Welcome to St Austin's Catholic Parish, Stafford
Listen to this Sunday's Gospel reading by visiting the website www.sundaygospel.co.uk.
For your information
Alton castle on Songs of Praise
The diocesan youth centre, Alton Castle, features on BBC
Songs of Praise this Sunday, (12th August) at 12.25pm.
Tune in to see the amazing work carried out there.
Monthly Mass at St Joseph’s nursing home:
Will take place Thursday 16th August at 10.30 a.m.
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (12.08.18)
Listening for Life
The five main senses of adult humans are finetuned sources of information. Our hearing filters millions of sounds even when we are asleep. The number we actively listen to is much smaller. The brain and the memory collaborate in the filtering and alert us to active listening as necessary. When we choose to actively listen all our senses contribute to whatever we have directed our focus.
There are people who have developed the gift of being able to participate in a particular conversation while, simultaneously being aware, of the subject matter of other nearby conversations and comments. Some have been known to combine this ability with lip-reading – a formidable combination indeed. The main motives for practising such a skill might be political, economic or commercial or all three!
The Gospel for this 19th Sunday is a further extract from John’s compacted account of Jesus’ teaching on his Real Presence in the Eucharist (John 6:41-51). Jesus’ comments to the crowd show he possessed a sophisticated, sensitive hearing motivated, solely, by his love for us. Jesus hears the murmuring within the crowd. He appreciates the difficulty they face in coming to terms with his teaching namely, that He himself is The Bread of Life. This, as with all Truth, is hard to grasp for any Baptised person who has allowed their graced ability to differentiate between The Truth and falsehood to be contaminated by Evil … and as we presently live in the kingdom of Evil (cf. 1John 5:19) we know all too well that this happens.
St. Paul (this Sunday’s 2nd Reading Ephesians 4:30 - 5:2) addresses his Ephesian converts:
“Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Paul is reminding them and us that, through the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation, the Holy Spirit is conferred on us not because we are deserving but because God loves us and wills to share Himself with us. The Baptised have been gifted with the ability to recognise The Truth. Unlike, for example, Pontius Pilate who, when judging Jesus, declared himself ignorant of The Truth:
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“The Truth, what is that?” retorted Pilate.” (John 18:37-38)
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are for eternity whether or not, here, we actively participate with them or reject them. As the Baptised, we grieve the Holy Spirit when we ignore or reject the Spirit’s invitation to align our decisions and behaviour with The Truth of which we are sufficiently aware, even though we may have questions or doubts in our heart and mind.
We cannot deceive our conscience. Nor for all his power, can Satan deceive our conscience but he can persuade us to ignore a wilfully weakened conscience. Even so, we will know in our heart that we have walked away from The Truth and it is our walking away that grieves the Holy Spirit.
It is said that exceptional soloists and artists are born. They reveal their prodigious talent at an amazingly early age. Beethoven would be one example among many Such giftedness does not release them from the need to practise, to learn by their mistakes and to improve. Saints, too, come into this category. Each Baptised person is a potential saint, gifted with the Holy Spirit, and able to hear The Truth resonate within. This is not the same as understanding The Truth. The process of understanding, for the majority, is a life-pilgrimage with Calvarific overtones. For some, the Calvarific overtones last a lifetime. St. Teresa of Avila spent decades of her religious life and work without any sense of God’s presence and nearness. She remained faithful to God in her life as a Carmelite despite an enduring and inescapable spiritual aridity. Such commitment must make many of us question how easily we surrender when discipleship is demanding.
John tells us:
“The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
There’s a form of murmuring that is constructive, it’s really more descriptive of a struggling but heartfelt prayer of intercession. Mark’s Gospel (9:16-29) recalls this type of ‘murmuring’ that Jesus not only heard but sensitively listened to when he dialogued with the stricken father who had asked him:
“A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech…. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” the father answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
“You deaf and mute spirit,” Jesus said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
There is another form of murmuring that could be labelled destructive because it challenges and maybe has a touch of anger or resentment to it. Thomas the Apostle provides us with a famous example (John 20:24-28):
“Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his (Jesus’) hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came among them and said, “Peace be with you” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Whenever and however we engage in murmuring, Jesus not only hears with sensitivity but he responds with Divine bounteous generosity. He knows full well that we are, for the present time, in this ‘vale of tears’, this place of exile, and he makes allowances. Thank God for his generous, sensitive and, above all, patient hearing and loving willingness to unscramble the, often self-confused, complexity of our lives.