Newsletter 17th February 2019
Today is the Sixth Sunday of the Church’s year.
I calculate that in the past this would have been known as Septuagesima Sunday – two weeks before the beginning of Lent, purple vestments would appear but no penances until Ash Wednesday.
There is a second collection today for Racial Justice Sunday.
Off to Spain again this week, this time to work at the College. This is the visit in which I prepare all the paper work for the meeting of our Trustees later in the year, so quite a lot to do. Much of the material is held on my lap top but a need to check everything and to anticipate the questions that might be asked. Last year we prepared a major disaster plan and I will need to check all the details. This year the effect of Brexit regulations.
This means that I will not be here for Masses during the week. It is possible that the Bishop may be here on some of the days and I will let you know the details on Sunday. I hope to be back for Saturday morning as usual.
Time to start to tidy up the garden for the summer. The grass has recovered from the dryness last year and for a few weeks at least, we may have a well- tended lawn. I need to buy some more seeds and compost for may herb posts as they need to be cleaned out. The spring flowers are beginning to appear and there are some buds on the fruit trees.
The cousin loves to visit the boy and his sister. They drag her about and stuff her with food but she enjoys every moment of it and only wishes that she could be a bit older. Their favourite is a large dish of pasta.
I think I have mastered the control system and the Church is reasonably warm. Also we needed to renew the thermostat in the Angelus Room. Again the instructions for the heating system are impossible but I have pushed a lot of buttons and it seems to be reasonably warm.
Here is a very typical dish from Castile. You will need to fry some cloves of garlic in olive oil together with some slices of bread. Add some water or possibly some stock and some paprika. Before serving break an egg into the broth so that it can poach in the liquid. Put two pieces of cooked bread in each soup bowl with the egg and pour the broth on top.
A prayer from St. Thomas More:
Father in heaven you have given us a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Be with us today in all that we do, so that your light may shine out in our lives. Amen.
Do you remember this poem?
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips,
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land.
(This was written by C.H Sorley, one of the First World War poets who was killed in 1915. His poem recalls cross country running when he was at school.)
For those with obscure interests, one of the Volvo buses with the MMC bodywork, which normally operate on route 47 appeared on route 54 the other day. It seems that the older Enviros are being overhauled at present.
This year I am renewing the photo-copier. The old one is 18 years old and has produced 600,000 copies so the time has come for a new machine. I hope that it will last as long as the old one.
Best wishes to you all,
Monsignor Nicholas Rothon
Sixth Sunday of the year 2019
Today we have the familiar gospel text of the Beatitudes, which we sometimes refer to as the Sermon on the Mount. It is similar to the version that we find in Mathew’s gospel, but Luke’s version also includes the negative comparisons of “alas for you, …”.
Matthew’s version comes at the beginning of a section for three chapters in his gospel which seem to be a summary of the teaching of the Lord. If you were to search for a compendium of the Lord’s teaching, you might well turn to chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew’s gospel. The question might be raised as to whether today’s narrative is a single discourse, or whether it might be a collection of the Lord’s teachings over many months. Certainly this remains a familiar way of teaching with the ayatollahs up to the present day. The reputation of a teacher is based on the number of proverbs or words of wisdom that he teaches to his disciples. They are learned by heart and then discussed in order to work out the full meaning. They take the form of a poetic phrase in which the rhyme comes not only from the words but from the balance of the concepts. The disciples take one part of the phrase and try to work out how it can correspond with the second part.
Luke’s version of the beatitudes is shorter than Mathew’s version and is unexpectedly harsher and more direct. Usually Luke offers a kinder and more gentle account. Matthew, for example, begins with “Blessed are the poor in spirit” but Luke is more direct “How happy you who are poor”. Or “Happy or those who hunger and thirst for what is right” whilst in Luke it is simply “Happy you who are hungry now”. One can only speculate on what were the original words of the Lord. Did the gospel writers try to soften the impact of the Lord’s teaching by adding their own qualifications, as the text came to be written down? Another possible explanation is that Lord’s original words were quite hard, as given in Luke’s version, but that this was a deliberate method of teaching. The aim was to surprise and even shock his listeners, so as to make them discuss what he had said, and then discover what he really meant. Thus it seems likely that Luke’s version is the original form of teaching, whilst Matthew includes some of the subsequent discussion.
But whatever the explanation, there is no doubt that the Beatitudes touch some of the fundamental questions which formed part of the lives of the Lord’s hearers. The gospel explains how the people came from many places to be cured of their diseases. But the Lord goes on to speak about their way of life. Certainly his words would find an echo in the minds of the country people of Galilee. They could have had good times, but also hard times, when a crop failed due to a harsh winter, or a dry summer or even disease of plants. Some days the fish in the lake would be plentiful but on other days there would be problems. You might remember Peter’s words last week – “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing”. Other details from the gospels reflect these same things: the barren fig tree or the darnel growing among the wheat and ruining the crop. And then there was the savagery of the Roman occupiers: Pilate had slain a group of Galileans, while John the Baptist was cruelly put to death at the court of Herod.
So what to make of the Beatitudes in our own day, as we try to work out what the Lord is saying? We find it difficult to accept absolute poverty as such, but we might look for the fullness of what is being said. What are the problems that seemingly unlimited wealth can bring? The abuse of individuals, the raiding of pension schemes, asset striping when a company is purchased so that jobs disappear. The failure to see the poor as our neighbours. All these seem to be current realities. And what of those who hunger? Do we think of the food we don’t eat and the amount we waste? (It has recently been estimated that in the UK, one third of the food available to us is wasted). Do we go consider the real cost of the things that we use? Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato si’ is not alone in encouraging us to think of the environment: you will perhaps have also heard of the phrase “reduce, re-use and re-cycle”.
These are no more than passing ideas, but a suggestion to you to try to re-think the Beatitudes, to find out what they really might mean, recognising that the Lord does not start with absolute precepts, rather he proposes ideas to us, leaving us to work them out in our own time.