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TUESDAY 29th.Saint Martha.Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany. They were personal friends of Jesus and entertained him to occasional meals. Jesus clearly felt at home with all of them and we know how he grieved over Lazarus and famously raised him to live again. Martha has suffered a bit from Christian tradition which made her into a model of a fussy, unrecollected busybody, concerned only with domestic matters. Of course, busy people who have to run a household can be distracted easily but Jesus speaks gently and lovingly to Martha and encourages her not to worry too much. There is no doubting Marthas appeal to most of us who share many of her concerns and we can learn from her heart-felt profession of faith at the time of Lazarus death. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world. (John 11:27).
THURSDAY 31st. Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The election of Pope Francis has put the spotlight on the vocation of the Jesuits in the Church. They were founded by a former soldier, Ignatius Lopez of Loyola. Born in 1491 he was invalided out of the army at the battle of Pamplona in 1521. It was during his convalescence that he experienced a radical conversion and the occasion of this grace was the spiritual reading which Ignatius undertook at first to while away the long hours of recuperation. By the time he died, aged 65, he had founded the Society of Jesus and honed his spiritual insights into the famous Spiritual Exercises which have stood the test of time. To this day the Exercises have a profound effect, not only on all Jesuits (including the Pope), but on all who follow them. A one phrase summary of Ignatian spirituality to find God in everything.
FRIDAY?1st AUGUST. Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Bishop, doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorists, Alphonsus led a long and very full life. Born in Bourbon Naples in 1696 he lived for 91 years. His first career was as a lawyer which he abandoned to become a priest. Indefatigable in his ministry to the poor and the incurable of his native city, he was nevertheless drawn to the most abandoned in the hills further south of the city. To this end he launched a community dedicated to holiness through ministry to the most abandoned. In the course of his long life he used all his many talents, poet, painter, musician, writer- to advance the Kingdom of God, always with an eye on the poor. His greatest intellectual achievement was the recasting of traditional moral theology in a more compassionate and pastoral way so as to bring the merciful redemption home to as many as possible. One of his personal desires was to come as a missionary to the Cape of Good Hope, a desire which has now been fulfilled through the presence of his Redemptorists in Bergvliet and Retreat and through the many missions and retreats in the Cape.
Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R
This Sunday we are celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation for 24 of our young parishioners.? Confirmation is the second sacrament of initiation and in the Eastern Churches it is conferred immediately after baptism.? Its name in the East is Chrismation.
In conferring the Sacrament the Bishop says to each candidate Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.? Confirmation brings about maturity in Christian? discipleship and the outpouring of the many gifts of Spirit.? The person confirmed is now fully equipped to proclaim the Gospel by a life of integrity and to give witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ.
There are echoes of the Jewish ritual of maturity as a responsible member of the Jewish faith community.? For boys this ritual is called BAR MITZVAH (son of the commandment) and for girls it is called BAT MITZVAH (daughter of the commandment).? There are two features of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah which connect with our celebration of Confirmation as a disciple of Jesus.
During the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony the boy/girl is called up to publically read from the Torah (the Hebrew term for the first five books of the Bible).? This is a sacred moment because the whole life of a Jew is regulated by the Torah and it is a reminder for us (and for those being confirmed) of the significance in the life of a mature Christian of the Word of God.? We too place our lives under the Word of God and as fully committed Christians we are to become Good News for others.
Also in the Bar Mitzvah ceremony the candidate is allowed to wear TEFILLIN for the first time.?? The Tefillin are small boxes which contain four passages from the Torah ?one is placed on the forehead and another attached to the forearm of Jewish men as a reminder to pray (Tefillah is the term for all Jewish prayer and meditation) and to give witness to the holiness of God.? The Tefillin ceremony connects with the prayer and witness of those being confirmed.? Confirmed Christians enter more deeply into the life of Spirit through prayer and witness.? We are taken up into the ceaseless prayer of the Spirit and we cannot not give witness of some kind.? It is to be hoped that the witness which those being confirmed today will give will be positive and draw others to Jesus.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies are always accompanied with parties and much enjoyment.? May all of us rejoice at this great grace for our parish.
Fr Sean Wales,C.Ss.R.
Todays responsorial psalm is made up of verses 10 -14 of psalm 65.? These verses celebrate? the blessings of God in springtime and would be music to the ears of contemporary environmentalists: You visit the earth, give it water, you fill it? with riches you provide for the earth you crown the year with your bounty, abundance flows in your pathways.
The opening verse of the psalm (which we dont use in todays liturgy) is To you our praise is due in Zion, O God.?? At least that is how I learned it many years ago and continue to pray it in the Prayer of the Church (the Breviary).? Recently I came across a new translation of all the psalms by a very famous Jewish scholar Robert Alter [The Book of Psalms: A translation with Commentary].? And he gives a different translation of that opening verse.
