Sunday, 29 October 2017

Thirtieth Sunday

This month our Gospel readings are taken from chapter 22 of Matthew’s gospel account. In it, Jesus is being challenged by his three main opponents. They are the Herodians, the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

We began reading this chapter two weeks ago. It begins with Jesus crafting the parable about a King’s grand wedding feast for his son, but the King is stiffed by all the invited guest. The King in turn rejects them and invites whoever will accept. The three antagonists arguing with Jesus come to realize that Jesus meant this parable to be about them; that they are the rejected by God; they will be excluded from God’s Kingdom.

Normally these parties are fighting among themselves, but now they are collaborating in a united effort to discredit Jesus.

First the Herodians challenge Jesus. These are the political sellouts among the Jews. They are aligned with King Herod, who is helping the Romans occupy and control the population, and collect a census tax from the people. They try trapping Jesus with a political question about whether the people should pay the tax or not.

Next the Sadducees have a go at Jesus. They are the Temple people, the priestly class, scholars of Law of Moses. They accept only the first five books of the Old Testament, demanding that they be followed scrupulously and to the letter. They reject the belief in the resurrection i.e. as prophesied by the prophet Ezekiel. They construct an argument around a law of Moses that declared that if a man dies without having children, his brother is to marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. They create an argument around seven brothers, all marrying the same wife after each brother had died. “In the resurrection, then, whose wife will she be of the seven? For all of them were married to her.”

Finally, the Pharisees take their turn, raising a disputed question of the day about which of the 613 commandments of the law is the most important or are all of equal importance.

The Problem in all of this is not that questions do arise and look for answers, the problem is that ridged factions form around the questions, and instead of being open to discovering the best answers to the questions they are used to divide and separate people. These factions are more intent on dominating the others rather than getting to the truth.

We are all familiar with the saying, “divide and conquer”. Jesus knows well that this is Satan’s strategy against the gospel message which he is announcing and it will continue on as the life of the Church begins to unfold.

St. Paul describes it in 1 Cor. 12; “What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Paul goes on in chapter 12 to use the analogy of the human body with its many parts all working in harmony to describe how the Church and its many members are to unify. Then in chapter 13, he gives that beautiful teaching on the unifying principal of love – which flows from Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel, the primacy of Love, the greatest Commandment.

Just look around our society today. Have we ever seen such division, contentedness, animosity and argument among people? We must not let ourselves to be drawn into it. As Christians formed in the gospel, our calling is to bring the healing and unifying message of the Gospel of Love to a divide world.


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Our Father

Second reading - Office of Readings
From a letter to Proba by Saint Augustine, bishop
On the Lord’s Prayer

We need to use words so that we may remind ourselves to consider carefully what we are asking, not so that we may think we can instruct the Lord or prevail on him.

Thus, when we say: Hallowed be your name, we are reminding ourselves to desire that his name, which in fact is always holy, should also be considered holy among men. I mean that it should not be held in contempt. But this is a help for men, not for God.

And as for our saying: Your kingdom come, it will surely come whether we will it or not. But we are stirring up our desires for the kingdom so that it can come to us and we can deserve to reign there.

When we say: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are asking him to make us obedient so that his will may be done in us as it is done in heaven by his angels.

When we say: Give us this day our daily bread, in saying this day we mean “in this world.” Here we ask for a sufficiency by specifying the most important part of it; that is, we use the word “bread” to stand for everything. Or else we are asking for the sacrament of the faithful, which is necessary in this world, not to gain temporal happiness but to gain the happiness that is everlasting.

When we say: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, we are reminding ourselves of what we must ask and what we must do in order to be worthy in turn to receive.

When we say: Lead us not into temptation, we are reminding ourselves to ask that his help may not depart from us; otherwise we could be seduced and consent to some temptation, or despair and yield to it.

When we say: Deliver us from evil, we are reminding ourselves to reflect on the fact that we do not yet enjoy the state of blessedness in which we shall suffer no evil. This is the final petition contained in the Lord’s Prayer, and it has a wide application. In this petition the Christian can utter his cries of sorrow, in it he can shed his tears, and through it he can begin, continue and conclude his prayer, whatever the distress in which he finds himself. Yes, it was very appropriate that all these truths should be entrusted to us to remember in these very words.

