Author Archives: iseeitmyway

8th Sunday C

The first reading is Sirach 27:4-7 – “When a sieve is shaken, the refuse appears;
    so do a person’s faults when he speaks.
 The kiln tests the potter’s vessels;
    so the test of a person is in his conversation.
  Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree;
    so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of his mind.
 Do not praise anyone before he speaks,
    for this is the way people are tested.”
It is plain to see that this is not just a wise statement but delightful poetry with a thought-provoking message. Like the whole of this long book of Sirach it draws on both the moral ideals of the Bible teaching and on the wisdom and culture of the Greek/Hellenistic world. It is thought to have originally been written in Hebrew but come to the West only through the Greek version of the Bible called the Septuagint (LXX for short). It is for this reason that it is not present in the general Bible but only in the Catholic versions; also it is classified with a diminished reliability and is called deuterocanonical because of this secondary nature. It also goes under the name of Ecclesiasticus.

The second reading is from 1 Cor 15:54-58. “When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
 ‘Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”
This is the penultimate chapter of this letter of Paul and is really the end of his theological message, the last chapter being mostly just practical matters. With Paul’s education in the Scriptures he considers death to be unnatural, seeing it as a punishment for sin – the first sin of Adam and Eve as related in Genesis at the beginning of the Bible. We might today see death rather as the natural completion of life, which only has a regrettable aspect to it because of our weakness in faith in the beauty of the after-life – a weakness to be expected because of sin making us unworthy of the gift of life forever within God. But we do have faith in the real meaning of the after-life.

The gospel is Luke 6:39-45. “ He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?  A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye”, when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.
‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit;  for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”
A powerful message here about being careful not to overlook our own weaknesses and only recognise and even to point out the weakness of others. This is not to say that it is not appropriate and helpful sometimes to offer correction to others, like a parent with a child or one friend with another. But let us never do this imagining ourselves impeccable.

7th Sunday C

The first reading from 1 Samuel chapter 26, draws the essence of the story by omitting unnecessary verses (see the full text here). We learn from Samuel that Saul was the first real king of the Jewish people, chosen by God and helped by Him to conquer all the surrounding tribes; but he was unfaithful to some of God’s orders and also unrepentant of this sin. Whereas David, also chosen by God to be king, although he too had sinned, was repentant of his sin. So the story we hear today is about the relationship of these two to each other and also to God. This is a tale to teach us something about our own behaviour; we are chosen by God, we fall short of His requirements but we must repent and live righteously.
The second reading (1 Cor 15:45-49) reminds me that the popular idea of a human person being made up of body and soul is drawn from medieval theology based on Greek philosophy.  But Paul who writes the letter to the Corinthians, like all the NT authors, has a different view of human nature; a human is a purely natural being at least until elevated by God with a higher (spiritual) life.  This spiritual life is perfectly achieved by Christ the perfect example of humanity which we should be aiming to emulate.
The gospel reading presents Jesus’ teaching about how to live in this higher spiritual state. It is a great challenge but also a huge privilege to be called and inspired by God in Christ to live th way the best human should. We sometimes so concentrate on the divinely of Jesus that we overlook the fact that he was genuinely human with all the struggles that this state involves – of which we are well aware.

6th Sunday C

In the first reading (Jer 17:5-8) we have a very straightforward message which applies to our time as much as to Jeremiah’s.  This passage is in the form of a typical wise message which is also found in some psalms (including the responsorial psalm for today).  We must remember that the way the writings attributed to Jeremiah came together was not that he wrote them, but that some of the remembered preachings of his were later recorded and only eventually added to and structured as we have them today.  There is an early Greek verion of the OT called the Septuagint which in places has slightly different texts.  Indeed the main force of our reading is also found in the ancient writings recorded of the Egyptian wise man, Amenemope (see here).

