November 17th 2019



  1. Parish Bulletin for Holy Family
  2. Newsletter for St Benedict's
  3. This Sunday's Readings
  4. Sunday Reflection
  5. Sunday Thoughts: November 2019

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St Benedict's Newsletter is not available

This Sunday's Readings

FIRST READING           From the book of the Prophet Malachi (3:19-20)

The day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

SECOND READING        From the Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians (3:7-12)

You know how you are supposed to imitate us: now we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we ever have our meals at anyone's table without paying for them; no, we worked night and day, slaving and straining, so as not to be a burden on any of you. This was not because we had no right to be, but in order to make ourselves an example for you to follow.

We gave you a rule when we were with you: not to let anyone have any food if he refused to do any work. Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else's. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.

GOSPEL READING           Luke 21:5-19

When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, "All these things you are staring at now - the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed." And they put to him this question: "Master" they said "when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?"

"Take care not to be deceived" he said "because many will come using my name and saying, I am he, and, The time is near at hand. Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon". Then he said to them, "Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.

"But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name - and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives."

Sunday Reflection 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Single Strand of Hair

The hair grown and discarded by our body, over a lifetime, is beyond our calculation. While this true for us, it does not apply to God. On three distinct occasions - Matt. 10:30; Luke 12:7 and 21:18. - Jesus articulates the specific value of a single strand of our hair. Our Gospel extract for this 33rd Sunday of the Year includes Luke 21.18:
"… but not a hair on your head will be destroyed."

Why give such significance to something so miniscule as a strand-of-hair?

In recent decades, humanity has made many choices. Some of these have had the effect of bringing into being; a world of conscienceless, convenience disposability, that even embraces human life itself. This is clearly not God's way. A strand-of-hair that, in earlier times through ignorance, may have been thought inconsequential, is now capable of revealing many intimate details of the person on whose body it grew. For example, a person's unique DNA is but one secret contained in a strand of their hair. But a strand-of-hair can also reveal a person's eating and drinking habits as well as their medicinal intake. A strand-of-hair can also indicate a person's substance-using habits as well as the results of any ill-treatment they may have received when in the hands of others, over lengthy periods of time. Little wonder then that God says: "Why every hair on your head has been counted" (Matt: 10:30)

With God there is no convenience disposability, not even of a strand-of-hair. Everything that God causes to be has purpose and, at the final call, will be part of that universal assembly. It may not be in the form we once knew it, but it will be there. Humanity will discover its culpability of misappropriation of so much that it was permitted to discover; for example, the splitting of the atom which was harnessed for war, more than for the benefit of humanity. Human discoveries are so frequently double-edged and the temptation to follow a path tainted by greed can so easily trump true altruism.

The extract from the prophet Malachi, in today's First Reading (3:19-20), offers an insight for the sharp-eyed reader:

"Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the Lord of hosts."
Stubble is what is left in the field when the harvest has been brought to safety. God can only gather to safety those who have freely chosen him with fidelity, albeit a fidelity well-laced with contrition and Divine forgiveness.

"But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays." (Mal: 3:20)

Our Gospel extract for today (Luke 21:5-19): The Evangelist portrays Jesus standing in the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus is not overawed by its magnificence. We can imagine the impact of his words on his hearers -

"All that you see here -- the days will come
when there will not be left
one stone upon another stone
that will not be thrown down."
Just seventy years after the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus the Romans, finally exasperated by the political bedlam caused by the Jews, raised the second Temple to the ground (and it has never been rebuilt).

Those with experience, or memory, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will appreciate what degree of harm man can do … and man is not God. But, fear not, God will see the harvest brought in to eternity before the stubble is burnt.

In Scripture, fire has multiple involvements, one of which was a moment of God's intervention in our world for a specific purpose. The incident of 'the burning bush' (Exodus 3). Moses' attention was caught by a bush that was on fire but not being consumed. It was on this occasion that God appointed Moses to lead his captured people out of slavery in Egypt.

Jesus, in Luke's Gospel extract, speaks on wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines and plagues. These are all currently present on our planet in various places. But the one single happening that affects everybody is climate change. If reputable and renowned astrophysicists, such as Professor Brian Cox of Manchester University, are to be believed the fire of all fires that could engulf our whole world would come from the sun. Is this among the "awesome sights and mighty signs (that) will come from the sky", pace Jesus in today's Gospel?

Medical terminology uses the phrase - a hairline fracture - to describe a minute break within a bone detectable only by X-ray. If the fractured parts are held together and the limb remains still, the fracture will, normally, heal. An unhealed hairline fracture not only weakens the affected limb but the fracture can allow the ingress of infection and bring further damage.

Perhaps we see our infractions of God's law as minor - the equivalent of hairline fractures. It's as well to remember that untreated fractures, minor or otherwise, either never heal or never heal properly. Then, when the limb is called to bear the weight it should be capable of bearing, it fails causing further and probably more serious damage to the whole body.

Jesus, in today's Gospel, tells us not to prepare our defence when we encounter persecution for he will be with us to impart the wisdom we need. But surely, that pre-supposes, that we will have done whatever we could to keep our spiritual life free of fractures, even of the hairline variety.

Then, when the final persecution ends, "not a hair of your head will (have been) destroyed.' Our only legitimate joy when, slowly, we unearth the delicate intricacies of God's creation is that of wonder.

Sunday thoughts: November 2019

By Monsignor John Devine

I'm a baby boomer. I've lived through a long period of stability. Wars have taken place on distant shores but those living in western Europe and the United States have enjoyed relatively untroubled lives for half a century.

The UN and NATO (and dare I say the European Union?) have ensured peaceful and seamless interaction between western nations. In the UK, free elections, Parliament, the judiciary, the Police service, the NHS etc have been taken for granted. Although these institutions have disguised inequalities and injustices for some, the UK has been considered to be a comfortable place to live, work, raise a family, and to live with dignity until death. Most of us have unquestioningly assumed that these benign structures would survive until the end of time.

So what's changed? Terrorism and extremism obviously rock our sense of security but what really threatens our way of life is when trusted institutions are challenged by the establishment itself. Parliament and the judiciary are ridiculed as 'enemies of the people'. The BBC, once the touchstone of reliability, is dismissed as biased. We rely instead on our iPhones and a social media that is manipulated by hidden and malevolent interest groups.

At the end of November we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Many of us had assumed that the 'post-war consensus' was the next best thing to the Kingdom of Heaven. We've had to grow up quickly. The world of idolatrous systems and institutions is always passing away. It's been suggested that when we pray 'Thy Kingdom come' we must also be able to say 'my kingdoms go'. Our worldly kingdoms rise and fall. We need to be careful what we pray for. The Kingdom of the Servant King is where true freedom and joy is to be found.