PASTOR’S CORNER

THE SOLMNITY OF THE BIRTH
OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

        We celebrate the feast of the saints on the day that they die but this is not the case of John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the only person apart from our Lady and Jesus, that the church celebrates his birthday and death. One may ask why?

       There are several reasons to this but I will only share a few:

       First the Role that John was given as the herald of the messiah. He was the one who announced and prepared the way for Jesus.

      Secondly, He was already in possession with the life of the Spirit by the time he was born and this was given to him by Jesus while two of them were in their mother’s womb (Luke 1:41-42)

         The third factor that moved the church to establish this feat was the similarity of the role of John the Baptist to our role of making known Christ to the entire world and preparing the hearts of all persons to accept Jesus. This feast reminds us to go make disciples of all nations.

          In other words, the feast of the birth of John the Baptist must help us to always discover more clearly what our Christian calling is; this is a feast meant to fill our hearts with joy at the thought of the greatness of our vocation. We are like John in the words of Zachariah; “You little child you will go before the Lord to prepare the way of the Lord… (Luke 1:76)

          Yes, it is our task to leading the people to God. By virtue of our Baptism we are called to be missionaries and evangelizers of the Lord. The church and the world today will need many more Johns to make the Christ known and to bring his love. There are several ways we can do this but one thing is, bringing the truth to where the truth lies. Let your light shine among all that they may see the glory of God.

         Let me take this opportunity in wishing all those who go by the name John the Baptist a Happy feast day.

Have a Wonderful week

 

        The famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin is mostly known for his sculpture of “The Thinker”. But if you would ask Rodin which of his pieces he likes the best, he would tell you it would be “The Hand of God”. The Hand of God is a sculpture of a hand, holding a man and woman embracing. To prepare himself to begin sculpting “The Hand of God”, Rodin traveled around his village in France drawing the hands of anyone who would allow him to draw their hands. He drew the hands of school children, people at the market, his doctor, mothers and their children, a young couples hands, an old couple’s hands, and many others to get the “feel” for his work. Rodin is telling us that when we use our hands to help, or heal, or to love one another, we come to know God in a more personal way, and we better understand about His kingdom.

         Parables are never about what they say. The parable of the Lost Sheep is not about lost sheep at all, it’s about lost souls. Any parable about planting seeds is not about gardening, it’s about spreading the word of God. To spread the word of God we have to prepare ourselves to receive the word first, to become good soil so the seed can be nourished and grow in us. Then, we have to share with others what has been shared with us. We share the word with the poor and the lonely. We share with the downtrodden and those living on the fringes of society. We preach the good news to the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus identifies with the poor when he experiences homelessness, hunger and thirst. He identifies with sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, the unrighteous and you and I and invites us all first to conversion, to become clean and then come to the table in the Kingdom of God, for the Kingdom of God is meant for all of us.

        For us to enter the Kingdom of God, God asks
us to make a radical choice. We are required to make a choice that goes against the ideas and ways of the world. God asks us to put others before ourselves. For in His Kingdom, the last are first and the first are last. God asks us to die to ourselves. If we see a brother or sister with no food or no cloak, we are to give them ours, for what good is it to say: “I hope you are warm and well fed”, and then not take care of their physical needs. To gain the Kingdom we must give everything. One day, we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive recompense according to what we have done in the body.

      We are called to love as God loves. As Saint John says it: “They will know we are Christians by our love” (John 13:35). We share God’s love by lending a helping hand to those in need, to sow love in what we say and what we do. The size of the hand doesn’t matter. It matters not if the hand belongs to a man or woman, a young or old person. What matters is what the hand does to further the Kingdom of God. May God make us good soil this week, and may he give us opportunities to sow good seeds for his Kingdom. I want to wish all Fathers and all those who are a Father figure to others a Happy Father’s Day. And may you all rest safe and secure in the palms of our loving Father.

