Category Archives: This week

Lent 3 cycle B

It is in Exodus, chapter 20, verses 1-17 that we have a version of the Ten Commandments. These were the basic formulae for good order introduced for when the tribes settled as a nation in Israel which they saw as their promised land. We know that the young need rules to bring discipline and order into their lives, and we are all young in our development towards full Christian living. But notice that it is not just external conformity that is wanted but internal attitude as well, and hence not only ‘do not steal’ but also ‘do not wish you had (covet) what is not yours.’ Some of the commandments are about religion but most about social order and interpersonal relationships – for good community – for once the Israelites settled in the ‘promised land’ religion and social order were much the same – there was no merely civil society.

In the second reading, (1 Cor 1:22-26), Paul develops his message to this community composed of both Jews and Gentiles who can easily disagree with each other, and bemoans the fact that some folk want miracles and signs to support their belief and others want religion to make sense and be reasonable. But, he points out that in matters relating to God, some actions and beliefs that might seems foolish are sensible and actions and beliefs that might to others seem weak are powerful – as evidenced particularly in the last days of the life of Jesus, but should be visible also in the way the Christians live out their Christianity. Like the Corinthians, we may have to do some daring things or put up with worldly scorn to live and improve ourselves as Christians.

The cleansing of the Temple (John 2:13-25), in the other Gospels reads as though it is about the actions of an outraged prophet, doing foolish things which lead to his demise; but in John’s gospel it is about the dramatic transference of the focal presence of God from the Jewish Temple, to the risen Body of Christ. That’s why the dialogue about the destruction of the Temple and its restoration comes within this story rather than at the trial as it does in the other gospels. Incidentally, in John’s gospel the restoration of the Temple is described as it being raised up again in three days, whereas in the others it says it will be rebuilt – raised up emphasizes the underlying and deeper meaning in John. The question of where to worship the presence of God will be raised in John (4:19-21) by the Samaritan woman (a non-Jewish person). The message there as here is that with Jesus there is a new presence of God in the world – in a human person, Jesus; the ‘body’ is how a person is visibly present in our world, and the whole of creation, all people, notably the communities of Christians and the Eucharist are the Body of Christ.

There is a Lenten reflection written by me (Jeff Bagnall) for this Sunday

2nd Lent cycle B

Verses 1-2,9-13 and 15-18 of Genesis 22: are part of a well-known and challenging story, but we should see it in context. Previously in the story God has promised Abraham he will be the ancestor of a vast number of people (Genesis 12:1-3) and even though he and Sarah are old they will have a son (Genesis 15:1-6) of their own, Isaac. It is through Isaac that there will be many descendants to fulfill God’s promise made to Abraham. But in this reading we hear that God asks Abraham to sacrifice this son, Isaac. Now this story purports to be about an event that took place about 1800 BC, so whatever was its source, it has been told and retold a considerable number of times before it was incorporated into the Jewish Bible. There was a time when they lived among others who sometimes sacrificed a child to bring good fortune or ward off some evil; certain Israelites themselves may have been lured into this practice and this tale about Abraham may have been told to illustrate the truth that God does not really want a child sacrificed even if it seemed to anyone a good ‘religious’ thing to do. But the story could also carry the homiletic message that sometimes God may ask of you things that seem quite appalling to you but you must trust God for He will always do right by you in the end; have faith in God for that will bring you righteousness.

In the reading from Romans 8:31-34, Paul says something that can be helpful to us. He is in the process of explaining his understanding of Christianity and here he expresses the utter confidence in God that we should have. After all God sent His Son to be one of us and to live and die for us; what better sign could we have of God’s concern for us. If God is for us, Paul says, then who can be against us. But we know from our experience that we can be accused and condemned by other people; Jesus Himself underwent accusation, trial, condemnation and even execution; but God raised Him to the new life with God – this is our belief and the foundation for our confidence in God.

The gospel reading from Mark 9:2-10 is about the Transfiguration. In the Book of Exodus, Moses goes up a mountain to commune with God and is in a cloud for six days before any revelation comes then he remains for forty days and forty nights. Some might reflect that Jesus with the inner circle of disciples is transfigured up some other mountain. With him appear representative figures of the Law and the Prophets which in His own way Jesus is bringing to completion. Peter couldn’t believe it when Jesus said He would suffer and die; the two didn’t match with how Peter thought the Messiah would be. But Peter now experiences things a little differently – he sees Jesus transfigured and hears God’s voice declaring Jesus to be His Son. This is utterly mysterious and no one can really speak about such things till they encounter Jesus risen: “he didn’t know what to say, they were so frightened.” We must try to see Christ in all the people with whom we have dealings, but that is often just as astounding and hard to realise!

