The law of four – part 1

lawof4Parish logo - letterhead

The new parish logo has been inspired by a much larger and more ancient reality. Looking at the nature of church and our involvement within it, as well as the structure of the liturgical year and the arrangement of the readings from the Gospels is part of what we will be considering over the next four Sundays of this new season of Advent and this new liturgical year – in this four-part series called ‘The law of four.”

These are the notes from my presentation. You can also download them as Adobe PDF

Over the last 1000 years & more:

  • The world dominated by science & rationalism
  • Emerging desire for music + art; emotion + spirit

(more…)

Co-workers in the kingdom

cross+vineThe Feast of Christ the King is a relatively new feast day in the Catholic scheme of things. This is the ninetieth time that it has been celebrated, since Pope Pius XI instituted the feast day through an encyclical letter called Quas primas (In the first) which was published on 11 December 1925. Initially the feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October (the first 45 years), but with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the revised celebration of the liturgical year in 1969, it was moved from 1970 to the thirty-fourth and final Sunday in ‘Ordinary Time’ each year (the last 45 years). Many Anglican churches have now also adopted the feast day. It seems that in the wake of the First World War, that Pope Pius was concerned about the continuing secularisation of the world and the decline in temporal power of the church, especially in Italy after the reduction of the Papal Estates. So this very ‘spiritual’ feast day has a fairly political history.

The second problem is the place that the monarchy has in Australian society. Although we live in a Constitutional Monarchy, the place and power of the monarch within Australia is very carefully defined and constrained by the constitution and even more so by custom and tradition (especially after 1975). Even the visit last week of the likely future King of Australia in the person of Prince Charles and his wife impacted us very little – perhaps I should read certain magazines directed at women to get a better idea of what went on?

As we know, in most of the ancient world for most of the time, Kings were the total thing – they controlled every aspect of a person’s life. For Jesus to claim this title of being the King of the Jews is so totally huge. Step by step we need to begin to make sense of what kind of kingdom we are living in and how we are meant to be part of this great, beautiful world that God has given us to be stewards and co-builders of the kingdom and co-creators of the world.

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Recorded at St Paul’s, 9.30am (7.30am also available)
Sunday 34, Year B – Solemnity of Jesus Christ as Universal King

Days of Darkness

Peace_for_ParisThe darkness of the readings today appropriately match the mood of despair and darkness after yet more senseless and violent attacks over the past few days in Beirut and especially in the city of light – Paris. The Gospel is taken from the longest discourse in the Gospel of Mark – the whole of the thirteenth chapter features a single discussion by Jesus and four of his disciples about the looming destruction of the temple and the days of darkness that would follow. It should be obvious that although this chapter is sometimes called a mini-apocalypse, the form is very different from the book of Daniel (our first reading) or Revelation. The predictions that Jesus is making relate to the immediate events that lie ahead for the community as relations between the Jewish people and the Roman occupiers would continue to deteriorate leading into the Jewish war of 66-70 CE, which would result in the siege of Jerusalem and the utter destruction of the city including the temple with an incredible loss of life. As the contemporary Jewish historian Josephus points out, the large death toll can only be partly blamed upon the Romans – infighting between the various factions led to more deaths than those inflicted directly by the brutal Roman soldiers. It is no wonder that Jesus encourages his followers to flee into the hills to escape such carnage.

Such predictions and the events overseas cause us to ponder deeply upon the meaning and reality of evil. There is never an adequate answer to such horrors. The best that we can do is remember that freedom brings with it certain responsibilities. The fact that we are free means that we can at any stage choose to exercise our freedom to cooperate with God’s invitation to the good or instead to choose to do evil.

Let us pray with great fervour for a true and lasting peace built in a genuine experience of mercy – for only in this will the wounds of past evil begin to be healed.

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Recorded at St Paul’s, 9.30am. Vigil Mass also available.
Sunday 33, Year B. Mark 13:24-32

Despair and Providence

Elijah-WidowBoth the first reading and Gospel feature widows – one of the most vulnerable groups in Israel and the ancient world. When there is no social safety net, widows relied on other family members and the wider community to provide the sustenance that they could not earn themselves. Their lot was even worse when times were bad – such as during the ninth century BC famine that is the setting of I Kings 17 and the general destitution of life under the Roman Empire in the early first century AD.

At the end of I Kings 16, we are told that Ahab, the son of the evil king Omri comes to the throne of Israel in Samaria, and he also does what is evil in the eyes of the Eternal One. Not only that he is in fact the most wicked King of all the wicked kings who went before him. To make matters worse, he marries the even more wicked Jezebel, daughter of the Phoenician king Ethbaal. One of the first acts that Ahab does is to make a shrine to the god Ba’al Hadad in Samaria. Soon afterwards a drought occurs resulting in widespread famine which spreads beyond the borders of Israel to include parts of Phoenicia. Chapter 17 opens with Elijah escaping to the Wadi Cherith east of the Jordan River, where he finds refuge and is able to sustain himself with water from a spring and food provided by ravens – bread and meat both in the morning and the evening. It is interesting that the Lord chooses to use an unclean bird to sustain Elijah: crows and ravens are listed among the many unclean animals in the Torah in Deuteronomy 14:14 and Leviticus 11:15. When the water runs dry he falls into a depression (a common state for our hero Elijah). Verse 8 opens with the word of the Lord being addressed to the prophet: “Arise, go to Zarephath in Sidon and stay there. Look, I have commanded a woman there, a widow, to sustain you.” So, in response to this word from the Lord, Elijah travels into the foreign territory of the Ba’al worshipping Sidonians, where he encounters an unnamed widow gathering sticks near the gate of the town, to prepare a final meal with the last of her meagre food supplies before her inevitable death from starvation.

Elijah bizarrely asks this woman for two things – rather than offering her assistance. First, in a request that we hear as an echo of the one that Jesus makes to another foreigner, the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4), Elijah asks for a drink of water. Then, in an act of black Jewish comedy, he asks her to bake him a small cake after she announces that she only has enough food for her son and herself to ward off starvation for a few more hours. The fact that the woman responds in generosity shows something of her true character. Although she has nothing to give, she is prepared to make this incredible sacrifice, trusting somehow in the graciousness of a God that perhaps she has only just met through the words of this strange prophet of the God of Israel.

Likewise, when the praiseworthy widow in our Gospel is reduced to two lepta – the smallest of the coins in circulation in that day – she chooses to offer them to the Lord as an act of worship. Although her small offering cannot compare to the large and noisy contributions that the rich men are making, the Lord observes that they are giving from their excess and abundance, but she is giving all that she has to live on even though it is so insignificant, meagre and pathetic.

Play MP3

Recorded at St Paul’s, 9.30am; 7.30am
Sunday 32, Year B
I Kings 17:10-16; Mark 12:38-44