RCIA – Journey in Faith Meeting 31 August

Meeting 31 August at 19:00

RCIA Journey in Faith - information meeting

The journey in faith group met in the Old Priory on 31 August.

We discussed "Who, or what is God" and the RCIA program in general. All welcome. For those who could not come, please watch the video on this link. This contains questions - please answer them for yourselves. If you want to discuss these please contact John.

Session 2: The Existence of God

St Aidan

I Thessalonians 3.7-13; Psalm 89; Matthew 24.42-51

Aidan was an Irish monk (his Irish name was Naomh Aodhán) who joined the community at Iona and was sent to preach the Gospel in Northumbria. He was consecrated bishop in 635 and founded a monastic cathedral on the island of Lindisfarne, with the support of the pious King, St Oswald, and his successor, St Oswin. He lived a strictly ascetic life and travelled ceaselessly through the countryside, patiently converting both the Anglo-Saxon nobility and the socially disenfranchised (including children and slaves) by his gentle teaching and evident interest in their lives and communities. Schools, churches and monasteries were built throughout Northumbria, many made possible by Aidan’s own benevolence.

After St Aidan’s death in 651 the ‘Holy Island’ of Lindisfarne continued to produce many saints—holy abbots, bishops, teachers and missionaries—who were instrumental in the evangelisation of northern England and who made Lindisfarne the cradle of English Christianity, until the monastery was destroyed by Viking invaders around 793.

SS Margaret Clitherow, Anne Line & Margaret Ward

I Thess 2.9-13; Ps 138; Matthew 23.27-32

These three female martyrs are among the 40 canonised Reformation-era martyrs of England and Wales. They harboured priests and St Margaret Ward assisted the escape of a priest from Bridewell prison. St Margaret Clitherow and St Anne Line were both converts to Catholicism. St Margaret Clitherow was crushed to death in York at the age of 30; St Anne Line and
St Margaret Ward were both hanged at Tyburn.
Their courage and perseverance inspire us to remain faithful in our much less strenuous time.

Passion of St John Baptist

I Thessalonians 2.1-8; Psalm 138; Mark 6.17-29

Our modern liturgical books seem to bow to contemporary sensitivities by abandoning this feast’s grisly traditional title: The Beheading of John Baptist. In all four Gospels John the Baptiser is used as a kind of ‘foil’ or contrast to Jesus: their ministries pursue different goals. Yet it is clear that the tyrannical and unjust treatment of John had a profound effect on Jesus’ disciples—some of whom had first been John’s disciples [John 1.35]—and it came to seem a dramatic foreshadowing of the treatment that would be visited upon Jesus. And so there is an aptness to terming John’s macabre end his ‘Passion’.

The word, of course, comes from the Latin word passus, meaning ‘suffered’; we recite each Sunday in the Creed that Our Lord passus et sepultus est: he suffered and was buried. A passionate person displays strong feeling. Yet both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ ‘Passions’ are characterised by reticence [cf Mark 15.5] and acquiescence.

The beheading of John Baptist reminds us of the lengths to which despotic rulers can go to preserve their power. From the beginning of his ministry John devoted himself to ‘calling out’ such misuse of authority. [cf Luke 3.12-14] Our meditation on John’s Passion invites us to consider how we use the authority given to us and to eschew every tendency we may have to cruelty and oppression.

St Augustine of Hippo

I Thessalonians 1.1-5,8-10; Ps 149; Matthew 23.13-22

Augustine (354-430) was born in Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in the Roman province of Numidia. His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian; his father, Patricius, was a pagan and a Roman citizen who converted to Christianity on his deathbed. The family were heavily Romanised Berbers; they spoke only Latin at home. At the age of 17 Augustine went to Carthage to study rhetoric. Despite his mother’s example he lived a hedonistic life and fathered a child. But his studies also kindled in him a love of philosophy, and he joined the Manichaean sect. Convinced that the best and brightest rhetoricians were in Rome, he moved there and established a school. Manichaean friends introduced him to Symmachus, the prefect of Rome, who had been asked to find a rhetoric professor for the imperial court at Milan. He recommended Augustine, and at the age of 30 Augustine had won the most distinguished academic position in the western world.

