Heavenly Father in the waters of baptism you make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness. Through the outpouring of your Spirit, may we live again as your children, in communion with Christ and each other Instil within us a love for all that you have made; the wonder of our being and the beauty of creation. May prayer, the Church’s banquet, resound through heaven and earth as a plea for the world’s salvation. May the poor find justice, the victims of oppression, true freedom, and the disheartened, hope. May the whole world, clothed in the dignity of the children of God, enter with gladness your Kingdom of peace. Amen.
Daily Meditations and Group Reflections on Catholic Social Teaching 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Christ the King (Year B)
Acknowledgements Your Kingdom Come Nihil Obstat: Reverend Anton Cowan Imprimatur: The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster Date: Feast of Saints Peter and Paul 28.06.09 The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed. Writing Group: Ms Barbara Kentish, Dr Mark Nash, Fr Michael O’Boy, Fr Joe Ryan, Mrs Margaret Wickware. Thanks also to Mr Edmund Adamus and Fr Richard Parsons for their valuable contributions and to Mr Mathew D’Souza for his administrative support. The Scripture excerpts featured on Saturdays, Sundays and in the group sessions are from The Jerusalem Bible, copyright © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted by Permission. On weekdays the Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Excerpts from Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger, copyright © 2007 Bloomsbury. Excerpt from The Divine Office © 1974, hierarchies of Australia, England and Wales, Ireland. Excerpts from the English Translation of the Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Image on page 96: Christ’s face by Georges Rouault (1871-1958) currently on display at the Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris. Produced by The Agency for Evangelisation,Vaughan House, 46 Francis Street, London, SW1P 1QN. Tel: 020 7798 9152 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Published by WRCDT, copyright © 2009, Diocese of Westminster, Archbishop’s House, Ambrosden Avenue, London, SW1P 1QJ Designed by Julian Game Print and distribution arranged by Transform Management Ltd: email@example.com All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photo-copying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the publishers.
Foreword Over the past year we, like so many others across the world, have witnessed a period of economic recession. The prosperity and economic growth to which we had become accustomed has come to an end. As businesses have closed and restructured, jobs have been lost and salaries cut. Inevitably, we have had to reconsider our plans: holidays have been postponed, retirements delayed, projects put on hold. As with the economic downturn, our growing awareness of the environment and its fragility, has forced us to rethink our priorities. Painfully perhaps, many will be valuing anew the support that faith, family, parish and friends afford. In the third century a bishop named Cyprian of Carthage reminded the faithful of the importance of living and acting in communion with each other. God, as Cyprian puts it, ‘the Teacher of peace and Master of unity’ would not have us pray or indeed act alone. Our witness to the love of Christ is made strong when we act and speak together. As Oscar Romero, some 1600 years after St. Cyprian, wrote: ‘Christ founded his Church so that he could go on being present in the history of humanity precisely through the group of Christians who make up his Church. The Church is the flesh in which Christ makes present down the ages his own life and his personal mission.’ Your Kingdom Come is an opportunity to reflect upon the values that Christians are called to live by.These are the values embodied by Jesus, whose presence, life and work among us made, and continues to make, the Kingdom of God a reality.Taking as our starting point the Lord’s Prayer, in which we acknowledge our common beginning in God, we will acquaint ourselves with the basic tenets of Catholic Social Teaching, the building blocks of a just society and a better world. Over the next six weeks I invite you to use Your Kingdom Come and the challenges we face to reflect on your lives; to ask who or what is important in your life, and to reaffirm your call, as the prophet Micah writes, to ‘act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God’ (Micah 6:8). I am so pleased to give my full encouragement to all who use this booklet. I am grateful to those who have prepared it and to those who nurture and lead this initiative in the life of the diocese. Yours devotedly,
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols Archbishop of Westminster 3
About this Book Your Kingdom Come has been prepared by the Agency for Evangelisation in collaboration with the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission and is an opportunity for us to explore Catholic Social Teaching. Over the course of 42 daily meditations and 6 sessions for small groups, we will consider the themes that underpin our worldview and look at practical ways in which we can live out the gospel. The basic structure follows the Our Father, a prayer familiar to us all, which Tertullian (c.180 to 220 AD) described as ‘truly the summary of the whole gospel’ (De Oratione, 1), the ‘Good News’ enshrined in Jesus’ message and activity. Over the course of six weeks, individuals and groups will touch on issues such as the dignity of the human person, the sanctity of life, solidarity and subsidiarity, trade justice, peace and sustainability. 1. Our Father – Common humanity, made in God’s image. 2. Thy Kingdom come – What does the Kingdom look like? 3. Thy will be done… – What guides us on our way? 4. Give us this day our daily bread – What do we need to build the Kingdom? 5. Forgive us our trespasses as we… – Real deeds and real action 6. Lead us not into temptation but… – Stewardship and sustainability The format of this booklet is fundamentally unchanged from others in the exploring faith series, with the group sessions interspersed throughout the booklet.The sessions are intended as a guide.You may wish to include hymns, other sources or more free prayer.The daily meditations for Saturday and Sunday draw on the Sunday readings and will help us to prepare for our Sunday celebration of the Mass. At the back of the booklet you will find short summaries of the Church documents mentioned in the booklet and others prominent in Catholic Social Teaching.
We are not ready-made children of God from the start, but we are meant to become so increasingly by growing more and more deeply in communion with Jesus… To name God as Father thus becomes a summons to us: to live as a ‘child’, as a son or daughter… (This is not a matter of dependency, but rather of standing in the relation of love that sustains our existence and gives it meaning and grandeur) Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pp.138-139 Weekly, daily, we take up Christ’s invitation to pray using the words of the ‘Our Father’. In this first week of Your Kingdom Come, we will reflect on the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer and the implications which calling God ‘Our Father’ has for our understanding of justice, peace and the coming of the Kingdom. 5
Group Session One Our Father Opening Prayer Leader:
O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar.
For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my motherâ€™s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation.
Already you knew my soul, my body held no secret from you when I was being fashioned in secret and moulded in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw all my actions, they were all of them written in your book; every one of my days was decreed before one of them came into being.
Psalm 139 (138): 1-2, 13-16
Let us listen carefully to the Word of the Lord, and attend to it with the ear of our hearts. Let us welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. St. Benedict of Nursia (c.480-c.547) adapted
Group Session One Our Father Explore the Scriptures Mark 10:17-27 Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.You know the commandments:You must not kill;You must not commit adultery;You must not steal;You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God’. Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’ Before the passage is read again by a different person you may wish to share a word, an image or a phrase that has struck you.These thoughts can be shared further after the second reading.
Group Session One Our Father Reflection ‘It’s better to give than to receive.’ One could interpret Christ’s challenge to the rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor as an endorsement of this principle. However, as praiseworthy as giving may be, this does not seem to be the point Christ is making. Despite his riches, which would have been understood as a sign of God’s favour, he had led an exemplary life; he had obeyed the commandments and, one might reasonably suppose, undertaken the tithing or charitable giving that was expected.Yet he lacks something. At the end of today’s gospel passage Christ reminds his apostles that, for whatever they have given up for the sake of the gospel, they will be well rewarded. Put simply, he invites them to trust him. It is this trust in God that the rich man lacks.The invitation to sell everything he had and give it to the poor was not in itself a call to poverty. As with the poor, who know their dependence upon others, Christ invited the rich man, who had everything sorted for himself, to surrender his sense of status and learn his dependence upon God. It is God, not human endeavour or righteousness, who makes all things possible. In relation to the Kingdom - who shall enter it, who shall rejoice in it - we are all beneficiaries of God’s love, a love that far outstrips anything we can do or offer. Whatever the shape or size of our riches – money, talents, intellect, beauty, health – it is easy to overlook their beginning in God and the fundamental acknowledgement of God as Father and Creator of all things. Getting our relationship to God ‘right’ and acknowledging our dependence upon him is key. Our dignity, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council remind us, is ‘rooted and perfected’ in him (Gaudium et Spes, 21). Created in his image, it is only in knowing and relating to him, and in remembering who we are before him, that we can come to a true understanding of ourselves. ’When God is forgotten...the creature itself grows unintelligible’ (GS, 36). We follow Christ’s example in calling God, ‘Father’. In speaking about God as a Father what do you think Jesus is trying to say or communicate about him? 8
Group Session One Our Father In what ways might the story of the rich man be echoed in our lives and contemporary society? How, if at all, has the current economic crisis affected your way of life, your priorities, your values? Closing Prayers Leader: Aloud or in the silence of our hearts let us bring to the Father our thanks (pause)… Leader: In sorrow let us ask the Father for forgiveness (pause)… Leader: With confidence let us entrust to the Father our cares and concerns (pause)… All:
Father, you have given all peoples one common origin, and your will is to gather them as one family in yourself. Fill the hearts of all with the fire of your love and the desire to ensure justice for all their brothers and sisters. By sharing the good things you give us may we secure justice and equality for every human being, an end to all division, and a human society built on love and peace. Opening prayer, Mass for the Progress of Peoples
Sunday of Week One Today’s First Reading Wisdom 7:7-11 I prayed, and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones; compared with her, I held riches as nothing. I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer, for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand, and beside her silver ranks as mud. I loved her more than health or beauty, preferred her to the light, since her radiance never sleeps. In her company all good things came to me, at her hands riches not to be numbered. Scripture background The original text is in Greek and is not found in the Hebrew Bible. Scholars believe that it was written in Alexandria in Egypt and that it came to light in the 1st century BC. In form it is an exhortation as to where true wisdom might be found, thus following a pattern found in similar Greek books of the period though the book of Wisdom is theological. ‘The souls of the righteous’ are said to be ‘in the hand of God’ (Wisdom 3:1) because these faithful souls (note the Greek way of describing humanity) have sought the gift of wisdom from the only place where it can truly be found: in God. The book of Wisdom is attributed to Solomon, king of Israel (c.960-921 BC), and is a reflection on 1 Kings 3:10-14 where Solomon has been granted ‘a wise and discerning mind’ by God. It is also part of Israel’s wisdom tradition; e.g. the book of Proverbs is ascribed to Solomon (Proverbs 1:1) and the book of Ecclesiastes (Hebrew, Koheleth, meaning Preacher) is said to have been proclaimed by ‘the son of David, king in Jerusalem’ (Ecclesiastes 1:1). Today’s reading centres upon the voice of Solomon seen as the ideal ruler whose quest for wisdom (Greek, sophia) is to be emulated. In doing so the central ideas of Judaism are projected through Greek culture. In this passage Solomon makes several points: Firstly, wisdom is a divine gift given to those who pray to God (1 Kings 3:6-9; see also, 2 Chronicles 1:8-10; Wisdom 9). Secondly, wisdom is to be preferred to every other attribute including wealth, health and daylight (e.g. Sirach 39:1-11) and thirdly, by 10
Sunday of Week One acquiring wisdom other divine gifts will follow (Wisdom 7:11). All human intellect ought to find its source in God by following â€˜the way of the wiseâ€™ in thought and ethics. Reflecting on this today are we being sufficiently wise in the sight of God?
Merciful God, grant us wisdom that will bring peace. Grant us understanding and compassion that will safeguard the innocent and aid all who suffer. Help us to provide companionship and strength for all who mourn. Amen. The Bishop of Los Angeles, October 2001, adapted
Monday of Week One Father, source of a common dignity What is man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than the angels and crowned him with glory and honour.You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet. Psalm 8:5-7 Who are we that God should care for us, honour us, trust us, empower us? Created in God’s image we are, without exception, his loved children. It is upon this relationship to God, ‘Our Father’, rather than any action or merit on our part, that our human dignity rests. Love, God’s unconditional love, is the answer to the psalmist’s question.We are cared for, honoured and trusted because God loves. From The Common Good 12-13.The Catholic social vision has as its focal point the human person, the clearest reflection of God among us. Scripture tells us that every human being is made in the image of God...We believe each person possesses a basic dignity that comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment, not from any race or gender, age or economic status. Heavenly Father may my thoughts, words and actions, reflect the dignity of being created in your image. Open my heart and mind to the greatness of your love, that I may acknowledge this dignity in others, in the poor and afflicted, the wealthy and the strong. As children of you, the one Father, grant us the grace of using wisely and well all that you set before us. Amen.
