November 3rd 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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This Sunday's Readings

FIRST READING             From the Book of Wisdom (11:22-12:2)

In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales, like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground. Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things and overlook men's sins so that they can repent. Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence, for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it. And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist, how be conserved if not called forth by you? You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life, you whose imperishable spirit is in all. Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend, you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned, so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.

SECOND READING           From the Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians (1:11-2:2)

We pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To turn now, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.

GOSPEL READING            Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: 'Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.' And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. 'He has gone to stay at a sinner's house' they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, 'Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.' And Jesus said to him, Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.'

Sunday Reflection 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus at home with the Poor

Jericho was, evidently, not Jesus' intended destination. In today's Gospel, Luke (19:1-10) tells us how Jesus "intended to pass through the town". However, in the light of something unexpected, Jesus adjusted his plans for a greater good of another. This raises an interesting question. How willing are we to amend, adjust or even set aside our plans, even our most treasured ones, for the good of another?

Jesus' attention was drawn to a tax-collector named Zacchaeus. He, being small in stature and wanting to see this 'Jesus of Nazareth' for himself, had climbed a sycomore (with an 'o' not an 'a'). In the Mediterranean, the sycomore is a type of fruit-bearing wild fig tree. Luke does not tell us if it was the sharp-eyed local Jews who, loathing the Jew Zacchaeus for his collaboration with the Romans, had pointed out to Jesus the tree-climbing tax-collector in an effort to embarrass him. Since the wild fig-bearing tree grew readily in poor soil its nutritious and freely available fruit, was known as the 'fruit of the poor'. The local Jews might well have raised their eyebrows at seeing one of the richest men in Jericho climb into 'the tree of poor'.

Reading the Gospels, it becomes evident that Jesus had a history with fig-bearing sycomores. Being a member of a poor family, who would have acknowledged the nutritional value of freely-available figs, Jesus would naturally have utilized fig trees and their fruit as a teaching aid when speaking with the poor.

Here are three examples you will recognise:

The first is from Luke (13:6-9): "Jesus also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and have found none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' "But the keeper of the vineyard answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well and good. But if not, after that you can cut it down.' "

The second from Matthew (21:19) "And seeing a fig tree by the road, Jesus approached it but found nothing on it but leaves. Jesus said to it, 'Let no fruit grow on you ever again.' Immediately the fig tree withered away."

The third comes from Mark (11:12-25) "The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing, in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it. On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple …..

When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"
"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Each Gospel-related incident illuminates, in a particular way, the significance God gives to our adequate provisioning for poor and needy people.

Jesus had an eye for the well-being and the needs of the poor because he was one of them. More to the point, the poor could see in Jesus a reflection of themselves in his clothing, bearing and no doubt choice of food. Jesus walked from place to place. In their eyes, this helped make his articulation and teaching not just accessible but, more importantly, attractive.
In a similar way, it is possible to imagine Jesus quoting from The Book of Leviticus, one of the five foundational books of the (Jewish) Bible known as the Pentateuch, which was taken up almost entirely with legislation. This Book would have been quoted frequently, albeit selectively and self-advantageously, by Pharisees and Scribes. Whereas Jesus would highlight the less frequently preached parts of The Book of Leviticus, for example, 19:9-10:

"'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God."

Jesus' attractive highlighting of texts that showed care for the poor would have allied him to widely different groups of people, in varied circumstances, who, nevertheless, shared an openness to, and love for, The Truth.

In Jericho, on this day of Jesus' visit, there were many devout Jews who were scandalised by his behaviour. First, that Jesus would fraternise with a Jewish 'fifth columnist' who acted as a tax collector for the Romans. Secondly, that he would accept an invitation to dine at such a man's house. And thirdly, that Jesus would dare to proclaim:

"Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."

When Pope Francis declared:

'The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy' - a period of prayer from 8th December 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to 20th November 2016, the Feast of Christ the King'
not a few Catholic hierarchs described as 'scandalous' the Pope's decision to allow priests to grant absolution to those who had chosen to have an abortion.

James Keenan SJ, in his writings, says that Divine mercy is 'scandalous' precisely because it excludes no one. Keenan goes on to say: "I believe that mercy defines Catholicism. And I define mercy as one's willingness to enter into the chaos of another." This, in effect, is what Jesus did by becoming one like us in all things but sin. To quote James Keenan SJ, again, "the basic reason why mercy is at the heart of Catholicism is that Jesus commanded it." Two Gospel texts exemplify how - 'The Good Samaritan' (Luke 10:29-37) and 'The Last Judgement' (Matt. 25:31-46)"

Everyone, save Mary Immaculate, stands in need of Divine forgiveness. As Christians, we need to practise mercy with abandon, without ever excluding anyone especially those who have become spiritually deprived for, as Jesus said, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit'.