Tuesday of Week 2 of Lent

Tuesday 15 March 2022: Isaiah 1:10,16-20; Psalm 49(50):8-9,16-17,21,23; Matthew 23:1-12

It is very obvious from Matthews' Gospel that not only were rulers of the early church (Matthew was writing about a Century after Christ) establishing little fiefdoms of their own - but that Matthew recalled Jesus's condemnation of exactly this kind of behaviour. Todays Gospel contains just about the most damning condemnation of the Pharisees and Scribes. Their position in the chair of Moses was a position due the utmost of respect - but their behaviour did not come up to that rightly exulted role.

We must remember that Jesus himself worked very much in the pharisaic tradition - there is a certain academic too-ing and fro-ing in his teaching that reflects the normal practice in his time of 'argument' on points of law. This method is common in academia and in the jewish faith to this day, and results in good understanding as the topic in question has been looked at from multiple viewpoints. So we have seen Jesus say "You have heard how it was said... but I say unto you..." several times. So it was not the faith nor the understanding of the Pharisees that Jesus is condemning here, but the practice of imposing this upon others who - more than likely - had not been trained in that way of life. The result being a people confused by one point then another, pulled this way and that, and made to feel inferior, not closer to one another, and above all, not closer to God. Note also - it was not the Scribes and Pharisees who took Jesus to Pilate asking for crucifixion, but the Sadducees.

We who are Parents - we are teachers - so we need to beware of this. We who are teachers, clergy or managers - we need to beware of this. We who are strong, skilled or inventive - we too need to beware of this. We should not exalt ourselves simply because we know more, can do more,  or can explain something better than another - we should use our skills to lift others up towards God.

Or - in one simple phrase: we should practice what we preach.

Saturday of Week 3 Per Annum (29th January): II Samuel 12.1-7,10-17; Psalm 50; Mark 4.35-41

St Mark’s style of writing is breathless, impetuous. Events crowd upon one another relentlessly; his favourite word is immediately. In 3.13 he summons 12 disciples to follow him, and once appointed there is no rest for any of them. Such crowds followed them that ‘they could not even have a meal.’ [3.20] Relatives of his ‘set out to take charge of him, convinced he was out of his mind.’ [3.21] He disputes with scribes from Jerusalem [3.22-30]; he teaches in parables. [4.1-34] Finally ‘with the coming of evening that same day’ [4.35] he and his disciples board a boat to cross Lake Galilee. A storm breaks out, but he sleeps through it, ‘his head on a cushion.’ [4.38] When the disciples awake him he asks ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ [4.40] At the end of a tumultuous day, not so different, perhaps, from many of our own days, his question at once challenges them—and us—and invites us to find rest in the conviction that ‘even the wind and the sea’ obey his voice.

St Thomas Aquinas (28th January): II Samuel 11.1-10,13-17; Psalm 50; Mark 4.26-34

Thomas (c1225-1274) was most likely born in the castle of Roccasecca, near Aquino. His family were people of means and his Uncle was Abbot of Monte Cassino, the oldest Benedictine monastery. Thomas was expected to succeed his uncle as Abbot.

He was enrolled in the University in Naples, where he came under the influence of the Dominican John of St Julian. Thomas determined to join the Dominicans, but his brothers seized him and brought him to his parents’ castle where he was held as a virtual prisoner for nearly a year, until, realising that they were unable to dissuade him, his mother allowed him to escape through a window. He joined the Dominicans and was sent to the University of Paris in 1245 to study with Albertus Magnus. The remainder of his life was divided between Paris and Italy, studying, lecturing and writing, until his early death at the age of 49.

Thomas combined an astonishing intellectual acumen with a profound holiness of life. His greatest work, the Summa Theologica, is a compendium of the theological teachings of the Catholic Church, intended as an instructional guide for students, lay and clergy alike. He never completed it. On 6th December 1273 (the feast of St Nicholas) he experienced a profound mystical vision after which he refused to dictate anything further to his scribes. ‘Compared to what I have seen,’ he declared, ‘all I have written is no more than a bundle of straw.’ He was riding to the Council of Lyons in February of 1274 when he struck his head on the branch of a tree. He never recovered from this injury and died on 7th March 1274. He was declared a Doctor (teacher) of the Church by Pope Pius V in 1567, just after the Council of Trent.