Tuesday of Week One A Father who calls us to communion ‘But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you… Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ Luke 6:27-28, 31 Our common beginning in God, our being created in his image, places each of us, baptised and non-baptised alike, in a relationship to each other. It also has something fundamental to say about the nature of human fulfilment and happiness. In Christ, whose coming reveals God as Father, and in the sending of the Holy Spirit, we have come to understand God as a communion of persons. If we are to be truly ourselves, fulfilled and happy, it is necessary for us to live in solidarity with each other; imitating the communion in whose image we are created. From Pope John Paul II,World Day of Peace Message, 1986 5. In the spirit of solidarity and with the instruments of dialogue we will learn: respect for every human person; respect for the true values and cultures of others; respect for the legitimate autonomy and self-determination of others; to look beyond ourselves in order to understand and support the good of others; to contribute our own resources in social solidarity for the development and growth that come from equity and justice; to build the structures that will ensure that social solidarity and dialogue are permanent features of the world we live in. Heavenly Father break the bonds of sin that separate us from you and divide us from each other. Grant me the grace of being a ‘living stone’ in the community of the Church and the building of the Kingdom. Amen. 13
Wednesday of Week One A Father who empowers us Do not say, ‘It was the Lord’s doing that I fell away’; for he does not do what he hates. Do not say, ‘It was he who led me astray’; for he has no need of the sinful. The Lord hates all abominations; such things are not loved by those who fear him. It was he who created humankind in the beginning, and he left them in the power of their own free choice. Ecclesiasticus 15:11-14 Much of parenting is about preparing our children for that day when they will have to stand on their own two feet. Having raised a child, letting go can be difficult.Yet, loving as ‘Our Father’ shows means letting go and leaving people free to take on responsibility for themselves. Despite all he had done for them, despite the depth of their intimacy and the world he had furnished for them, God does exactly this with Adam and Eve. He trusts them with ‘dominion over the fish of the sea …the birds of the air…cattle…the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing’ (Genesis 1:26), but in doing so he leaves them and us free to love him or reject him. From Pope John Paul II,World Day of Peace Message, 1981 7.True freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with licence to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organise their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace.There are many examples of this mistaken idea of freedom, such as the elimination of human life by legalised or generally accepted abortion. Heavenly Father grant us the wisdom to use our freedom responsibly and of loving as you love; without the attachment of conditions and the expectation of return. Amen. 14
Thursday of Week One A Father who trusts us If you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Matthew 5: 23-26 In this gospel passage Christ encourages us to resolve issues as quickly and locally as possible.The wisdom of Christ’s advice is all too apparent. How often do situations become more difficult where those who could act immediately refuse to take responsibility or where those reaching a decision about what to do are somewhat remote from the situation? This wisdom is reflected in the Church’s social teaching and its emphasis on ‘subsidiarity’ - the principle of decisions being reached at as local a level as possible. From the Catechism 1884. God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature.This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life.The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence. Merciful Father, we fail because of our weakness. Restore us to your love through the example of the saints and our exercise of acts of mercy. Amen. Opening Prayer 4, Common of Holy Men and Women, adapted
Friday of Week One A Father who gifts us with life Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9 198,500 abortions were carried out in the UK in 2007 – There are currently 3220 men and women on death row in the United States – 784 people were murdered in the UK between 2007 and 2008 – In 1990, nine percent of all deaths in the Netherlands (8681 people) were a result of euthanasia. Pope John Paul II no doubt had all this in mind when he wrote that: ‘human ingenuity seems to be directed more towards limiting, suppressing or destroying the sources of life… than towards defending and opening up its possibilities’ (Centesimus annus, 39). From helpless unborn babe to crucifixion, the Lord Jesus went through vulnerability, humiliation, pain, suffering, and violent death.Throughout his ministry he spoke for the poor and needy, defended the outcast and healed the sick. In imitating him we ought to courageously defend those who have no voice, starting with the ‘poorest human beings… unborn children’ (Pope Benedict XVI,World Day of Peace Message, 2009). All human life is sacred and as such is total gift. Is it ours to take away? From Centesimus annus (One Hundred Years) 39. It is necessary to go back to seeing the family as the sanctuary of life. The family is indeed sacred: it is the place in which life – the gift of God – can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life. Heavenly Father, if you but loose my tongue I will sing your praise, I will proclaim your justice, Heavenly Father, if you free me from what binds me I will fight for others, I will be your help to the fallen. 16
Saturday of Week One Tomorrow’s Second Reading Hebrews 4:14-16 Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help. Scripture background This letter is often seen as ‘difficult to follow’ given that the author (probably not St. Paul), in trying to help people understand and interpret the ministry of Jesus, combines theological statements with pastoral injunctions as well as using imagery of the liturgical activity of the Jewish high priest in the Jerusalem Temple on the Day of Atonement (Hebrew, Yom Kippur, see Leviticus 16:1-22). Hebrews begins with a single sentence four verse prologue (Hebrews 1:1-4) describing the ‘new age’ Christ represents. It concludes with pastoral injunctions and with a personal appeal from the author that the letter’s recipients are to listen to and act upon this ‘exhortation’ (or ‘encouragement’, see also Acts 13:15). It is in this spirit that we are able to study the letter as a pastoral homily which enables us to follow Christ Jesus more closely, he who suffered but who is now exalted gloriously in heaven (Hebrews 12:2). It is the pattern set by Christ which forms the background to today’s reading. Jesus (see Hebrews 1:5-13 which is constructed of various Biblical quotations on God’s Son) has been given the role of high priest.This office is based on the fact that Jesus is both the priest who is offering the sacrifice and the victim who is being sacrificed. On the basis of his incarnation Jesus has shared in human weakness but he remains without sin. On the basis of his sacrifice Jesus has now ‘passed through’ the ‘curtain’ of the world into the heavens (mirroring the activity of the Jewish high 17
Saturday of Week One priest on the Day of Atonement who ‘passed through’ the curtain in the Temple and entered the holy of holies with the sacrificial blood for animal offerings).What Jesus has done in atonement is superior to the activity of the Jewish high priest for he has enabled us to approach God’s heavenly throne at all times and for ever in order to find mercy and grace. By establishing this new, permanent arrangement Jesus offers to all humanity the gift of eternal salvation which must never be renounced (Hebrews 6:4-6). Alone with none but thee, my God I journey on my way. What need I fear, when thou art near O king of night and day? More safe am I within thy hand than if an host didst round me stand. St. Columba (c.521-597)
God has a will with and for us and it must become the measure of our willing and being; and the essence of ‘heaven’ is that it is where God’s will is unswervingly done… The Kingdom of God comes by way of a listening heart.That is its path. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pp.146-147 Each time we recite the ‘Our Father’ we pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom here on earth. In one sense our prayer is for a hastening of that day when Christ will return in glory and hand everything over to the Father. But our prayer is more than this alone for despite the evil present in the world, glimpses of the Kingdom can be found in the here and now where the presence of Christ, who walked this earth, abides.
Group Session Two Thy Kingdom come Opening Prayer Leader:
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me abide in your tent for ever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings. For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations! May he be enthroned for ever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him! From Psalm 61 (60) Glory beâ€Ś
Let us listen carefully to the Word of the Lord, and attend to it with the ear of our hearts. Let us welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. St. Benedict of Nursia (c.480-c.547) adapted
Group Session Two Thy Kingdom come Explore the Scriptures Mark 10:35-45 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant: they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’ When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt.This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ Before the passage is read again by a different person you may wish to share a word, an image or a phrase that has struck you.These thoughts can be shared further after the second reading. Reflection Whatever had attracted the disciples to Christ it is clear that they had come to think of his ministry in political terms. John’s prediction that someone is coming ‘who is much more powerful than me’ may have rung in their ears. Perhaps the sons of Zebedee had embraced something of the modern catchphrase ‘no pain, no gain’, enduring their precarious life on the road in expectation of something better.Yet Christ’s was not a reform party offering them a New Deal. What he was offering was something altogether different. A Kingdom where the poor, the sick, the needy came first. 21
Group Session Two Thy Kingdom come Oscar Romero came to understand this as archbishop of San Salvador. Traditionally the Church in El Salvador had allied itself to the reigning military regime. Romero challenged this alliance. ‘Changes have been needed in the Church’, he declared, ‘now we shall be able to make these changes because we have turned outward…turned towards the world of the poor.’ Assassinated in 1980 Romero placed Kingdom values first, preferring an alliance with the poor rather than privilege and power. Another Christian who stood out against the ‘things of this world’ was Blessed Franz Jägerstätter (pronounced Yerger-shterter), an Austrian farmer who opposed Hitler’s regime and refused to do military service. He was imprisoned, sentenced to death and beheaded. Refusing to serve in Hitler’s army, he chose the security of trusting in God rather than the power of the state. He wrote, while in prison, ‘I wouldn’t exchange my small cell, which isn’t even clean, for the largest royal palace, if I had to give up even a tiny bit of my faith in return’. We may have some vision of the Kingdom, some inkling of what it looks like, but like the sons of Zebedee we can fall into traps.We can become caught up in own cares and anxieties, choked like the seed that fell among thorns, or so controlling of the future, seeking to shape it as we would like it, that what God desires for us is pushed to the margins. Romero and Jägerstätter truly understood that the heavenly Kingdom has a dynamic of its own.They also knew that although friendship with Jesus would not guarantee them power or privilege, it would give them a clear view of what the Kingdom was about. What images come to mind when we talk of the Kingdom of Heaven? How does our understanding of God’s Kingdom influence our actions on a day to day basis? If we had the opportunity to follow Jesus around town today what would we be asking from him?
