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.
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
Listen to this Sunday's Gospel reading by visiting the website www.sundaygospel.co.uk.
2nd Sunday of Lent
God extends the most sublime invitation we will ever receive. The prologue to the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ calls to mind words of Jesus, of St. Paul and St. Luke:
"Father . . . this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17.3)
"God our Saviour desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Tim: 2:3-4)
"There is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) - than the name of Jesus.”
For those of a certain age, the version memorised long ago in the classroom has these or similar words: ‘God invites us to know, love and serve him in this world, and be happy with him in the next.’
The title above features the definite article ‘The’ to underline that no other invitation can compare with that which God extends to us not once but repeatedly, until our final conscious moment. To wake in the morning and thank him for his renewed invitation by pledging to Jesus the coming day, and all succeeding days, is the ultimate morning offering.
We are equally exposed, in our self-imposed exile, to another invitation that might be described as a close second. It is extended to us, with the same frequency, by Satan the author of Evil. God’s invitation resounds with Truth. Satan’s resounds with false-truth deceptively dressed up to look like truth.
On this 2nd Sunday of Lent, our Scripture extracts present us with examples of two Divine invitations, separated by centuries, but sharing the same hallmark namely, a call to have faith in the God of Love.
Abram, in the 1st Reading from Genesis (15:5-12,17-18) whose name God later extended to Abraham, asked to be shown how God’s promise of progeny and land would be fulfilled. As a nomadic wanderer and already at an advanced age, as was his wife, Abram found it hard to believe. He, nevertheless, reached out in faith and today the three great monotheistic religions of the world honour Abraham - ‘as our father in faith’.
In the Gospel, Luke (9:28-36) tells us how Jesus invited Peter, James and John to climb a mountain with him about a week (9:28) after Jesus had made known his forthcoming Passion to his disciples:
“The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders, and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.” (9:22)
In that week Jesus had spelt out for all the conditions for being his disciples:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26)
There are no words in Scripture describing the reactions of Peter, James and John to Jesus’ invitation to climb the mountain with him. Surely, Jesus’ prophecy of his Passion coupled with his definition of discipleship would still have been fresh in the minds of all his disciples. Peter, James and John must have wondered not only why they were chosen but what was ahead of them in this proposed ascent of the mountain.
If you were signed with blessed ash on ‘Ash Wednesday’, or if you were feeling the effects of the fast-day or if you commemorated the start of Lent 2019 in some other way, did you feel personally invited by name to enter upon this sacred time for the accompaniment of Christ? Perhaps the invitation remains unanswered or answered with just a token response of quantitative chocolate, sugar or alcohol. The Lord who invites sets no cut-off day for us to take up our Lenten invitation, including the final hours of Saturday in Holy Week. Jesus’ parable of the landowner who paid all his workers the agreed wage, irrespective of the hours worked, comes to mind. (Matt. 20:1-16)
That Peter, James and John reached the summit of that un-named mountain must, in part, have been due to the inspirational support given by Jesus. Like all ascents, it would have involved physical, mental and emotional endurance infused with trust and sustained faith. Jesus would have accompanied and encouraged the three disciples, as later, he encouraged his two despondent disciples leaving Jerusalem in the evening of the Day of Resurrection. The story of the road to Emmaus can be read in Luke (24:13-35). Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, is always willing to accompany his invitees when he is made welcome.
Peter, James and John would have been wholly preoccupied with Jesus’ transfigured appearance, with eavesdropping on the conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah, with the cloud and voice of Jesus’ heavenly Father saying,
“This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.”
Peter, James and John’s mountain-top experience would have left them at a loss for words. As each internalised it in the ensuing weeks it would have penetrated ever more deeply their conscious memory. In later years the three disciples would have relived that mountain-top experience as each lived and preached the Gospel of the Transfigured One.
Likewise, what we hear of God’s Word this Sunday, or any day, will stay within our heart - provided we can become still and receptively attentive. Where and when it will enliven our thoughts as we live and proclaim the Good News will become clear when and as it happens, provided that we have placed our life in God’s hands. Referring, again, to Jesus’ parable of ‘The Labourers in the Vineyard’, this may happen tomorrow or on the last day of our life.
Neither Abram (Abraham), nor Peter, nor James, nor John could have foreseen how, where and when their personal experiences of God’s invitations – and there would have been multiple – would bear fruit in their expressed love for God. As ‘Lumen Gentium’ (the 2nd Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church) expresses it, God has not ceased to reach out to all whom he has gifted with a participation in his own Divine Life … “By an utterly free and mysterious decree of his own wisdom and goodness …. When in Adam and Eve humanity had fallen, God did not abandon them but ceaselessly offered them help to salvation, in anticipation of Christ the Redeemer, who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” (LG Nn2)
The Council’s document ‘Lumen Gentium’ continues enumerating all who are related to ‘The People of God’ including ‘those who have not yet received the Gospel. Among these LG lists God’s Chosen People, the Jews. Then those who acknowledge God as Creator – the Moslems who adore the One and Merciful God; also those who ‘in shadows and images seek the unknown God; also those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ yet sincerely seek God; also those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God but who strive, aided by his grace, to live a good life.
This section of Lumen Gentium concludes:
“Whatever goodness or truth is found amongst all these are looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel, and as given by him who enlightens all that they may finally have life.”
Is God’s Invitation wider and more embracing than you may have thought? For sure, each Baptised will be in daily touch with many who are embraced by the criterion given in the Council document even if they do not appreciate it. What a blessing that you are to hand.