We know that the Hebrew language was written without vowels ?one had to insert the vowels oneself and this could lead to different ways of reading the text.? Just a slight re-arranging of vowels and Alter translates verse one as To You silence is praise, God in Zion.
Immediately we get the message that Gods greatness is far beyond human description, so much so that often only pure silence seems appropriate.? At the same time this fresh translation reminds us that silence enters into all worship, since God outstrips all our knowledge and all our efforts, literary, musical, dramatic, whatever!
As we introduce moments of silence into our liturgy: when we prepare ourselves to celebrate, when we hear the Word, when we are invited to pray, we are in a way acknowledging the greatness of God and the wonder of his love, far surpassing our best efforts.
Even in our personal private prayer time we should not be afraid of silence: often our best praise is silence.? This is not because we dont know what to say or think but because God fills our silence with Divine Presence, a Presence? which takes our breath (and words) away!
Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.
The tragic news coming from Israel and Palestine these days is a vivid reminder of the ancient concept of punishment whereby the prescribed penalty is identical with or equivalent to the offence.?? This structure of rough justice is known as Lex Talionis/Law of Such,? which gives us the word retaliation.?? It is deeply embedded in the Old Testament as a way of limiting revenge.? In a society where vengeance could easily outstrip the original? offence, the law of like-for-like was an effort to curtail spiralling offences.
The literal application of the Lex Talionis gave way in most early societies to the idea that a victim of an offence could accept monetary compensation in lieu of exacting copy-cat offences.? This survives in our modern legal system in the awarding of damages for injuries or crimes.
Another modification of the Lex Talionis came with the idea of confiscation of the objects by means of which offences were committed.? We get an echo of this in the practice of having our driving licence suspended for a serious driving offence.
Perhaps the most serious blow to the Lex Talionis is Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5: 38-42.? Jesus says, You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance.? On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.? And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him.? Give to anyone who asks and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.
Jesus radical words have entered our languages; we talk about going the extra mile but have they entered our conscience?? What would the world be like if we acted on what Jesus said?
The real secret of being a disciple is to allow Jesus to live out his sermon in us: Jesus in us offers the wicked no resistance, Jesus in us still turns the other cheek. Jesus in us still goes the extra mile if we let him.
At this time of heightened tension in the Holy Land I am reminded of a Palestinian Christians prayer and I offer it to you as a? prayer we may find helpful:
PRAY NOT FOR ARAB OR JEW, FOR PALESTINIAN OR ISRAELI.? BUT PRAY RATHER FOR OURSELVES, THAT WE MAY NOT DIVIDE THEM IN OUR PRAYERS BUT KEEP THEM BOTH TOGETHER IN OUR HEARTS.
Amen to that.
Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.
Peter and Paul.? The twin pillars of the Church were never separated either in the ancient liturgy of the iconography
To Peter was given the responsibility for guiding and strengthening the other apostles and for building up the Church.? There couldnt be a more urgent task in the new community of faith and yet it was given to one who was, apparently, not only unpolished but impetuous and unsteady in his own commitment ?to the point of denial!
Paul started off (as Saul) persecuting the believers with a zest which left no one in any doubt about his hostility to Jesus and his disciples.
Yet God used both these men ?with their limitations- to do great things for the People of God.? Jesus prayed for Peter and then showed his confidence in him by entrusting the Church to his guidance and care.? When Paul was en route to Damascus to further the persecution of Christians, Jesus appeared to him in a moment of dramatic conversion which transformed Paul into the greatest missionary in our tradition.
Yet their human limitations remained; when they met in Jerusalem the intensity of their enthusiasms led to differences of opinion.? In the power of the Spirit this meeting of the two pillars led to a vital decision about the very meaning of the Gospel and how it is to be lived in different cultural settings.
It was in Rome, where they were both martyred, that they were finally united in that love which they strove to promote.? In order to avoid stagnation the Church of Peter and Paul must reconcile stability and movement, the overall view of the whole body and the particular intervention of a charism.? The Preface of their feast puts it succinctly:
Peter, our leader in faith,
Paul, its fearless preacher.
Despite our limitations and failures, we too are called to take the lead and to preach the good news with our lives.? We have todays saints to inspire us in that calling.
Happy feast day!
Fr Sean Wales,C.Ss.R.
Have you been worshiping with us, but never officially took the step to become Catholic?
Have you been away from the Church and have now returned, but want to know more?
Have you been Catholic all your life, but never celebrated all the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist & Confirmation)?
Have you joined us from a different faith background and would like to find out more about the Catholic Church?
Do you know of anyone who has lapsed from the practice of their faith and would like to respond to an invitation to return to the Fathers House?
If any of these questions apply to you, the RCIA would love to help you on your journey of faith!
JOIN them on Tuesdays at 19h30 in the Parish Centre.