There is a Lenten reflection written by me (Jeff Bagnall) for this Sunday

1st Sunday Lent

Genesis 9:8-15).   Many nations have an ancient story about a massive flood that covered a great deal of the earth (http://creation.com/many-flood-legends); it is a traditional tale that they like to pass on to each generation. The Old Testament presents its version of this story as a desperate measure taken by their God, angry because of the huge wickedness of the people that he had created. It extends into the story of the ‘salvation’ of Noah in the Ark together with his immediate family and a viable sample of all living creatures; with this it becomes the story of a new beginning, a second chance and especially a firm promise from God that He will never react this way again – a covenant for a new beginning. The story relates that God arranged that the appearance of the rainbow would remind people of this settlement. This version of a flood story can still give us confidence in the love of God for us that can extend into forgiveness for whatever sins we have and of which we repent. It is symbolized well by the combination of rain and sunshine producing the rainbow which we still rejoice to see. Indeed, just as we are told that none of us in fact see the same rainbow, so God’s attitude to us treats each one of us as a beloved individual person.

(1 Peter 3:18-22).   This letter comes from a period when the Christians were clearly a distinct and new religion and were liable to criticism and even persecution from Jews and from those who followed the Roman or Greek gods. The letter is attributed to Peter, but written too late to be his; it reads as a general letter to a number of churches from an overseer (a bishop). Its content definitely relates to the sacrament of Baptism and our reading comes from a section that is like a sermon explaining the symbolism of water in terms of the flood story – it is a new beginning for people and even though times might be hard, they were hard for Jesus too (unto death) but because of Him, difficulties can be lived through, for He now lives in glory with God. The original recipients were quite likely to suffer persecution from Roman authorities and possibly ostracism from members of their own family and onetime friends. If we are trying to live in an upright way as shown to us by Jesus, then we will face difficulty both from the situation we are in and the temptations that we will have, then this ‘sermon’ will have something to say to us.

(Mark 1:9-15).   This extract is typical of the author’s short and pertinent style. John is a man who preaches conversion; not a change of religion but perhaps, a renewed, commitment to live up to the ideals that one knows one should – appropriate for Lent; his message is often summed up with the word ‘repent’ in the Greek original (μετανοιειτε) “change your whole way of thinking.” Mark writes that Jesus (we suppose at about the age of thirty) leaves his life in the little village of his family and friends, Nazareth, and comes to John to symbolically express this dramatic change in his way of life thenceforth. Mark emphasizes this ‘new beginning’ by relating three life-changing moments: firstly, Jesus saw (we might say envisaged) the heavens ripped open; secondly, just as at creation, the Spirit of God hovered over (with creative power as in the opening words of Genesis); and finally, the creative voice of God (Who said ‘let there be… and there was…”) declares Jesus to be His Son, loved and doing what pleases God. It is from this moment of commitment that Jesus’ life begins to be really a struggle; he is lead by the Spirit into the desert – a traditional place for difficulties, and among wild and lawless people, though attended with the heavenly angels. Then Mark’s abrupt style puts John to one side and Jesus straight into His public ministry, as we call it, of encouraging this same conversion in others, which is really good news for them.

There is a Lenten reflection written by me (Jeff Bagnall) for this Sunday

6th Sunday B

(Lev 13 1-2,44-46)

This extract from the Book of Leviticus is about the laws governing the isolation of those with leprosy or similar ailments. Like some other religious traditional rituals and laws, these rules arise from a matter of hygiene and community health, and are given a religious interpretation. So it says that those with the disease or in contact with them will be considered religiously ‘unclean’ and not allowed to participate in religious ceremonies or even mix with others in public places. These laws were still in force at the time of Jesus and it is quite significant that He transgresses this ruling by touching the unclean in order to heal them. Perhaps it is still the case that not all church laws have to be kept, depending on the particular situation!

(1 Cor 10:31-11:1)

In this reading Paul is responding to another question that the Corinthian Christian Community have put to him, which concerns the food that they might buy in the market place which may have been offered to ‘false’ gods; they wonder if it is right to eat such food. Paul’s answer is based on the premise that all things are permissible as long as they do not offend others – we must always try to do good to others, as Christ did. In practice, however, this is more complicated than it might seem, because sometimes you have to take a course of action that ‘offends’ someone else; Paul’s rule is absolute though – whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God.

