Friday in Week 10 Per Annum

I Kings 19.9,11-16; Psalm 26; Matthew 5.27-32

Jesus continually stresses that discipleship (following Him) is not a kind of ‘Judaism-lite’, an easier and less onerous kind of lifestyle than that set forth in the Law of Moses. Indeed, he demands that his followers plumb the depths of the Law. So, in the verses that immediately precede today’s Gospel reading, he insists that they reflect on a whole variety of ways men and women have of killing each other.

Today’s reading examines the sixth commandment of the Decalogue. Adultery, of course, refers to marital infidelity, an injustice which ‘does injury to the sign of the covenant which the marriage bond is, transgresses the rights of the other spouse and undermines the institution of marriage … [and] compromises the good of human generation and the welfare of children who need their parents’ stable union.’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2380-1) Jesus’ teaching stresses that this injustice is not simply a matter of acts, but of words and, especially, of thoughts as well.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest

Hebrews 2.10-18; Psalm 39;  Matthew 26.36-42

Pope Benedict XVI designated the year from the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in 2009 to the same solemnity in 2010 as a Year for Priests, “meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world.” This new feast, added to the calendar of the Catholic Church in England and Wales in 2018, offers an opportunity for the whole Church to pray for her priests to grow into the image of Our Lord, the Eternal High Priest. [Hebrews 2.17]

As Mediator between God and human beings, fulfilling his Father’s will, he sacrificed himself once on the altar of the Cross as a saving Victim for the whole world. …[W]ith a brother’s kindness he chose, from among the children of Adam, men to augment the priesthood, so that, from the sacrifice continually renewed in the Church, streams of divine power might flow, whereby a new heaven and a new earth might be made, and throughout the whole universe there would be perfected what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the human heart.”

Wednesday in Week 10 Per Annum

I Kings 18.20-39; Psalm 15; Matthew 5.17-19

The central question of the first decades of the Church’s life was the relationship between Christian faith and the Law given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. Every one of the controversies narrated in the New Testament has this question at its heart, and differing answers are proposed. Should Christians, and especially those of Gentile background, be expected to first obey the law (and in particular its demand of male circumcision as a sign of adherence) or should the Law and its ceremonial prescriptions be jettisoned as outmoded? For St Paul, the Law had largely served its purpose. [Galatians 3.24-25] For others parts at least of the Law had a continuing role. [Acts 15.29]

Torah can connote a wide variety of ideas. It is less ‘law’ in the sense of statutes than ‘teaching’ or ‘instruction’. It can refer to the culture, the manners and morals, of a people, handed down from generation to generation. It is the manifestation of the presence of God in the midst of earthly human births and deaths and in all that transpires between them.
St Matthew has Jesus declare in this foundational first teaching that that
Torah is not contradicted by his coming to earth. He has not come to abolish all that has been believed and taught. Rather, his presence on earth manifests God’s continuing intention to draw those willing to conform their lives to Him into the deepest possible fellowship with Him.

Tuesday in Week 10 Per Annum

I Kings 17.7-16; Psalm 4; Matthew 5.13-16

St Matthew’s Gospel is organised around five great blocks of teaching, possibly in imitation of the five books of Moses, the first five books of the Old Testament. The first of these is conventionally known as the Sermon on the Mount, from the very first words of chapter 5: ‘Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples.’

A rabbi sat to teach. For Matthew the chief paradigm for understanding Jesus is Moses, the primordial teacher and law-giver of Israel. [cf Exodus 19.3-8] His disciples here are not the Twelve—they will only be appointed in chapter 10—but all those willing to be taught by him. They draw near because he sits down. They recognise his authority.

What he teaches is noteworthy. He doesn’t offer a theological disquisition on the nature of God; in contrast to St John’s Gospel he doesn’t give a series of ‘I am’ statements about himself. Instead the focus is on the disciples who have drawn near to hear him. ‘You are the light of the world’ he declares to them, and the substance of this first teaching is on the way they must live. If the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, Jesus has come to teach those prepared to listen how they should conduct themselves on earth.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

Acts 1.12-14; Psalm 86; John 19.25-34

One of the most evocative of traditional Orthodox icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary is called “Our Lady of the Sign.” She stands facing the observer, her arms open and raised in the gesture of prayer (the “orans” position). [cf Psalm 133.3; I Timothy 2.8] Her belly is great with her Child, who stands, fully formed, also facing the observer, his hand raised in blessing.

The “sign” of course refers to King Ahaz’s refusal to ask the Lord for a confirmatory sign as the prophet Isaiah [7.11-14] had encouraged him. The sign, as Isaiah averred, was the coming birth of a child who would be God in the midst of his people (Immanuel).

