel" 91). Clearly, the will to immerse ourselves in deep-listening to the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd, involves a deep-listening to the voices of others, especially those who need us as well as those from whom we can learn.

The whole of the Book of Revelation invites us to look forward to Christ's final victory. At the same time, we are to take into account the sufferings that will mark the entire journey. In the Book of Revelation, John speaks of the great multitude who have 'washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb', and the Second Vatican Council's 'Gaudium et Spes' addresses "the entire human family, seen in its total environment ... bearing the marks of its painful laborious effort, its triumphs and failures" (Gaudium et Spes 2). Revelation describes human-kind's destiny as a joyful celebration of life that no longer knows hunger or thirst because it has found the One who alone can satisfy all human longing.

In Revelation, we learn that the whole community will be shepherded by God who will lead it to springs of water and wipe away every tear. 'Gaudium et Spes' describes human destiny as the 'familial solidarity that results from being guided by the Holy Spirit and giving living witness to Christ, who does not judge, but saves, who serves rather than is served'. (Gaudium et Spes 3).
Both Revelation and 'Gaudium et Spes' offer us a dream of what can be. Both are realistic in admitting that our road to God's future passes through laborious effort, through contradiction and suffering. Both also affirm that getting to our destiny is possible not because we are so strong and visionary, but because that is where God is leading everyone who is willing to go there. There is no time more appropriate than the Easter season for us to pause and allow God's dream to inspire us, as it did the author of Revelation and those who wrote the documents of The Second Vatican Council

Jesus' sheep learned to recognize him and his work; they know how he calls them and what he hopes both for them and from them. They are also watchful. They yearn to hear his voice at any given moment. They realize that every moment is indeed given to them through him.
This Sunday's Scriptural extracts combine to offer us a practical mysticism, a way of life that is deeply involved in the events of each day and highly attuned to the grace offered in every moment. The extract from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that our Christian vision needs to be expressed in terms that ordinary folks can understand, even though many will decline to do so. The Book of Revelation and John's Gospel invite us to dream, to take the path of mysticism, to remember the Word we have heard and to imagine our destiny, as we move in both joy and sorrow toward the glory to be revealed.

Considering that God has imbued all humans with characteristics including counsel, creativity, understanding, wisdom, and the knowledge of the difference between good and evil, how is it that we are not living in Utopia? One explanation is that God also gave us free will so that we might choose the Divine will … or not. Sadly, it is true that some do seem to purposefully and consciously choose evil.

But surely it is more common for people not to make any choice at all? We seem to have lost the will -- free or otherwise -- to choose what is best for us. Access to knowledge has never been more available, yet we skim over the top, preferring sound bites and a never-ending longing for newness rather than deeply-listening to the Creator who sustains us. Ours has become a culture of distraction promoted by the abundance of Evil. If only people would stop to consider, in depth, the evidence. It is only when we deeply-listen that we lose ourselves and experience the Divine.

God of my heart, live in me and calm my mind that I may deeply-listen to You and then choose what is good.


Reflections: May 2019

By Father Chris Thomas

One of my closest friends was a priest called Steve. He loved people and he loved God. As the years went by, we grew very close and I have to say he had a profound influence on me.

I used to go with him when he was filling in for priests who were on holiday or needed a break. One weekend, we drove from Durham to Alnwick in Northumberland. We arrived early in the afternoon and, after a walk around the town, got ready for the Saturday evening Mass.

When it came to the homily, Steve stepped down off the sanctuary and began to wander up and down the church. Every now and then he would stop and look at someone and smile and say to them, 'Do you know that you are loved by God?' Several people had tears in their eyes as Steve sat down next to them and held their hands for a moment or put his arm around them explaining that God was as close to them as he, Steve, was. It was a very powerful image of entering into the mystery that is God, of being held by a God who can only love.

I often reflect on that experience and ask why people found it so moving. I think it is because of the intimate relationship between God and humanity. The search for God begins when we dare to believe that God is in the human condition. I think one of our problems is that all too often we divorce the spiritual from the human, and never the twain shall meet.

We have just celebrated Easter, but I wonder how many of us recognise the risen Christ in our midst. I wonder what it means for us to say, 'He is alive for us' or 'He is living in us'. Can we dare to trust that we will find the risen Christ in the mess and wonder that we call humanity?

In the Easter Gospels, Galilee represents the ordinariness of life. All of Jesus' friends met him in their daily lives in Galilee. Even though after the resurrection we are told that he was the same but different, they will meet him again in their daily lives and they do. The same is true for us. If we look for the risen Lord in the human reality that is our lives, we will find him. The challenge is to look for the Lord within ourselves, within one another, even within those we find most difficult.

As we journey, we will meet Jesus but we have to start trusting and believing that he is on the road of life and that, just as once he was at work in Galilee, so he's still at work today in our lives and all around us, waiting for us to recognise him, for us to look for the risen Lord.