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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ALL SAINTS CHURCH
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