August 25th 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

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St Benedict's Newsletter is not available

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading                   Isaiah 66:18-24

The Lord says this: I am coming to gather the nations of every language.
They shall come to witness my glory.
I will give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations:
to Tarshish, Put, Lud, Moshech, Rash, Tubal, and Javan,
to the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory.
They will proclaim my glory to the nations.
As an offering to the Lord they will bring all your brothers,
on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, on dromedaries,
from all the nations to my holy mountain in Jerusalem, says the Lord,
like Israelites bringing oblations in clean vessels to the Temple of the Lord.
And of some of them I will make priests and Levites, says the Lord.



Second Reading                 Hebrews 12:5-7.11-13

Have you forgotten that encouraging text in which you are addressed as sons? My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him? Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant; but later, in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness. So hold up your limp arms and steady your trembling knees and smooth out the path you tread; then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again.



Gospel Reading                    Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, 'Sir, will there be only a few saved?' He said to them, Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

'Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, "Lord, open to us." But he will answer, "I do not know where you come from." Then you will find yourself saying, "We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets". But he will reply, "I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!"

Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

'Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.'


Sunday Reflection 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Taster for the Eternal Banquet

At a first glance, this Sunday's Gospel (Luke 13:22-30) may have a jarring effect. Do Jesus' words have an ominous ring to them?
"Keep on striving to enter through the narrow door … Once the master of the house has risen and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' but the master will reply, 'I do not know where you come from. Away from me all you wicked people!'"
Interestingly, in Matthew 19:23-24, Jesus makes reference to another narrow opening.
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
Is there a correlation between the two? Both teachings share a reference to the narrowness of a point of entry.

The 'eye of the needle' refers to the narrow gap in a town/city perimeter wall that permitted access for a camel. All baggage had to be removed for the camel to pass through the aperture in the wall. The lengthy process allowed the authorities to examine in detail whatever each camel was carrying and apply the appropriate taxes.

In Luke 13:22, this Sunday's Gospel, a reader, making a casual or first glance, might assume that it is God who makes the aperture narrow, but there is no indication of this being so. Each aperture is evidently sufficient for the opening to do what it was intended for; namely, to admit a single person or a camel.
Jesus had previously, in Luke's Gospel, been teaching in various towns and villages while making his way to Jerusalem. His theme, latterly, had been 'The Kingdom of God'. This gave rise to a questioner asking: "Lord, are those to be saved few in number?" It was this question that prompted Jesus' response about the narrow door. It is likely that the questioner would have been a Jew and he would have assumed that the Kingdom of God was for the Jews and that Gentiles would be shut out.
Jesus' response: "Strive your hardest to enter…." May have shocked both the questioner and the crowd. For, far from playing the numbers game, Jesus made it clear that a person's ethnicity was no guarantee of entry to the Kingdom. Passage through the 'narrow door', entry into the Kingdom, would be for those who have struggled along the pilgrim path of faith.
The word strive has its origin in the word 'strife' and is associated with the word 'agony'. The struggle for entry would be so intense that it could be thought of as an agony of the soul and the spirit. As has been said before, Christian Baptism is no more a guarantee of passage through the 'narrow door' than is Jewishness. The only finality in the Christian life is at the point of death. Until then, each is called to be going forward with purposeful continuity towards the 'narrow door', otherwise, of necessity, each person will be retreating from it.

Jesus anticipates the Jewish crowd's defence:
"We ate and drank in your company, you taught in our streets …"
Just as it is incorrect to presume that ethnicity is a guarantor of admission through the 'narrow door', it is equally incorrect for the Baptised to believe that membership of a Christian civilisation, country or family is sufficient without personal fidelity to one's Baptismal promises. For, a Baptised person, merely living in a Christian family or country, does not necessarily make one a practising Christian. Though benefitting from their Christian background, a Baptised person cannot presume to benefit from the Christian capital that others have built up by their lives of committed fidelity. How often the goodness of saintly grandparents/parents, national saints and patronal saints are falsely assumed to be the automatic inheritance of grandchildren and children. So much depends on what the descendant, personally, has done to preserve and develop their inherited faith not only for her/himself but also for their kith and kin. None of us can live on inherited goodness.

There will be surprises beyond the 'narrow door'. Those acclaimed with the title 'celebrity' by this world may not find it the same in the next. Those who have been unnoticed, cast to the periphery or undervalued in this world, may find themselves acclaimed in the next. For the Israelites of Jesus' day as for religious leaders today, cultivating a desire for the fulfilment of God's promises is a challenge when it impinges on presumed privilege and primacy and, one might add, clericalism.

It could be that those locked out and knocking for admittance have a problem they refuse to recognise. They think they deserve admittance but the banquet they seek is not what is happening beyond the 'narrow door'. The door is locked against them because their type of banquet does not exist in heaven. Exclusivity was their previous route to entitlement, but at this 'narrow door' it cuts no ice.
If, as they claim, they had heard Jesus, they had not listened and taken to heart his words, nor did they participate in the communion of self-giving. As the extract from the Letter to the Hebrews that we hear today, (12:5-7,11-13), reminds us, growing into the person God is calling us to be can be a painful process. The Kingdom of God is a banquet that we will enjoy only to the extent that we have aligned our love with God's love here on earth and committed ourselves to making what God offers, our desire. In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus reminds us: "For many are invited, but not all are chosen". (Matt.22:14)

Perhaps the challenge at the 'narrow door', the problem of the crowded point of entry, is less to do with the size of the crowd and more to do with size of individuals' egos. The people who pass through the 'narrow point of entry' without difficulty will have demonstrated personal strength of faith by trusting the Word of their Host. They will have brought no baggage other than their unbounded hope in their Host's mercy. That hope will have bred patience. Their open-hearted love will have engendered an ability to enjoy, as well as enabling, the company of less strong companions. By their presence, they will have transformed the approach to the 'narrow point of entry' into a taster for the banquet that awaits beyond the door.