Fr. Bob Writes – November 19, 2017

Fr Bob writes: “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is beyond pearls…” (Proverbs 31:10)

The author, or better said, the compiler of the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament began by stating the purpose of the work: “that people may appreciate wisdom and discipline, understand words of intelligence, receive training in wise conduct (in what is right, just and honest), that resourcefulness be imparted to the simple, and knowledge and discretion to the young man, a wise man advance in learning, and an intelligence man gain sound guidance.”  The study of wisdom, the artful discussion of the details of God’s word, the education in the ways of wisdom were the work of Jewish men carried out in synagogues, town squares and in their homes. Women did not play a part in these discussions. All the students in synagogue schools were boys, no girls.

The compiler of Proverbs chose to end his work with two sections focused on the wisdom of women. 31:1-9 are words of advice from a mother to her son who was a king. 31:10-31, which make up our first reading this Sunday at Mass, tell of the ideal wife and mother whose life, not just her words, shows how to live wisely.  Girls learned from their mothers and grandmothers. The influence of a wife on her husband, even in a male-dominated culture, should not be underestimated… much less the influence of a mother on both daughters and sons.  Ending his work with these reflections on the wisdom of women reflects on the wisdom of the compiler who, in doing so, reminds the reader to learn wisdom, not just in the male-dominated debates in synagogues and classes at school, but from the living examples of wives, moms and grandmas right there at home.

(thanks to Fr Denny Dempsey for his insights into our first reading this Sunday)

Fr Bob Writes – November 12, 2017

 “so that you do not grieve like the rest who have no hope ” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

The grief of those who have no hope is that of those who do not believe in life after death.  Belief in Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for our hope.

Trying to figure out when and how Jesus would return was an important topic of conversation among the early Christian communities reflected here in this text from our second reading this Sunday.  It also seems to be a concern for many evangelical Christians even today.

St Paul seems to have been of the opinion that the Second Coming would occur before all of his readers would physically die, thus his referring in our second reading , to “we who are alive.”  The image of the living, or a select group of the living, being raised up to heaven is often referred to as the “Rapture.”  Sacred Scripture gives no basis for a belief in some being taken up to heaven before the return of Christ, and some being “left behind.”  The Catholic Church has no teaching using the ideas of a “Rapture” before the return of Christ.  What we believe is expressed in the Creed, that Jesus will return and that those who physically died as well as those still living will be raised with some manner of a final judgment.

Although we believe in the Second Coming, we don’t know when Jesus will return.  After so many centuries have passed since the resurrection of Jesus, determining when Jesus will return is not a major issue for Catholics as it is for some Christian groups.  It is hard to understand how significant this question was for Christians in the first century.  But in our day and age, when it is not even a question for most people,  we have to hold onto our belief that Christ will return at some point in time to bring the world to judgement.  How ready are we for this moment?

Fr Bob Writes – Nov 5, 2017

Fr Bob writes : In my home country, England, November 5th is known as ‘Guy Fawkes Night ” . It recalls that Guy Fawkes, way back in the 18th century, was discovered with other conspirators trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament and was burnt at the stake for treason. The night is always commemorated by letting off fireworks, and holding bonfires in which a dummy, called a “guy” is set alight. A jingle we used to sing as kids was “Remember, remember the 5th of November!”

We are entering the month of November, the month in which we traditionally “remember” family and friends who have passed on, and we pray for their souls. On November 2nd we celebrate the Feast of All Souls, when we pray for the souls in purgatory, that they will soon be released from the cleansing from sin that they are undergoing so they can continue on their journey towards the everlasting bliss of heaven. Souls in purgatory can pray for others, such as us on earth, but cannot pray for themselves. They are part of what is called “The Church Suffering.”  The “Church Triumphant” includes those who have made it to heaven, and we celebrate their memory on November 1st in the Feast of All Saints. The “Church Militant” includes all the believers still alive, here on earth.

November 11th is, of course, known as “Remembrance” Sunday, because we recall and honour those men and women who gave their lives for our freedom in the various world and international wars over the last century or so. “We will remember them” runs part of the Pledge of Remembrance which we always recite on that day. This Sunday at St Philip’s we will celebrate our annual Remembrance Day service. It is always a very moving and humbling occasion, and I know that, this year, I will be mourning the fact that fewer servicemen and women will be present at the service, due to old age, infirmity and death.  It is important that we continue to “remember” their great sacrifice on our behalf.

Scripture makes a constant point of the importance of “remembering.”  Over and over again, for instance, Moses exhorts the people of Israel in the book of Deuteronomy to “remember” all that God has done for them in rescuing them from slavery in Egypt and bringing them to the Promised Land of Canaan.  The “tassels” and “phylacteries” mentioned by Jesus in the gospel were ways designed by God to help the people never to forget all he had done for them.  Moses’ continued pleas to his people to remember God in all their ways has an air almost of desperateness about them, because he knows by bitter experience how prone they are to forget their God and go after other gods instead.

The human tendency to forget seems to be really deep within each of us.  Hence the call to remembrance in this month of November should be attended to with absolute seriousness and intentionality, so that we don’t forget what is most important for our lives, especially our duty to remember our loved ones who have passed on, and their sacrifices for our freedoms.  And above all, never to forget the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to win us freedom from sin and death, and bring us to eternal bliss in heaven.