Monday of week 31

Philippians 2:1-4; Psalm 130; Luke 14:12-14

Philippians, todays letter, was written from prison, to the gentile population of the town of Philippi. This was the first christian community to be established on the European mainland, in about 50 AD - just a couple of decades approximately since Jesus died and rose to save all of us - during one of St Pauls many voyages.

It is a very upbeat letter, and is to be recommended whenever one is in a time of trial especially in relationships with family or friends. There are many practical suggestions how to behave towards one another. The main theme perhaps, is that each needs to take individual responsibility for their response to each other - if a few behave well, then the community will grow and prosper spiritually. We are to model ourselves on Christ [2:8]. There are also warnings not to allow ourselves to be bullied into un-necessary practices that are not essential to the faith - in their day this was the issue of circumcision which Christians from Jewish roots considered essential, but really is not. Perhaps we can think of issues in our work life, home life, and indeed in the church, where tolerance of another's approach is much more important than insistence upon 'my' way of doing things being the only 'correct' way.

There is no doubt at all that St Paul loved this community and was concerned that it grew and flourished; St Paul would feel the same about you and I.

"A weaned child on its mother’s breast,

  even so is my soul" - Psalm 130


Saturday in Week 30

Philippians 1.18-26; Psalm 41; Luke 14.1, 7-11

They watched him closely.” Jesus’ public comments and actions were carefully monitored by adversaries who “wanted to find a way to entrap him” [Matthew 22.15], by those who were determined to kill him. [John 11.53] Yet his ministry was always devoted, both in word and deed, to bringing healing and liberation to all. Because of this fundamental commitment Jesus did not eschew interaction even with his antagonists.

The sabbath was a day of freedom from work for both humans and animals. It was extended into a sabbatical year every seven years when slaves were to be freed [Exodus 21.1-2], and after seven cycles of seven years (49 years), the 50th year was to be observed as a Jubilee, with all debts remitted. [Leviticus 25.8-55] To prevent over-planting, the land was to be kept fallow for one year in every seven. [Exodus 23.10-11] Millennia later, the Babylonian captivity was explained as 70 years of sabbaths for the holy land. [II Chronicles 36.21]

Sabbath wasn’t the ending of God’s work of creation and redemption; as Jesus himself put it “My Father goes on working, and so do I.” [John 5.17] The Evangelist comments that “that only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.” [5.18] Jesus’ equation of his ministry in one place and time with the ongoing and eternal work of God helps us see the events and choices of our every-day lives sub specie æternitatis, as the arena in which God, still, is working his purpose out.

Saints Simon & Jude

Ephesians 2.19-22; Psalm 18; Luke 6.12-19

Jesus sent out his disciples “two by two” [Luke 10.1] and the Church honours two such pairs (James the Less and Philip, and Simon and Jude) with joint feasts. We know little about Simon, who is only mentioned in the lists of the Twelve and not otherwise in the Gospels, but St Luke notes that he was “called the Zealot”, suggesting that he had been involved in the guerrilla movement set on extirpating the Roman colonial presence from the holy land of Israel. Tradition has it that he was martyred with Jude in Persia.

Jude (called “Thaddeus” in Matthew 10.3) gets a brief speaking part in John’s Gospel [14.22] when he asks Jesus a question at the Last Supper. Apart from that intervention we know little about him. He is the traditional author of the Epistle of St Jude in the New Testament.

Thursday in Week 30

Ephesians 6.10-20; Psalm 143; Luke 13.31-35

On the third day [I shall] obtain my end.” Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as an observant Jew, obedient to the commandments. It was “his custom” to go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day. [Luke 4.16; Mark 1.21] Nevertheless Jesus clearly foretold both his crucifixion and third-day resurrection from the dead. [Matthew 16.21] The resurrection, which was manifested “when the Sabbath was past” [Matthew 28.1], freed Jesus from the boundaries of both space and time which he had voluntarily accepted in his coming to earth in flesh.

Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. [John 20.1] Though some of the first generation of Christians continued to observe the Sabbath, it is clear that before the end of the first century AD most Christians had come to replace that observance with a celebration of the Lord’s Day. [Acts 20.7; Apocalypse 1.10] Jesus’ resurrection occurred on the “eighth” day of a momentous week of sacrifice and prayer, an eighth day which overwhelmed the cycles of human history. (For this reason baptismal fonts are ordinarily octagonal.)

Our Catholic “Sunday obligation” captures the centrality of the Lord’s Day. The remainder of the week flows from the gift of the first day. On this day we are invited to be gathered [Hebrews 10.25] under the protective wings of our heavenly Father. [Deuteronomy 32.11]

SS Chad & Cedd

Ephesians 6.1-9; Psalm 144; Luke 13.22-30

Four brothers from Northumbria—Cedd, Cynibil, Cælin and Chad—were all priests in the
th Century. Chad, who died at Lichfield on 2 March 672, was the first Bishop of Mercia; later he was made Bishop of Northumbria, establishing his see at York. Cedd, who died of the plague at Lastingham, Yorkshire, on this day in 664, was sent as a missionary bishop to the East Saxons; the (now Anglican) Cathedral of Chelmsford is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Peter and St Cedd. All four brothers were educated at Lindisfarne under Aidan and during lives of extensive missionary activity (Cedd in particular is credited with the founding of at least three monasteries) they continued to uphold Aidan’s ascetism and simplicity of life. St Cedd is remembered for his leadership at the Synod of Whitby in 664.

