Reflection on 33rd Sunday: 15th November 2020

Commendation or critique of exploitation?1

The cultural lens through which we read Scripture is completely foreign to the cultural lens in which Scripture was originally written or read.2  We usually interpret the parable of the talents in today’s gospel and that of a similar scenario in Luke’s gospel (Lk 19), as an exhortation to develop our God-given gifts. Our heroes are the slaves who returned their talents with interest. We dismiss the unprofitable slave, but people of a peasant background recognize him as the hero of the parable. How can this be?3 He unmasks the fact that the master’s wealth is derived entirely from ruthless business practices, usury and the cynical view that the rich will only get richer while the poor become destitute. Unwilling to participate in this exploitation, this third slave took the money out of circulation, where it could no longer be used to dispossess another farmer and his family. The consequence of the third slave’s non-cooperation is banishment to the “outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” We have presumed this to be “hell,” and so perhaps it is—that is, the hell on earth experienced by those rejected by the dominant culture.4

Moreover, if we assume, as does the traditional interpretation, that the master is a figure for God, it is a severe portrait indeed. The man/nobleman in the parable is Archelaos, the son of Herod, who had gone on a three year furlough to Rome after becoming king. He expected his stewards to collect the same unfair taxes that he had. He wanted them to oppress the poor as he had, and then he would rake in the whole profit.5 The master represents the god of this age, the one who teaches and models the morally reprehensible behavior of stealing from the poor to make themselves rich. Jesus is teaching us that we can expect the same fate as the third slave when we try to live according to His new commandment.2

Church historians, as early as Eusebius (339 AD) have known of this interpretation of this parable and several commentators assert that it is understood more correctly as a cautionary tale about the world than as a parable about the kingdom of God. (In the original Greek the words “kingdom of heaven” do not appear in v.14—those words were inserted later.)4 The third slave is the one who is prepared to accept the consequences of his convictions. Nowadays we would call it civil disobedience. We would say that he is responding to a deeper truth; and this deeper truth always leads us into conflict with the superficial truth.5 We need the courage of the third slave to become God’s compassionate presence in the midst of pain and marginality.

Adapted  [1] Justin Ukpong, [2] Jeremy Myers, [3] Carl Schafer OFM[4]Ched Myers & EricDeBode, [5]Richard Rohr

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who, before going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

November – The Month of the Holy Souls

The Feast of All Souls is celebrated in commemoration of the faithful departed in Purgatory. The first record of this celebration took place in the Monastery of Cluny, France in 998. It was instituted by Abbot Odilo, a Benedictine, and this observance was soon adopted by other Benedictines, and by the Carthusians. Pope Sylvester II (1003) approved and recommended it. It was some time, though, before the secular clergy introduced it in the various dioceses. From the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries it gradually spread in France, Germany, England, and Spain, until finally, in the fourteenth century, Rome placed the day of the commemoration of all the faithful departed in the official books of the Western Church for November 2nd (or November 3rd if the 2nd falls on a Sunday).


One of the reasons for this could be that Autumn is a great time of year for death or being reminded of death as nature changes once again: the leaves are falling, the plants are dying and days grow shorter. Halloween was traditionally a great reminder of death, being on the eve of All Saints Day (All Hallows) and an opportunity to reflect on our own “saintliness”.

The month of November reminds us of our loved ones who have died, but also reminds us that we too face death. Forgetting the inevitability of death is not good for us. Nor is it good for those who have already died. If we do not remember death, then we will not remember to pray for the dead. And the dead desperately need our prayers. That is why we often refer to the dead in Purgatory as the Poor Souls.

The Book of Remembrance

The November Dead Lists are available for us to write the names of our family members and friends who have died and have gone before us. They may take different forms in different parishes and communities. Here, the names are collected and printed so they can be added to our Book of Remembrance. All of the souls named will be remembered daily during the prayers and Eucharist that is celebrated in the Oratory.

Prayers for the Holy Souls

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Amen

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace.

Amen.

