January 12th 2020

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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 the prophet Isaiah (42:1-4.6-7)
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations. He does not cry out or shout aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets. He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame. Faithfully he brings true justice; he will neither waver, nor be crushed until true justice is established on earth, for the islands are awaiting his law.
I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right; I have taken you by the hand and formed you. I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.


SECOND READING      From the Acts of the Apostles (10:34-38)
Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: 'The truth I have now come to realise' he said 'is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.
'It is true, God sent his word to the people of Israel, and it was to them that the good news of peace was brought by Jesus Christ - but Jesus Christ is Lord of all men. You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism.
God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.


GOSPEL READING       From the Gospel according to Matthew (3:13-17)
Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. John tried to dissuade him. 'It is I who need baptism from you' he said 'and yet you come to me!' But Jesus replied, 'Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands'. At this, John gave in to him.
As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him'.

Sunday Reflection - The Baptism of the Lord

Renewing Baptismal Vows

Celebrating 'The Baptism of Jesus' close to Christmas might mislead the unwary. In our era, Baptism is commonly associated with infants. Jesus was approximately thirty years of age when he stepped into the River Jordan to be Baptised by John the Baptiser.

How often do we, the Baptised, consciously, renew our Baptismal promises? There are two liturgical occasions for doing so, namely: at Sunday Mass, when we pray the Creed together and, on Easter Sunday, when the Creed itself is replaced by a congregational Renewal of Baptismal Vows.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Baptism is received just once and, excluding adult converts, in a person's infancy. The purpose and meaning of Baptism, as opposed to remembrances of accompanying festivities, is entrusted to parents, Godparents and family to be communicated to the new Church members as they mature. Sadly, this does not always happen. Birthdays are religiously celebrated but the anniversaries of Baptism are almost always overlooked. Which of us can easily recall the date and place of our Baptism? Yet, our Baptism is as significant as our birth.

The frequency of the Baptised signing themselves with the Sign of the Cross has diminished. The water at the church entrance was there to encourage us to reconnect with the pouring of water over our forehead at Baptism. By making the Sign of the Cross on ourselves with blessed water we recommit ourselves to God. But now, far fewer share regularly in church-based prayer and worship.

However, there are significant daily moments for us to consciously reconnect with Jesus who asks us repeatedly, as he once asked Peter: "Do your love me more than …" (John 21:15-17). Moments such as - the start of the day when offering our day to God our Father; before eating when we thank God for our food and for those who have prepared it; at the conclusion of our day when we might also reflect if, at times, we have failed to live by our Baptismal commitments.

Decades ago when 'Oroglas', an alternative to traditional glass for windows, was first invented it was marketed, accurately, as 'stone proof'. However, over a remarkably few years its surface could be severely scratched by wind-driven particles of sand and grit that, by embedding themselves in its surface, reduced Oroglas' transparency.
As committed Christians in Western Europe today, are we aware of the density of the continual bombardment of our senses by Evil's temptations? Our eyes can so easily rest momentarily on sights that impact our base nature. Likewise, our ears can be impacted by words or sounds that can tempt us to make an ill-advised response. It is in such 'hailstorm' moments that we need to recall Jesus' words: "Do your love me more than …" and respond, 'I do', adding: 'In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.'

There are some, athletes especially, who make the Sign of the Cross publicly before and after their competition. Sadly, there are also business agents who discourage their athletes from any such display of faith. They tell them their public ratings will suffer which will affect their income from advertising. It was, therefore, both refreshing and rare when tennis star Novak Djokovic, responding to a press challenge that he had financially helped a Greek Orthodox community in financial difficulties, said very clearly "I am a Christian first and foremost and then I am a sportsman".

One wonders how frequently Jesus, throughout his childhood, adolescence and early manhood renewed the commitment to his heavenly Father that his Mother and foster-Father had made, on his behalf, when they had presented him in the Jerusalem Temple eight days after his birth. For Jews, as for Christians, there are recommended set pieces of daily prayer. The faithfulness to family prayer in Jesus' home would have laid the foundations for his own personal prayerfulness. The faithfulness to family prayer in our homes is essential for the nurturing of prayer in the young.

These days, pollution not infrequently threatens the air quality of our major cities and industrial centres. It is not unusual to see citizens, in some countries, wearing breathing masks as they go about their daily life. We can draw a parallel with mountaineers. The lack of oxygen at the highest reaches demands that they carry bottles of oxygen in their packs. As Western Europe becomes increasingly secularised, the habit of personal prayer diminishes. It's as if Evil is de-oxygenating, i.e. removing, the prayerfulness that once permeated the lives of our countrymen and women. Evil works, initially, slowly and maliciously hoping that we remain unaware of his inroads. The sound of church bells, for example, announcing the Angelus three times daily has largely ceased or has been drowned out by the ever-increasing noise or 21st century life. Cathedral bells are a tourist attraction rather than a call to communal prayer and praise of God.
Recently, a new Christian monastery was granted building permission in its reasonably remote location. One of the several conditions imposed by the local authority was that there should be no audible sound of the monastic daily routine that once would have been announced from a bell tower. Each member of this community now carries a personal electronic device to call them to communal prayer or activity. A technical advance, some might say; but the people of the locality are deprived of a reminder that, in their midst, are people praying for them.

As a Christian, you may be the only one in your group who makes the Sign of the Cross before eating. Your action may draw a question or even an adverse comment. It may even lead to you being excluded from some peoples' company. Jesus frequently found people who chose to walk with him no more (John 6:64-66)

In our era Christians, like the mountaineers who triumph in reaching oxygen-deprived summits, need to carry within them an enriched commitment to both communal and personal prayer and worship. Even a 'For Sale' notice outside a former church can spark a prayer for the community, living and deceased, who had worshipped there; for those who had been Baptised there and whose fidelity has enabled our Baptism. The bells may be silenced but as we read in John's Gospel of Jesus' final entry to Jerusalem:
"When Jesus came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:30-45)