The Letter – A film with Pope Francis – November 30th 18:00

Review of our Viewing of The Letter

I’m told 41 chairs were put out and 40 people came! It felt like just enough, and certainly there was a good buzz. A lot of people had a hand in making it a success. I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone. John, for the seamless presentation. Sue for the monster envelope. Roger, for printing, pens, post-its – and for agreeing to collate responses. Caroline and Sue for tea/coffee, and biscuits. Anita for flowers and washing up. Stephanie for taxiing to Station. Jenny, Lois and friends for stall. Eleanor for collecting names. Everyone for coming. Oh, and the Laudato Si' Movement for the stimulating FILM!

Before the film, we had a moment of silence, and the prayer for the Earth from Laudato Si’ (#246). Afterwards, we heard from Elizabeth Shingler about her A level environment project: if you would like to help her with that by filling in the questionnaire she’s prepared, her email is

To close, John led us in a short reflection adapted from the Office of Readings for St Francis of Assisi, and a prayer: ‘Lord God, you made Saint Francis of Assisi Christ-like in his poverty and humility. Help us so to walk in his ways that, with joy and love, we may follow Christ your Son, and be united to you.’ is the film's website. From that you can watch the film in full, and sign up to get help in arranging your own screening. I found this easy to do for our group, but you should register in order to gain the benefit of the assistance available. I'm so pleased that other Cheltenham churches are showing interest in putting it on. NB No cost is involved save publicity.

Please reply to the Google group if you want to make any observations about the evening, positive or negative.

Though I think Eleanor did a good job with the attendance sheet, we failed to get many email addresses: let me know if you know those for people with blanks on the attached list please. Also, any errors or omissions.

I’ll be in touch again as soon as Roger has had time to go through the responses made by those present, collected in the great envelope! Meanwhile, make a note of the evening of 11th January for our follow up meeting, to discuss how we might take things forward locally.

Martin Davies

Screening of "The Letter" in the Old Priory, November 30th at 18:00

"The Letter" is a film which tells the story about the Pope’s call to care for our planet.  In 2015, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si’ (The Letter); an encyclical letter about the environmental crisis to every single person in the world. A few years later, four voices that have gone unheard in global conversations have been invited to an unprecedented dialogue with the Pope. Hailing from Senegal, the Amazon, India, and Hawai’i, they bring perspective and solutions from the poor, the indigenous, the youth, and wildlife into a conversation with Pope Francis himself. This documentary follows their journey to Rome and the extraordinary experiences that took place there, and is packed with powerfully moving personal stories alongside the latest information about the planetary crisis and the toll it’s taking on nature and people. Because, in the words of the Laudato Si’ Movement chair Lorna Gold, “once you know, you CANNOT look away.” #LaudatoSiFilm 

Tuesday in Week 30

Ephesians 5.21-33; Psalm 127; Luke 13.18-21

Obedience to God is a recurring theme in the Bible. The commandments, from the terse ten given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai—said to have been written “by the finger of God” [Exodus 31.18]—to the 613 Mitzvot (Hebrew for commandments), 248 positive and 365 negative, as enumerated by the Medieval Rabbi Maimonides (c1135-1204), form the foundation of Jewish life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the commandments are essential for spiritual health and growth and form the basis for social justice.

To obey comes a root word meaning “to hear.” (The same root is more clearly seen in words like auditorium or audio-visual.) That is as true of our relationships with other human beings as it is of our relationship with God. “Hear, O Israel” [Deuteronomy 6.4] is the fundamental commandment. God instructs us to hear, to listen to Jesus [Luke 9.35] because he is the perfect embodiment of God’s word, of his purpose. [John 1.1-14] We are to keep the commandments, as Jesus himself instructed us, in order to find life. [Matthew 19.16-19]

Yet obedience for Jesus is never simply legalism or adherence to the “letter” of the law. Jesus plunges to the heart of the law, helping us to understand the fullest implications of each of the commandments. [Matthew 5.20-48] Jesus aims by his teaching to lead us to perfection
[cf Leviticus 19.1-2] and thereby to the fulness of life. [John 10.10]

More news from Monze

14th October

Greetings from Monze

I have been here now for three weeks and I am preparing for my return home – time passes very quickly here.

Things are getting back to near normal after COVID. Fortunately the vaccines are now readily available in Zambia and most people that I have met have had a couple of doses. I had to show proof of vaccination before I could travel and when I entered the Country. Fortunately I managed

to squeeze in a fourth dose before I left the UK – along with a flu jab!

The other day I was given a grand tour of the new Cathedral built since my last visit, including the sacristy and other rooms at the back and upstairs. The cathedral is built in the shape of a dove and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Interestingly the Cathedral was able to be built thanks to funds from the Aid to the Church in Need, which is another cause supported by St. Gregory's church.

After the tour I met Bishop Raphael - our former link priest at Our Lady of the Wayside - who greeted me with a big hug. It was great to meet him again in his new role.

Chris Barrell

Monday in Week 30

Ephesians 4.32—5.8; Psalm 1; Luke 13.10-17

Several of the Gospel readings for this week are set on the Sabbath, and it may be helpful to consider the significance of this day.

The first chapter of Genesis narrates creation across a sequence of six days. Chapter 2 opens with the declaration that “On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he had rested after all his work of creating.” [Genesis 2.2-3] Several things may be noted: the seventh day was a day of completion, not a blank, inconsequential day. Further, God’s resting is an act of blessing, a gift. A much later commentator notes that rest is not only a time, but a space. “There must still be a place of rest reserved for God’s people, the seventh-day rest, since to reach the place of rest is to rest after your work, as God did after his.” [Hebrews 4.9-10]

Generations—indeed millennia—later the Torah of God commanded “For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you.” [Exodus 20.9-10] That universalised prohibition sets the stage for the Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus’ “work” of healing on the Sabbath. We shall continue our meditation on this theme throughout this week.