The second readig is from 1 Cor 15:12 onwards omitting verses 13-15.  There was no real certainty throughout the OT that there was any life after death (perhaps this is why some saintly charaters were attributed very long lives).  And it seems from our reading that even some Christians were a little uncertain about this, despite stories of Jesus appearing to people after His death.  It is for this reason that Paul has this clear message in his letter here.  It would have also been a comfort in the early church where Christians in some contexts were being put to death for their beliefs.  It is now a comfort to usthat just as with Jesus, so also when someone dies, therie lif is not some much ended as brought to completion – fulfilled,

The gospel is from Luke 6:20-26 preseded by verses 17,18a (“He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases“).  This introduces what we now call the beatitudes – each starting with the word “happy,” followed by what we might call “woes” now translated as “alas for you who…”  This is an uplifting message for those who need cheering up or just re-assuring. but also a warning for those who see themselves as well-off in worldly things.

 

5th Sunday C

The first reading (Isaiah 6:1-8)pictures Isaiah in the Temple (about 700 years BC). Either he has a vision, or the singing and smoke-filled dim atmosphere heightens his prayerful state and he feels the call from God to be a prophet – or this is a developed anecdote retold by his followers and eventually recorded. It is from this account that we have our chant of “Holy, holy, holy …” The presence of God in the Temple was signified by an empty slab between the huge statues of the seraphim (angels).  Isaiah, feeling this presence, inevitably becomes aware of his unworthiness and that of the people to which he belongs. But God purifies from sin and Isaiah is then bold enough to accept the task that he feels called upon to undertake, in the words which we have adopted for one of our hymns “Here I am Lord,” a common response to God in the Old Testament, classically in the story of the call of Samuel.

In the second reading (1 Cor 15:1-11) Paul is gently reminding his readers of the central beliefs that he taught them originally, and chiefly that of the resurrection of Jesus. The verses following our reading seem to make it clear that some of them didn’t really accept this doctrine. It is likely that they had the notion that the body was quite separate from the soul and that it was of little value relative to it. Later in the Church there would often occur heresies that had this Manichean tendency; it is like being quite different on Sundays from how one is for the rest of the week, or like separating the secular from the religious in our lives, or even like imagining one can love one’s neighbour without doing anything about it. Clearly, the Resurrection shows us that this is not the way Christians should think or act. Part of the text of our reading still influences the creed that we say: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

After the visit to Nazareth which we read over the last two Sundays, Luke comes then to the place in his gospel where he recounts the calling of the first fishermen (Luke 5:1-11); he chose to elaborate what he read in Mark, and precedes it with Jesus preaching from Simon’s boat and with the story of the miraculous catch of fish similar to a story which is told in John 21, where also we hear of Peter, after denying Jesus at the time of His arrest, being made the figurative shepherd of the early church. Luke also wants to make this point about Simon Peter and ends with the figurative phrase about becoming “fishers of men.” At the time Luke is writing, there has been an expansion of the followers of Jesus and a need for some structure among the leaders and followers; the miraculous catch of fish could be taken as a figurative tale of this expansion.

4th Sunday C

The first reading with an introduction tells of God’s announcement to the prophet that his destiny has always been to speak out on behalf of God.  But he is somewhat of a country dweller unused to the city and the high life.  In addition the traditions of his tribe are those of the northern kingdom, called Israel at this time (the seventh century BC), whereas Jerusalem and the kingdom called Judah, has a different approach to their religious history.  But God still wants him to be bold enough to speak out even against the royalty at this time of particular threat from the Babylonians on the northern boarder, as well as against the religious leaders and the ordinary people of the land. God says that He will strengthen and protect him in the difficult task for which he quite naturally feels scared and inadequate.

In the reading from I Corinthians we have the beautiful literary gem from Paul about the importance and glory of the virtue of love.  A passage with which many people will be familiar because some of its phrases have great popularity.  I think Paul must have composed it almost as a poem even before he decided to include it in this letter, though we should not listen to it just as delightful prose and wonderful ideas. Rather we should see how each of its gems might say something to us and to our attitude to ourselves and the way we live out our lives – do we just speak hollow but loud words, are we patient with ourselves and others, do we seek our own interests all the time?  As our lives progress it is selfless and real love that we should be developing as our lives progress, though we can only see things vaguely in this life.

