As I sit down to write this, it is World Holocaust Day [27th January]; a day when we remember the victims of hatred specifically from World War 2, but also in the years since then. At times it can be very frustrating and infuriating that mankind does not learn and we repeat the mistakes of the past. I was reminded of this on two occasions only yesterday. The first was an encounter with a woman from eastern Europe, who has been in this country for nearly 2 decades. She worked in the NHS and is now unable to work due to illness. She had to move house recently because people; her neighbours, were threatening her, damaging her property, calling her horrible names and telling her to get back to where she came from.
The second reminder of this came last night when I went to the cinema and watched the remake of the Color Purple; this time it is a musical. This is set in the first half of the twentieth century in the southern states of the USA, where racism was prevalent. For the first hour or so there are no white people in the film. The film is mostly about the interactions of one lady who had a tragic childhood and was given away by an abusive step-dad to an abusive husband and the people she met who brought some joy into her life. As well as some morally questionable behaviours in the film there are clear Christian values in this and some of the time is spent in a very lively church.
The first interaction of a white person in the film ends with a very confident black lady being demeaned and beaten up; and then jailed for defending herself. This lady went from being an extremely confident lady to becoming a scared shell of the woman she used to be. Racism, xenophobia, hatred, whatever label we want to put on it, should have no place in our society, and yet it still thrives. It is so easy for people to point the finger at someone different when things go wrong. Sadly, many people listen to them; and are encouraged by some of the media in doing so.
As Christians we are called to love. Not to just love the people we like, the people the same as us, but also to love our enemy [Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27; Romans 12:14 & 12:20]. Today the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales have dedicated this Sunday to pray for Racial Justice1, the theme being Seeing one another in the life of the Church. We are encouraged to look at the lives of the saints; who during their lifetime saw aspects of society, which prompted them to act through their Christian faith and do something about it. Some saw a lack of care for the sick and opened hospitals or hospices, others decried a lack of opportunity for poor people and opened schools.
We are ALL encouraged to look around us; not to look for differences in others; but to see that they are another human being, made in the likeness of Christ; our brothers and sisters here on earth; a gift from God to us all and to care for one another. In this week’s edition of the ‘Big Issue’ we are introduced to 100 ‘Changemakers’ for 2024; all of whom have identified an injustice or gap in the support available to the vulnerable; and done something about it. These people set an example for us all and the Big Issue is encouraging readers to support their initiatives.2
In our Gospel today, the people of Capernaum were impressed by Jesus because he taught with authority, that authority was then confirmed by the actions of Jesus when he called out an unclean spirit. Those unclean spirits recognised who Jesus was; whilst others, including the so called learned; could not see or hear who was in front of them. As Baptised Catholics we have the authority and responsibility to share the Good News that Jesus is our Saviour. He has been called to save everyone, regardless of what we look like, regardless of which language we speak, regardless of which faith we started out in. Jesus is the only way to the Father [Jn 14:6].
In the first reading we hear how God promised to send prophets to the people because they were afraid to hear God directly. These prophets should not be looked upon as some sort of magicians with party tricks who could predict the future using their own energies or methods, these people were spokespersons for God and if we look at the Old Testament, God sent many prophets to guide the Chosen People and to try and keep them close to Him.
St Paul, writing to the early church in Corinth, suggested that single people could devote more of their time to God than married people. St Paul was writing to the Corinthians under the impression that Jesus would return imminently. With that in mind, Paul thought that being married with the responsibility of children would have been a distraction from focussing on Jesus. This does not mean that a vocation to be married is any less than a vocation which involves remaining single. Both vocations have their values and challenges. A single man or a single woman may be able to devote more time to serving God and their community; they have the potential to be more available to serve the Community. Married people serve God in a different way; their Sacrament is a sign of God’s love, and they can help the Church to grow through this love. Not only by raising children in the faith, but also in the way they love each other; they are a tangible sign of how Christ loves His Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
CCC 547-550: Jesus accompanies words with miracles
CCC 447, 438, 550: Jesus’ power over demons
CCC 64, 762, 2595: the role of the prophet
CCC 922, 1618-1620: virginity for the sake of the Kingdom
Please keep in your prayers this week
- 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.
- Those discerning a vocation and those considering coming into the Catholic Church.
- The innocent people caught up in wars and conflicts around the world, but especially those in Palestine, Israel, Ukraine and Russia.
- Those on pilgrimage or those planning a pilgrimage at this time.
- For Kristoff, Olivier, Lenora and Chimamanda due to be Baptised at St Bede’s on Sunday.
- Those who work to promote racial justice in our Community and for those who work to repair the damage done to people through physical and mental attacks .
- Married people, that we all recognise the responsibility we have to promote our Sacrament in the way we live and love each other
2 The Big Issue, Issue 1599 [The Big Issue Group, London, 2024] 7-29.