St Peter Damian (21st February)

James 3.13-18; Psalm 18; Mark 9.14-29

Peter Damian (1007-72) was born at Ravenna to a large and noble, though poor, family. He studied theology and canon law at Ravenna, then at Faenza, and finally at the University of Parma. In 1035, however, he abandoned teaching and joined the hermit monks of Fonte Avellana, near Gubbio, seeking a life of solitude and prayer. In 1043 he became Prior of Fonte Avellana and he continued in that position until his death.

Although living in the solitude of the cloister, Peter closely observed the fortunes of the Church at large and he wrote actively about the reform of abuses in the church, publishing a steady stream of open letters in particular about the vices of priests and bishops. In November 1057 Pope Stephen IX made him Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. Dante placed him in one of the highest circles of Pardiso as a great predecessor of St Francis of Assisi. In 1828 Pope Leo XII declared him a Doctor (teacher) of the Church.

Saturday of Week 6 in Ordinary Time

James 3:1-10; Psalm 11(12):2-5,7-8; Mark 9:2-13

This Saturday, and the 2nd Sunday of Lent, both feature the transfiguration in the Gosple. Today - from Mark, and the 2nd Sunday of Lent we hear from Luke (Luke 9:28-36). The two accounts are strikingly similar, with almost exactly the same words - so one suspects one was copied from another. The Transfiguration in Matthews' Gospel is also very much the same; John does not seem to include the transfiguration at all - but then, the whole of John's Gospel is more transcendental than the others - certainly less historical accurate, but with more layers of meaning. Instead, there is a meditative discourse in the second half of chapter 12, during which God's voice is heard, and Jesus explains this is for us to hear.

The first three, Matthew, Mark nd Luke are known as the Synoptic Gosples, as they do contain very much the same material - there are some omissions here, and some additions there. Considerable attention has been paid to the order in which they were composed - using internal cross references, references to other historical events which can be dated, etc. Matthew (45) uses and expands on Mark(39 - 42), so is generally reckoned to have been written after, while Luke is later again (60). Perhaps of more importance is that they were writing for different audiences.

Until 1967 the Gospel rad most frequently in Mass was Matthew - perhaps because St Augustine placed Mathew as an earlier text, and therefore of more significance than the others. Vatican II has given us a much richer experience in our liturgies as we now have the three year cycle, and most of all four Gospels are heard over that time.

We are so blessed to have all four, and to have a richness of translations and commentaries to accompany them.

James 3:1-10; Psalm 11(12):2-5,7-8; Mark 9:2-13

This Saturday, and the 2nd Sunday of Lent, both feature the transfiguration in the Gosple. Today - from Mark, and the 2nd Sunday of Lent we hear from Luke (Luke 9:28-36). The two accounts are strikingly similar, with almost exactly the same words - so one suspects one was copied from another. The Transfiguration in Matthews' Gospel is also very much the same; John does not include the transfiguration at all - but then, the whole of John's Gospel is more transcendental than the others - certainly less historical accurate, but with more layers of meaning.

The first three, Matthew, Mark nd Luke are known as the Synoptic Gosples, as they do contain very much the same material - there are some omissions here, and some additions there. Considerable attention has been paid to the order in which they were composed - using internal cross references, references to other historical events which can be dated, etc. Matthew uses and expands on Mark, so is generally reckoned to have been written after, while Luke is later again. Perhaps of more importance is that they were writing for different audiences. Until 1967 the Gospel rad most frequently in Mass was Matthew - perhaps because St Augustine placed Mathew as an earlier text, and therefore of more significance than the others. Vatican II has given us a much richer experience in our liturgies as we now have the three year cycle, and most of all four Gospels are heard over that time.

We are so blessed to have all four, and to have a richness of translations and commentaries to accompany them.

Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

Mark 9:2-13

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
  As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True,’ he said ‘Elijah is to come first and to see that everything is as it should be; yet how is it that the scriptures say about the Son of Man that he is to suffer grievously and be treated with contempt? However, I tell you that Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’

Thursday of Week 6 in Ordinary Time

James 2:1-9; Psalm 33(34):2-7; Mark 8:27-33

Todays reading from Mark sets a pivotal moment in church history. Up to now, Jesus has been talking about the good news of the new kingdom, and how we should live in it - how we should relate to each other. Now - the realisation sets in, that Jesus IS the King, the promised Messiah. It will soon become obvious that this King, and the new kingdom will be very different from that expected by the Apostles and Disciples of Jesus. Note also Mark reports TWO titles for Jesus - Christ and Messiah. Christos is from the Greek, Messiah from Hebrew. They both mean the same thing - so Mark is thereby showing that Jesus is come for all peoples.

Over the next few verses of his Gospel, Mark shows us three occasions in which Jesus taught that the route is through suffering - grievous suffering at the hands of mankind, and those around him reject this three times. The same number of times that Peter, despite being the first to recognise who Jesus is, denies him on the night of the crucifixtion. We also, perhaps, often are indignant at suffering - either our own or that of others - and we need to learn to accept that this is God's way. And always - God will see us through this difficult, narrow path that we must follow. We all must suffer at some point in our lives: but Jesus has been, is and will always be with us in our suffering.

