25th Sunday of the Year (A)

Scripture Reading     (Matthew 20: 1-16)

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go to my vineyard too”.

In the evening, the owner of the vineyard sad to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last-comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

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Reflection

Can we allow God to be so good to everyone?  The parable today is about the generosity of God, not an encouragement to idleness nor a way out of finding employment for our people, each of whom has the right to work.  It is Jesus using an unusual example from life to highlight the unconditional love of God, stressing as he so often did, that God’s love depends on God, not on our good works.

Is Jesus pointing the way to the first truth of our faith:  that God is good in love to all?  From believing that in the heart, we are empowered to love others like him, or try to.

It is only human to object to this approach. We very often repay love with love, and withdraw love when it is not given.

Pope Francis writes: “There are two aspects of love. First, love is more about giving than receiving. Second, love is more about deeds than words. Love is always given or transmitted to another, he said, and “love always gives life, fosters growth” (Feast of the Sacred Heart 2016).

The joy of God is in giving love; this is a prime meaning of the parable. He calls on us to enjoy his giving of love to everyone, even the ones we do not think deserve it.

Teach me, Lord to be generous in love, as you are to me and to all.

Fr Donal Neary SJ  (Sacred Heart Messenger)
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Prayer

For all those who are sick or suffering in mind, body or spirit.

For the many people killed in the earthquake in Mexico this week, and the thousands who have been left homeless.

†For all those who have been impacted by Hurricane Maria and those involved in the rescue effort.

†For the 410,000 people now estimated to have fled to Bangladesh, escaping violence in Rakhine State in neighbouring Myanmar.

†For fairer trade rules so that all may receive a just wage for the work of their hands.

 

 


24th Sunday of the Year (A)

Scripture Reading

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time,” he said, “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me,” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying. “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’   (Matthew 18: 21-35)

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Reflection

Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation. In telling us to forgive our brothers and sisters unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it. What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross. The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to re-establish the original bonds of brotherly love.

From a Homily of Pope Francis, 18 August 2014

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Prayer

Undaunted you seek the lost, O God,
exultant you bring home the found.
Touch our hearts with grateful wonder
at the tenderness of your forbearing love.
Grant us delight in the mercy that has found us
and bring all to rejoice at the feast of forgiveness.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

(c) 1998 International Committee on English in the Liturgy


23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Gospel  (Matthew 18: 15-20)

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’

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Reflection

Corrie ten Boom often thought back over the horrors of the Ravensbruck concentration camp. How could she ever forgive the former Nazis who had been her jailers? Where was love, acceptance, and forgiveness in a horror camp where more than 95,000 women died? How could she ever forget the horrible cruelty of the guards and the smoke constantly coming from the chimney of the crematorium?

Then in 1947 Corrie was speaking in a Church in Munich, and when the meeting was over she saw one of the cruellest male guards of Ravensbruck coming forward to speak to her. He had his hand outstretched. “I have become a Christian,” he explained. “I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?” A conflict raged in Corrie’s heart. The Spirit of God urged her to forgive. The spirit of bitterness and coldness urged her to turn away. “Jesus, help me,” she prayed. Then she knew what she must do. “I can lift my hand,” she thought to herself. “I can do that much.”

As their hands met it was as if warmth and healing broke forth with tears and joy. “I forgive you, brother, with all my heart,” she said. Later Corrie testified that “it was the power of the Holy Spirit” who had poured the love of God into her heart that day.

(Garrie F. Williams in “Welcome, Holy Spirit” (c) 1994)

I don’t know any other way true forgiveness can take place. We turn our hurt over to God. We ask God for the ability to forgive.

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World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

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Two years ago, Pope Francis declared September 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, as the Orthodox Church has done since 1989.

According to Pope Francis, “The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation offers to individual believers and to the community a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation, raising to God our thanks for the marvellous works that he has entrusted to our care, invoking his help for the protection of creation and his mercy for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

A Prayer for our Earth

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty,
not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognise that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

(Prayers from Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis)

Mass for the Care of Creation at 12.15 pm on Friday 1 September at St Benedict’s.


21st Sunday of the Year (A)

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Gospel             

Matthew 16: 13-20

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said, ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Reflection

At today’s Angelus in Rome, Pope Francis reflected on the today’s reading from St Matthew’s Gospel.  He said the Lord continues to build His Church in our present day. “Even with us today,” he said, “Christ desires to build His Church, this house of solid foundations, which nevertheless does not want for cracks, and which always needs to be reformed, repaired, as in the time of St. Francis of Assisi.”