Group Session Two Thy Kingdom come Closing Prayers Leader: Aloud or in the silence of our hearts let us bring to the Father our thanks (pause)… Leader: In sorrow let us ask the Father for forgiveness (pause)… Leader: With confidence let us entrust to the Father our cares and concerns (pause)… All:
Exciting God, we pray for those people of vision and initiative who place new challenges before us and encourage us to catch your vision. Forgive us our lack of courage. Fire our imaginations. Teach us to be more like those first disciples of Jesus who had no idea what to expect, yet were prepared to attempt to follow their calling. Excite us with your vision of your kingdom come on earth – through the work we do as Christians. Marjorie Dobson, Entertaining Angels, Canterbury Press, adapted
Sunday of Week Two Today’s First Reading Isaiah 53:10-11 The Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering. If he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done. His soul’s anguish over, he shall see the light and be content. By his sufferings shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself. Scripture background A study of the prophetic literature of Ancient Israel, beginning with Amos and continuing through to Malachi, is fundamental for any understanding of ‘justice and peace’ issues. Israel’s prophets (Hebrew for ‘spokesmen for God’ but there were also women prophets) had the task of confronting the nation with her basic religious and ethical obligations.This task posed implications for the future hence viewing prophecy as ‘foretelling’. Prophetic ministry, however, also concerns confronting injustice in the present time. Moses was thought to be the archetypal prophet (Numbers 11:25; Deuteronomy 18:15-18). Samuel (1 Samuel 10:10), Nathan (2 Samuel 7:14), Elijah (1 Kings 17:1) and Elisha (2 Kings 2:1) also help us learn much about God and justice.Within Christianity John the Baptist, as the Messiah’s forerunner, is both our first prophet and the concluding prophet of Judaism (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28). Previous prophetic functions are now fulfilled by Jesus (e.g. Mark 6:4) and extended into the ministry of the Church (e.g. 1 Corinthians 12:28). In the contemporary Church, therefore, we are called both to listen to the words of the prophets and to act as God’s prophetic community, living and acting according to his words. Prophecy is also linked to suffering. One of the places where this link is explained is in the 4th Servant Song of Isaiah of Babylon (Isaiah 52:1353:12). Ministering in c.560 BC, this prophet proclaims that Israel would return from exile to her homeland as God’s redeemed people.The prophet would be offered, as animals were offered in the Jerusalem Temple, as an atonement sacrifice to God accepting Israel’s sins so that many might experience God’s justification. It is easy to see how the prophetic pattern has been fulfilled in Jesus (Isaiah 53:10). 24
Sunday of Week Two Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your son. O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! From the Exsultet
From Laborem Exorcens (Through Work) 27. It is through labour that not only ‘the fruits of our activity’ but also ‘human dignity, brotherhood and freedom’ must increase on earth. Let the Christian who listens to the word of the living God, uniting work with prayer, know the place that his work has not only in earthly progress but also in the development of the Kingdom of God, to which we are all called through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the word of the Gospel. 25
Monday of Week Two
It is a case of knowing where to look
‘There is no good saying, ‘Look, Here it is.’ Or ‘Look! There it is’. God’s Kingdom is here with you.’ Luke 17:21; Matthew 24:23-28 Jesus does not wax lyrical about shining angels, harps and singing choirs. When he speaks about the Kingdom of God he uses everyday examples; the mustard seeds growing into a large tree, yeast making the dough rise, salt adding savour.We who live in a modern urbanised society must look for God’s Kingdom in our everyday circumstances.The point is well made by Francis Thompson in his poem, The Kingdom of God. Just as the fish doesn’t go anywhere special to swim, nor the eagle to fly, neither must we go anywhere special to discover Jesus; he is here, in the street, the home, the college, the workplace. Thompson was a down and out nineteenth century poet. Most famous for his poem The Hound of Heaven he was a well educated Catholic and frequented the poorer parts of London. He ended up addicted to laudanum, being rescued from time to time by his publishers Alice and Wilfred Meynell, and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. In our search for the spiritual we often look to beautiful scenery, quiet beeches and gorgeous sunsets. God is there, of course, overwhelming us with the miracle of his creation. However, the heart of God is with the lost and forgotten. Thompson understood this. Seeing with the eyes of faith, he knew God was with him, and with us, at the lowest and most unlikely points, building the Kingdom. From Gaudium et Spes (Church in the Modern World) 40.Thus the Church, at once ‘a visible organisation and a spiritual community,’ travels the same journey as all of humanity and shares the same earthly lot with the world: it is to be a leaven and as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God.
Monday of Week Two It is a case of knowing where to look Does the fish soar to find the ocean, The eagle plunge to find the air, That we ask of the stars in motion If they have rumour of thee there? But (when so sad thou canst not sadder) Cry; - and upon thy so sore loss Shall shine the traffic of Jacobâ€™s ladder Pitched between Heaven and Charing Cross. Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter, Cry; - clinging Heaven by the hems; And lo, Christ walking on the water, Not of Gennesareth, but Thames! The Kingdom of God by Francis Thompson (excerpt)
Tuesday of Week Two Poverty and wealth ‘No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.You cannot serve God and wealth.’ Luke 16:13 We can spend a lot of time worrying about money oblivious to the fact that no matter how poor we might consider ourselves to be, we are considerably better off than the two billion people who live on less than a dollar a day. Indeed, we are privileged to have access to free education, social security benefits for unemployment, hostels for the homeless and healthcare provision. Again and again Christ turns his and our attention to the poor and disadvantaged (Matthew 5:3-12). If, as one student did, we were to cut out from the Scriptures every verse making reference to poverty, we would be left with an extremely ‘holey’ Bible. Aloysius Pieris, a Jesuit scholar, once wrote that ‘the poor are chosen for a saving mission, not because they are saints, but because they are the powerless, the rejected’. In the poor we have the opportunity to embody and serve Christ himself (Matthew 25:3546).We also have the opportunity to count our blessings and rethink our priorities.We will be a part of the new kingdom when we get it right with money. From Sollicitudo rei socialis (On the Social Concern of the Church) 42.The option… for the poor is an option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness… this option for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future.
Tuesday of Week Two Poverty and wealth All glory and praise to you Father God, who makes us heirs, who makes us his children, who raises us to dignity! How munificent is this rich Lord! How generously he opens his hands wide to give his ineffable treasures! Adapted from St Gregory of Nyssaâ€™s sermon on the Beatitudes (c.335-c.395)
From Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher of All Nations) 69-70. In some parts of the world people are being subjected to inhuman privations so that the output of the national economy can be increased at a rate of acceleration beyond what would be possible if regard were had to social justice and equityâ€Ś In economically developed countries, relatively unimportant services, and services of doubtful value, frequently carry a disproportionately high rate of remuneration, while the diligent and profitable work of whole classes of honest, hard-workers gets scant reward.Their rate of pay in no way corresponds to the contribution they make to the good of the community, to the profits of the company for which they work, and to the general national economy. 29
Wednesday of Week Two God’s Kingdom is not exclusive Peter then said, ‘Now I am certain that God treats all people alike. God is pleased with everyone who worships him and does right, no matter what nation they come from.’ Acts10:34-35 Peter was uncertain about abandoning his earlier cultural beliefs, but trusted in God to lead him and the Early Church to a wider vision.We are challenged today to find the Spirit working in people and organisations outside our institutions. In Britain today we mix and work with people of all cultures and nationalities, to create better communities and neighbourhoods, a more peaceful world.This is recognising God’s Spirit both in and outside the visible Church.We serve God’s Kingdom by preaching the Word, but also by collaborating with others of good will, who share our Kingdom values of ‘justice, peace and joy’ (Romans 14:17). From Redemptoris Missio (On the Mission of the Church) 20.The Church serves the kingdom by spreading throughout the world the ‘gospel values’ which are an expression of the kingdom and which help people to accept God’s plan. It is true that the inchoate (partial) reality of the kingdom can also be found beyond the confines of the Church among peoples everywhere to the extent that they live ‘gospel values’ and are open to the working of the Spirit, who breathes when and where he wills (John 3:8). Spirit of Life, you lead us out beyond our ‘comfort zones’, yet always towards the coming kingdom of peace, justice and joy. As you renew the face of the earth, help us connect with your presence in the challenges we meet. May we rejoice in the recognition of your vibrant life in new places, people and communities, and participate in new growth with trust and respect for others.
Thursday of Week Two We ‘learn by doing’ ‘When did we give you something to eat or drink?’ Matthew 25:37 What a powerful communion there is in responding to the needs of others: first we make a link with the needy, then we make a link with our fellow helpers, and then we realise that we really are in union with Christ, and get a foretaste of the Kingdom.The price of that ‘vision’ is jumping in and getting involved, as Jim Wallis makes clear in the following story from his book Faith Works: ‘Christians from around the country conducted non-violent civil disobedience around the city (opposing) budget cuts against the poor, the superpowers’ deployment of first-strike nuclear weapons, the American wars in Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the nation’s acceptance of 1.5 million abortions every year… We soon had the [Washington] DC jail full of Christians – hundreds of them singing and praying through most of the night. Baptist and Benedictine choir directors, evangelical pastors and Franciscan priests, Presbyterian theologians and Maryknoll sisters, and lay people from virtually every denomination spent the night in jail, not only singing, but talking with one another. “The whole church is here”, exclaimed an exuberant clergyman. “I must be in heaven”, smiled a Catholic sister as she woke up to the strains of “Amazing Grace”, coming from the men’s side of the jail. And one seminarian, who had slept all night on the concrete floor, said he would have paid money to be there for the best theological education he’d had so far.’ (prayer overleaf)
Thursday of Week Two We â€˜learn by doingâ€™ You are a salt for the earth, O people: Salt for the kingdom of God! Share the flavour of life, O people: Life in the kingdom of God! Bring forth the kingdom of Mercy; Bring forth the kingdom of Peace; Bring forth the kingdom of Justice; Bring forth the kingdom of God! We are a blest and a pilgrim people: Bound for the kingdom of God! Love our journey and love our homeland: Love is the kingdom of God! Marty Haugen based on Matthew 5:13
Friday of Week Two Brothers and sisters Your light must shine in the sight of all, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 Even a quick reading of the Acts of the Apostles leaves us with the impression that the members of the Early Church loved one another. Of course there were arguments and disagreements (see Acts 5:1-11, 6:1-2 and 15:39), but their communities were characterised by a unity of ‘heart and soul’ – holding things in common, giving respect to the elders, distributing money to those who might be in need (Acts 2:42-47 and 4:3235). In the Early Church fasting was frequently undertaken and the money otherwise spent went to those in need (note, not just during Lent or on family fast days). By heeding Christ’s call to love and by doing such work within their community the early Christians were a sign to the pagan world. It is our responsibility, as a Church, to ensure that none of our brothers or sisters goes without, especially when we have more than we need. How in these times of gross inequality and economic uncertainty can the treatment of our brothers and sisters be a sign to the world today? O Lord our God, help us to realise our dependence on one another each dispensing and receiving the graces and gifts you bestow remembering that, unless we do this for love of You, it is worth nothing. Amen. Adapted from the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
Saturday of Week Two Tomorrow’s Second Reading Hebrews 5:1-6 Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins; and so he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitations of weakness.That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ give himself the glory of becoming high priest, but he had it from the one who said to him:You are my son, today I have become your father, and in another text:You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever. Scripture background Explaining the parallels between the superior, high priestly ministry of Jesus and the earlier Jewish high priesthood of Aaron, the author of Hebrews maintains that all high priests are called (appointed) to their office by God (see Exodus 28:1-5). Jesus, as high priest, could be said to be performing the same role as Aaron in the offering of sacrifices on behalf of sinful humanity and sharing in human weakness through their act of offering. By beginning with similarities the author is able to indicate the points at which Jesus’ ministry is superior to what has gone before. Jesus, on the basis of his Messianic role as Christ offers sacrifice (himself) on the basis of his divine Sonship. The evidence for this can be found in two Biblical psalms: 2:7 and 110:4. It is likely that these psalms would have been used at celebrations of David’s kingship at the Temple (see 2 Kings 11:9-13).The kings of David’s line believed that, in a particular sense, they were God’s sons (2 Samuel 7:14 and Hosea 11:1). In Christian interpretation these psalms prophesy Jesus who, as a result of his crucifixion and resurrection, is established as God’s royal Son, fulfilling God’s promises to David (e.g. Romans 1:3) and, here in Hebrews, of God’s promises to Moses in terms of the establishment of the priesthood (Exodus 28:1).The Temple kingship liturgy remembers the ancient king-priest of Jerusalem, Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20), the 34
Saturday of Week Two prototype of Christ’s eternal, permanent high priesthood which now supersedes Aaron’s descendents. Lord Jesus, help me to be content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for your sake; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. Your grace is enough for me. Amen. Adapted from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
From the Call to Creation VI. Christians, particularly perhaps Catholic Christians, are reminded of the precious gifts of creation at each Eucharistic celebration. In the ancient prayer over the gifts of bread and wine we praise God our Creator, and remember that these material goods are given to us by God… Again, in the Eucharist we join in the self-giving, the sacrifice, of Christ himself, and in this sense the offering of our own lives - time, convenience, money - for the good of others can itself be Eucharistic, a ‘sacrifice’ for the good of others. 35
The unity of Jesus’ will with the Father’s will is the very core of his being…What we are ultimately praying for… is that we come closer and closer to him, so that God’s will can conquer the downward pull of our own selfishness and make us capable of the lofty height to which we are called. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pp.149-150 What is God’s will? It is a question we face time and again throughout the course of our lives. What is it that God is calling us to? This week we will explore the resources that we as Catholic Christians draw on in understanding or discerning the will of God.