Deacon Ken Stewart

       Rarely ever does the scriptural offering appear to go in so many directions as it does today. The Gospel itself (Mark 3:20-35) offers a fast-moving account of a complex episode in Jesus’ ministry. It sets that ministry within two sources of misunderstanding: one from his family, the other—much deadlier—from the scribes, who are now emerging as his chief and potentially murderous critics. In an arrangement typical of his Gospel, St. Mark has “sandwiched” the latter controversy within two outer episodes—at the beginning and end—both having to do in some way with “family”.

       We have to accept the fact that Mark’s Gospel is not the best place to look for a positive theology of the family in the New Testament. In seeking to recapture and restrain him at the beginning of this episode, Jesus’ natural family show themselves to be on the side of the old age that Kingdom is supplanting. He is not “out of his mind”, as they fear. Rather, his teaching about the offer of his Father’s unconditional forgiveness and love taps into a deep longing in people’s hearts. Hence the enthusiasm that it stirs up among the crowds.

         The ancient world attributed to demonic possession many pathological human conditions that modern medicine would assign to natural causes. This made Jesus’ healing activity, interpreted in a hostile sense, open to the accusation that he expels demons in alliance with demonic power. In effect they are accusing him of sorcery, a capital offence at the time.

          Jesus first dismisses the charge with the fairly obvious image of the kingdom divided against itself. His second image—that of a burglar binding up a strong man in order to burgle his house—is far more interesting. It is a comment upon his entire ministry, especially as described by St. Mark. John the Baptist had announced the coming of One “stronger” than himself who would baptize with the Spirit (Mark 1:7). Jesus here presents himself as “the Stronger One” who, through his exorcisms, has come to bind up the Strong Man—Satan—and “burgle” his house in the sense of reclaiming human beings for the freedom of God’s Rule.

      Jesus then goes over to the offensive. Since it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that he expels demons, to accuse him of doing so through the prince of demons is tantamount to identifying the Spirit of God with the demonic world. Whereas all other blasphemies may in due course find forgiveness, such a blasphemy is unforgivable.

        The thought of an unforgivable sin has long tormented delicate Christian consciences. Rather than asking about what kinds of sin might be thought to be so heinous as to be beyond divine mercy, it is best to restrict the sense to what is precisely in view here: since the Spirit at work in Jesus is the essential agent of salvation, to persevere in denying the presence of that Spirit or to identify it with the adversarial power is to effectively place oneself out of the reach of salvation and so of ultimate forgiveness.

       Moreover, we should not so focus upon what might be an “unforgivable sin” as to pass over the assertion of universal forgiveness in the preceding statement (“all … sins will be forgiven …” [v. 28]). Jesus has come to offer the universal forgiveness associated with the onset of the Kingdom (1:15; 2:5). Only those who identify his activity with what is in fact its diametric opposite place themselves outside the scope of that forgiveness.

        Finally, Jesus’ family, now including his mother, reappears on the scene, seeking to contact him. Jesus’ sweeping response, indicating his disciples as his “brother and sister and mother”, need not be interpreted as a putdown of his mother. Rather, it is a declaration of the privileged position of disciples within the community of the Kingdom. We note the omission of “father” in the list. The disciples (those “who do the will of God”) make up the new family that Jesus is drawing to himself under the Fatherhood of God.

The First Reading, Gen 3:9-15, is a truncated version of the divine “inquest” following the sin of the original human couple. A link to the Gospel is probably to be found via the patristic Protoevangelium tradition where the “offspring” of the woman, who will crush the serpent’s head, is interpreted christologically. As told in the Gospel, the Son (Jesus) of the New Eve (Mary) will crush the demonic world represented by the serpent.

The brief Second Reading, 2 Cor 4:13-15, is notable for Paul’s expression, in the final sentence, of the goal of the apostolic life: the multiplication of grace, leading to more and more thanksgiving to God. Ultimately, what God wants from human beings is simply gratitude.

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