Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus
THAT IN ALL THINGS GOD MAY BE GLORIFIED
The Gospel from Saint Mark gives us two teachings. One is about wanting spiritual gifts. Jesus is clear that we can have spiritual gifts. What our role in the final Kingdom of Heaven will be is already prepared. Our role is to do the Father’s will in this life and to trust that what the Father gives us in heaven will be completely wonderful and beyond anything that we can imagine.
Probably many of us never think about our role in heaven or what we will do there. The challenge is simply to love God in this life and leave the future to the Lord. If we follow the Lord Jesus, we will surely suffer. Yet at the same time we will share more intimately in His life. In the life to come, we will not be jealous or even want to be anything other than we are. We will be loved beyond all that we can imagine.
So let us be servants to one another, seeking only to love one another and to do what will benefit the other. Let us walk with Jesus and accept the sufferings that must come if we are truly loving others.
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The Gospel today, from Saint Mark, tells the story of a very good young man who wants to follow Jesus and who has been deeply faithful to the teachings of God in his Jewish faith. Yes when Jesus asks the young man to give up all his wealth and come and follow HIM, then the young man goes away sad. What a strong teaching. God is always asking things of each of us.
In so many ways, we are like the rich young man: good and not yet totally committed. We don’t know what the young man did later on. Perhaps he ended up selling everything and giving it to the poor and following Jesus. But his first response was only sadness.
The story of the ten lepers is a testimony to the healing power of Jesus Christ. But it’s more than that. It’s a witness of gratitude from a condemned man who was brought from death to life.
This is what sets the story of the ten lepers apart from all the other healing stories of the New Testament, for of all those Jesus healed and raised from the dead, only this poor leper came back to say thank you. In this way, he serves as a paradigm for how we ought to live each day in gratitude for God’s redeeming love.
The leper was an outsider, someone whom society had made an outcast, yet he had the courage to make himself seen and go and say thankyou.
We are not outcasts and yet perhaps we forget to say thankyou. We can be quick to point out a fault, but how often do we go and thank someone for what they have done?
At the heart of our Catholic faith, is the belief that Jesus is both God and man, that Jesus was born for our salvation, that Jesus died for us and that Jesus rose from the dead. Always we are invited to know Jesus personally through the Scriptures and through the tradition that have come down to us and which we accept as revelation.
It is no easier today that it was in the time of Jesus to believe these truths of faith. We must meet the living Jesus before we can truly commit ourselves to Him. We should not think that those who were alive when Jesus was had it any easier than we do. They also found it difficult to believe that Jesus was God and that he rose from the dead after being put to death.
We come to meet Jesus personally in the Scriptures, by reading them and meditating on them. We come to meet Jesus personally when we meet the Christian community, the Church. We come to meet Jesus personally when we meet a believing Christian who is able to give a living witness to the Lord.
October's magazine is here for download, also the Together London Summer Newsletter.
In today’s Gospel, the connection between the bronze serpent in the desert and the cross of Christ becomes explicit. Jesus explains to Nicodemus that just as the serpent was raised up for the healing of the Israelites from the affliction of the serpents, so must Jesus (‘the Son of Man’) be raised up on the cross for the healing of his people from the affliction of sin.
Like the serpents, sin is deadly. It brings spiritual death, from which we must be healed to live. The cross of Christ is the healing remedy. For his sacrificial death atoned for our sins, offering us life in him. As the famous verse of John explains, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only son…..”
Just like in the scenario of the serpents, God does not leave his people stuck in the mud of sin. In his mercy and love, he offers healing (i.e. a solution to the problem we have got ourselves into). God does not cause us to sin. He did not create evil. We got ourselves into the mess of sin by choosing to rebel against God through disobeying his commandments. But God has offered the solution to get us out of the mess.
It is not certain exactly when or where Our Lady was born; but it was most likely about sixteen years before the birth of Jesus, and in Nazareth, where St Luke’s Gospel locates her, as she received God’s message from the angel. It was only after the Council of Ephesus in 431 – when Mary was designated as “Theotokos” (“Mother of God”) – that devotion to her spread far and wide in the Western Church. But well before that time, the exceptional circumstances of her birth were remembered and celebrated among the Christians of Palestine.
An ancient Christian text, the “Protevangelium of James” suggests that Mary was born near Jerusalem, since her parents, Joachim and Anne, brought her to the temple at a very early age. Today would be a good time to read that Protevangelium (pre-Gospel) story, to share its warm, devotional reflection upon the special grace attending Mary’s birth. The author, probably a Jewish Christian in the second century, tells of her parents eagerly longing for a child; and when eventually God granted her to them, they wished to dedicate her, body and soul, to the service of God in the temple.
She, who was to bring our Saviour into the world, would provide a loving tabernacle of flesh for the living God – for in her womb, by the power of the Spirit, the incarnate Son of God was conceived and borne As his greatness would reach to the ends of the earth, so (says the Protevangelium) the grace of God was visible in his mother, from the beginning.
We now return to Saint Mark, for the rest of the year. The Gospel brings out one of the central problems of all religion: the way in which peripheral laws and customs gradually take over the more fundamental commandments, and the way in which “externalism” and a concern with superficialities gradually suffocates a true “internal” faith which is lived out. Here we see the angry Jesus: he calls them “hypocrites”, as he condemns their “worthless worship”. He teaches a central truth: it is what comes from within that determines whether we are clean or unclean, good or evil. The commandments of God, which Moses puts before the people with such great pride, become the source of justice when they are given a place in the heart. When other rules and regulations about how to wash and what to eat displace them, then they are stifled and justice is practised no longer.
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Today, in the Gospel, Jesus, too, seeks to take his little group away to a quiet place and rest, only to find when their boat puts in to shore that a crowd of people are already there before them and are waiting for them. The planned holiday must now give way to the needs of this hungry people, who are hungry for more of what Jesus has to offer them. The sight of these people has a profound effect on Jesus. He is deeply moved by what he sees – people who seem lost and directionless, people who seem vulnerable to every wind that blows. Mark, writing this Gospel story, says the people were like sheep without a shepherd. Shepherds, as we know, provide leadership and good guidance for sheep, finding new pastures for them and keeping guard over them in the watches of the night, so that predators may not attack and kill them.
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Death is not acceptable in so much of modern culture. Yet death comes in so many ways to all of us. The only death to fear is the death of the soul. God created us to live but death has come into the world. Physical death. Everyone seems to want to fight against physical death. For us who follow the Lord Jesus, physical death is the gateway to eternal life, to living with the Lord Jesus forever.
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The kingdom of God is among us, but is not easy to see. Yet look again with eyes of faith and you will see it everywhere. As seed sprouts from the ground, so will grace grow in us when we turn to the Lord with a contrite heart.
Explaining this mysterious kingdom to us today, Jesus reminds us how seed sown on the ground takes root and sprouts and grows in its own mysterious way. Its power to grow and produce the food that feeds us is amazing. Even while we sleep that seed is growing. In a second example Jesus talks about the mustard seed and how small it is and yet how large a tree it becomes. We need not be worried if God’s ways seem to be unimpressive. The power that the word of God holds is beyond our reckoning.
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