In this ongoing task of building and maintenance, Pope Francis stressed that no person – which he likened to the little stones that often cause us the most trouble when we feel them underfoot, or that appear ill-suited to use in the edification of grand structures – is without some part to play, some role to fill as building material. “No stone is useless,” he said, “rather, in the hands of Jesus [the littlest stone] becomes precious, because he picks it up, looks at it with tenderness, works it with his Spirit and puts it in the right place, where He had ever a mind to put it, and where it can be most useful to the whole building.”

Prayer

Living God,
you sent your Son among us
to reveal your wisdom
and make known your ways.
Increase our faith,
that we may confess Jesus as your Son,
take up his work on earth,
and trust his promise to sustain the Church.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

(c) 1998 International Committee on English in the Liturgy Corporation.


20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

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GOSPEL  (Matthew 15: 21-28)

Jesus left Gennesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, “Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.” But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. “Give her what she wants”, they said, “because she is shouting after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. “Lord”, she said, “help me.” He replied, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.” She retorted, “Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.” And from that moment her daughter was well again.

REFLECTION  (cf. ‘Sacred Space’)

This woman shows great persistence; she did not allow the disciples’ irritation or Jesus’ offhand remark to put her off. She knew what she wanted and she trusted that Jesus could help. I pray that my faith may have something of her clarity and persistence.

Like the woman in the Gospel, I come before Jesus bringing others in my prayer. As I pray for those I love, I grow an appreciation of their goodness and ask for blessings for them. I think again of how they are blessings for me and I give thanks.

PRAYER

Dear Jesus, I can open up my heart to you.
I can tell you everything that troubles me.
I know you care about all the concerns in my life.
Teach me to live in the knowledge
that you who care for me today,
will care for me tomorrow and all the days of my life.

 


The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary

On 1 November 1950, Pope Pius XII (Munificentissimus Deus) formally defined “as a divinely revealed dogma:  The Immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, after her life on earth, was assumed, body and soul, to the glory of heaven.”

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Ceiling of the Assumption of Mary in Santa Maria Immacolata a via Veneto, Rome

Gospel  (Luke 1: 39-56)

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all woman you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? From the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said:
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things,
the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy –
according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

Reflection from Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning! Happy Feast of the Assumption!

The Gospel passage (Lk 1:39-56) of today’s Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven describes the encounter between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, emphasizing that “Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah” (v. 39). In those days, Mary hastened to a small city in the vicinity of Jerusalem in order to meet Elizabeth. Today, however, we contemplate her on her journey toward the Heavenly Jerusalem, to encounter at last the face of the Father and to see once again the face of her Son Jesus. So often in her earthly life she had travelled mountainous areas, until the painful final phase of Calvary, associated with the Mystery of the Passion of Christ. Today, we see her arrive at God’s mountain, “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1) — as the Book of Revelation reads — and we see her cross the threshold of the heavenly homeland.

She was the first to believe in the Son of God, and is the first to be assumed into heaven in body and soul. She was the first to gather Jesus in her arms when he was still a boy, and is the first to be gathered in his arms to be introduced into the eternal Kingdom of the Father. Mary, a humble and simple maiden from an isolated village on the edge of the Roman Empire, precisely because she received and lived the Gospel, is allowed by God to be beside the Son’s throne for eternity. This is how the Lord puts down the mighty from their thrones and exalts those of low degree (cf. Lk 1:52).

The Assumption of Mary is a great mystery which regards each one of us, it regards our future. Mary, in fact, precedes us on the path walked upon by those who, through their Baptism, have bound their life to Jesus, as Mary bound her own life to Him. Today’s feast makes us look to heaven, foretells the “new heaven and new earth”, with the Risen Christ’s victory over death and the definitive defeat of evil. Therefore, the exultation of the humble maiden of Galilee, expressed in the Canticle of the Magnificat, becomes the song of all humanity, which sees with satisfaction the Lord stoop over all men and all women, humble creatures, and assume them with him into heaven.

The Lord stoops over the humble, to raise them up, as the Canticle of the Magnificat proclaims. This hymn of Mary also leads us to think of the many current painful situations, in particular of women overwhelmed by the burden of life and by the tragedy of violence, of women enslaved by the oppression of the powerful, of children forced into inhuman labour, of women obliged to surrender in body and in spirit to the greed of men. May they begin as soon as possible a life of peace, of justice, of love, awaiting the day in which they will finally feel they are held by hands which do not humiliate them, but which lift them tenderly and lead them on the path of life, to heaven. May Mary, a maiden, a woman who suffered a great deal in her life, make us think of these women who suffer so much. Let us ask the Lord that He himself may take them by the hand and lead them on the path of life, freeing them from these forms of slavery.

