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Please pray with us for all victims of abuse, and for all those involved in the work of this important Inquiry.
The recent Pastoral Letter on this matter can be found on the Archdiocese website
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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (17.02.19)
No Man’s Land / Blessings and Woes
‘Contrast’ is one theme that threads through the 6th Sunday’s Scripture extracts. The prophet Jeremiah (1stReading) contrasts those who trust in themselves with those who trust in God. St. Paul (2nd Reading) contrasts those whose vision is limited to the here and now with those who believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, Jesus contrasts those who bring blessings with those who bring curses.
Most people have heard of the phrase ‘No Man’s Land’. It describes ribbons of land that divide and contrast hugely different regimes of power. A long established contemporary political example is the ‘DMZ’ (demilitarised zone) that has separated North and South Korea since 1953. The Korean ‘DMZ’, 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, forcibly divides one people. But no ‘DMZ’ is a barrier to Evil.
Mythology contains many falsehoods about supposed protection from Satan, for those who continue to believe in Evil. Some wear a gold cross as a protection. Others continue to hang up garlic. A commonly heard misconception is: ‘I don’t do anything wrong’. Hospital chaplains tell of the clusters of ‘miraculous medals’ attached to a patient’s pillow in the belief that they will bring about that patient’s recovery. Just as a physical ‘DMZ’ or the wearing of a ‘holy’ symbol may give the impression of a secure barrier, we know in our hearts, it is not. Our defence against Evil is nothing we wear or have near to hand. A person’s only defence is the vitality of their heartfelt and lived faith in Jesus, which cannot be conjured up in a moment. The religious furniture of our churches may be a comforting sight but they cannot substitute for faith.
It may be helpful to reflect that contrasting opposites, in the physical world, actually touch one another without the intervention of any type of ‘DMZ’. For example, an oasis in an arid desert. Look at the Egyptian capital of Cairo. It is the world’s 15th largest metropolitan area. Yet it is encapsulated, on its landward fronts, by the enormity of the Saharan desert. You can, as it were, step off the edge of city life and into the sand-dunes.
The analogy of the cheek by jowl existence of an oasis in a desert also aptly identifies the daily dilemma for Christians in this earthly exile. While the Son of God walked on this earth there was no ‘DMZ’ between Jesus and Satan. The battle between them was unceasingly very close. At every breath of his earthly journey, Jesus would have been intensely aware of the devilish closeness of his, and our, implacable nemesis. The encounters we read of in the Gospels (e.g. Herod’s murder of the Innocents Matt: 2:16; Satan’s temptation of Jesus Matt. 4:1-11; Peter’s rebuke of Jesus Matt.16:22-23) are but snippets of the incessant battle that reached from Bethlehem to Calvary and which continues today in Christ’s Body on earth, the community of the Baptised. For, as St John tells us, this world is in the power of the Evil One (1 John 5:19)
Some members of our Christian family, who face daily physical persecution, quickly learn to distinguish fellow Christians from persecutors. Christians faced with neighbourly indifferentism have a significantly more difficult task. For, lurking beneath that indifference, could be a potential persecutor. Committed Christians, in the UK, are more likely to be faced with apparent indifference than with out and out persecution, at least for the moment.
But the constant proximity of apparent indifferentism can be injurious to the Christian. It can weaken and undermine the spiritual commitment of the Baptised. This is the more true when both share the same living space. No one can forcibly take God’s love and grace from the Baptised, as Jesus said:
“The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
But besieged Christians can be induced to relinquish their thirst for God’s sustenance, his grace, substituting for it the abundance of false life that is so prevalent in an ever more secular Europe. Christians need one another to sustain an ever- watchful alertness faced, as we are, with rampant Evil. God’s Word is our light.
The Letter to the Hebrews (4:12-13) tells us:
“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
If the Word of God penetrates soul and spirit and divides marrow from the bone, then it is as well for us to remember that the Evil One will have similar access, while we abide in this land of exile. For Satan not to have such access would upset the equilibrium God promised for our free will. God wants us to love him because we choose, freely, to do so.
It is helpful to remember always that, in this world, love is not a state of perfect being. We think of the word love as a verb. But it is also an active noun, like the word struggle. To love God, as He calls us to do, is to struggle to be like God as we have seen God express Himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Shadowing our every effort to love God will be our nemesis. This battle, in which there is no ‘DMZ’, was initiated with our Baptism and it continues until our last breath when, please God, we can say “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit”.
Someone said, “I hope I remember the words when I am dying.” A fellow Christian and good friend responded, “My friend, those words of Psalm 36 prayed by Jesus as he breathed his last, have been on your lips daily throughout your life. You know them by heart.”
Each moment of each day is sacred because in it we make a choice. There is no ‘DMZ’, no middle ground, God and Satan are before us and the choice is ours.