Saturday 22nd January 2022

Saint Vincent, Deacon, Martyr

St Vincent was born in Huesca and became a deacon of the church of Saragossa (Zaragoza). He was tortured to death in Valencia, in the persecution of Diocletian. After his death, his cult spread rapidly through the Roman Empire.

2 Samuel 1:1-4,11-12,17,19,23-27; Psalm 79(80):2-3,5-7; Mark 3:20-21

A very short Gospel reading today, but no Word of God ever falls to the ground that does not bear fruit...

Well - what would you feel if your Son was out stirring up a crowd, when you lived under an often brutal regime that might see this as a threat to their authority, and so seek to suppress him? You might be justified in being very afraid for him, or else, as written here, worried for his mental health. Note that Jesus us at home - where everyone would know him best as the son of a Carpenter, not as a Rabii or leader of a people.

Listen out for the next two days of readings: you will see a sandwich. Today, Jesus is (at best) not understood by his household and village. Tomorrow, Jesus is rejected by the scribes, and then Jesus says that he is closer to those who listen to him than he is to his household. This kind of sandwich, or 'inclusion' is a style meant to emphasise the meaning - that Jesus is not recognised in this world, other than by those who have heard and listened to him (that is, Christians like us). This emphasises the need for us to be visible and heard, so that others too may come to know Him.

In a day or two further we shall hear the palpable of the sower - let no seed fall to the ground that is not fruitful.

Friday 21st January 2022

Saint Agnes, Virgin, Martyr

1 Samuel 24:3-21; Psalm 56(57):2-4,6,11; Mark 3:13-19

As with so many of the early Roman martyrs, very little is now known about Agnes’ life. Partly this is because the details have been obscured by the light that shines from her martyrdom and the cult that it inspired, and partly because if you are martyred at the age of 12, your life has not really acquired that many details in any case. Agnes was filled with the love of God from an early age, vowed herself to celibacy, and when the opportunity of martyrdom arose, she did not hide away but stepped forward and took it.
  That is really all that is known: but it is enough. We who are used to compromising with the world at every turn, and would find excuses to avoid any inconveniences that our faith might cause us, let alone martyrdom (“yes, of course I would die for my faith in principle, but wouldn’t I be able to do more good in the long run if I stayed alive just now?”), should admire the simple wisdom of Agnes, realise that there are moments where compromise and moral ambiguity just will not do, and pray for the strength to live up to such moments when they happen.

Thursday 20th January 2022

Thursday of week 2 in Ordinary Time

This is also an optional memorial of St Fabian, Pope and Martyr

A frequent theme in the Gospel of Mark (and not exclusive to it) is the messianic secret - Jesus wishes for no one to speak of him as the Son of God. What does that phrase mean? The title Son of God is (in Hebrew) reserved to those who exercise, or substantiate the will and power of God. So the unclean spirits, yielding to the power in Jesus, naturaly might refer to him by that title. The Title also refers to Israel, God's beloved son, that he cherished - the people of God. At this point in the Gospel, the time is not yet ripe for Jesus to be proclaimed as both the saving redemptive power of God, and his Beloved son the King of this people.

Taken as an isolated incident, each casting out can be seen as the power of God working through this man Jesus - the Son of God meaning power - but taken in their totality the Gospels point unerringly to Jesus as the beloved Son and as our beloved King, the Messiah.

Heating Still Not Working :-(

As yet the Heating engineers have been unable to repair the heating system. Efforts are taking place to install temporary heaters, which will make a little difference, but please be prepared to wear warm clothes in case!

Advent Talks Canceled (Heating Problems….)

Once again the church heating system has failed. The engineers have already been called and are attending to the system during next week. However, this has meant that the advent talks planned for December 14th and 23rd have had to be cancelled. Fr David is planning to produce them (perhaps extended) in Lent.