Group Session Three Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven Opening Prayer Leader:
Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel! He has visited his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up for us a mighty saviour in the house of David his servant, as he promised by the lips of holy men, those who were his prophets from of old.
A saviour who would free us from our foes, from the hands of all who hate us. So his love for our fathers is fulfilled and his holy covenant remembered.
He swore to Abraham our father to grant us, that free from fear, and saved from the hands of our foes, we might serve him in holiness and justice all the days of our life in his presence.
As for you, little child, you shall be called a prophet of God, the Most High. You shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before him,
To make known to his people their salvation through forgiveness of all their sins, the loving-kindness of the heart of our God who visits us like the dawn from on high.
He will give light to those who dwell in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death, and guide us into the way of peace. Benedictus (Song of Zechariah, Luke 1:68-79) 37
Group Session Three Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity, so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will. Amen. St. Francis of Assisi (c.1181-1226) Explore the Scriptures Mark 10:46-52 As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road.When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus.Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road. Before the passage is read again by a different person you may wish to share a word, an image or a phrase that has struck you.These thoughts can be shared further after the second reading. Reflection On first reading, we are quickly drawn to Christ’s attentiveness to the poorest of the poor, the blind beggar, who St. Mark has identified as Bartimaeus, meaning ‘honourable son’. On reflection, it seems that this man sitting on the side of the road could just as easily have remained an anonymous part of the large crowd that followed Christ on the outskirts of the affluent city of Jericho. However, Bartimaeus was not about to be silenced by those who did not think Jesus would or should be bothered by a blind beggar. Despite his blindness Bartimaeus, seeing with the ‘eyes 38
Group Session Three Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven of faith’, recognised Jesus as his Saviour and was compelled to speak out, asking Jesus for mercy. As with Bartimaeus, daily life offers many opportunities to blend in with the crowd or to stand out and turn to Christ. How often do we blend in with the crowd and pass by the homeless? How often are we led to concentrate on tattered, sometimes dirty clothing, failing to see a human being with a name, made in the likeness of God? Unlike Bartimaeus who recognised Christ’s voice, the rush of daily living can impair our hearing. In the drive to fulfil our personal wants and desires the promptings of our own conscience – God’s voice and teachings advising us to do this and shun that – can go unheard. Here, personal preference rather than faith and trust in a loving and merciful Father can colour our choices. Although we may often pray the words ‘thy will be done’, do we really want God’s will to shape our lives? Wouldn’t it be easier to be a reticent member of the crowd or maintain the silence that gives tacit assent to the victimisation of others? Perhaps our full attention is focussed on our own temporal needs to the point that we don’t even seek God’s help or notice the needs of others around us. When have we been told to keep quiet by the crowd? How can we be more like Bartimaeus – listening to God’s voice echoing in our depths, trusting his mercy and will? When have we resisted the voice of conscience and gone along with the crowd? Where, like Bartimaeus, have we resisted the pressure of the crowd and cried out?
Group Session Three Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven Closing Prayers Leader: Aloud or in the silence of our hearts let us bring to the Father our thanks (pause)… Leader: In sorrow let us ask the Father for forgiveness (pause)… Leader: With confidence let us entrust to the Father our cares and concerns (pause)… All:
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all the poor and neglected who it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have no one to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who became poor for our sake. Amen.
Sunday of Week Three Today’s First Reading Jeremiah 31:7-9 The Lord says this: Shout with joy for Jacob! Hail the chief of nations! Proclaim! Praise! Shout: ‘The Lord has saved his people, the remnant of Israel!’ See, I will bring them back from the land of the North and gather them from the far ends of earth; all of them: the blind and the lame, women with child, women in labour: a great company returning here.They had left in tears, I will comfort them as I lead them back; I will guide them to streams of water, by a smooth path where they will not stumble. For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born son. Scripture background Studying the longer prophetic books of the Jewish Scriptures (Isaiah’s 66 chapters, Jeremiah’s 50 and Ezekiel’s 48) it is clear that the prophets’ disciples collected together and added original material, over the course of perhaps three centuries. Often because what the prophet said would happen did happen! In this scenario Jeremiah emerges as being highly influential. Beginning his ministry in c.627 BC (Jeremiah 1:1-3) Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple (e.g. Jeremiah 21:1-10) because of the nation’s rebellion against God.The Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon in 586 BC. In the post-exilic age (after 539 BC) Jeremiah’s prophetic oracles, together with details about his life (e.g. Jeremiah 19:1-20:6), were collected and revered. His oracles of judgement (the reason for the exile) and oracles of hope (the reason for the return) were placed side-by-side to form a coherent prophetic collection which reflected both God’s justice and his mercy.Today’s reading identifies God’s restoration of Israel and is connected with ‘The Book of Consolation’ (chapters 30-33) where two themes are paramount. Firstly, in terms of a ‘new Exodus’ and a ‘new Creation’, salvation is to be granted in the form of a return from Babylon, of the fertility of the earth (‘streams of water’) and in the diversity of the great company of the ‘remnant’ returning. Secondly, the relationship between God and his people in terms of Father to Son (Hosea 11:1; Exodus 4:22) is to be reinstated.The events of the past are reversed, Israel must now rejoice in the challenges of the future. 41
Sunday of Week Three Thy will be done? O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all. These all look to you, when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth. From Psalm 104
From Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelisation in the Modern World) 29. But evangelisation would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of manâ€™s concrete life, both personal and social.This is why evangelisation involves an explicit message, adapted to the different situations constantly being realised, about the rights and duties of every human being, about family life without which personal growth and development is hardly possible, about life in society, about international life, peace, justice and development. 42
Monday of Week Three Thy will be done? He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.Yet not as I will, but as you will. Matthew 26:39 Knowing that his torture and death on the Cross were imminent, Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Even at this most difficult moment, the depth of his love for his heavenly Father took precedence over his own will. It is human nature to have personal preferences and God’s wants us to come to him with our needs. However, just as Christ asked that his Father’s will be done, we pray that our hearts be disposed to do his will (Catechism, 2611). From Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) 18. On the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will... I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern. This I can offer them not only through the organisations intended for such purposes, accepting it perhaps as a political necessity. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave. Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will. All that I have and cherish you have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by your will. Your grace and your love are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more. St. Ignatius Loyola (c.1491-1556) 43
Tuesday of Week Three Natural Law You did not choose me but I chose you. John 15:16 Much has been written on the Early Years development of children and the importance of parenting before the commencement of formal education. However, even before parents set about their task, God has been at work planting in each child the gift of reason so as to enable each one of us to discern what is good and what is evil.Termed ‘natural law’, this rule of conduct is the ‘witness of God himself, whose voice and judgment penetrate the depths of our souls, calling us to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil’ (Veritatis Splendor, 58). In other words, it is an imprint of God on our innermost core that preceeds our race, gender, religion, language, politics, ideology and personal history. It is the foundation for our Christian living. Have we become deaf to the promptings of God in our hearts? From the Catechism 1956.The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for fundamental rights and duties. Lord Jesus Christ, you humbled yourself and became a child for me, I humble myself to become a child for you. Make me fit to serve you, by your strength use my weaknesses to bring yourself glory and to bring others to salvation. Amen.
Wednesday of Week Three Conscience and the divine law They [the Gentiles] can demonstrate the effect of the Law engraved on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness. Romans 2:15 Many have to come to view matters of conscience as individualistic affairs where everyone has the right to decide for him or herself what is right and wrong.Yet, according to St. Paul, even non-Christians knew what God expected of them because of that sacred place where God speaks to man – his conscience. It is there that we have been imprinted with a share of God’s wisdom and truth. It is this wisdom and truth - this ‘Natural Law’ rather than any individual or arbitrary value - which provides an objective standard against which every thought is measured (1 Corinthians 8: 12). Far from being an individualistic affair, our acting according to conscience, is relational; for although it is not a blind conformity to popular conventions, it hinges on our turning towards or away from our loving Father. To what extent are our decisions informed by prevailing opinions? What part does prayer, Scripture and the teaching of the Church play in our decision making? From Gaudium et Spes 16.Through loyalty to conscience Christians are joined with others in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems which arise both in the life of individuals and from social relationship. Hence, the more a conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside form blind choice and try to be guided by the objective standards of moral conduct. Heavenly Father, through prayer you permit us to see more clearly your light and you strengthen our conscience. By your Spirit helps us to recognise and choose what is your will. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1785 45
Thursday of Week Three Scripture and tradition Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Mark 9:7 To be baptised is to receive our identification with Christ himself.Through the pouring of holy water we are joined with him, in his paschal mystery: his death on the Cross and his resurrection. By becoming adopted brothers and sisters of Christ, we are not only gifted with a new life ‘in Christ’ but also called to be Christ in this world – to imitate him in our daily living, that is to be Christ-like to others. Just as our heavenly Father called on the disciples to listen to Christ at the time of his Transfiguration, we, too are able to hear his teachings through our reflection on Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church handed down to us through tradition and the writings of the apostles’ successors. From Pope John Paul II,World Youth Day sermon ,1989 It is in the mindset of your brothers and sisters that you are to live as Christians. In baptism God has given us a mother, the Church, with whom we grow spiritually in order that we may walk the path of holiness. This sacrament incorporates you as members of a people, it makes you sharers in the life of the Church and gives you brothers and sisters to love, in order that you might be ‘one with Christ’ (Galatians 3:28). In Church we are one people standing together, made up of many groups with different cultures, attitudes and modes of behaviour. Merciful God, anoint me with your Holy Spirit. As I read your Word, let me hear your voice speaking to me from within. Give me wisdom to understand your message. Give me strength to build my life on your Word. Let it be done to me according to your will. Speak Lord; your servant is listening! A prayer before reading the Bible 46
Friday of Week Three Prayer God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers… For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:9, 11-12 There is little doubt that St. Paul would have made excellent use of twentyfirst century technology to spread the Good News.The Internet and social networking media such as Facebook and Twitter have made it increasingly easy not only to reconnect and re-establish old friendships but also to build new ones regardless of where we are living. Likewise, websites such as www. sacredspace.ie; onlineministries.creighton.edu; and www.prayasyougo.org help us build our relationship with Christ by providing meditations on Holy Scripture or simply a soothing photograph that has captured the beauty of God’s creative work. United in Christ through our baptism, we are invited to turn our hearts and minds to him as we go about our day; to offer him our sacrifices and seek his counsel – even in front of a computer screen. Such technology while facilitating our prayer, also helps us to pray for others, to build community and communicate solidarity. Recently, the Irish Cardinal Séan Brady suggested that we make someone the gift of a prayer through text, twitter or e-mail every day. ‘Such a sea of prayer,’ the Cardinal wrote, ‘is sure to strengthen our sense of solidarity with one another and remind those who receive them that others really do care.’ Lord Jesus Christ, you came among us through Mary’s ‘yes’ to God. Help me this day to say ‘yes’ to the Father’s call to me, so that in my words and actions, in times of work and leisure, you can be present in me through the power of the Eucharist to heal, to comfort and to sustain. Amen. Taken from www.sacredspace.ie 47
Saturday of Week Three Tomorrow’s Second Reading 1 John 3:1-3 Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are. Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us. My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ. Scripture background The first letter of St. John takes the form of a homily preached to the ‘Johannine community’, a community experiencing differences of opinion (1 John 2:18-19) over the ‘person’ of Jesus (1 John 4:1-3). Not only does the preacher call for unity but he demands that this unity be based upon a correct understanding of Jesus’ divine identity in terms of God; of Jesus’ humanity manifested by his incarnation ‘in the flesh’ (1 John 4:2) and of the forgiveness of sin stemming from Jesus’ righteous sacrifice (1 John 2:1-2). Many of these themes are also found in John’s Gospel and his second and third letters.To understand the context of today’s text we need to return to 1 John 2:28. Here the preacher reminds the faithful (‘little children’) that they are to abide (see John 15:4) in God and Jesus and to be prepared for Jesus’ glorious return (Greek, Parousia, see 1 Thessalonians 3:13).Those reborn in God (John 3:3; 1 John 3:9) will do what is just because they believe that God is righteous (1 John 2:29). These injunctions are based upon the totality of the Father’s love (1 John 3:1) seen in his sending of Jesus Christ for the salvation of humanity (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2).This loving action ought also to be manifested within the believing community (John 13:34; 1 John 4:11), a ‘counter-cultural’ community because its values are not worldly (e.g. John 15:19) but based on divine attributes.The world has not responded to God’s over-whelming generosity in the offer of a ‘new birth’ in him (e.g. John 1:10) as the believers have done. In order to understand their new ‘status’ the faithful 48
Saturday of Week Three must perceive the tension between this world and the next.True, we can share in the divine life now but, given the limitations of human condition, the perfection of the heavenly, eternal existence will only be known fully when we are able to â€˜seeâ€™ God in the totality of his beauty (1 John 3:1).
