Welcome to St Austin's Catholic Parish, Stafford
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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: email@example.com
Listen to this Sunday's Gospel reading by visiting the website www.sundaygospel.co.uk.
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
We, earthlings, are creatures encapsulated by successive uninterrupted contiguous (connected but separate) moments. Our life and activity is measured in nano-seconds, days, years, centuries. We are always in motion, even when asleep. For us, contiguous continuity is the only known way of life.
The contrast with the Divine could not be more different. God describes Himself as “I am, who am”. In the Book of Exodus (3:13-14) we read:
“Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
God’s self-definition helps us engage with a concept of continuity that is entirely foreign to us, namely, the unchanging and unchangeable; without beginning or end. Though beyond our experience, such a concept is not beyond our partial comprehension. We believe in it because it is God’s self-definition and we have faith in God’s word. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews (4:12) 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.”
So, continuity has one meaning when we speak of God and another when we speak about God’s creation.
God’s selection of the Israelites to be his chosen people is unalterable. In the same way, God’s adoption of us, at our Baptism, is irrevocable. Jews are God’s ‘chosen’ and the Baptised are God’s ‘adopted’. This remains so even when individual Jews or Christians publicly revoke their status as Jew or Christian. There is perpetuity in the words and actions of the Divine.
Gifted, as we are, with free will each of us must choose, moment by successive moment, to re-engage with all that defines us spiritually, physically and socially. We do most of this, normally, by habit just as we breathe by habit. But, sometimes, the habitual – what we regard as ‘continuous’ - is challenged by ever-evolving circumstances. On such occasions, the depth of a person’s commitment can be tested up to and including the point of dying. The faith of many Christians has been tested by persecution that resulted in their suffering and death; the pre-eminent exemplar being the Son of God-made-Man, Jesus of Nazareth. Martyrdom has been a hallmark of God’s adopted family since the Fall.
The Scripture passages for this 32nd Sunday of the year each focus on the choice humans make that can be labelled as ‘continuity’.
The First Reading (2nd Book of the Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14) dates to about 161 BC. Its author, Jason of Cyrene, displays in the scenario of the seven brothers and their mother living the belief, prevalent at the time, that martyrdom was a valid expression of a Jewish person’s express wish to maintain their continuity of faith in the God of Abraham.
As today’s fragmented extract from Maccabees does not portray the full picture of this family’s martyrdom, may I commend the reading of the whole of chapter 7?
Notice how the mother is the ‘bedrock’ of her son’s fidelity and is, herself, the last to be martyred. This may help the reader appreciate the Jewish belief that, for them, the Saviour will be born through a Jewish mother. (Christians believe that this has already happened through the Jewess of Nazareth, Mary) Moreover, Jews believe that it is only through a Jewish mother that Jewishness can be inherited.
Family continuity has always been precious for the Jews. For this reason, ‘marrying out’ (‘mixed-marriage’, as it is known in the Catholic Church) is abhorrent among orthodox Jews. So, the scene is set for this Sunday’s extract from Luke’s Gospel (20:27-38).
Celibacy has no role in the Jewish religion. Jewish households always have room for children for they are the race’s future, its ‘continuity’ as God’s ‘chosen’. Even among non-practising Jews – that is those who do not often attend synagogue – there is a commitment both to their procreation and to the sustaining of those procreated. Jews limit the ‘continuity’ of their race to genetics. The process for Gentiles to become Jews – and to be accepted as such – is to say the least precarious. Though one synagogue may welcome a ‘convert’, the next may not do so.
The Sadducees, in the time of Jesus, did not believe in a resurrection. They set out to entrap Jesus. Their verbal semantics fail when Jesus explains that, in heaven, there is no marriage between humans. For, in heaven, each person is subsumed into the fullness of Christ, the head of the body of which Baptism has made us members.
For Christians, ‘continuity’ is the daily choice to live, practice and preach God’s Word by example as well as speech. Membership has no barriers of gender, race or location nor of language or custom provided that God’s Word and its injunctions are respected. ‘Continuity’ is effected through careful and protracted catechesis in both the individual home and the Christian school (the process of Christian Initiation) is confirmed by the grace of the Holy Spirit through the pouring of water, the saying of the words, and the anointing with the Oil of Chrism.
Because Christians, being preoccupied with many distractions like their fellow citizens, can take for granted their adoption into the Body of Christ, it may be helpful to read Psalm 77 making use of verse 12 as an introduction:
“I reflect on all that the Lord has done,
I ponder all his great deeds.”
In fact, do we ever, outside of worship, reflect on what God has done and is doing for us, for those of our community, our ancestors, our spiritual forebears? Moses laid great emphasis on his people remembering, generation after generation – the essence of ‘continuity’ - what God had done for them. They are to observe special days of celebration marking how, without God’s direct intervention, guidance, leadership and sustenance, they would be but forgotten slaves. For Christians, too, the historical relationship between us, today, and our forebears is not something to be carelessly acknowledged and then forgotten. It is a living relationship to be treasured and nurtured.
Without God, where would we be? Do we share with others our understanding of God’s redemption? Do we nurture our knowledge of God’s part in our people’s history by reading Scripture and reflecting, which is another word for prayer? Our generation has become dangerously ‘me’, ‘my’ and ‘instant’ orientated and where’s the ‘continuity’ there?
Sunday 10th November 2019. 32nd Sunday of the Year