The reading from Luke is the second part of last week’s tale about Jesus reading in the synagogue in Nazareth from the scroll of Isaiah – the passage not quite as the text we have in our bibles. Today’s gospel takes up the story after this. Jesus was claiming for himself an authority over the meaning of the text and applying it to himself as God’s chosen one who would bring the longed-for year of favour.  The congregation were initially impressed by his words but soon realised that that raised difficulties for them, for they knew Him as the son of the local carpenter (untrained and insignificant in their small village).  And if that wasn’t enough to upset them He went on to explain that in the history of their people, God often seemed to favour the non-Jews – as with Elijah and Elisha’s miracles – their infuriation, according to our reading, led to extreme anger, though Jesus managed to walk away from any danger they posed. We have an interesting reminder of something of the process of gospel writing, for in adapting this story from Mark’s Gospel, Luke has overlooked that he has transposed the story to almost the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, so that the sentence “Do here what you have done in Capernaum” (verse 23b) makes no sense in Luke’s gospel because he hasn’t related any activity of Jesus in Capernaum it would make more sense if it were in Mark’s gospel.

You can read my jottings here

3rd Sunday C

The setting of the first reading (Nehemiah 8:2-10 omitting long lists of names), is back in Jerusalem after the Exile but before the Temple or any synagogue is usable. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah together give us information about the restoration of the physical and political structure, and of the religion of Jerusalem and of the whole of Judah. Today we hear of Ezra the great religious leader who brought the people back to respect the Law of God. He solemnly reads from the scroll of the Law; the people worship the Lord present in the words of the Bible; they listen and it is interpreted to them. The Bible is a deep and ancient piece of literature as well as being the Word of God Who remains a mystery to all; some interpretation is needed because of the time and culture difference between that of the original and of the time of its reading; it is also necessary in order to grasp how it might apply to the current situation – the same might be said about this reading and us today; what will a preacher say, what does the Law of God mean for us in our time and situation?

In the second reading (1 Cor 12:12-27 verses 15-26 might be left out) we hear of Paul’s image of the church as a body; whatever the word might mean today, at that time and in their culture it is more likely that the ‘body’ is the way the reality of the whole person is present in the world and to others; the body of the community of believers has many parts seemingly quite diverse, but they make up one presence of Christ; present in us, in our particular church and in the worldwide Church. We each have our part to play in maintaining and developing this presence of Christ in our world. This is different from His presence in the sacred words of the Bible, recognised by the hearers in the first reading though the Word of God in the Scriptures plays an important role in our developing faith.

In the gospel passage for today, we jump awkwardly from the stylised introductory verses (chapter 1 verses 1- 4) to beyond the infancy narratives, the baptism and the temptations to (chapter 4 verses 14-21). In the introduction Luke indicates that after research, he has a plan for his writing to highlight what he thinks is the true message of the Good News. We hear that Jesus in the synagogue of his home town reads from the scroll of the Prophet, Isaiah (61:1f), and amazes the people by saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” He is announcing the year of favour. It is noticeable that in Luke’s the quotation is from the LXX (the Greek Septuagint version of the Bibe), with the use of ‘the blind’ where the Hebrew Masoretic Text has ‘the prisoners,’ and (according to some manuscripts) with ‘he opened’ rather than the Hebrew original’s ‘he unrolled’ the book. Also in Luke’s text a line from Is 58:6 is included in the quotation and the last two poetically joined lines at the end of that passage in Isaiah 61 are missed out, namely “and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.” Because elsewhere Luke is generally very accurate in quoting the LXX, it may be that this part of the story about Nazareth is taken by him from a previous piece of writing or from oral tradition. Because the section read today is not the whole story (we shall hear the rest of it next week), the significance of what we hear today is different from what it would otherwise be. Here, his preaching in the synagogue must be taken as an upbeat affirmation of the start of a new era for us, an era of favour with God, which will elevate us and bring us release, freedom and renewed vision.