(Mark 1:40-45)

Here we have an isolated story that Mark includes in his gospel at this point; it may well be based on an original account told by Peter, from whom much early information about Christ came to Mark. We see that Jesus reaches out to touch the leper despite the ritual uncleanness that Leviticus mentions (see first reading); and again, this account, like others, reminds us that Jesus came to show us how to live as God would wish us to – not in all details but in the basic attitude and principles – even though this may offend some religious rules and perhaps some people. If we allow the life of Christ in us to drive all we do, then all things are permissible, because all we do will be based on the love of others and through them the love of God.  There is an interesting diversity in the translation of the feelings that Jesus is said to have: sorrow, anger, compassion etc.  This difficulty is also found in early manuscripts that some of which use a Greek word meaning “was angry” and others a different word meaning something like “deeply moved.”  Most scholars think that anger was the original for you can imagine a scribe changing that to compassion but not vice versa; but this whole issue gives us pause for thought – what attitude should we have to the woes that others undergo: sorrow, anger, deep concern or should it always result in action, even cutting through the accepted practice of the time?

You might like to read  Jeffs Jottings about rules and laws

5th Sunday B

The first reading (from Job 7:1-7) where Job expresses his great distress with life because God is giving him a bad time and this is because one of God’s angels said to Him that Job was only faithful because everything was going well.  The book of Job is very long but you could read a light-hearted but overall accurate version of the story I wrote some time ago – see my jotting here  Jeffs Jottings

Earlier in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:16-23 passim) Paul has dealt with the question of Christians eating some of the food on sale in the marketplace that has been sacrificed to an idol of pagan belief. Some think that Christians should not eat this food, while others think that since there are no real gods other than their one God, there is nothing wrong with eating this meat. Paul agrees with the more liberal view but wants to promote the avoidance of upsetting those Christians who think eating this meat is wrong and hence recommends abstaining from this meat if it gives scandal to other believers and finishers chapter eight writing “if food offends my brother I will never eat meat again so as not to offend him.” But Paul knows that many of the community are liberal in this matter, and that they are aware that he, as a leading Christian in the church, not only is liberal minded but also ought to be an example of this more enlightened view and of the consequent freedom in what one eats. Because of this he now writes to them about restricting one’s own freedom for the sake of others since the good of the community is more important than anything. Paul now exemplifies his attitude with reference to the question of payment for himself as their preacher and pastor – he feels he must sacrifice himself for others.

After the synagogue sermon we read about last week Jesus and the first disciples go to the house of Simon and Andrew (Mark 1:29-39) where it seems they will be staying – an extended family. I always smile to myself when I read how Jesus finds Simon’s mother-in-law not well, so cures her and – almost seems, so that – she can then wait on them. This is obviously an anecdote from Peter himself that Mark has heard of. That evening Jesus frees a lot of people from various difficulties, but it is clear that He really wants to get back to the task of preaching about the kingdom. But notice also that Jesus needs a time of solitude to pray as though as to recharge his energies before he gets on with his task of preaching and freeing people from their demons. We all have some sort of demon that we need to be freed from and we need to follow his example of taking time with God before we get on with our ask in life.

4th Sunday B

In the first read (Deuteronomy 18:15-20) , Moses relates the message that God will send a prophet to the people. This most probably meant at first that God would always send prophets to teach people God’s ways – to encourage, scold and challenge them. And there were in fact a series of prophets who were the mouth-pieces or spokes-persons of God, which is what the word prophet means (in the Greek προφητης). But later, perhaps following the yearning for a Messiah, this message from Moses may have been taken as an ideal Prophet who would speak God’s final words. Followers of Christ who came to realise that he was the very Word of God, took this as a foretelling of His coming. For us, as for all people across the ages, there is the problem of discerning the message of God to us, in general and to each of us individually in our different situations. Surely God’s message is in the Bible, but that needs interpreting, and the traditional teaching of the Christian Church plays a role in this. But in the end any individual application, comes from our own make-up, our circumstances and the myriads of people who communicate with us directly or indirectly. I think, that like a real parent, God wants us to heed all these and do the best we can – but we mustn’t harden our hearts or close our ears.