Whatever be the other words we may prefer to say (words which the one praying chooses so that his disposition may become clearer to himself or which he simply adopts so that his disposition may be intensified), we say nothing that is not contained in the Lord’s Prayer, provided of course we are praying in a correct and proper way. But if anyone says something which is incompatible with this prayer of the Gospel, he is praying in the flesh, even if he is not praying sinfully. And yet I do not know how this could be termed anything but sinful, since those who are born again through the Spirit ought to pray only in the Spirit.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Twenty-eighth Sunday - 2017

Garment of Salvation                    

At the time Jesus formed this parable, people would be familiar with the custom for a great king, hosting the wedding of his son, to provide all the wedding guests with elaborate wedding garments so the whole affair would look spectacular. Not to accept and wearing these garments would be a great insult, provoking the king’s anger.

Jesus forms this, parable, using the symbolism of a king’s wedding for his son, to convey a real and serious lessons to people at that time, and to all of us today. This parable encapsulates a short history of salvation.

Looking at its components we are to understand that:

+  The great King is the Lord God, his Son is Jesus.
+  The wedding feast is that of the Lamb of God, with the saints assembling with him in heaven.
+   Those first invited to the wedding are the people of the O.T.
+   The servants sent out with the invitation are the prophets of the O.T. who were ignored, abused, and murdered.
+   The army sent to punish those who did this is the Roman army, who destroyed Israel.
+   The new servants with a new invitation are the evangelist of the gospel.
+   The newly invited, “both good or bad”, are the peoples of all the world – including us.
+   The wedding garment provided is the garment of mercy and salvation, covering all unworthiness.
+   Wearing it is a life of holiness – not wearing it a life of un-repentant sinfulness.

Through this parable Jesus teaches that there is only one true King, the Lord God,
>   only one divine Son, Jesus,
>   only one wedding feast, eternal life of heaven,
>   only one invitation, the gospel,
>  only one body of servants sent out to invite, the Church, united in the Holy Spirit.

This parable of Jesus is as fresh and relevant for us today as it was to those who first heard it. As it was then, so it is now, the invitation continues to go out and the invitation today is receiving the same mixed results.
Two questions remain:

?   Have I accepted the invitation, embracing it unconditionally?
?   Am I putting on the garment of a truly holy life?


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

the Word Among Us

Here is a link to an article
containing some excellent
suggestion for reading
and praying scripture
“Contrary to popular belief, you can understand the Bible and study it on your own. Reading and studying the Sacred Scriptures is the journey of a lifetime. Now, as with any journey, there are several different routes you can take to get to where you want to go . . . . . .”

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Thanksgiving 2017 & the Twenty-seventh Sunday

 This is Thanksgiving weekend – not specifically a holy day as such – but many observe this day by attending worship services to give thanks to God. But these days, as we look out on the world around us – many troubling and disturbing realities rise up before us. So much discontent everywhere, so much acrimony, harsh judging, and condemnation, so much that seems to be dividing peoples and groups and even nations.

But as I was thinking of these things, to reconcile them with Thanksgiving, the words of St. Paul in today's Second Reading seemed to address how we should approach all these paradoxes to a peaceful heart on Thanksgiving. Remember, Paul is writing these words from prison – his very life hangs in the balance. Yet out of this ominous darkness, he sends this remedy, this recipe for dealing with darkness. Listen again to his words;

Brothers and sisters: Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Worry leading to panic, leading to loss of peace cannot lead to solutions to the darkness. So how then should we deal with the threats that surround us and trouble us? Paul goes on to offer this thanksgiving recipe:

Whatever is true: “only Truth can make you free” – Jesus’ words. We must find truth and listen for those voices who speak real truth, not fake truth.  

Whatever is honourable: look to those who rise above the chaos, those who’s words and deeds have bourn the test of time; who by their legacy of goodness have given us an example to follow.

Whatever is just: which works that people undertake bring suffering, which bring peace? Blessed are the peacemakers.

Whatever is pure: can a bad tree produce good fruit - by their fruits you know them.

Whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable: Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness - Blessed are the merciful - Blessed are the pure of heart -

Finally Paul concludes:

If there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise: Think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

There will be many gatherings this weekend, of family and friends. And no doubt, there will be many special recipes shared. May this recipe of St. Paul’s be one of them.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may 
not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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