2nd Sunday C

The background situation to the first reading is really the same as that for last week’s, and the message is again an encouraging one.  But there is a distinctive and interesting element.  As happens today for a newborn baby in many cultures, the selection of the name is done thoughtfully in order to express something of the parents’ hopes for the child.  But sometimes in later life a different name comes to a person and for different reasons.  At school a child may get a regularly used nickname to describe something of the character, hopefully but sadly not always, a positive notion welcomed by the recipient.  Sometimes even an adult may change name to express something of which they are proud – such as an actor or other public figure.  You may well know that in the gospels we are told that Jesus changed the name of Simon to Peter, a word that meant rock, because he was to be a foundation stone of the early church; and in the Old Testament, Abram’s name is changed to Abraham when he is chosen by God.  In our reading, female names play an important role; they are applied to the people and the land; the name will be changed from a bad one to a very special one (from Azubah meaning forsaken, to Hephzibah meaning my delight, and the land from Desolate to Espoused).  The passage goes on to suggest that God will marry the renewed and delightful bride, this is a remarkable image of the relationship of God to us – worth singing a new song about (Psalm 96).

In the passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (12: 4-11), he writes about the many and wonderful spiritual gifts that the people in the church there have.  I think there may have been some ill-feeling; some claiming or clearly thinking that their particular talent was superior to that of others.  But at the start and at the end of the passage read today, Paul emphasizes the unity that there should be because all the gifts are from the same Spirit, the one God – so there should be no disharmony among them. Paul lists nine gifts here, but the Catholic Church has in the past taught that we Christians have seven special spiritual gifts.

The Gospel may well have been chosen because after the celebrations of the birth and baptism of Jesus, he begins his public ministry, and this miracle at Cana is presented in John’s gospel as the first of his signs.  But most of the content of John’s gospel carries within it a deeper meaning.  It is because of this that many anomalies appear if it is read at surface level; for example in this account it says at the end that Jesus revealed his glory and yet as far as the story tells us, only the servants knew that what was being drunk had moments before been water.   The early Christian recipients of the gospel might see in the ceremonial water jars and in the wine a reference to the replacement  of  Jewish religious rituals with the Christian Eucharistic celebration.  A marriage relationship was used to explain the love of God for his chosen ones, as in the first reading.  There is more to it than just this however, and you might examine some further depths of meaning here  or elsewhere on the world wide

The Baptism of the Lord

The readings are here    though there are alternative which you might have.

The way that humans understand their role in the world varies; and the understanding that religious people have of the relationship between God and them is never the same and sometimes develops.  In the lead-up to Christmas we have had many passages in which the Jews expressed their hopes and expectations of God; they thought of ideal leaders, of being gloriously successful and of leading the rest of humanity.  But now we hear of other trends that they were developing, based on their experiences of bad times, of disappointments and especially of being away from what they thought of as their God-given homeland.  Tentatively there arises the thought of a subservient role for themselves, even of suffering for the benefit of others.  In part of the book of Isaiah from the time of the Exile in Babylon, there are four poems about a servant of the Lord and what he will do.  The reading for today (Isaiah 42 passim)  is part of the first of these.  It is never clear who the servant is meant to be; it could be an individual saintly person, one of the prophets or all the chosen people as a group; but Christians have always seen Jesus as the one referred to in these poems; that is why this particular passage is chosen for us today.  It speaks of justice for all, of gentle caring for the weakest and of miracles for those with various ills; a servant who is a promise for them and a light for all.  The psalm with which we respond to the reading, is about the thunderous rain and lightning that is both a hardship and a blessing for this agricultural people; it is called the voice of God and it is a revelation of the glory of God and peace but also hardship for His people.

An alternative first reading is from Isaiah chapter 55. This passage originated, perhaps, towards the end of the exile, when hope could be raised for a return to the promised land, but it is also about the need for people to embrace this gift of God i.e. the return to the homeland. As it stands it is a poem of three main sections; God addressing everyone with needs, the poet urging the people to heed God’s word and then God announcing His plans and their utter reliability. Firstly, some people know their needs but others think they will be satisfied with things that are not actually good for them; they should accept the promise of God in a covenant that will never be revoked – and the poet adds the notion that this is open to people of all nations. Secondly, the poet calls us to respond while we can, with words echoed at the time of Jesus in the Baptist’s call to repentance – turn your life around now! And the poem concludes with beautiful similes, as God speaks about the surety of His plans – his word that is not compromising but as certain “as the sky is above the earth… as the rain and the snow fall downwards and water the land…” We should be moved by this poem to renew our commitment to live in accord with God’s plan for us, especially at this time of New Year resolutions.