The second reading (1 Cor 7:32-35) follows on from last week’s. Paul is answering a number of questions that the Corinthians have raised with him, either by messenger or by letter. They had many questions they wanted their first evangeliser to sort out for them in their particular situation. Some Christian converts from Judaism promoted strict observance of the Jewish laws even for non-Jewish Christians, thinking that in this way they could deserve God’s love and grace. But this is mistaken because we know that God loves us gratuitously and we are not worthy of any reward from God. Some people in Corinth, perhaps in reaction to the immorality for which their city was notorious or the supposed imminence of the end of time, promoted celibacy even within marriage. Paul thought there was no harm in this but that it was not necessary. Paul knows that there is a difference between what he suggests and the genuine imperatives from the Lord for good Christian living.  The Catholic Church generally requires celibacy for its priests and among the Christians in Paul’s day (i.e. in the very early Church) there was the thought that the end of the world would soon come and it may have been this that contributed to the ideas that some had, that freedom from the responsibilities and pleasures of marriage would help one to be ready for this End of the world.  Of course we should not decry the choice that some make for this kind of life but we also should not think less of those of us who choose to marry.  There is a great expression of God’s love in marriage at least equal to that in virginity.  Even in our present situation, most people do not think the end of the world is very near.  Whether or no, celibate or married individuals  must  love others as they would God – referred to as love of neighbour – but neither should be compulsory for anyone.

Mark in the gospel (Mark 1:21-28) tells us of Jesus’ visit to the local synagogue where, as a visitor, he was invited to say some words. Jesus has confidence about any message of God for the people, because, as we now believe, He was the very Word of God incarnate into our humanity. The recipients of Mark’s preaching also had this belief, though perhaps only incipiently. In the story, the authority of the words of Jesus is recognised, interestingly even before His power over unclean spirits is exhibited. I notice that, in Mark’s gospel story, it is only the unclean spirit that actually recognises who Jesus is, and secondly, that there seems to be an aside, that the local leader of the synagogue and perhaps other teachers, don’t quite speak with the same personal confidence in what they say. We should be wary of thinking that we can earn God’s love (we have it anyway), and we should try to detect what God might be saying to us through the things and the people with whom we interact and the beliefs that we hold, and respond with confidence that we are doing the best we can. These are the ideas, perhaps, that we should take from the Word of God we hear each Sunday.

see Jeffs Jottings – ikons

3rd Sunday B

The Biblical story of Jonah and the whale is a fascinating story with many sub-plots and deeper meanings within it, dealt with very well on the website of the American Catholic Bishops’ Conference. We, unfortunately, only have a very short extract (3:1-5,10) from the whole story. Jonah, whose name means dove and indicates peace, is told by God a second time to deliver His message to the Ninevites. He must go and preach God’s anger to the wicked people of Nineveh, a huge city east of Israel and the capital of their longtime enemies. He had been told this before but tried to avoid both God and doing as asked – that’s the bit about the storm at sea and the whale. This time Jonah obeys this request from God and these enemies of Israel repent, for every single one of them believes in God (whom Jonah thought was just the God of Israel). With this show of repentance and the people giving up their evil ways, God has mercy on them. Even just this small bit of the story has something to say to you and me – listen, discern and heed!

In the Second Reading (1 Cor 7:29-31 ) written about the year 50 AD we detect how Paul thought then that the time was very soon for the final fulfillment of God’s plan in Christ – for the end of the world as we know it. But in later parts of his writings and other parts of the New Testament the delay in this actually coming about had made the early Christians think otherwise. However, the passage holds for us the message of the urgency of preparation for our fulfilling of our part in God’s plan for us. Not for us the abandonment of normal human activity but rather full engagement with our role in life in accord with the will of God in so far as we can discern it. But the rate of change we experience in technology and in the international situation does remind us that the world as we know it is continually coming to an end. Again the change in understanding God’s ways with humanity which this passage in the context of the New Testament indicates, must teach us to be cautious about any certainty we feel in respect of God’s plans for our world and for each of us at this time; before the mystery of God we must have due humility!

The Gospel (Mark 1:14-20)  tells us of the end of the work of John the Baptist and the beginning of the public mission of Jesus in Galilee. Mark is emphasising that not only are the two people and their roles different, but that when Jesus started his preaching and teaching, the work of the Baptist was over. Then we read of the call of the first few disciples. It was only last Sunday that we heard an alternative version of this story. We need to be aware that a gospel is not the same as a plain history. The word gospel means good news, and the evangelists are trying to communicate to their audiences, and through this Word of God, He is trying to communicate with us something of what our life should be like as a follower of Jesus. So, unlike John’s version which we heard last week, the other gospels emphasise the immediacy and the completeness of the disciples’ response to Jesus’ call. Of course there is an historical basis for it – Jesus did have special followers – but the good news for us is that we too are called and should respond at once and wholeheartedly! Mark probably heard the call described by Peter when preaching to potential converts. Now Mark speaks to us.