Father in heaven, the hand of your loving kindness powerfully yet gently guides all the moments of our day. Go before us in our pilgrimage of life, anticipate our needs and prevent our falling. Send your Spirit to unite us in faith, that sharing in your service, we may rejoice in your presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. Alternative Opening Prayer for 28th Sunday of the Year
The petition for bread just for today opens up vistas that reach beyond the horizon of the nourishment that is needed day by day. It presupposes that the community of his closest disciples followed the Lord in a radical way, renouncing worldly possessions… pointing to a future that is weightier and more real than the present. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p.153 This week as we continue our reflection on the Lord’s Prayer and the building of his kingdom we will reflect on the request for ‘daily bread’; on the personal gifts or qualities that you and I might be ask for in order to be builders of God’s Kingdom. Our reflection will be based on the Beatitudes set out by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount and recalled in this Sunday’s gospel for the feast of All Saints.
Group Session Four Give us this day our daily bread Opening Prayer Leader:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Keep us from being preoccupied with money and worldly goods.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Help us not to be ruthless with one another.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Let us not be impatient under our own burdens and unconcerned about the burdens of others.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Make us thirst for you, the fountain of all holiness.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Grant that we may be quick to forgive and slow to condemn.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Free us from our senses and help us to fix our eyes on you.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Help us to be builders of peace, overcoming discord and violence at home, in our community and in the world at large. 51
Group Session Four Give us this day our daily bread Leader:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
May we embrace suffering for the sake of right, and challenge injustice, discrimination and oppression. Amen.
Let us listen carefully to the Word of the Lord, and attend to it with the ear of our hearts. Let us welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. St. Benedict of Nursia (c.480-c.547) adapted Explore the Scriptures Matthew 5:1-12 Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill.There he sat down and was joined by his disciples.Then he began to speak.This is what he taught them: ‘How blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed the gentle; they shall have the earth for their heritage. Blessed those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Blessed those who hunger and thirst for what is right; they shall be satisfied. Blessed the merciful they shall have mercy shown them. Blessed the pure in heart; they shall see God. Blessed the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God. Blessed those who are persecuted in the cause of right; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’ Before the passage is read again by a different person you may wish to share a word, an image or a phrase that has struck you.These thoughts can be shared further after the second reading. Reflection On Sunday, the feast of All Saints, we call to mind the countless men and women of every time and place who have striven to live out the Beatitudes recorded in today’s gospel passage. Here, in his Sermon on the Mount, 52
Group Session Four Give us this day our daily bread Christ highlights all that is best in humanity; in the Beatitudes we have what could be called a formula for sainthood. If we are to build the Kingdom of God our prayer and our actions must be shaped by the Beatitudes. It is often easier to see how others have lived the Beatitudes than to recognise the ways in which we, in our day to day lives, have been the poor in spirit, the gentle, the merciful, the peacemaker. It is almost as if the saintliness we celebrate has everything to do with other people and not ourselves.The whole point of our celebration of All Saints is to appreciate the possibility of living as Christ calls us to live. Praying for our ‘daily’ bread is a recognition that living as Christ demands is a daily challenge. On the one hand our prayer recognises that such living has to be worked at and will not be accomplished overnight, but on the other it also recognises that the building of the Kingdom of God is for the here and now. The request for daily ‘bread’ could be understood in a purely physical, material or literal sense – give us food to survive. In this context however, where we are considering the building up of the Kingdom of God, it might also be understood as a request for the tools of Christian living and an embracing of the Beatitudes. Here, as it were, the daily bread we seek is not the bread that will satisfy our physical hunger, but the humility, gentleness and courage which pave the way to the Kingdom of God.What daily bread, what nourishment, might you ask for today? As a community how do we embody the Beatitudes and the building of God’s Kingdom? How have we embraced poverty? How have we suffered for what is right? How as individuals and as a community do we understand the call to be the gentle, the merciful, the peacemaker?
Group Session Four Give us this day our daily bread Closing Prayers Leader: Aloud or in the silence of our hearts let us bring to the Father our thanks (pause)… Leader: In sorrow let us ask the Father for forgiveness (pause)… Leader: With confidence let us entrust to the Father our cares and concerns (pause)… All:
God our Father, source of all holiness, the work of your hands is manifest in your saints, the beauty of your truth is reflected in their faith. May we who aspire to have part in their joy be filled with the Spirit that blessed their lives, so that having shared their faith on earth we may also know their peace in your kingdom. Opening Prayer, Feast of All Saints
Sunday of Week Four Today’s First Reading Apocalypse 7:2-4, 9-14 I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel. After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands.They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words. ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’ One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where have they come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’ Scripture background John’s apocalyptic vision embraces all Christian believers.Those who lost their lives for Christ – (Apocalypse 7:14); and those who bore more general faithful witness to him – (Apocalypse 7:9).Their witness halts, temporarily, the devastation of the earth.The martyrs have already asked the question how long it will be before they are vindicated (Apocalypse 6:10) and the answer comes that they must wait until all God’s servants are protected by the imposition of God’s seal (see Ezekiel 9:4-6). In this context John presents a vision of the ultimate salvation of all believers.This is our story, our inheritance.We pray that we can be 55
Sunday of Week Four included in this great group of people. Emphasis is placed upon the universality of the believing community, of the careful arrangement of their worship: their elders, the four animals (symbolic of the canonical Gospels) and the liturgical signs of the victory: the palms and white robes symbolic of Christ’s resurrection and of the purity of truly living the Christian life. Into this worship is placed the hymn to God’s majesty (Apocalypse 7:12) likely repeated in the liturgy offered in John’s churches. In case we are carried away by euphoria we are reminded again of the earthly realities from which the believers have emerged: the great persecution and the blood which was shed as a result.This sacrifice (Daniel 11:35 and 12:10) unites them to Christ, the Lamb of God, whose own blood was shed for the salvation of humanity.Thus John’s apocalypse is able to include all suffering people whether in the Roman Empire, Nazi Germany,Vietnam or elsewhere.True witness against violence, terror and social evil is rewarded by God. John’s apocalypse presents paradise instead of terror, Christ instead of Caesar, with the promise that Christ and paradise have triumphed (Apocalypse 22:1-4 and 18:2-3). Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen. Apocalypse 7:12
Monday of Week Four All Souls Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven Matthew 5:3 Today, the feast of All Souls, we remember the faithful departed, praying that God will receive them into the eternal reward of heaven. Today is an opportunity to do what we can on behalf of those who have gone before us, those we have known as well as those who have no one to pray for them. If yesterday’s feast of All Saints was an opportunity to give thanks for the ways in which countless women and men have lived out their faith, today is a celebration of what God has done and will do when faced with the human frailty that gets in the way of holy living. Today our prayer is that God will forgive the sins of the departed; that he will forgive and make good any failing on their part and welcome them into the heavenly Kingdom. Quite naturally on a day such as this our thoughts may turn to our own death. For the Celts death was not a terrible or destructive event. As John O’Donohue writes in his book Anam Cara we need not fear our homecoming to the Father for ‘when you enter the eternal world, you are going home to where no shadow, pain or darkness can ever touch you again’. From Deus Caritas Est 10. God’s passionate love for his people – for humanity – is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations into the peace of God’s kingdom: Lord, have mercy… You come in word and sacrament to strengthen us in holiness: Christ, have mercy… You will come in glory with salvation for your people: Lord, have mercy… Roman Missal, Penitential Rite 57
Tuesday of Week Four Blessed are the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage. Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4-5 Living in a society in constant search of ‘instant’ solutions, patience can seem an old fashioned virtue.Think how easily agitated we can become when the queue is too long or the traffic lights take ‘forever’ to change.Think on our impatience for financial security or security in our neighbourhoods. In one sense the reward or comforting spoken of in the Beatitudes is laid up in the future, something we look towards, but at the same time it is within our grasp, something for today. Jesus Christ has walked this earth, he, the Kingdom of God where all our yearnings are met, has been and continues to be present among us. Pray the prayer of St. Francis, asking the Lord for a greater awareness of those times where you have been an instrument of his peace, and a sign of the Kingdom. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is anger, peace; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Amen. The Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (c.1181-1226)
Wednesday of Week Four Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God. Matthew 5:6-8 Hunger and thirst are powerful forces. Few relish the prospect of being hungry or thirsty. Many will spend a significant amount of time, money and energy ensuring that there is enough to eat and drink. But, of course, the hunger and thirst spoken of in the Beatitudes is not a physical one, it is a spiritual one. It is an appetite for love which becomes all the more compelling and necessary where the dignity of the vulnerable is ignored or where prejudice and experience blind us to what is best and good in others. What do I thirst for? Do I thirst for justice and peace? Do I take the time to consider what other peopleâ€™s needs might be? Am I prepared to put my own needs aside in order to be of service to others? Lord Jesus Christ, open my ears to the cry of the needy open my eyes to injustice open my mouth in the face of evil open my heart to love as you loved. Amen.
Thursday of Week Four Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 Visit any toyshop and you will be faced with an array of toy weapons, guns and war games. But war is not a game, it is terrible and terrifying. All too often it is the stuff of our evening news, vividly, sometimes horrifically, beamed into our homes. And if it isn’t the war and conflicts between nations, it is the civil wars and genocides that one time neighbours inflict upon each other, the threat or reality of terrorist atrocities, and the divisions and violence that mark our own communities. Peace, it would seem, is an elusive quality. Indeed those who campaign for peace are easily characterised as naïve or out of touch.The tragedy of war and the threat of violence can easily fill us with feelings of helplessness.Yet, if we are to be the peacemakers spoken of in the Beatitudes, we cannot give way to the seeming hopelessness of situations. ‘Do not worry about anything’ says St. Paul, ‘but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). From Gaudium et Spes 81. While extravagant sums are being spent for the furnishing of ever new weapons, an adequate remedy cannot be provided for the multiple miseries afflicting the whole modern world. Disagreements between nations are not really and radically healed; on the contrary, they spread the infection to other parts of the earth. New approaches based on reformed attitudes must be taken to remove this trap and to emancipate the world from its crushing anxiety through the restoration of genuine peace.
Thursday of Week Four Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles â€˜I leave you peace my peace I give youâ€™. Help us to rediscover a thirst for your peace and a tireless energy to combat the needless misery caused by war and conflict. Amen.