The second reading is from the first letter of John (1 John 5:1-9). This short section at the end of this so-called epistle is a neat summary of much of what has been covered in earlier chapters. The whole ‘letter’ is more an essay about faith in Jesus Christ and our living response to and involvement in God’s plan. The reading is an example of the intensity of the wording found also in the Fourth Gospel, equally attributed to John. It is about believing, loving and doing whatever God commands; about us Christians, being children of God and free from the control of any worldly deficiencies (just referred to as ‘the world.’ There is a link between being obedient children of God and freedom from the downward drag of ‘the world.’ It is all dependant on Jesus Christ, a genuinely human being, who went through the process of baptism by water, through the trauma of shedding His blood for us and who lived with the Spirit of God. The Christian is similarly engaged with the life of God through baptism, the Eucharist and the gift of the Spirit. All this should cause us to reflect on our faith and its practice in loving!

In this cycle (B) of readings, the gospel is from Mark (Mark 1:7-11) about the baptism of Jesus. John the Baptist was the sort of person who these days would make the headlines in the news for his unconventional behaviour, with his message of dramatic conversion symbolised with emersion in the river Jordan; he drew crowds of all different types of people. Some early Christians at the time of the writing of this gospel were more attracted by John than with Jesus, who was a much calmer and gentler character, though He did propose some hard sayings. So it is that Mark tells of John himself declaring the superiority of Jesus to himself; indeed that Jesus was the very Son of God on whom the true Spirit of God had descended, and who had the grace and favour of God. So the Baptism of Jesus which these readings are chosen to celebrate, speaks to us of faith and love and obedience to God, all through our union in humanity with Jesus and hence with God Himself – we have the power to fulfil God’s plan for us if we just choose and stick at it.

See Jeffs Jottings – Devotion(s)

Epiphany

Isaiah chapter 60, verses 1-6 is the beginning of a poem that is probably from the time when the exiled Jews had just returned to find their homeland and their city in a sorry state of abandonment.  The Jews were the chosen people of God.  They generally thought that being chosen meant being blest with superiority, prosperity and security from their enemies and at times their history could give this impression.  But at the time of this poem, they had been captured and taken into exile by their enemies, their city of Jerusalem left to deteriorate and the grand Temple building was dilapidated.  This exile was seen as punishment from God for their abandonment of His laws and their association with other gods.  The prophet in the poem still has faith in God.  He tells them to pull themselves up and share his vision for the future – their grandeur restored and, surprisingly, the surrounding nations coming to support and even join them; so the vision is part of what they would want but perhaps disappointing that their God would be shared by foreigners (though they imagined they would be the top nation).

In Ephesians Chapter 3, verses 2 to 6 passim, we read of a vision different from the Old Testament view; a vision of the New Testament times.  It is a mystery, but it does include an openness to the non-Jews, the Gentiles, who now share the benefits of Christ and of being chosen; they are heirs now equally with the Jews and in fact there are more Gentile converts than Jewish ones.  But the openness to the inclusion of theses ‘pagans’ was a particular insight of Paul who differed from even Peter at times on this issue.  It makes one think of how Roman Catholics used to think they were the only proper Christians, and how Christians still often think of other faiths and atheists although they too usually have a vision of what is a good life and a hope for some better future.

The Gospel from Matthew chapter 2, verses 1-12, is part of what people know as the Christmas story. It was written at a time when a majority of the Christians seemed to be Gentiles rather than from the Jewish community and it has many allusions to the Jewish Scriptures.  Certainly in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life the Jews, especially their leaders, were antagonistic towards Him.  Matthew recalls many incidents from what we call the Old Testament, like the warning dreams of Joseph, the flight into Egypt (Genesis 42) when his brothers were suffering from poor crops, the threat of the Pharaoh to the baby Moses (Exodus 1) and more.  This story of Matthew’s also introduces the life of Jesus who showed concern for non-Jews like the Centurion and the Canaanite woman, who seemed to be welcomed at first by the Jews but at His trial the Leaders were against Him and even Peter denied knowing Him.  The star might draw on the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers 24 (see here), but astronomical phenomena were thought to accompany the birth of kings and emperors.  Is this pattern of betrayal and of the unexpected still the way things are in the world since Christ?.