Wednesday of week 6 in Ordinary Time

James 1:19-27; Psalm 14(15):2-5; Mark 8:22-26

The healing of the blind man is deftly placed just before tomorrows' Gospel, in which Peter is enabled to see who Christ truly is.Pay attention to how Jesus heals the blindness. He uses physical means - crafting some kind of healing paste from spittle and dust. The healing also takes two stages. After the first, the blind man can see dimly, and reports seeing people like trees walking around (or, it could be trees walking around like people - a rather different image, but the greek could mean either). A second treatment is needed, to effect a full healing. This is unique in the synoptic Gospels - Jesus' healings are otherwise instant and complete. Mark, who always carefully structures his words,  is pre-figuring the two stage revelation of who Jesus is. Tomorrow, we hear Peter exclaiming 'you are Christ, the Messiah' but it is not till later, in the court at dawn when the rooster crows, and Peter breaks down and weeps bitterly, that he fully knows what being Messiah means. Peter's in-sight into who Jesus is takes that extended time to be full - and Peter lived and worked with Jesus for several years. We might reasonably expect this to take us some time - and to become gradually more and more clear. Mark is showing us that this is OK. We get the same message elsewhere - now I see as in a mirror darkly, but then we shall see him face to face and in the light. (1 Corr 13 'Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.'.) We may well spend a lifetime looking into that mirror - we must be patient and persevere.

 

GARAS Clothing

The response to the appeal has been amazingly generous.
We now only need mens shoes, hats, gloves and scarves.
All other clothing has been donated.
There will be a drop-off facility for donations again on Friday 18th. February 10am-12 noon at St. Thomas More Church.
Thank you for your donations and thank you to all volunteers who have helped in any way.
Bill Flynn

Tuesday of week 6 in Ordinary Time

James 1:12-18; Psalm 93(94):12-15,18-19; Mark 8:14-21

Mark again rebukes his disciples for their lack of understanding, and this is once again, on the Sea of Galilee. This repetition shows us that the point is important.

Why must we consider these mis-understandings, or even refusals to understand? The difficulty to understand, once worked through, does lead to a fuller appreciation of what we learn. Some suffering, and some effort to persevere are essential. Not - ever - an unbearable suffering is asked of us. But we must wrestle with our belief - or unbelief. More of which in a day or two... Jesus did not come to bring us instant understanding and comfort. He came to show us our individual path to salvation.

We must remember, when we are struggling with our unbelief, that Our Lord is always going to be there to support us. Todays Psalm is most encouraging in that respect:

The Lord will not abandon his people
  nor forsake those who are his own;
for judgement shall again be just
  and all true hearts shall uphold it.

 

Saints Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, Bishop – Feast

Acts 13:46-49; Psalm 116(117); Luke 10:1-9

St Cyril and St Methodius were brothers, who were sent to Moravia to evangelise. They are noted for the invention of Glagolithic and possibly also the Cyrillic alphabets, and translated the bible and liturgical texts into the Slavonic languages. Like many who evangelise their lives were difficult at times facing much opposition, but they persevered. The first reading today, proclaims "I have made you a light for the nations" and may remind us of the parable of the lantern hidden under a cover, or even under a bed - something of a fire risk as lanterns of the day had naked flames! We are all of us, baptised as prophets, and the task for the church - for us all - is to evangelise. Do not be discouraged should you feel that your particular light is a little dim - the smallest of lights in a dark place is very welcome.

Of course - much will be made this day of St Valentine. He is no longer in the cannon of saints - but the legend of his enabling christians to marry despite oppression can be an inspiration. It is indeed a blessing to give and receive a small token of love on this day. Remember in your prayers the many who for whatever reason have not experienced love today - a particularly good day to perform some random act of kindness (especially if you are able to do so anonymously).

 

 

Saturday of Week 5 Per Annum

12th February: I Kings 12.26-32; 13.33-34; Ps 105; Mark 8.1-10

Rehoboam was Solomon’s son. When he succeeded to his father’s throne a delegation asked him to ‘lighten your father’s harsh tyranny now, and the weight of the burden he laid on us, and we will serve you.’ Rehoboam responded maladroitly with the boast that ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! My father made you bear a heavy burden. I will make it heavier still. My father beat you with whips; I am going to beat you with scourges.’ [I Kings 12.4, 10-11, 14] The people’s response was schism from the House of David.

Jeroboam did understand, though, that key to David’s political success had been his religious policy. David made Jerusalem, rather than any local shrine, to be the spiritual as well as the political heart of his kingdom. Jeroboam tries to imitate this achievement by establishing a northern temple in Beth-el, where anciently God had appeared to the patriarch Jacob and had renewed with him his covenant with Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. [Genesis 28.19] Since the Levitical priests remained in Jerusalem Jeroboam created a new hierarchy. Apparently ignorant of the sin of Aaron [Exodus 32] he manufactured golden calves as the locus of worship. This sacrilege ‘made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth.’