Some Scriptural References on for the Holy Souls

2 Maccabees 12:38-46
Matthew 12:31-32
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
1 Peter 3:18-22
1 Peter 4:6

Gospel reflection for 32nd Sunday: 8th November 2020

Readiness

The context of today’s gospel is the in-between time of Jesus’ Ascension and the awaiting of his coming again, which his followers thought to be imminent. So the question of how to live in this in-between time – and always – is what this parable is speaking about. Keeping in mind that symbolic language seems to be Jesus’ preferred way of teaching spiritual realities, we could understand the oil to symbolise living in readiness and this oil is also clearly a metaphor for something that we and only we can do, that someone else can’t do for us and can’t give us.1 “The oil symbolises our own distinctive inner connection to the Source of eternal life. The truth of this oil is: you have to have your own. One cannot develop spiritually by taking the consciousness and action of another as your own.”2 So it is not that the wise virgins are selfish and refuse to share their oil; it’s that it simply cannot be done.

Today’s gospel begins, “The Kingdom of heaven is like this” and it is a way of Jesus describing what he meant when on another occasion he said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” We experience the kingdom of heaven within us when we live out of the same consciousness and mindset as Christ, and our actions flow from that same place. When we live “in Christ,” (to use the phrase St. Paul uses 164 times), we are rooted in that spiritual Source which sustains us when circumstances in our life become difficult or when what we hope and long for never seems to come. In our parable, these difficult life circumstances and delayed hopes are symbolised by the fact that the bridegroom is delayed in coming, and night has fallen.3 When we continually let go of what dims the light within us (when we trim the wicks) we will experience a deepening of our oneness with the true Source of life and light.

Each one of us makes our own journey; each one of us ‘meets the Bridegroom’ in our unique wonder-filled moments that come our way. We cannot make that journey for anyone else.4 No one can make that journey for us.

Adapted from: [1] Martha Kirkpatrick
[2] John Shea
[3] https://christchurchcanoncity.weebly.com/
[4] Daniel O’ Leary

Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

November: The Month of the Holy Souls

November is the month of the Holy Souls. During this month we pray especially for our departed friends and loved ones who are making their journey towards the eternal light of God.

As Catholics we believe that although those who have died are separated from us physically, they remain connected to us as members of the Church. Jesus has conquered death, and so those of us who are part of the Body of Christ here on earth remain a living part of that body even after our earthly life comes to a close. We know this to be true because when Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees who say there is no life after death Jesus replies ‘Have you not read what was said to you by God, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?” He is God not of the dead, but of the living.’ (Matt 22:31-32) Thus he implied that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead, but alive with God.

Scripture teaches that it is ‘a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins’ (2 Macc 12:46). We also get our first example of Christian prayer for the dead from the bible, St Paul prays for his departed friend Onesiphorus saying ‘May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day (the day of judgement).’ (2 Tim 1:18)

Following the example of Scripture, and Christian practice through the ages, we pray for all the faithful departed during this month. It is traditional to make a list of departed loved ones and remember them in prayer. During this extraordinary year, we, the Xaverian Community, have a Book of Remembrance in our Oratory. Please send us the names of those you wish to remember during this month and we will pray for them when we gather in prayer.

A Bishop Whose Heart Embraced the World

St. Guido Maria Conforti founded the Xaverian Missionaries in 1895 in Parma, Italy as a life-long dream to serve the mission of the church. His feast day is November 5th and is a feast day for we, Xaverians, throughout the world.

The son of Rinaldo and Antonia Adorni, Guido Maria was the eighth of ten children of an ancient family of Parma, Italy, landowners. The Conforti family was rooted in Parma since the Middle Ages and held administrative responsibilities for this region from the first half of the 14th century. They are remembered as early as 1285 and much information regarding their ancient roots is still available.

In 1872, Guido attended an elementary school in Parma, a Catholic school, of course. At age 7, young Guido was drawn to visit a large crucifix of Christ in a small chapel across from his school. He formed a relation this way with the person of Christ, as he later stated, He looked at me and said many things to me! … it is a miraculous crucifix: I owe my vocation to it.

This crucifix was his reference point: It speaks with an eloquence that has no equal. Years later, in seminary, while reading the biography of St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary who died at the gates of China in 1552, it became the inspiration for the missionary vocation of Guido. But his requests to be accepted as a missionary by Jesuits and Salesians, were rejected due to poor health and a nervous condition.

In 1876 he entered the seminary and established a friendship with the rector, the future Blessed Andrea Ferrari, a friendship that lasted for a life time, even when Ferrari became the Archbishop of Milan. Conforti was ordained in 1888 and in 1892, at age 27, was appointed a canon at the Cathedral of Parma. By 1896 he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese.