Feast of Holy Family

There are alternatives for the first reading, This commentary is on Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14.  The Wisdom of (ben) Sirach is sometimes called Ecclesiaticus or even the Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach; it is what might be called a deutero-canonical book because its status as part of the canon (or official collection) of Scripture was not recognised by Jews resident in Israel; Protestant Bibles follow a shorter collection of the Old Testament; though Sirach was used by Jewish scholars and is included in the early Greek version of the Jewish Bible (the Septuagint) and is in Catholic bibles.  A lot of the wisdom in this book is about good relationships within families, society and between people in general. The section we have today is a good illustration of this.  The nature of the society from which this came is indicated by the absence of any reference to daughters.  We should, however, when we apply this reading to ourselves, include in our thinking all members of families as well as single people.

Another possibly first reading is based on 1 Samuel 1:20-28 (omitting verse 23).  This book is classified as a history, but like nearly all interesting history writing and also because it is part of sacred Scripture, its main aim is not to recount mere matter-of-fact details but to say something about us humans and in this case our relationship with God.  Its beginning aims to introduce the person of Samuel as a chosen one of God, a dynamic leader during troubled times and a prophetic voice of God to the people.  His birth is made to relate to that of Abraham’s son Isaac born to Sarah (when she was too old), and to Manoah’s son, Samson, when his wife was barren but visited by an angel (Judges 13).  Hannah, one of the important Elkanah’s wives had a lowly place because she was barren, but prayed to the Lord and became pregnant with Samuel.  God can do miraculous deeds!  This story so impressed Luke the evangelist that he tells of the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus with these stories in mind; and he even has Mary sing a song (the Magnificat) similar to that which Hannah sang (1 Samuel 2) after she became pregnant.

The second reading is from 1 John which is the first of three short letters to Christians in the tradition of John’s Gospel; it seems to be written by one who has an oversight of a number of Christian communities, and that there may have been two groups who interpreted things differently.  The writer is trying to encourage faithfulness to the early teaching and to the tradition that goes back to Christ himself.  Because people were beginning to express the message of Jesus in terminology not restricted to a Jewish context, there appears some development in the very teaching itself.  It seems that the ‘elder’ writing the letter was upbraiding those whom, he thinks, have taken this development too far, though in exactly what way is not clear.  But in the section we read today (Chapter 3 verses 1-2, 21-24), the emphasis is on the great confidence that Christians can have as children of God through their relationship with Christ and His Spirit.  Since they live with this new life what they ask will be in accord with the will of God and so they can be sure that their prayers will be answered.  And if this is fantastic, the future coming of Christ will be even more incomprehensibly wonderful.

The gospel is the story which we call the ‘Finding in the Temple’ ( Lk 2:41-52) is both delightful and surprising.  It is grouped within what we generally call the infancy narratives but is about growing up.  It moves from Jesus with his parents doing what a devout Jewish family would do, through the account of him amazing the Rabbis in the very heart of their religion, then causing anxiety to Mary and Joseph which highlights their wondering who he is and what his life is about, and then the story is about him claiming God is his father, finishing with Him returning to a life back home to grow and mature further.  The passage before our reading ends saying how Jesus grew bodily, intellectually and spiritually; and this may suggest what the passage we read might mean to us and what Luke the ‘church historian’ was trying to tell the early church, for the passage ends with the same notion of his growth.  Jesus, practising his religion, travels to the heart of it, listens to and asks questions of its learned teachers, seems lost even to those who love him, but after a spiritually dark period (“three days”) is found and remains to grow further into maturity.  Is this not like an outline of the gospel?  In Jesus’ life He moves on after baptism, teaching and doing good and gently challenging the way things are; but His message is enigmatic and remote to his followers until after the end of his life when he rises after three days and then has a new presence on earth, in the nascent church, which begins to grow in numbers, in spiritual strength and in favour with God – and is still growing.  And for the history of the church, still in our present time, is not this the pattern of its difficult growth towards the completed kingdom of God?  And how does this pattern match our own lives and our own development each of us in our own situation?