September 1st 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          From the Book of Ecclesiasticus  (3:17-20,28-29)

My son, be gentle in carrying out your business, and you will be better loved than a lavish giver. The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, he accepts the homage of the humble. There is no cure for the proud man's malady, since an evil growth has taken root in him. The heart of a sensible man will reflect on parables, an attentive ear is the sage's dream.



SECOND READING     From the Letter to the Hebrews (12:18-19,22-24)

What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: not a blazing fire, or a gloom turning to total darkness, or a storm; or trumpeting thunder or the great voice speaking which made everyone that heard it beg that no more should be said to them. But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a 'first-born son' and a citizen of heaven. You have come to God himself, the supreme Judge, and been placed with spirits of the saints who have been made perfect; and to Jesus, the mediator who brings a new covenant.



GOSPEL READING     Luke 14:1,7-14

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, "Give up your place to this man." And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, "My friend, move up higher." In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted."

Then he said to his host, "When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you pack means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again."


Sunday Reflection 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Recognising Authentic Humility

Jesus had been invited by a leading Pharisee to a Sabbath meal. In such a highly-charged politico/religious setting it was characteristically brave for Jesus to have spoken to his fellow diners about the virtue of humility and more. Luke's Gospel extract (14:1; 7-14) for this 22nd Sunday sets the scene.

In the experience of many people nowadays, raised voices and emphatic language often characterise the exchange of differing points of view. Verbal belligerency appears to have replaced politeness, let alone humility, in expressing opposing preferences.

We can be sure that Jesus' disposition, in the house of the Pharisee, would have been respectful, as well as humble as he, too, was an invitee. Jesus would also have intended to foster rapprochement among those present who might not always have valued each other, or each other's presence. In seeking to heal divisions and build up his fellow Jews to be the people whom God had chosen, Jesus would have employed his greatest gift, The Truth. But, would his host and fellow guests that Sabbath day have recognised The Truth when they heard its Author enunciate it?

Genuine humility has long been a characteristic of those possessed of true greatness. Its attractiveness lies in the bearer's ability to encourage others, particularly those less sure of themselves, to breathe freely. Genuine humility has a gentleness that conveys calm and reassurance; it not only does no injury but, instead, respects other people as unique expressions of God's creation. Genuine humility seeks to disarm belligerency without a blow being struck, so to speak.

Contemporary hearers or readers of the Gospel accounts of strongly-worded exchanges between Jesus and the religious leaders of his era, may unwittingly interpret them as shouting matches, because, these days, that is often how disagreements are voiced. Given his disposition "to be about his Father's business" (Luke 2:49), Jesus would never have shouted except to give his word amplification where the crowd was large.

There is a marked difference between reading silently for oneself and reading aloud for the benefit of a congregation/audience. Many who read aloud in church prepare by rehearsing the text aloud in the privacy of their home and, perhaps, the edification of their neighbour. Just as professional soloists and groups rehearse, as if it were a live performance, so too should readers. The proclaiming of God's Word is of such importance that we need to show it professional respect.

As an example of what I mean, try reading aloud St. John's account of the Good Friday morning exchange between the Roman Governor, Pilate, and Jesus (John 18:28 - 19:16).
But, before you start, spend a little time thinking about Pilate's character. See him in your mind as history portrays him, a nervously insecure minor Roman Governor of a troubled outpost of the Empire populated by rebellious-minded Jews forever stirring up discontent. Afraid of his own shadow, imagine his voice and gestures, his authority, balanced on a knife-edge, would mean he was forever nervous whatever outward appearance he may have displayed.
Think about Jesus. He had prepared, throughout his life, for what now lay before him. As a man of faith, Jesus would be calm, patient, reflective and humble.

If, when reading aloud, you voice Pilate and Jesus identically are you helping either the audience or yourselves? When you read aloud the words spoken by Pilate, be Pilate, yourself! His tone of voice, intonation and emphasis would have been so different from those of Jesus. When you read aloud the words of Jesus, be Jesus, yourself. By giving your voice to God's Word, in other words by bringing it alive, you are nourishing both the congregation and yourself.

You could do the same with this Sunday's Gospel, Luke 14:7-14. When you have familiarised yourself with Jesus' words, speak them aloud as you could envisage Jesus to have spoken them. It really does make an amazing difference when you 'perform', but a better word would be 'pray', Jesus' words from the Gospel. Speaking aloud in this way helps bring home to you the depth of the truth of what you are speaking and does so more effectively than if you just read the words, silently.

Such 'performed prayer' brings its own blessing because you are sharing so much more of yourself with the Holy Spirit to bring to life, in yourself, the Word of Life. It may also serve as a reality check for yourself in assessing how you respond in testing circumstances.

In the Gospel extract for this Sunday, it would not have been Jesus' intention to make either his fellow guests or his host feel uncomfortable. He would have wanted to win them over from their suspicious stubbornness and he could never have achieved that by belittling them.

Just now there is much heated debate within the Church on a whole raft of contentious topics. There are those defending 'old ways' and those promoting 'new ways'. It is easy to forget that God is still speaking, principally through his Word, which is a continuum. As Jesus said: "Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them" (Matt.5:17). Whereas our word dies as soon as it leaves us, each Word that God has revealed remains forever, alive and active. Each continuing Word of God is grafted onto what preceded it with added corrections and new understandings, all illustrating that revelation continues. Consider how much of the teaching of the Second Council of the Vatican (1962/65) remains to be realised. While sixty plus years is but a moment in the Church's lifetime there needs to be much more urgency in promoting the Council's real message given the speed of change in our world and not just climatically. As a Church community, we have spent far too long on 'fixtures and fittings' instead of equipping each Baptised person to be knowledgeably able to engage with the world at this critical point in its history.

Sadly, too often, the 'old' is far too human, jealous and fearful, claiming orthodoxy when the issues are little more than turf wars in the greater context. The 'new' is not without fault either; too easily disregarding what has gone before, reacting and rebelling instead of improving and enriching; appearing to want to start a new book instead of being willing to add a chapter, as it were, to what we have inherited. It is important to realise that the disciples of Jesus Christ have known these tensions since the very beginning of the Church.

The humility of Jesus would have been recognisable not only in the tone of his voice but also in the gentleness of his disposition. Before you say it, Jesus' emptying the Temple, his Father's house, of parasitical traders (John 2:15) could have been accomplished without violence in word or action. The knotted cord would have been useful for moving on the larger animals.

Despite the conflict of words between factions within our Baptismal community today, the Church continues thanks to the Holy Spirit. This is the good news! Alleluia! Our responsibility is to follow the example of our Teacher who, himself, fulfilled the prescription in this Sunday's First Reading:
"My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favour with God." (Ecclesiasticus 3:17)