She is the mother of that child, the anointed (Christ) of God. But thereby she is also the mother of the Body of Christ, that is, the Church. [Colossians 1.18] Once, she had been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to effect his coming into the world. [Luke 1.34-35] After his return to the Father, standing with the apostles and other believers awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit
[Acts 1.4-5] she joins them in prayer. We greet her (
“Hail, Mary!”) and ask her prayers for us.

Senior Youth Group Meets 5th June

The senior youth group, targeted for those who are considering being confirmed in 2023 or who were confirmed in May 2022 has its inaugural meeting on 5th June in the Old Priory upstairs room.

Taize Breakfast, The Holy Spirit, and the Trinity will all be there!

Saints Charles Lwanga and his Companions, Martyrs

2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14; Psalm 123(124):2-5,7-8; Matthew 5:1-12

The Beatitudes speak of what we need to do to enter the kingdom of heaven - they are quite distinct from Luke's beatitudes which focus on what the poor, hungry and despised need. A tightly constructed form, the beatitudes were most unlikely to have been spoken in this style by Jesus. It seems probable that the Autor had access to a source known as 'The Sayings' and picked and used the ones needed for his purposes. They are mentioned by other early Christian writers but have disappeared over time.

Many Christians, Catholic and Protestant, were killed by the Ugandan king Mwanga. Some of them were servants in the king’s palace or even his personal attendants. Charles Lwanga and his twenty-one companions (the youngest, Kizito, was only 13) were executed for being Christians, for rebuking the king for his debauchery and for murdering an Anglican missionary, for “praying from a book,” and for refusing to allow themselves to be ritually sodomised by the king. They died between 1885 and 1887. Most of them were burned alive in a group after being tortured.
Within a year of their deaths, the number of catechumens in the country quadrupled. St Charles Lwanga is the patron of Catholic Action and of black African youth, and the Ugandan martyrs’ feast day is a public holiday in Uganda.

Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Martyrs

2 Corinthians 6:4-10; Psalm 123(124):2-5,7-8; John 17:11-19

This section of John's Gospel is known as 'The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus'. This prayer reminds us that God has given us his Word - the Word being the Son of God (Jesus). The word sanctifies us - we are therefore saved. But more - through this Word we sanctify others.

Saints Marcellinus and Peter

Pope St Damasus I dedicated his life to establishing and strengthening the Church after the great persecutions, and took much care over the restoration of the Roman catacombs and the proper burial of the martyrs there, including Marcellinus and Peter.
  As a boy, Damasus had heard the story of these martyrs from their executioner. Marcellinus was a priest, Peter was not. They were beheaded during the emperor Diocletian’s persecution, and buried on the Via Labicana outside Rome.
  After the persecutions, a basilica was built over the site of their tomb.

St Justin, Martyr

Acts 20:28-38; Psalm 67; John 17:11-19 (for the feria)

Salt and Light - we are certainly challenged to put our heads above the parapet in Jesus's command to us today. Place your light where it will do good - not under your bed (where some humourist might note the naked flame oil lamps of the day would be a fire risk!!). And salt - don't keep it to yourself, it will loose its saltiness. The salt available of the time was probably rock salt - so it makes sense once it has lost its taste to throw the remains on the path - it would have just become a sandy gravel.

It is very easy to hide our light - the true, full message of Jesus, in the face of an unwelcoming school, workplace or for some, even, their family home. The salt might be those key passages of the bible that have enlightened us and then sustained us in our faith journey. Keeping them to oneself is not what the Bible is for - we should share those passages with all, and not be afraid of the consequences.

Justin was noted for his willingness to share the truth.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25; Psalm 33; Matthew 5:13-19 (for the memorial)

Saint Justin, Martyr (- 165) - from, where you can also access the Office of Readings should you wish:
He was born at the beginning of the second century in Nablus, in Samaria, of a pagan Greek family. He was an earnest seeker after truth, and studied many systems of philosophy before being led, through Platonism, to Christianity. While remaining a layman, he accepted the duty of making the truth known, and travelled from place to place proclaiming the gospel. In 151 he travelled from Ephesus to Rome, where he opened a school of philosophy and wrote defences and expositions of Christianity, which have survived to this day and are the earliest known writings of their kind. In the persecution of 165, in the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, he was denounced as a Christian, arrested and beheaded. The transcript of his trial by the prefect of Rome, Rusticus, has also survived: it can be found in today’s Office of Readings.
  Justin treats the Greek philosophy that he studied as mostly true, but incomplete. In contrast to the Hebrew tendency to view God as making revelations to them and to no-one else, he follows the parable of the Sower, and sees God as sowing the seed of wisdom throughout the world, to grow wherever the soil would receive it. When we dispute with people who disagree with us, we would do well to assume that they too are seeking wisdom and have found truth of a kind. Since there is only one God and one Truth, it is our task not to contradict or belittle their achievement, but to show them how their strivings and searches are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. This is harder to do – not least, because we have to take the trouble to understand our own faith thoroughly – but it is ultimately more worthwhile.