From Gaudium et Spes 9. The modern world shows itself at once powerful and weak, capable of the noblest deeds or the foulest; before it lies the path to freedom or to slavery, to progress or retreat, to brotherhood or hatred. Moreover, we are becoming aware that it is our responsibility to guide aright the forces which we have unleashed and which can enslave us or minister to us. 61
Friday of Week Four Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven Matthew 5:10 The Beatitudes challenge us to stand up for what is right and to do so even in the face of persecution. For us ‘persecution’ may seem a remote prospect, more to do with the reformation martyrs – men and women, both lay and ordained – of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.Yet people continue to be martyred for their faith. In the two thousand years of Christianity, it is estimated that about 70 million believers have been killed for their faith, of whom 46 million or 65% have been killed in the last hundred years. The word ‘martyr’ is the Greek word for ‘witness’.To be able to stand up and be counted for what is good should come naturally, with no strings attached! As government and society challenge the ways in which we are allowed to witness to our faith, be it the wearing of a cross, the existence of ‘faith schools’ or the provision of adoption services, we must ask ourselves where is my voice? Have I spoken out or have I remained silent where Christian, Catholic values are questioned? From Centesimus Annus 57.The social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all else a basis and a motivation for action….Today more than ever, the Church is aware that her social message will gain credibility more immediately from the witness of actions than as a result of its internal logic and consistency.
Friday of Week Four All of the following were martyred in 2008, some of the many killed for their faith. Fr Pedro Daniel Orellana Hidalgo (50 – Caracas,Venezuela); pray for us Fr Jesus Reyhaldo Roda OMI (55 – Tabawan, Philippines); pray for us Fr Michael Kamau Ithondeka (42 – Rift Valley); pray for us Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho (65 – Mosul, Iraq); pray for us Br Joseph Douet (62 – Katako, Guinea Conakry); pray for us Br Brian Thorp MHM (77 – Lamu, Kenya); pray for us Fr Julio Cesar Mendoza Acuma (33 – Mexico City); pray for us Fr Johnson Moyalan (60 – Sirsia, Nepal); pray for us Fr Mariampillai Xavier Karunaratnam (Sri Lanka); pray for us Fr Jaime Ossa Toro (72 – Medellin, Columbia); pray for us Fr Otto Messmer and Fr Victor Betancourt SJ (Moscow, Russia); pray for us Fr Thomas Pandippallyil (38 – Andra Pradesh, India); pray for us Fr Nilson José Brasiliano (44 – Tiete, Brasil); pray for us Fr John Mark Ikpiki (43 – Isiokolo, Nigeria); pray for us Fr Gerardo Manuel Miranda Avalos (45 – Mexico); pray for us Fr Samuel Francis (60 – Chota Rampur, India); pray for us Fr Bernard Digal (45 – Orissa, India); pray for us Boduin Ntamenya (52 – Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo); pray for us All saints and martyrs; pray for us Mary, Mother of God; pray for us
Saturday of Week Four Tomorrow’s Second Reading Hebrews 9:24-28 It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him. Scripture background Here, the author of Hebrews reflects on the idea of ‘sacred space’ where sacrifices are made to God. For Jews this ‘sacred space’ represented both the ancient Tent of Meeting (or Tabernacle) constructed by Moses on God’s authority in the wilderness (Exodus 25:8-9) and the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 7:1-17; 1 Kings 6:1-6), thought to be the centre of the universe, the dwelling place of God on earth and the sole legitimate place where priests offered sacrifices (1 Kings 8:22-30). In AD 70 this Temple was destroyed by the Romans and has never been rebuilt.With the destruction of the Temple the Jews returned to their synagogues and concentrated on the study of the Bible under the authority of their rabbis (as today). Religious rituals were performed in the synagogue and in the home but minus animal sacrifice. It is likely that Hebrews reflects something of this situation in asking how, and where, Christians should worship? The answer to ‘where’ is probably found in ‘house churches’ or even at places of work.These ‘worship centres’ had, as yet, no sanctuaries (unlike Greco-Roman Temples), the sanctuary of God was now perceived of as being in heaven (Hebrews 9:24). The ‘how’ centres on their acknowledgement of Jesus’ Lordship (Philippians 64
Saturday of Week Four 2:10-11) and the recognition of Christ’s high priesthood (Hebrews 4:14). Combining the ‘where’ and the ‘how’ another issue arises: what was the Christian attitude to sacrifice? Believers, especially those from Judaism, were lead away from the numerous repetitive sacrifices of their priests (though with the destruction of the Temple these were probably already concluded) to the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross outside Jerusalem (Hebrews 13:13). At this event God’s salvation for all humanity was secured (Hebrews 9:26-28). But where is the altar? Answer: at the cross (Hebrews 13:10) and in heaven (Hebrews 9:24).This dual understanding formed the basis for the Christian liturgical understanding of church buildings as ‘sacred space’ with their altars, sanctuaries and priests, a ‘space’ established in relation to Christ’s once-for-all death and the Christian quest for heaven.
Christ, innocent though you were, you died once for our sins, you died for the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body you were put to death, in the spirit you were raised to life. For this we give thanks. Adapted from the Responsory, Easter Octave: Friday, Divine Office
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us Guilt can be overcome only by forgiveness, not by retaliation. God is a God who forgives, because he loves his creatures; but forgiveness can only penetrate and become effective in one who is himself forgivingâ€Ś only through communion with the One who bore the burdens of us all. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pp.157, 160 Building the Kingdom of God is no easy matter. It requires a consistency between word and action as well as concrete and meaningful deeds. It isnâ€™t the performance of perfunctory, half-hearted or automatic gestures but is based on an awareness of what and why we do things. 66
Group Session Five forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
Opening Prayer Leader:
Lord Jesus Christ, who bears our sufferings, who carries our sorrows, bless our service to those who hunger.
Bless our service to those who thirst.
Bless us as we clothe the naked, shelter the traveller.
Bless our work among the sick, as we visit those in prison.
Bless us as we bury the dead.
And the king will answer them, â€˜Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.â€™ Based on Matthew 25:40 and the Corporal Works of Mercy Let us listen carefully to the Word of the Lord, and attend to it with the ear of our hearts. Let us welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. St. Benedict of Nursia (c.480-c.547) adapted
Group Session Five forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
Explore the Scriptures Mark 12:41-44 He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’ Before the passage is read again by a different person you may wish to share a word, an image or a phrase that has struck you.These thoughts can be shared further after the second reading. Reflection In Deus Caritas Est (God is Love, 21) Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the apostles naming seven assistants or deacons to distribute food, so that they could concentrate on the Eucharist and the ministry of the Word. He writes that the task of the seven was not to be ‘a purely mechanical work of distribution: they were to be “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:16)’.The seven were called, as are we, to engage our whole selves – in work, in charity, in prayer. The widow of the passage did exactly this. She understood precisely the generosity in thought and spirit that is to characterise our actions. Hers was a real gift, a total abandonment and real self-sacrifice. It was all she had and would have impacted on every aspect of her life. Mindful of the widow’s example it is worth reflecting on our own generosity. Is there, for example, a reluctance to do or to give more, and if so what is this about? Have we become complacent, giving and doing what we do habitually, without much thought? Does it really impinge on us and, as Christ suggested to the rich man, is there something more to do? Do we look for easy solutions, the token gestures and automatic giving that gets people off our backs, or do we engage with fundamental causes and the need for real solutions? 68
Group Session Five forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
Often what we can do can seem small and insignificant. A small drop in the great ocean of the treasury that nobody would miss. Nonetheless, when added together, the little that each of us can do can make a significant impact. Consider, for example, all those helped by family fast days and cake sales, or the way in which everyone dropping a penny or two into a charity box could add up. Again, if enough of us alter our habits even slightly, with regards to the environment or opting for fairly traded products, the cumulative effect can be substantial. Conscious of the widow’s giving, a giving that demanded much of her, and of what can be achieved when acting together, we will be better placed to address ‘structural sin’, that is those sins or injustices which society or the ‘the system’ is responsible for: the fragility of the environment and the over-consumption of precious resources, discrimination supported by law, trading conditions and aid which keep poorer countries economically dependent, an arms trade fuelled by the need for business.These are but a few examples of collective problems requiring collective action for the Common Good. Where does your motivation to do good spring from? How would you describe your approach to giving? What challenges are you conscious of shying away from? Money is just one way of giving.What, in terms of time and energy do you feel you should be giving to good causes?
Group Session Five forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
Closing Prayers Leader: Aloud or in the silence of our hearts let us bring to the Father our thanks (pause)… Leader: In sorrow let us ask the Father for forgiveness (pause)… Leader: With confidence let us entrust to the Father our cares and concerns (pause)… All:
Lord, God Almighty, how great and wonderful are your deeds! King of all nations, how right and true are your ways! Who will not fear you, Lord? Who will refuse to declare your greatness? You alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you, because your righteous deeds are seen by all. The Song of the Lamb (Apocalypse 15:3-4)
Sunday of Week Five Today’s First Reading 1 Kings 17:10-16 Elijah went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel: “Jar of meal shall not be spent, jug of oil shall not be emptied, before the day when the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.”’ The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son.The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah. Scripture background The prophet Elijah (whose name means total alliance to the God of Israel and is formed from the statement Yahweh [is] God) is the central figure (1 Kings 17:1-19:21) in the attempt to restore Mosaic theology and ethics to the life of the northern kingdom of Israel in the reign of Ahab (870850 BC). Ahab was forced to determine how a small state (Israel) might survive the imperial ambitions of its powerful neighbours, Syria and Assyria. The answer seemed to rest in the creation of alliances between smaller neighbours against their common foes. A union between Israel and Sidon was forged as a result of Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31). Jezebel brought her political and religious ideology into Israel, characterised by authoritarian government (note the seizing of Naboth’s vineyard, 1 Kings 21) and the establishment of Baal worship (the god of fertility and rain; 1 Kings 16:31-33 and later 18:41-45). 71
Sunday of Week Five Into this scenario steps Elijah, portrayed both as a true prophet of God (Deuteronomy 18:15-16) and as an archetypal holy man (1 Kings 17:16). The story is full of irony. Elijah is sent beyond Israel to Jezebel’s own territory of Sidon (1 Kings 17:9; back to 16:31).There he demonstrates that, even outside Israel, ‘the Lord the God of Israel’ is superior to Baal in that God alone can offer fertility and rain and a constant supply of the basic necessities of life (1 Kings 17:14). Also the social position of the poor widow and Queen Jezebel are compared: the Queen is left to her luxury, false religion, authoritarian government and subsequent cruel death (2 Kings 9:36-37) while the humble widow enjoys the boundless possibility of God’s generosity ministered by Elijah, the prophet of God (1 Kings 17:16). Father, you have made us dependent on one another, and so we pray for the starving millions in our world. Give us true repentance for our greed and selfishness. Empower us to make amends as best we can. Help us to find the ways to share so that no one hungers at the table of life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. From the Diocese of Syracuse
Monday of Week Five Have we lost hope? ‘I have explained the secret of God’s Kingdom to you, but for others I can use only stories… These people will look and look, but never see.They will listen and listen but never understand.’ Mark 4:1-12; Matthew 13:10-17 When Michael Burke and cameraman Mohammed Amin reported from Ethiopia in October 1984 there was an almost universal outcry and a palpable sense of shock. However, in the twenty years that have followed we have become used to images of suffering beamed into our homes. Our hearts are all too easily hardened, our awareness blunted.Whether it is the steady stream of pictures in the media of refugees on the roads with all their belongings tied in a blanket, or distressed children, either starving or wielding weapons, or the people requesting alms outside our churches and in our towns, have we become ‘immune’ to suffering? Jesus is there in the middle of the suffering but do we ‘look and look, but never see’, ‘listen and listen but never hear’? It is perfectly possible to suffer what some call ‘compassion-fatigue’ but we are called on to do what we can. As long as it is planted, the mustard seed does grow! The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work… This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. attributed to Oscar Romero (1917-1980)
Tuesday of Week Five Forgiveness and reconciliation ‘If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again’. Luke 6:29-30 ‘No, really, it doesn’t matter.’ This is a familiar refrain but it is all too often followed days, weeks or even months later by ‘you remember when...’ Jesus, as ever, calls us to a higher standard and as such our forgiveness is to be real, not a chip to be cashed in, but a letting go. It is in our forgiveness of others that we may truly appreciate the mercy that God offers us. When tempted to recall the injustices done unto us let us also recall the offences we may have given to others. Let us overcome bitterness with a recollection of the forgiveness we have received. Do I have to forgive…isn’t forgiveness just for saints? No matter how hard it may seem, how can we demonstrate a spirit of generosity with those who cause us harm? Are there limits to God’s mercy? Are there unforgivable people? Lord Jesus, you chose to be called the friend of sinners. By your cross and resurrection free me from my sins. May your peace take root in my heart and bring forth a harvest of love, holiness and truth. From the Rite of Penance