Now let us turn trustingly to Mary, gentle sweet Queen of Heaven, and ask her: “Give us days of peace, watch over our journey, let us see your Son, filled with the joy of Heaven” (Hymn of Second Vespers).

(‘The Angelus’ in St Peter’s Square, 15 August 2016)

 


Feast of St Oswald, King & Martyr

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The Feast of St Oswald, King and Martyr, falls on 5 August.

Oswald was the eldest son of Aethelfrith, King of Bernicia (present day Northumbria), and was probably born in the year 605.

After the death of his father, Oswald and his brothers fled to the island of Iona for safety. There, he was baptised and became a Christian.

In 634, Oswald returned to Northumbria to regain his father’s kingdom. It is said that he set up a wooden cross as his standard and dedicated himself and his people to God’s protection before engaging in battle with the occupying Welsh king, Cadwallon, not far from Hexham. Oswald defeated and killed Cadwallon. He set up his royal palace and court at Bamburgh and called the monks from Iona to re-establish Christianity throughout his land. Aidan responded to this call and established a church at Bamburgh, together with a community based on Columba’s community on the island of Lindisfarne.

We know from Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History of the English People” that Oswald and Aidan forged a deep friendship and partnership. Oswald often accompanied Aidan on his missionary journeys, acting as interpreter for Aidan who could not speak the local dialect.

Bede also tells this story: One Easter, Oswald and Aidan were feasting at the palace, when a silver dish of food was set before them. Just as they were saying their prayers of blessing a servant, who looked after the needs of the poor, came into the hall to tell the king that a great crowd of hungry folk were sitting outside the palace begging alms. The king immediately ordered his food to be taken out to them and the silver platter to be broken up and shared among them. Aidan, impressed by the generosity of the king, raised Oswald’s right hand and prayed, “May this hand never wither with age”.

Sadly, the reign of Oswald only lasted eight years. On 5th August 642, he was killed in battle by Penda, king of the Mercians, at Maserfield, now Oswestry, in Shropshire. His head and arms were severed from his body and stuck onto poles. Legend has it that his right arm, which Aidan had raised in prayer, found its way incorrupt back to Bamburgh and was placed in a silver casket in the church there. Oswald’s head was returned to Lindisfarne and was eventually buried in the coffin of St Cuthbert.

Despite living in violent times, Oswald is renowned as a diplomat, a unifier, and a generous and humble king.

Almighty and merciful God,
who so kindled the faith of St Oswald with your Spirit
that he set up the sign of the Cross in his kingdom
and turned his people to the light of Christ:
grant that we, being fired by the same Spirit,
may always bear our cross before the world
and be found faithful servants of the Gospel.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

St Oswald, King and Martyr – pray for us.


17th Sunday of the Year (A)

Gospel    (Matthew 13: 44-52)

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are of no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

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The Deep End – Treasures and Pearls

In the immediate aftermath of the horrific bomb attack in Manchester on 22 May this year, the hashtag #roomformanchester began to trend on social media. In the midst of the chaos and terror, locals were opening up their homes and hearts to anyone who had been affected by the incident and was in need of help. People who lived nearby offered food or a cuppa, a place to charge phones, or a bed for the night. Hotels took in dozens of children and teenagers who had been separated from their parents. Taxi drivers offered free lifts, and others offered to drive those who had been stranded home to surrounding areas. People began to queue up at donor banks to give blood to help those injured in the attack. In the face of an evil and senseless act that inflicted so much pain, kindness and goodness shone through.

Difficult times often bring out the best in people. We see it in the way friends rally around a bereaved family, or communities raise money to help a sick child. There are treasures in our people and our communities that we could never put a price on. Jesus talks today about hidden treasures and fine pearls, and prompts the question – what is most important to us, and what are we willing to sacrifice for it? Sometimes treasures like compassion and love are there for all to see, and other times they are hidden or buried and we have to go in search of them, and to remember to bring them to others. The kingdom of God is always close at hand and within each of us.

Triona Doherty in Intercom (c) Veritas Publications 2017

Prayer 
God of eternal wisdom,
you alone impart the gift of right judgement.
Grant us an understanding heart,
that we may value wisely
the treasure of your kingdom
and gladly forgo all lesser gifts
to possess that kingdom’s incomparable joy.
We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

(c) 1998 International Committee on English in the Liturgy Corporation


Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat

16th Sunday of the Year (A)

This Sunday’s Gospel recounts the parable of the weeds and the wheat:

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Jesus put another parable before the crowds: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn”.’  (Matthew 13: 24-30)

Perhaps this video sheds a little light on the parable.  It’s from a film called ‘Front of the Class’ by Brad Cohen: