October 27th 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 (35:12-14.16-19)

The Lord is a judge who is no respecter of personages. He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man, he listens to the plea of the injured party. He does not ignore the orphan's supplication, nor the widow's as she pours out her story.

The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted, his petitions will carry to the clouds. The humble man's prayer pierces the clouds, until it arrives he is inconsolable, nor will he desist until the Most High takes notice of him, acquits the virtuous and delivers judgement. And the Lord will not be slow, nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.



SECOND READING        From the Second Letter of Paul to the Timothy (4:6-8.16-18)

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me - may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.



GOSPEL READING           Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else. 'Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself: "I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; 1 pay tithes on all I get." The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.'


Sunday Reflection 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

"A God of Justice Who Knows No Favourites"

These eight, highly succinct, informative words do catch our attention. They open the extract from Ecclesiasticus which is our First Reading (35:12-14,16-18) for this 30th Sunday of the liturgical year. Ecclesiasticus is a work of ethical teachings from approximately 200 to 175 BC, written by the Jewish scribe Ben Sira of Jerusalem, at the instigation of his father Joshua son of Sirach,

Justice and favouritism are not natural bedfellows, as any scan of world events constantly reminds us. Favouritism, the practice of showing unfair preferential treatment to a person or a group, has bedevilled human relationships since we took ourselves out of Eden. In essence, favouritism is selfishness disguised as apparent care for another. It is, in effect, the very antithesis of true love. So these eight words from early pre-Christian times proclaim that God is pure love.

The clarity of thought in the lines that follow is also inspiring:
"Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet he (God) hears the cry of the oppressed. The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint. The one who serves God willingly is heard; their petition reaches the heavens. The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay."

These lines draw us towards the One who is described. Their authorship reveals the presence of God's grace, His indwelling in human nature when we respond to his love.

When we ignore these words, failing to make a positive response to the One who makes us in the image and likeness of God, then we need to be alarmed. For an unresponsive humanity is one that has lost its way and, more, a humanity that has been subsumed by a devilishly disguised selfishness and excessive individualism. Pope Francis lamented recently: "life everywhere is fragmented and at times wounded and the life of the Church is no less so. Being rooted in Christ is the surest way to let him restore our wholeness as individuals and as communities."

The apostle, Paul, is writing from prison to his young apprentice, Timothy, in today's 2nd Reading (2Tim 4:6-8,16-18). Though physically curtailed, Paul's interior vision, his faith, is unimpaired. His life, Paul says, is being poured out like an offering to God. He knows the time of his departure from this world is nigh. He believes that he has competed well in his duel with the power of Evil. He is upholding the gift of faith in Jesus the Christ that he was given on the road to Damascus. Paul believes that he has completed the race. He tells Timothy of his firm conviction that the Lord will rescue him from "every evil threat and bring him safely to the heavenly kingdom." Despite the horror sounding him, Paul continues to proclaim God's gift to him of love and grace: "To him (God) be glory forever and ever. Amen."

Paul, in the style of Ben Sira of Jerusalem, has allowed himself to be led into the mystery of God. This 'being led into' is something quite different from 'being led to'.

It is rather like two people visiting a major art gallery. One is a gifted and trained artist specialising in oil on canvas. The other, while appreciating colour and form, lacks the understanding of an artist's vision and technique. The former sees more than the paintings. He or she is able to enter into the mindset of the artist whose work is being admired, envisaging each application of the brush, the vision that prompted the movement of the hand and the delicacy of the style of interpretation. The gifted painter can see, as it were, beneath the surface of the paint, can see the reflection of the artist at work and how the artist has built up the texture and colour to bring their subject to life, be it still life or a person. The latter sees no deeper than the surface of the painting. He/she has been led to, but not into, the masterfulness of the work.

Paul may be physically weakened by imprisonment, but he is alive with a spiritual interiority that cannot be touched by his physical death, however horrific.

Jesus' parable, in the Gospel of Luke (18:9-14), of the two men going to the Temple to pray adds a masterly touch.
"The Pharisee", says Jesus, "took up his position". What a telling phrase! It reminds one of the era when, in Catholic churches, a person or family could buy a bench and have their name plaque placed on it. Anyone occupying their bench would be evicted when they arrived!
The "Tax collector," said Jesus, "stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast, praying, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner'."
Both men were in the Temple. But only one was led into God's presence by the Spirit. The other's preoccupation with self-justification and self-proclamation blinded him to the presence of the Holy One.

God has no favourites. He loves each of us equally and will do so forever. Those who are obsessed with themselves, to the virtual exclusion of another or others, may only realise the truth of God's love for them when they have surrendered the final choice of opening themselves to Him. That is hell; to know you are loved utterly and intensely and be quite incapable of responding. (See the parable of the rich man and Lazarus - Luke 16: 19-31). That is why buying a bench in church, building a cathedral or wearing scarlet robes is of little import in the final assessment of our life on earth.

Recovering sinners believe that God has no favourites even when they realise they will never escape their recuperative state here on earth and, at times, feel they make little progress. But by openly acknowledging their state and cherishing their hope and trust in their Father's love, despite their trail of broken promises and uncompleted start-overs, their faltering prayer, as Ben Sira says: "… pierces the clouds … (and) does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay."