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Jesus and the Pharisees

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Luke 13:10–17


Today’s Scripture packs two strikingly different ideas into one reading: healing and hypocrisy. The healing is of a woman who had been crippled for eighieen years, and the hypocrisy is on the part of a synagogue official who cannot see what is happening right before his eyes – a woman being miraculously freed from her terrible pain and suffering. The synagogue ruler had been too crippled by the letter of the law to recognize the true spirit of the law.


The Pharisees allowed animals to be taken care of on the Sabbath (see Luke 14:5), so why should they begrudge a sick woman this extraordinary and wonderful gift of God? Such harsh, legalistic and quite frankly mean behaviour from so-called religious people is staggering, isn’t it? What had happened to their understanding of God and their understanding of the dignity of the human person to make them think like this?


Yet it is perhaps too easy to be judgemental and harsh towards the Pharisees. We can find ourselves saying to God, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like these Pharisees because I would not let myself become so confused and legalistic that I applied the letter and not the spirit of the law.’ To think like this is, of course, to have fallen into the same trap! Make no mistake, Jesus loved the Pharisees – it is obvious from his eagerness to correct their thinking.


To live in the Spirit we need to be very clear about two things: the first is that God loves everybody, and the second is that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and God wants the best for everybody. The Pharisees made the error of assuming they knew how God thought, but they could not have been more wrong. Jesus came to set us all free because we all need to be set free. The Pharisees’ religion had made them narrow-minded and mean-spirited, whereas the Spirit makes us big-hearted and generous. The Pharisees’ religion had made them hypocrites (a very real tension for all religious people), but the Spirit convicts us of our sin and makes us grateful and forgiven sinners in continual need of God’s healing and mercy.


The all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Saviour, heals both body and soul.  (St Clement of Alexandria)


Chris


From Bible Alive


Ephesians 4:32-56 • Psalm 1:1–6 • Luke 13:10–17


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Bishop David's letter to his priests

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Bishop David has written to priests to pass his thanks onto volunteers who are stewarding in our catholic churches and making it possible for them to remain open.  Recognising the struggle many churches face to find volunteers and the pressure on those who do volunteer as the pandemic continues much longer than any of anticipated, Bishop David writes:

 

My dear friends in Christ,

Greetings to you in the name of our Servant Lord!  I want to write to you to express my personal gratitude for your service as a steward in your parish community. It is through your personal generosity and dedication that we have been able to reopen our churches for prayer, and to keep them open, for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other sacraments.

Your patient attention to preparing our churches, through regular cleaning, assistance with hand gel and guidance of visitors through the one-way systems in place, whilst ensuring social distancing, have made a real difference. Parishioners are able to come back to church, feeling safe and secure in these still very challenging times.

I have seen for myself, the effective and efficient manner in which you have carried out your stewardship. One might almost say in a very professional way. This has ensured that our churches are some of the most safest places and buildings throughout the land for people to enter.

All this is very necessary for us to continue. I know that it is difficult for some parish communities to find volunteers. None of us have realised how long this phase of the pandemic would be. I want to encourage you to continue to volunteer, and I encourage our priests to seek other volunteers to help alongside you with this indispensable ministry. I also appreciate how difficult your role can be at times, when you are challenged by those who do not wish to follow the guidelines.

From time to time, we hear talk of what is essential and non-essential. Unfortunately, there is no account in this discourse of the essential nature of our common lives as Disciples of Christ. For us as Catholics, our participation in Holy Mass and the sacraments does not belong to the non-essential. This coming together as a community, called out of darkness into light, is what defines us. In this regard, your volunteer ministry as stewards is a great blessing for us all.

Please be assured of my remembrance of you in my daily Rosary, and please do keep me in your prayers.

Yours devotedly in Christ,

Bishop David 

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Jesus and the Pharisees

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Luke 11:47–52 • St Teresa of Avila

Woe to you Pharisees

Make no mistake and be under no illusion, the Pharisees and Jesus were on a collision course and it was never going to be pretty — the gloves were off, the hostility was out in the open.  Jesus did not hold back but called them to account for the blood of the prophets from Abel, the son of Adam and Eve (Gen. 4), to Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, the chief priest during the reign of Kingjoash of Judah (837–800 BC), who was killed in the temple when he tried to call the nation back to true worship (see 2 Chron. 24:17–22).  Jesus’s fate was sealed, his path to the cross certain, as the religious establishment of the day was rocked to its very core by his exposure of their hypocrisy.

The Pharisees built tombs for the prophets their forefathers had persecuted and martyred; they claimed to speak for God but resisted the words. spoken by the prophets. Injesus we see the culmination of the ministry of every prophet of old. Israel’s prophets spoke about Christ and always pointed to Christ. Now someone greater than the prophets, the Christ, was among them, and so began a profound resistance which would culminate in the plot to kill him.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees because their hearts had become hard and resistant to God’s plan of salvation. They had become closed to the work of God in their midst and in their lives.

True, we might not kill the prophets but we can kill the work of God by being hard and resistant to what the Spirit is doing in our lives and in our Church. The Spirit is at work today in many individuals and movements or streams, such as the Charismatic movement, the Neocathechumenate, Opus Dei, Focolare, the MaltFriscans, Youth 2000 and, last but not least, the sincere young people in our parishes who are ever eager to sing at Mass, play musical instruments and participate in the life of the Church. We must guard our hearts against our own prejudice and preferences – the Spirit blows where the Spirit wills, and we must learn to celebrate his work in our midst and not undermine it or even kill it.

Heavenly Father, by your grace may we resist and overcome ways of thinking which limit the work of the Spirit, and may we rejoice in what you are doing in the Church today.

Ephesians 1:1–10 • Psalm 97(98) • Luke 11:47–54

Chris

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Occupy your mind with good thoughts

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St John Henry Newman (Feast)

2 Timothy 1:1–5 • Psalm 95 (96) • John 15:9–17

There are two extremes into which people fall when it comes to their attitude to evil and the devil. At one end of the spectrum is to believe in the devil and evil excessively, and at the other not to believe in evil or the devil at all — with plenty of people fitting somewhere in-between!  This is as true in our age as any other, and we have ample evidence of excessive belief in innumerable blockbuster films and books and even weekend courses on the occult and demons.

We, for our part, are guided and governed by the Scriptures and the wisdom of the Church passed down through the ages. The Church has always affirmed that the devil and his realm is a reality (see, e. g. Catechism of the Catholic Church 407) which we ignore at our peril.  Jesus is the strong man who by his death and resurrection has redeemed the world.  By his cross, in his name and through his blood we who have received the grace of baptism are protected and kept safe, but we need to call upon this shield of God’s grace.

We are invited to enter into the spiritual battle which is waged every day. This notion of spiritual conflict or engaging the enemy can seem rather obscure or remote, especially when the daily  struggle to deal with the problems of this world is hard enough.  Perhaps the great saint and martyr Thomas More shed some light on' this when he said: “Occupy your minds with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones; unoccupied they cannot be.”  Being passive and undisciplined in our thinking and in our behaviour can open us up to the devil and his ways. The devil delights in an idleness of mind and a passivity which does not actively take up the good fight of faith.

A mind filled with God’s truth and God’s thoughts is a mind which is bolstering and protecting itself against the snares and attacks of the Evil One. God created us with the gift of free Will, and the greatest challenge we face every day is to choose God and reject the devil, to choose the good and repel evil, and to stand firm in faith.

Lord Jesus, protect us from the snares, wiles and schemes of the Evil One.  I call upon the power of your name, cross and blood, that I may live more and more in your presence.

Chris

 
 Graphic from; https://princessofjesusblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/gods-protection-a-true-story/

 

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