As a priest, and later as bishop, he worked out missionary calling, founding the Xaverian Missionaries on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, on December 3rd, 1895. Struggling with difficulties getting the foundation on its feet, and the challenge of a lifetime of poor health, he was a man of wisdom, insight and peace. He sought, and asked his missionaries to pursue a spirit of living faith which enables us to see God, seek God, love God in all things, intensifying our desire to spread his kingdom everywhere, and a calling to mission with a goal to make of humanity a single family.”

In 1899, Msgr. Conforti sent the first two missionaries to China, but by 1900, the Boxer Revolt caused the killing of many missionaries and other religious. In 1904, a second group of missionaries was sent to China. In the laying of the cornerstone of the mother house in 1900, Bishop Magani stated, From this nest the young eagles of the Gospel will fly to bring faith to those that still live in darkness… The dream of Conforti is still alive in Bangladesh, Burundi, Brazil, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Mozambique, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Spain, Thailand, Taiwan, the UK and the USA.

Inspired by St. Guido Maria Conforti and St. Francis Xavier, we, Xaverian Missionaries, serve to keep the local Church aware of, engaged with and connected to the missionary mandate of the universal Church, principally by witnessing Jesus to those who have yet to know Him.

Poetry and Book Club: News

Mike and the group have decided to change the subject of the next Zoom meeting on the 25th November. You may recall it was to have been John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”. Instead the group are going to share their own favourite book/author and say a few words about their choice.

If you are an avid reader and have not tried the group then why not give it a go? You can contact Mike, the group leader, by clicking here, scroll down to find the contact form.

The last word on the Grapes of Wrath came in an email from one of our community. He wrote…

I’d like to share my favourite Steinbeck story. After his death, his widow was touring Japan, signing books and so on. At some point a speech of thanks was given by a Japanese man with an imperfect grasp of English, who referred to his favourite Steinbeck book, “The Angry Raisins”.

Reflection on All Saints: 1st November 2020

Beggars for the things of the spirit

‘Just as the Ten Commandments are the core of the Jewish way of life and a law to follow, so the Beatitudes are the core of the Christian way of life. The Beatitudes are not commandments. They are not so much things to be done or rules to be kept as deep-down attitudes of mind. And, in fact, their observance is only possible with a deep love of God and of other people. They can never be kept fully – they are goals that are always calling us further. They never leave any room for complacency. One can never say about the Beatitudes what the rich man said to Jesus, namely, that he had kept all the commandments since he was young.’1

It is no coincidence that the first Beatitude is: Blessed are the poor in spirit, because theirs is the kingdom of God. ‘The Greek translation is “Those who become beggars for things of the spirit will live in fullness.” Now what does it mean to be a beggar? A beggar is a person who has nothing and knows he has nothing. Only he will experience human fullness who experiences the freedom of searching, of looking for, of being a beggar for the things of the spirit. This is a tremendous and beautiful statement of being on the way, being on a journey and never stopping, of never being satisfied.2

The beggar in us learns ‘to trust God more than the external circumstances of our lives.’3 The beggar in us gratefully receives every gift of insight, every gift of each enlightened moment, every gift of each experience of unconditional love, every gift of growth in awareness of our oneness with everyone and everything. Our response will then be to live the Beatitudes, to ‘cultivate and cherish what we own in common, especially in a time of fragmentation and in a time of a splintering of humanity.’2

Adapted: [1] Living space /Sacred Space website; [2] Pietro Archiati [3] Michael Marsh

The Gospel according to Matthew (5:1-12)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Lectio Divina: News

As one of our leaders use to say frequently, Lectio Divina is not a Biblical study, we don’t study the Word of God, but we let ourselves be read by the Word of God, Lectio, (reading), through the action of the Holy Spirit.

Then we ruminate upon the words the Holy Spirit illuminates in us so that we take from them what God wants to give us, meditatio (reflection).

Afterwards we leave our thinking aside and simply let our hearts speak to God. This response is inspired by our reflection on the Word of God, oratio (response).

The final part of our Lectio Divina is where we let go of our own ideas, plans, meditations and thoughts, in order to simply rest in the Word of God. We listen at the deepest level of our being to God who speaks within us with a still small voice, contemplatio (rest). As we listen, we are gradually transformed from within; and this has a profound effect on the way we actually live and the way we live is the test of the authenticity of our prayer. We must take what we read in the Word of God into our daily lives. This stage accompanies us through the week, rather than just for the session.

Our Lectio Divina for this Friday corresponds to All Saints.