Wednesday of Week Five Rights and responsibilities ‘If someone who has the riches of this world sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?’ 1 John 3:17 ‘To claim one’s rights and ignore one’s duties or only half fulfil them,’ as Pope John XXIII wrote, ‘is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the other’ (Pacem in Terris, 30).The real burden of the current economic downturn, as was acknowledged at the G20 summit earlier this year, is being borne by those who had no role in bringing it about. Do we enjoy all of the benefits of the developed world’s affluence but incur none of the cost? Do we demand rights but accept no responsibility for our actions or for our inaction regarding the poor and disadvantaged? From The Common Good 70. Public authorities have the common good as their prime responsibility. The common good stands in opposition to the good of rulers or of a ruling (or any other) class. It implies that every individual, no matter how high or low, has a duty to share in promoting the welfare of the community as well as a right to benefit from that welfare. ‘Common’ implies ‘all-inclusive’: the common good cannot exclude or exempt any section of the population. If any section of the population is in fact excluded from participation in the life of the community, even at a minimal level, then that is a contradiction to the concept of the common good and calls for rectification. Let me love you, my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am: a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch… Help me to forget myself and reach out toward others. Amen. Taken from ‘The Universal Prayer’, attrib. to Pope Clement XI (1649-1721) 75
Thursday of Week Five A distinctive Christian voice Social reform has often sprung from Christian roots.Titus Salt – a Congregationalist – and the Cadbury family – Quakers – pioneered model villages for their workforces to ‘alleviate the evils of modern more cramped living conditions’.William Wilberforce’s conscience was agitated by the injustice of the slave trade while William Booth’s Salvation Army became one of the world’s largest distributors of humanitarian aid.The efforts of Elizabeth Fry, depicted on the £5 note, were key to penal reform in the 19th Century. Even today the work of Church and welfare groups in Austria has led to the development of Die Zweite Sparkasse, a people’s bank which offers not just a basic account and a bank card, but free legal advice, counselling and support services.While here in the UK, credit unions are being started and advice on redundancy is being given through Church networks. All of this forms a part of an ongoing commitment to the service of the communities in which we live and a determination to make the world a better place. Certainly, there are many organisations present in society which demonstrate ‘Christian’ values.We, however, are in a position to acknowledge, praise and share the source of all love (1 John 4:16) adding a much needed dimension to the care of the person and the promotion of a just and equitable society. Faith groups have much to offer this country and others across the globe.What distinctive contribution do you think the Church can and does make today? God of love, bring us back to you. Send your Spirit to make us strong in faith and active in good works. Amen. Opening prayer, Second Week of Lent:Thursday
Friday of Week Five What is a real deed? His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:23 Members of youth clubs and associations the world over make it part of their lives to do something positive, a ‘good deed’, every day.Whether it is helping someone with their shopping, washing cars or helping someone cross the road, there are hundreds of daily possibilities. One with Christ, through our baptism, we too have a resolution – to give an account of the hope that we have in us and to witness to this hope, this love of God, in what we say and do. At times, however, something greater is required than these small acts of kindness. It is not always enough to deal with the symptoms; sometimes it falls to us, to me, to tackle the root of injustice. Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999) famously said ‘when I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.’ When a bigger issue presents itself – corruption, greed, injustice, genocide – an issue that touches us deeply, a wound in society, we must be ready with more than a plaster. How can I respond to the challenge of meaningful action? How can my engagement be an act of witness? Let us cry to the Lord in our troubles, for he saves us from distress; he sends out his word and heals us, he delivers us from destruction. Let us thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let us offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. Amen. Based on Psalm 107 77
Saturday of Week Five Tomorrow’s Second Reading Hebrews 10:11-14.18 All the priests stand at their duties every day, offering over and over again the same sacrifices which are quite incapable of taking sins away. Christ, on the other hand, has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place for ever, at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made into a footstool for him. By virtue of that one single offering, he has achieved the eternal perfection of all whom he is sanctifying. When all sins have been forgiven, there can be no more sin offerings. Scripture background The climax is now reached in our search for placing justice, peace and social issues within the greater framework of Christ’s saving activity towards humanity. Here the comparison which Hebrews makes between the ‘new age’ and the ‘old’ (Hebrews 1:1-4) is brought into sharp focus by the claim of Christ’s superiority over the old order. Fundamental to understanding ‘world issues’ within this Christological framework is the concept of sin (Hebrews 10:11-12). Hebrews speaks of sin in the plural, ‘sins’ which means our numerous individual sins and the corporate (institutional, social) sins generated within and through the various political, economic and social environments. Sin, using a metaphor from archery, is to ‘miss God’s target’, manifested by disobedience to his laws (Genesis 3:8-24) and neglect of the created and human environment which he has given to humanity to enjoy (Genesis 1:26-31). Despite this multiplicity of human sins (both individual and corporate) the possibility of their removal is to be found in the single, sacrificial act of Christ’s death.This single act rendered the numerous sacrificial, sin-relieving acts offered by Jewish priests in the Jerusalem Temple redundant. Christ’s death not only leads to his royal glorification, but offers to all humanity the possibility of forgiveness, eternal perfection (sharing fully the life and nature of God) and accompanying these new states of life, the activity of sanctification, the acquiring of God’s holiness.The author of Hebrews is not only presenting this vision to the community to whom he is writing but he is also exhorting them to ‘stay with God’s journey in Christ’ (e.g. Hebrews 78
Saturday of Week Five 4:11) as his ‘pilgrim people’ (e.g. Hebrews 12:12-14) with the aim that they and then society will be reformed in God’s image in Christ which is possible when the heavenly vision is contemplated (Hebrews 12:22-24).
Father, look with love on those you have called to share in the one sacrifice of Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit make them one body, healed of all division. Keep us all in communion of mind and heart, and help us to work together for the coming of your kingdom. Amen. From the Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I
In order to make real progress on the path leading from superficial piety into profound oneness with Godâ€™s will, man needs to be triedâ€Ś In asking to be liberated from the power of evil, we are ultimately asking for Godâ€™s Kingdom, for union with his will and the sanctification of his name. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pp.162, 167 This week we will consider the temptations that we face individually and collectively particularly those that endanger our way of life, generate inequality, threaten the availability of resources and endanger the well being of future generations.
Group Session Six Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil Opening Prayer Leader:
Wash, make yourselves clean. Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.
Come now, let us talk this over, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
If you are willing to obey, you shall eat the good things of the earth. But if you persist in rebellion, the sword shall eat you instead. Isaiah 1:16-20
Glory beâ€Ś Let us listen carefully to the Word of the Lord, and attend to it with the ear of our hearts. Let us welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. St. Benedict of Nursia (c.480-c.547) adapted
Group Session Six Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil Explore the Scriptures Mark 13:24-32 Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’ Before the passage is read again by a different person you may wish to share a word, an image or a phrase that has struck you.These thoughts can be shared further after the second reading. Reflection Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you and I will know its an unseasonably mild winter! Times, as they say, are a changin’. Birds can be found nesting in February; deserts in Africa and Asia are spreading; there has been flooding in Hull,Worcester, Bangladesh and Thailand. Many interpret such signs and disasters as portents of the end of the world. Indeed, around the turn of the millennium doomsday cults were many and called out in warning.While we should not fear Christ’s coming in glory – no doomsday for us but a joyful reuniting with our Father – neither should we hasten the demise of God’s magnificent creation. Where a small percentage of the world’s population hold a large proportion of the world’s wealth, when 2.5 billion people live without decent sanitation, when one quarter of all children in developing countries 82
Group Session Six Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil are considered at risk of undernourishment, we have to ask, where are we? How has our inability to resist temptation contributed to a pattern of trade that generates inequality and a level of consumption that cannot be sustained? Good stewardship means more than energy saving light bulbs, saving paper and recycling bottles. It also requires a change of heart which is more concerned with the alleviation of the problems at hand than the meeting of ‘my’ particular concerns. It may even mean voting for tax increases that will deliver ‘greener’ technology, improve support services for the least able or increase the level of foreign aid.What we need is a conscious acceptance that our choices and decisions can and do have wide-ranging consequences. In the forthcoming weeks of Advent we will have an opportunity to look over our lives, to fix what needs fixing, and to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth. As we do so, let us bring to mind that consistency of word (what we proclaim) and action (what we do) which the world will find most convincing. For sure, it matters far less at what moment the Lord will come in glory than how he will find us when he does. Let us build the Kingdom of God, that when Jesus Christ comes again, he will find us ready! What temptations are we called to resist, as a group and as individuals, for the sake of others and for an authentic witness to the Good News? When we pray for deliverance from evil what and who do we have in mind…our suffering or the suffering of others, this generation or generations to come? Closing Prayers Leader: Aloud or in the silence of our hearts let us bring to the Father our thanks (pause)… Leader: In sorrow let us ask the Father for forgiveness (pause)… Leader: With confidence let us entrust to the Father our cares and concerns (pause)… All:
Our Father… 83
Group Session Six Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil Almighty God, you teach us by reason that all the riches of the world are made by you for our common use, and that by nature not one of them belongs to one human being more than to another; direct us, we pray, in obedience to your will, that all things may serve all people, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. St. Anselm (1033-1109)
Sunday of Week Six Today’s First Reading Daniel 12:1-3 ‘At that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who mounts guard over your people.There is going to be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence.When that time comes, your own people will be spared, all those whose names are found written in the Book. Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth many will awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace.The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.’ Scripture background The book of Daniel is characterised by variety: a variety of text (the Greek additions of chapters 13 and 14 and ‘the Song of the Three Holy Children’ in Daniel 3); a variety of language (both Hebrew and Aramaic); a variety of form (prophecy, wisdom and apocalyptic) and a variety of context. Although reporting on events from the sixth century BC with Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (Daniel 1:1), Daniel’s real focus is on the 2nd century and on Antiochus VI Epiphanies who persecuted some Jewish people who would not subscribe to his imposition of Greek culture upon the Jewish tradition. For three years (167-164 BC) worship in the Jerusalem Temple was abolished to be restored by the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 4:36-58). Today’s reading should be seen in terms of persecution, martyrdom and the subsequent restoration of Judaism. In suffering the Jews were divided. Some (mainly from priestly, aristocratic families) chose to support Antiochus, while others (like the Maccabees) engaged in armed rebellion. The author of Daniel is clearly on the ‘Maccabean side’ that remained faithful to God’s covenant and law. After death (‘sleep’) they would be awakened to ‘everlasting life’ (Daniel 12:2), rewarded with eternal, heavenly happiness due to their teaching, action and witness to righteousness.Those who supported Antiochus would be destined for ‘everlasting disgrace’ (Daniel 12:2). By recording this sharpening division Daniel is providing new theological insights for Judaism: no longer a generalised place of rest for the departed (Sheol) but God’s judgement based on deeds done 85
Sunday of Week Six during life. As elsewhere in apocalyptic literature the names of the faithful would be written in the ‘hidden books’. God now communicates through mediators: Michael, the archangel and Daniel himself, seen as a symbol of righteousness, piety (Ezekiel 14:14 and 14:20) and wisdom (Ezekiel 28:3). It is not surprising John relies heavily on Daniel’s insights in his book of Revelation. Lord our God, grant that we may always find joy in your service; for it is perfect and lasting happiness to be faithful in serving the creator of all that is good. Amen. Opening prayer 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Monday of Week Six Sustainability ‘It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ Matthew 15:26 In 1989, the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission) articulated what has now become a widely accepted definition of sustainability: ‘[to meet] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Over the past few years it has become widely acknowledged that we are reaping more than we can sow. Our stewardship of this great gift of God’s creation is being called into question. The need for a renewable and sustainable way of living has been readily welcomed by the world at large, almost to the extent of forming a religion of ‘ecoism’. As Pope Paul VI reminds us, however, there is much more to this than simply recycling: ‘the whole of creation is ordered toward its Creator and so too the rational creature should of his own accord direct his life to God, the first truth and the highest good… this harmonious integration of our human nature, carried through by personal effort and responsible activity, is destined for a higher state of perfection (Populorum Progressio,16). How seriously do I take environmental concerns? From Populorum Progressio (On The Development Of Peoples) 17. Civilisations spring up, flourish and die. As the waves of the sea gradually creep farther and farther in along the shoreline, so the human race inches its way forward through history.We are the heirs of earlier generations, and we reap benefits from the efforts of our contemporaries; we are under obligation to all.Therefore we cannot disregard the welfare of those who will come after us to increase the human family.The reality of human solidarity brings us not only benefits but also obligations.
