Welcome to St Austin's Catholic Parish, Stafford
If you would like to speak to someone about safeguarding and the Church’s work, please call
0121 230 6240. If you would like to speak to someone independent of the Church you can contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
Message from Archbishop Bernard Longley:
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has published its report on the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
We apologise to all victims and survivors of child sex abuse. We hope that with this Inquiry they feel that they have been listened to. Even so, words are not enough.
We are committed to continuing to improve our safeguarding procedures and to listen to and learn from victims and survivors. Past failings must never happen again. The diocesan response to the report can be found at
If you have a safeguarding matter to report please contact the Archdiocese safeguarding team on 0121 230 6240 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to this Sunday's Gospel reading by visiting the website www.sundaygospel.co.uk.
Based on the gospel for Sunday 5 January - Matthew 2:1-12
“Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.”
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
All life on earth is in transition. This transition has two very distinct applications. The first, applicable to all earthly life, is the continuously uninterruptible transitioning that ends with death. The ageing process is a good example. The second, unique to human beings, enables people to regulate their transitioning by the exercise of our God-given free will. An example would be two people freely choosing to marry one another.
Our Scripture extracts, for this 3rd Sunday of the year, are flavoured with a theme of transition.
The prophet Isaiah (8:23-9:3) uses figurative language. He speaks of unproductive land becoming productive; of people who walked in darkness seeing the light and of people being freed from the yoke (burden) they had collectively worn. These refer to Israel’s times of deportation and enslavement and then the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt and their rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. All was in preparation for the coming of a child of royal line whom Christians recognise as Jesus, The Christ, the Messiah. This process of transition continues for our Jewish brothers and sisters, as they do not acknowledge Jesus as Divine, as the Son of God made Man.
Many generations, in the intervening centuries, have lived through punishing times with oppressive injustice and darkness. We, of the 20th and 21st centuries, are no exception. As did our forebears, we too have brought much misery on ourselves by choosing the light of falsehood in preference to The Light, God’s Holy Spirit. For some have chosen to supplant the Divine protocol with one of their own choice, seeded with greed for profit and power, which, with hindsight, is revealed for the costly ‘fools’ gold’ it is.
In the Isaiah extract we read the oft quoted passage:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
How many, consciously or subconsciously, have been successfully tempted to transition into the pervasive and powerfully captivating false light of the Evil One that unrestrictedly pours into countless homes and hearts through the media in its many forms.
The Baptised are called to walk in the light of the Divine Presence, an interior light visible in the lives of those who are in communion with God and know His peace, in a world that, increasingly, does not?
Isaiah’s words prompt the question, ‘By which light are we more easily and more frequently captivated?’ Hindsight may show us that, at times, we have chosen the ‘false light’. Please God we have been rescued – like the second child in the parable of ‘The Prodigal’ (Luke 15:11-32). It is always fitting to renew our thanksgiving and a good way of doing that is by reaching out to those whom we know are still trapped in that pervasive false light.
Today’s Gospel extract from Matthew (4:12-23), tells how John the Baptiser’s arrest by Herod prompted Jesus to move from Nazareth to the lakeside town of Capernaum in Galilee. In doing so, Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (9:1):
“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.”
For Matthew, Jesus’ transition marks the beginning of his public ministry. As if to emphasise the point, Matthew tells of Jesus’ recruitment of two pairs of brothers Simon (whose name Jesus later changed to Peter) and Andrew and, then, James and John. That all four ‘immediately’ left their nets is symbolic of their willingness to transition, to leave their former way of life, and follow Jesus.
Not all Jesus’ invitations met with such a prompt response then (cf. Luke 9:61) or now. Faced with a shortage of ministerial priests, all the Baptised, who form the Priesthood of the Laity, are frequently encouraged to ‘pray for vocations’ to the ministerial priesthood. Is it made sufficiently clear that our intercessions to God are not for him to call candidates because God does this unceasingly, but rather that those whom he is calling may respond positively, generously and without delay? Equally, as has been amply shown in the course of the recent Amazonian Synod, the Church needs to review the conditions for selection/election of candidates for the ministerial priesthood currently in place.
When God calls, the call is made in perpetuity (i.e. it will never be rescinded) irrespective of our response. Baptism is God’s most significant call to human beings made, as we are, in his image and likeness. Infant Baptism deprives most of a personal knowledge of the graced moment. The process of Initiation involves three Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation and The Eucharist. Together, they transition us from exiles into adoptees of our heavenly Father; which has the additional effect of making us the brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Recipients of the Sacraments of Initiation receive not only sanctifying grace but also a ‘character’, an indelible mark, in their souls by which they are conformed to Christ as priest, prophet and king. It might be understood more easily as an infused blueprint of the Divine. God invites the Baptised to build their lives, with the support of the Holy Spirit, on that blueprint.
It was the Second Vatican Council (1962/65) that gave fresh impetus to the vocation that is received through Baptism called ‘The priesthood of the laity’. The Council reminded the Baptised that their ‘priesthood of the laity’ differs in essence “and not only in degree” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, No. 10) from the ministerial priesthood; yet “the one is ordered to the other” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1547).
The ‘priesthood of the laity’ and the ‘ministerial priesthood’ share a common goal; namely, the holiness and consecration of all those Baptised. The late Dominican priest / theologian Jordan Aumann’s summary, in his book “On the Front Lines” (Alba House, 1990), may be helpful:
“The laity …. as baptized persons (sacramental aspect) are incorporated into Christ (Christian aspect) in becoming members of the Church (ecclesiological aspect) and therefore have the right and duty to participate actively in the mission of the Church (missionary aspect).
In addition, the laity, by reason of their Baptismal character, are committed to the renewal and sanctification of the temporal order of the world. Their vocation both calls them and enables them to sanctify the world from within, in other words by being living parts of it on a daily basis.”
The Baptised faithful, the priesthood of the laity, are the frontline troops, as it were. Their vocation, fulfilled through a holiness which is the intimacy of their personal relationship with God, is to transition into the Baptismal character they received when words were said and water was poured on their infant foreheads.
The ministerial priesthood, equally called to holiness, is the divinely intended means – through the Eucharist and the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing - of guiding and supporting the Priesthood of the Laity in their mission to bring about the holiness and consecration of all the peoples among whom they live and work.
Seeing The Church from this perspective is challenging but necessary, demanding, for some a transition of some magnitude. Now the Pope’s title ‘Servant of the Servants of God’ makes sense for he shares in the ministry of all the faithful that of being called to a state of continuous transition as we respond daily to God’s personal call.