September 8th 2019



  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 Wisdom (9:13-18)

'What man can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord? The reasonings of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable; for a perishable body presses down the soul, and this tent of clay weighs down the teeming mind. It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth, laborious to know what lies within our reach; who, then, can discover what is in the heavens? As for your intention, who could have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from above? Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened and men been taught what pleases you, and saved, by Wisdom.'

SECOND READING      From the Letter of Paul to Philemon (9-10.12-17)

This is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. I am sending him back to you, and with him - I could say - a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave any more, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord. So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me.

GOSPEL READING       Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. 'If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

'And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, "Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish." Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.'

Sunday Reflection 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Air We Breathe

Breathing clean air is fundamental to health. Yet, today, most people have little option but to breathe air that is polluted to a greater or lesser degree. Most industrial, commercial and consumer discharge takes the form of gas which, circulating in the air we breathe, is a major contributive cause of respiratory and other illnesses. In 2016, the UK Royal College of Physicians found that air pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths each year.

An analogy can be drawn with our spiritual lives. Where communities of believers live Gospel-based lives, the spiritual atmosphere is vibrant and healthy. Lourdes and Fatima are examples, both being places of international pilgrimage. The overriding number of 'cures' are of those suffering from illnesses of the soul. Very many pilgrims, both sick and healthy, return to home renewed in the Holy Spirit. That such widespread communal spiritual reconstitution happens in places where physically and mentally ill people gather is a subject for another article. Suffice it to quote Jesus' words: "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." (Matt. 19:30)

A spell in hospital may help people with respiratory illness find relief. Their problem continues, sadly, when they return home where they reconnect with the still polluted air that caused their hospitalisation.

It is similar for returning pilgrims. They are inescapably re-immersed in a daily routine where the spiritual is marginalised because, as St. John writes in his First Letter (5:19), this world is the kingdom of Evil.

However, spiritual respite is not limited to places of pilgrimage. Each Baptised person has available the spiritual equivalent of a physical defibrillator; the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, the choice to appeal for the help of the Holy Spirit presupposes an individual's awareness of the critical state of their spiritual deprivation. Where this deprivation increases subtly, the victim can remain dangerously unaware of being at risk.

In the daily 'battle' for souls, two things never happen. There is never a moment of truce and there is no such thing as a vacuum where neither God nor Satan is present within a person. We are either moving towards God, with the support of The Holy Spirit, or we are collaborating with the temptations of the Evil One. We are the people who, by exercising our free choice, control, the direction of the incessant flow and ebb between the Spirit of God and the spirit of Evil.

The Jewish author of this Sunday's First Reading (Wisdom 9:13-18), dating back to the late 1st century BC, appears well acquainted with human limitations that we know so well today:
"What human being indeed can know the intentions of God?
Who can comprehend the will of the Lord?
For the reasoning of mortals is inadequate,
and our attitudes of mind are unstable."
In the UK, there now exists an established unfamiliarity with the tenets of Christianity. Even among the Baptised there will be some attending a wedding, first communion or funeral who feel the church to be an alien place and that what is being liturgically celebrated is meaningless. Among the Baptised there are those who, lacking a concept of belief, lack also an understanding of what happens in church and why.

The physical area between life's highway and the pathway to church, at least in the UK, may not be great but it is strewn with unfathomably deep crevasses affecting knowledge and practice.

Walking is a recognised form of healthy exercise. For people able to walk and for whom the church is not too distant, walking there is more than physical exercise. Without the distraction of motorised transport and electronic interference, the walking potential-worshipper can begin to adapt his/her mindset. By taking time to step aside from daily routines, it is possible to open up an awareness of God's Word in advance of hearing it proclaimed in church.

Studies show that people sitting in a car on a busy road, and especially in a line of traffic, breathe in more air pollution than those walking on the pavement. Apparently, the exhaust of vehicles in front is drawn into those following and so the pollution builds up vehicle to vehicle. It may be healthier to walk to church than to ride there!

The parallel with the spiritual life is that much that we hear, see and read, on a daily basis, comes from people who do not necessarily share our belief in and Baptismal commitment to Jesus. So, it addition to the spiritual and physical benefit of walking to church, we may have time to spare having arrived. We could encourage one another to keep silence in the presence of Lord for ten or fifteen minutes before the start of a service. This would allow everyone's senses to adjust, not only to where they are but also as to why they have come.

Avid concert-goers always arrive early at the concert venue. They make every effort to let the hubbub of the day, or even the last hour, abate. They read the programme notes on the composers, soloists, conductor and orchestra and they may even read the musical score. Individually aware of the discord (pardon the pun) between their working/home life and what they hope to absorb in the concert hall, they consider their preparatory time part of the concert even though no performed musical note has been heard. Their individual preparation supports the whole assembly, audience and performers. No wonder the Wisdom author writes:

"It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth,
laborious to know what lies within our reach;
who, then, can discover what is in the heavens."
God calls his adopted children to form a community of faithful individuals each contributing, to the best of their ability, to the spiritual benefit of all. As Jesus said: "For where two or more gather in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt.18:20) United with Jesus encourages each to remain faithful, true and active in the mission of evangelisation

With all the electronic wizardry that has become today's 'must have' do we have more peace of mind or soul? Is it not true as we read in the Wisdom extract for this Sunday?
"this tent of clay weighs down the mind with its many concerns" (9:15)
It was Jesus who, in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of his betrayal, asked Peter, James and John to keep watch with him. He prayed. They fell asleep. Jesus came back to find them asleep and, as Matthew recalls, said:
"Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (26:41)

In giving ourselves time to absorb the Wisdom Reading, we would be, both individually and collectively, better disposed and prepared to ask the assistance of the Holy Spirit in fathoming and absorbing Jesus' message in Luke's Gospel extract (14:25-33). Jesus, in challenging us to review our priorities, is inviting us to check if, in our daily life, we are still following him.

Jesus makes use of the example of tower-building and of the need to calculate with care the cost not only of materials etc but also of personal involvement. There would, long ago, have been a widespread 'climate' of Christianity throughout these islands to give mutual support, but that has severely diminished. It is vital for today's Christians to be alert as to just how spiritually polluted the air of our homeland has become and to take remedial action. Small adjustments have their value. So, if you are able, make your Sunday, or any day, walk to church part of the daily offering of yourself to God.