Monday of Week Six Sustainability Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sisters Moon and Stars, all praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, all praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water, all praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire, all praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, all praise is yours, all glory, all honour and all blessing. To you alone, Most High, do they belong. St. Francis of Assisi – from the Canticle of the Sun (1182-1226)
From the Call to Creation I. It has become clear that care for the environment presents a major challenge for the whole of humanity in the 21st Century, requiring urgent action to protect our earthly home from further destruction. A way of life that disregards and damages God’s creation, forces the poor into greater poverty, and threatens the right of future generations to a healthy environment and to their fair share of the earth’s wealth and resources, is contrary to the vision of the Gospel. 88
Tuesday of Week Six Trade not aid! Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. James 3:13 In times of economic want it is commonplace and common sense to seek out a bargain, to cut back and make do.We must take care, however, that those who rely on our support are not left forsaken.The movement for equitable trade has made leaps and bounds over the past few years but could be threatened by the current turmoil.The conditions placed on loans and aid directed at poorer nations – here’s your money now buy our tractors – can have a crippling effect. If all we are doing, by ourselves or through our elected governments, is providing the poor with the mere means of survival, rather than the resources to truly live then we are doing a profound disservice. The Church has always ministered to the poor.Through the purchase of products which fund community building we can do our part. In a very real sense we would be encouraging a system which provides not merely financial assistance but affirms the dignity of those who participate. When helping others, do we make them dependent on our actions? Do we attach conditions to our giving? From Pope Benedict XVI,World Day of Peace Message, 2009 2. Fighting poverty requires attentive consideration of the complex phenomenon of globalisation… reference to globalisation should also alert us to the spiritual and moral implications of the question, urging us, in our dealings with the poor, to set out from the clear recognition that we all share in a single divine plan: we are called to form one family in which all – individuals, peoples and nations – model their behaviour according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility.
Tuesday of Week Six Trade not aid! Eternal Father, we offer you the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with all its love, all its sufferings and all its merits: to expiate all the sins we have committed this day, and during our lives; to purify the good we have done this day, and during our lives; to make up for the good we ought to have done and that we have neglected this day and in the past. Amen.
From Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) 31-32. Since men are social by nature, they must live together and consult each otherâ€™s interests. That men should recognise and perform their respective rights and duties is imperative to a well ordered societyâ€Ś it is useless to admit that a man has a right to the necessities of life, unless we also do all in our power to supply him with means sufficient for his livelihood. 90
Wednesday of Week Six Conflict and power For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Isaiah 9:6 The Genesis accounts of creation say that the world was not made for us but for God by God, we only arrived on day six! The conflicts that have arisen over ‘ownership’ of resources such as oil, gold and perhaps, in the future, conflict over water is inconsistent with the Christian ideal of human co-existence.The greed of some has led to tremendous progress in terms of material production but often at great cost to many.While we throw away food, others starve.While we spend money cleaning the water we flush down the toilet, others drink ‘water’ from muddy puddles. We may have expected an end to conflict at the end of the Cold War but we can readily appreciate that the world remains a dangerous place. Our Lord counselled us to peace – why then should we permit conflict to arise and allow preparations for conflict be made? How does our readiness to fight over resources help those in real need? Contemplating this we might justifiably ask what the Prince of Peace’s ‘government’ would look like? Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe. Amen. Pax Christi,World Peace Prayer
Thursday of Week Six Approach to technology Then they said, ‘Come let us build ourselves a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves…’ Genesis 11: 4 In the fall of the Tower at Babel we have an account of the beginnings of ethnic, cultural and national differences.We also have a demonstration of pride. In building a tower ‘with its top in the heavens’ the people of Babel were attempting to put themselves on a par with God.They wanted, as it were, God’s vantage point, God’s knowledge. Like the people at Babel we can become focussed on all sorts of false gods – reputation, power, technology, wealth, knowledge. Recently much has been made of the ‘battle’ between science and religion, faith and reason, though truly no real division exists. Faith and reason, so desired by the human heart, are ‘like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth’(Introduction, Fides et ratio).Technological innovation, likewise, is not bad in itself but should it make a person subservient to a process – reducing the person to the role of a tool (e.g. as with embryonic stem cells) or a cog in a machine – or make us forget our dependence on God, it should be critiqued. As at Babel, we can forget that it is our relationship to God our Father, and remembering that we are his, that is fundamental to human fulfilment. From Spe Salvi (In hope we are saved) 22. Progress… offers new possibilities for good, but it also opens up appalling possibilities for evil – possibilities that formerly did not exist. We have all witnessed the way in which progress, in the wrong hands, can become and has indeed become a terrifying progress in evil. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man’s ethical formation, in man’s inner growth (cf. Ephesians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 4:16), then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.
Thursday of Week Six Approach to technology Almighty Father, draw me ever closer to you, that I may love and honour you the source of all that is good, holy and true. Amen.
From Mater et Magistra 94. For although many unjust and inhuman economic and social imbalances still exist in our day, and there are still many errors affecting the activity, aims, structure and operation of economies the world over, it is an undeniable fact that, thanks to the driving impulse of scientific and technical advance, productive systems are today rapidly becoming more modernised and efficientâ€”more so than ever before. Hence a greater technical skill is required of the workers, and more exacting professional qualifications. Which means that they must be given more assistance, and more free time in which to complete their vocational training as well as to carry out more fittingly their cultural, moral and religious education. 93
Friday of Week Six Your Kingdom Come If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. Isaiah 58:10 Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the former Superior General of the Jesuits, tells the story of a staretz, a wise man in the Eastern Christian tradition, who yearned to begin the Our Father with the last verse so that one might become worthy to finish the prayer with the initial words – Our Father. In this way the staretz explained we would be following the path to Easter. ‘We begin in the desert with the temptation, we return to Egypt, then we travel the path of Exodus, through the stations of forgiveness and God’s manna, and by God’s will we attain the promised land, the Kingdom of God, where he communicates to us the mystery of his name: Our Father’. The Our Father, as Tertullian wrote, ‘expresses the whole gospel’ – love of both God and neighbour. It is always a prayer of Jesus and communion with him opens up its riches, allowing us to shine his light in the darkness. May we in our thoughts, words and deeds be made worthy of it. Though trials assail us and the Evil One tempts us grant us forgiveness and the ability to forgive. On our way to you, help us to see you in others grant us what we need and the ability to provide. In all things may your will be done, grant us love and humility so that when all is said and done, we may call you, as your children, with our brothers and sisters, ‘Our Father’.
Saturday of Week Six Tomorrow’s Second Reading Apocalypse 1:5-8 Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the First-born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. It is he who is coming on the clouds; everyone will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the races of the earth will mourn over him.This is the truth. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. Reflection Over the last six weeks we have considered how to live the gospel message in today’s world.We are living in a fast-paced, rapidly changing world and frequently the poor are ignored, the human person instrumentalised.We have reminded ourselves of the strong voice that the Church gives on these issues and the role that we can play in the betterment of the world today.The world needs Christ, the ‘faithful witness’, and we, from our privileged position of knowledge and experience of ‘he who is coming’, can provide a template for those around us.We live in the here and now, and the challenge laid down to us and our parishes is to truly live as leaven in the world, serving God’s will, seeking truth and providing the local and global community with the gospel message both proclaimed and acted out. (prayer overleaf)
Saturday of Week Six Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen. From Matthew 6:9-13 (see also Luke 11:2-4)
Social Teaching Documents Here follows a list of documents, not exhaustive, should you wish to explore Catholic Social Teaching further:
Rerum Novarum (Pope Leo XIII, 1891) On the Condition of Labour stresses the care for the poor, the rights of workers, the role of private property and the need for everyone to work together in order to build a just society. Quadragesimo Anno (Pope Pius XI, 1931) The Reconstruction of the Social Order speaks of the positive role the Church can play in economic and social affairs, highlighting the potential abuses of both capitalism and socialism. Here Pope Pius XI calls for the moral renovation of society coupled with action for justice based on love. Mater et Magistra (Pope John XXIII, 1961) Here Pope John XXIII confirms previous teaching on private initiative and just wages and goes on to urge the reconstruction of social relationships between the rich and the poor in the world, thus ‘internationalising’ Catholic Social Teaching. Pacem in Terris (Pope John XXIII, 1963) In Peace on Earth Pope John XXIII sketches out the rights and duties to be followed by all in order to found a world order based on truth, justice, love and freedom. Gaudium et Spes (Vatican II, 1965) This important document encourages the faithful to scrutinise the ‘signs of the times’ in the light of the gospel. The Council Fathers write about the opportunities and difficulties presented by technological and social change. The Church’s duty is the enhancement of human dignity and the common good.
Social Teaching Documents Populorum Progressio (Pope Paul VI, 1967) In The Development of the Peoples Pope Paul VI explores the nature of poverty and outlines a Christian vision incorporating equitable trade, universal charity, environmental concern and he concludes by equating ‘development’ with peace. Justice in the World (Synod of Bishops, 1971) This document reflects on the mission of God’s people to further justice in the world.The Church and its people are called to witness through lifestyle, education and international action. Evangelii Nuntiandi (Pope Paul VI, 1975) In Evangelisation in the Modern World Pope Paul VI writes that combating injustices and preaching liberation constitute essential elements of our proclamation of God’s Kingdom. Laborem Exercens (Pope John Paul II, 1981) On Human Work commemorates the 90th anniversary of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. In it Pope John Paul II affirms the dignity of work and states that work expresses and increases human dignity.The concluding paragraphs outline a spirituality of work. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (Pope John Paul II, 1988) Pope John Paul II, here, lays strong blame on global confrontation for the difficult realities experienced by poorer countries. He also writes of the need for solidarity, and an option for the poor. Centesimus Annus (Pope John Paul II, 1991) One Hundred Years after Rerum Novarum, Pope John Paul II relates current trends and events to previous documents in the Church’s social teaching emphasising human dignity and human rights.
Social Teaching Documents The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) The Catechism offers a succinct and authoritative compilation of the major themes and principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Evangelium Vitae (Pope John Paul II, 1995) Pope John Paul II, in The Gospel of Life, rallies against the ‘culture of death’ and affirms the inviolability and dignity of human life – reflecting on abortion, poverty, hunger, violence, euthanasia and war. The Common Good and the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching (Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales, 1996) This statement emphasises solidarity and subsidiarity and their role in promoting the common good. It addresses issues such as the right to life, the gap between rich and poor, fair and equitable development and challenges the British people to reclaim the common good as the national purpose. *Anticipated document on Catholic Social Teaching (Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales) *Anticipated encyclical on Catholic Social Teaching (Pope Benedict XVI) See also the various Messages given every year by the Pope on the World Day of Peace (1 January) – www.vatican.va