At Milan Augustine came under the influence of Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan but also a distinguished rhetorician. Augustine was converted to Christianity and Ambrose baptised him at the Easter Vigil of 387. Later that year he returned to Africa and turned his family home into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends. In 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regis (now Annaba, Algeria). In 395 he became Bishop of Hippo Regis and worked tirelessly to convert the people of Hippo to Christianity. He wrote and preached energetically in defence of the faith, making him one of the most influential Doctors (teachers) of the whole history of the Church. In the spring of 430 Vandals besieged Hippo. Augustine died on 28 August 430, and he was canonised by popular acclaim.

Saturday of week 20

Ruth 2:1-3,8-11,4:13-17; Psalm 127(128):1-5; Matthew 23:1-12

The book of Ruth is short, and comes as a pleasant interlude between the turbulent and sometimes barbaric writing in Judges, and the (relative) peace and stability that came with the Kings. Todays reading is much cut about, missing out key facts about others who could more legitimately have fathered the grandfather of the future King David. It is well worth reading the whole book in one sitting, if you can get the chance. You will need to remember that when a husband died, then the brothers in law had a duty to raise sons from the widow, so that she has someone to care for her - especially if she has been left childless, or her sons have already died (as in the case of Ruth).

In this case however, although a kinsman of her former husband was available, he did not want to pass his inheritance down Ruth's family line - so he gave over his 'right' or duty to Boaz.

Despite the report that Boaz was only physically the Father of Obed, the short Genealogy at the end of the book says that Boaz was legitimately the father of Obed, Father of Jesse, Father of David.

It is noticeable how the relationships between the women in the book of Ruth are so positive.

Friday of week 20

Ruth 1:1,3-6,14-16,22; Psalm 145(146):5-10; Matthew 22:34-40

In many communities, workplaces and homes, if one asks 'what is the Golden Rule of Life' a typical answer might be 'do not do unto others, what you would not like to be done to yourself'. At first sight a sensible rule to control society - it is however intensely selfish, as it is based around what you would find acceptable to yourself.

Jesus' answer, so well known, is strikingly different. "Love God First, then your Neighbour As Yourself".

The key is 'Love'. This is the selfless love that you might see in a parent for their child, a child caring for their aged parent, a nurse for a sick patient, a Priest hearing the confession of a contrite sinner. We are not asked to honour or to obey God - but to Love. And we are asked to Love each other with that same Love.

If we did that, then we would have no fear of breaking any commandment - there would be no notion in our hearts to do so.

Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Apocalypse 21:9-14; Psalm 144(145):10-13a,17-18; John 1:45-51

Given that today is the Feast of Bartholomew, it might seem surprising that the reading given, mentions Nathanael instead. Bartholemew is listed as one of the twelve apostles in all three of the synoptic gospels, and not at all in John's Gospel - where however Nathanael is mentioned. The prefix 'Bart' typically means 'son of' so Bartholomew might be the equivalent to our use of surnames, i.e. his father was named Tholomew or Tolmei.

Nathanael means 'Gift of God' or perhaps 'Giver of God' and when Jesus says that he had seen him 'under the fig tree' this would be a common Judaic reference to Nathanael studying the Torah.

The reporting of Nathanael saying 'You are the Son of God, the king of Israel' early in John's Gospel, places Nathanael as the first person to publicly state who Jesus was. (Note some caution is needed, as the order of events in biblical writings does not necessarily relate to their chronological order).

According to church tradition, Nathanael Bartholomew took a copy of Matthew's Gospel with him to North India, bringing the good news there, and he was martyred in Albania.

Wednesday of week 20

Judges 9:6-15; Psalm 20(21):2-7; Matthew 20:1-16

The brief extract from Judges today is no more than a taunt by a victorious king over his defeated enemies. But it is somewhat satirical - how could a low bushy thorn possibly place the tall cedars of lebanon in its shade? So it proves to be, as the cycle of fidelity to rebellion to punishment to conversion to rescue  continues through this weeks readings from Judges.

The rather better known story from Mark's Gospel, about the camel and the eye of the needle, has often been justified by the presence of narrow gateways through the old walls of Jerusalem: all you have to do is remove the burden of the camel's goods to get her in the city. The absurdity of the idea of squeezing a camel through the space fit for a thread, is what is needed - that is how hard it really is for a person obsessed by their possessions to get into heaven.

Both stories use hyperbole - deliberate use of exaggeration to make a key point stick in our memory. The more bizarre the image, the better it works for that purpose.