In the scriptures used today we hear the prophecy from Isaiah and then the historical record of the occurrence from Matthew of the same event. The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. St Matthew, as he does on more than one occasion, quotes Isaiah and gives the geographical context of where and the historical context of when Jesus started His ministry.
I think there is also a strong message in the Gospel to us in who Jesus calls to be his first disciples. He calls two sets of brothers, most brothers will have each other’s back, looking out for each other based on a family bond of love which has been nurtured from their earliest days. In calling brothers, Jesus is telling us that as His disciples, we need to develop that brotherly love, looking out for one another, protecting one another, loving one another.
From my earliest days my dad taught me to look out for my two brothers, I am the eldest, and I was taught from an early age that if someone picked on one of us then they had picked on all of us. Being typical boys as we grew up, one or other of us would end up in some sort of trouble and we always supported each other; even though I was never a fighter, I would feel obliged to get in the way when my youngest brother found himself on the wrong end of somebody my age picking on him. Although we live on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean now, and we are not the best at keeping in touch with each other, we know we can still depend on each other and any get togethers are filled with laughter and banter.
When Jesus formed His Community, He wanted people who would be loyal to Him, he wanted people He could trust to look out for the weaker members of the Community. He didn’t want the Community to break into factions, but sadly over the years that is what has happened. In the second reading today, St Paul is warning the Corinthians against this. We are not supposed to separate into different parts because we are all part of the Body of Christ. As Christians we are obliged to keep Christ at the centre of our lives; everything else is secondary. The love we have for our friends and family is only possible because Our Creator is Love and we are made in His image. The love we have for our families is multiplied when we love Jesus, because the love we have for Jesus reflects out into every other relationship we have.
The Christian Church is under attack, yet again this month there have been attacks on a Catholic Church in India1, a priest murdered in Nigeria2, a Church in Nicaragua desecrated3, and a murderous attack on Christian worshippers in the Democratic Republic of Congo4. Closer to home a man was reported to have been fined this week for praying outside an abortion clinic in Dorset5. Christian values are being eroded by laws made by the people we elected to represent us. Whether it is the move to ban protests or assembly outside abortion clinics or the pressure to change laws which will allow euthanasia; ever so slowly the Christian voice is being marginalised and increasingly portrayed as being irrelevant. We as Catholics are called to stand up against this, we have a duty to write to our MPs to ensure our voice is heard. We have a duty to be more discerning about the choice of the newspapers we buy or media services which we subscribe to. We need to ask ourselves do the media choices I make, reflect the Catholic values I believe in?
This is a time for prayer for Christian Unity, never before, has it been more important for Christians to be united. This is not just for our benefit; it is what Christ wants for us. There are wonderful examples of how people’s lives are changed when Christians from different communities work together. Locally there are street pastors, the foodbank, the night shelter, and I’m sure many others. The focus for the week of prayers for Christian Unity this year looks at the killing of two young men in different parts of the world, Stephen Lawrence was killed in London nearly thirty years ago and George Floyd who was killed in Minneapolis in 2020. As Christians we are asked to reflect on how the work of Christian unity can contribute to the promotion of racial justice across all levels of society.6
One other aspect to note from the calling of the two sets of brothers; they were called while doing their everyday tasks. Jesus also comes to us while we are engaged in our everyday tasks. Through our baptism we are called to recognise that ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ [Mat 3:2]7. In our daily lives, we experience Jesus’ presence and witness that we are his followers. This should prompt us to ask ourselves Would the people we meet recognise us as Christians by what we do and say?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCC 459, 520-521: Jesus a model of the beatitudes for followers
CCC 1716-1724: call to beatitude
CCC 64, 716: the poor and humble remnant bear hope of Messiah
Please keep in your prayers this week
- The success of the Year of the Holy Spirit.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- All of our young people preparing for the Sacraments.
- Those attending our RCIA programme.
- Fr Roger Hendry RIP, former Parish Priest of St Michael’s in Tadley, whose anniversary is at this time.
7 Almanac for Pastoral Liturgy 2023 [Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, 2022]72.