Reflections for the Week
The last week has seen a significant increase in Covid cases on the Central Coast - but - there is real hope that some restrictions will be lifted soon. While we eagerly look forward to being able to have Masses again in the Church there will be limitations on numbers. With a 4 square metre separation we can still accommodate over 100, or better still a 2 square metre distancing will significantly increase our capacity. So, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the near future. However there is one restriction that has me concerned. If, as has been forecast, entry will only be available to those who are doubly vaccinated as a mandated condition, then the question arises as how this will be policed. Further, for those who do not have a smart phone, how will they prove their valid vaccination, and, do we turn away a loyal Parishioner who can't prove double vaccination, or, for whatever
reason, do not choose vaccination? These are very real concerns. If the mandated proof of vaccination comes into effect, will there be a cut off date? Past experiences show how easy it is to enact a law without a specific end by date. We all are committed to taking our part in the general safeguarding of the community. Vulnerable people and children are better protected today than previously. This is a positive way forward for future generations. Vulnerable people and children will always be part of our society and need protection. This Covid virus will also be with us for some considerable time to come. Does this mean that for the foreseeable future a Covid passport will be an ongoing mandated requirement? In the interests of the broad community I can accept a limitation on our rightful freedoms e.g. our road rules are restrictive. We can accept those rules in the interest of our own safety and that of others. But an on-going Covid license does not pass "the pub test".
So, while I look forward to welcoming you back to our Church, I do have some real concerns. The present debate about Euthanasia is a case in point. Decisions are being made on a purely political basis. Emotions can run high in this case and cloud real issues and concerns. I hope this Euthanasia bill will be defeated, but I have my doubts! Our local member is in favour of it despite the real fears that altruistic motivation may not be the only incentive.
In these troubled times we do have a powerful force in our faith. Prayer, and an acceptance that God does know our fears and listens is a wonderful shield we can depend on. Both active vigilance and the power of prayer need to be our way forward. Again, as always, we look to Mary who faced enormous challenges with faith and trust. The real question today is who can we trust ? God love you this week.
Comforting & Uncomfortable
There is a striking sculpture by an unknown African artist, depicting a young woman on her knees with a book above her head. She’s smiling gently, as though completely at peace. And this is the story that lies behind the statue. A young East African was known as the girl who carried a Bible with her wherever she went. She was often ridiculed but nothing could persuade her to let go of her Bible. One day when she was visiting a nearby village the locals jeered at her. “Why” they wanted to know, “do you always carry that book with you? There are lots of other books, and some must be just as good as that one.“ In reply she knelt down, opened the Bible and raised it above her head. “Yes,” she said, “there are lots of books I might read but there’s only this one that can read me.” Yes, the Bible can read us; it can challenge us. It can be a comforting but also an uncomfortable book. Perhaps the Bible readings we have today illustrate the point.
The First Reading recounted the rather strange incident of two men receiving the Spirit even though they didn’t belong to the official group on whom the Spirit had descended. The people got annoyed that God was working through unofficial channels, so to say. We too can behave in similar fashion; we can be narrow and exclusive, imagining that God is only on our side. Isn’t that the source of almost all religious conflict? We find it hard to believe that God can speak, can be at work, in the most unlikely persons and the most unlikely places.
The Gospel has a similar message. The Apostles narrow-mindedly suggest that a man they’ve caught casting out devils, and using Jesus’ name in the process, ought to be muzzled. “He’s not one of us,” they say. After all, they’d been specially chosen; if there is any casting out of devils to be done, they are the ones who should be doing it. But Jesus takes a different line: he insists that anyone acting in his name and bearing good fruit is no threat to his cause. On the contrary such a person promotes it. Anyone giving a cup of water to one of Jesus’ followers, for Jesus’ sake, will be rewarded. But there is another side to that coin, the grim warning that Jesus utters against anyone who would hurt one of the “little ones” and undermine their faith in him. He speaks of drowning with a mill-stone round the neck, of cutting off hands and feet and gouging out eyes - words meant not to be taken literally, of course, but to remind us powerfully of the need to avoid giving scandal to others, no matter what the cost.
And still we haven’t finished. In the Second Reading James is fierce in his denunciation of the rich. True, the particular object of his attack are those who pile up riches for themselves by defrauding the poor and needy; but in a world where approximately one third of the people - the third to which we belong - owns about 90% of the wealth, James’ words cannot leave us unmoved. As one writer has said: “There is no book in any literature which speaks so explosively of social justice as the Bible. It does not condemn wealth as such but there is no book which more strenuously insists on wealth’s responsibility and on the perils which surround a man or woman who is abundantly blessed with this world’s goods.” (William Barclay)
It’s odd that Karl Marx should have written off religion as “the opium of the people” or that others should mock it as too “other-worldly.” The truth is that far from anaesthetising our conscience, religion pricks it. While promising eternal life it insists on the connection between that life and the way we live our life on earth. There’s no surer sign that we have heard - not simply listened to - the Mass readings than when we feel that God’s word has challenged us, has, as that young African girl put it, read us, revealed what is in our hearts and made us feel the need to respond generously.
The Living Word Redemptorist Publications
Not so Funny!
You must have heard the story of the group of people, newly arrived in heaven, who were mystified by the huge wall dividing heaven in two, until Peter whispered to them: “The Catholics are on the other side; they think they're the only ones here!”
Fr Bill's Thoughts