See Jeffs Jottings – Practice(s)

2nd Sunday cycle B

1st Reading (1 Samuel 3: 3-10, 19)

The two Books of Samuel are classified in the Old Testament as History.  History written then had the aim of influencing its readers morally, religiously or politically.  The information included may have come from ‘historical’ annals, old folk tales and favourite stories which had something to say to all people.  Our reading today is such a story; it has a message about how we might pick up on what God is wanting us to do with our lives.  It has the homely setting of an old father-like figure and a young boy who related to him as to a grandfather; it has the characteristic pattern of threesome repetition; it is clearly set in a religious context (the Temple) and it has the engaging feature of misunderstanding prior to getting things right.  It is an account of God’s call of the prophet Samuel alluded to also in the call of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-8). It is from these accounts that Fr. Daniel L. Schutte, S.J. took the refrain and used it as the chorus when he composed that now well-known hymn about our own renewed commitment to recognise God around us, His call to us and our positive response to it.

2nd Reading (1 Cor 6:13-20 passim)

This passage does not seem to fit in well with the other reading for today except that it illustrates the difficulty we might have in discerning exactly what is for us the right thing to do and what we should not be doing. Paul is writing to the Corinthians about a specific problem.  His preaching has told these Gentile converts that now they are Christians they are not bound by any laws (Paul has in mind particularly the Jewish Law).  He probably spoke most powerfully about this freedom, because he had been a strict Jew himself up until he became a Christian, but also because some of the Jewish converts thought the Gentile Christians ought to be bound by the Jewish laws.  But in the morally loose city of Corinth, some of the Gentile Christians might have taken this to include freedom in sexual practices.  Paul has to modify his revolutionary teaching; the freedom doesn’t extend to this; it affected the eating food sacrificed to idols which Jews wouldn’t do, but, Paul thinks that is permissible, since the stomach is just an organ of the body; but our bodies as a whole are ourselves and are the shrine of the Holy Spirit and should not be defiled by inappropriate sexual behaviour.  This is a good illustration for us of how the rules we have in our religion are derived from our beliefs about God, about ourselves and about the relationship we have with God which we know through Jesus Christ.

The gospel (John 1:35-42)

This passage can easily be taken to be a charming and believable narrative about John, Jesus and the first disciples, but in John’s gospel particularly, there are usually deeper meanings within the text.  With no infancy narrative in his gospel the first public presentation of Jesus is made in this passage by the Baptist to two of his disciples, with the words used in catholic liturgy announcing communion: “behold the lamb of God!”  The reply with a depth of inner meaning uses the word ‘follow’ as to walk behind and also as to be a disciple of.  Jesus then asks “what do you want?” the words used by a priest when someone presents to be baptized and a question always challenging us.  Notice also the query where Christ is to be found and the welcome “Come and see.”  The call of the first disciples in the other gospels is while they are fishing (which they seem to abandon immediately, but here Simon Peter is called by his brother who first followed Christ.  This all leaves us with questions about our own relationship with Christ which we need to regularly consider.

See Jeffs Jottings – Practice(s)

The Baptism of the Lord

The readings are here

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)

2nd Sunday B

Please note that these are not the readings for the coming Sunday – I have made a mistake.

1st Reading (1 Samuel 3: 3-10, 19)

The two Books of Samuel are classified in the Old Testament as History.  History written then had the aim of influencing its readers morally, religiously or politically.  The information included may have come from ‘historical’ annals, old folk tales and favourite stories which had something to say to all people.  Our reading today is such a story; it has a message about how we might pick up on what God is wanting us to do with our lives.  It has the homely setting of an old father-like figure and a young boy who related to him as to a grandfather; it has the characteristic pattern of threesome repetition; it is clearly set in a religious context (the Temple) and it has the engaging feature of misunderstanding prior to getting things right.  It is an account of God’s call of the prophet Samuel alluded to also in the call of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-8). It is from these accounts that Fr. Daniel L. Schutte, S.J. took the refrain and used it as the chorus when he composed that now well-known hymn about our own renewed commitment to recognise God around us, His call to us and our positive response to it.

2nd Reading (1 Cor 6:13-20 passim)

This passage does not seem to fit in well with the other reading for today except that it illustrates the difficulty we might have in discerning exactly what is for us the right thing to do and what we should not be doing. Paul is writing to the Corinthians about a specific problem.  His preaching has told these Gentile converts that now they are Christians they are not bound by any laws (Paul has in mind particularly the Jewish Law).  He probably spoke most powerfully about this freedom, because he had been a strict Jew himself up until he became a Christian, but also because some of the Jewish converts thought the Gentile Christians ought to be bound by the Jewish laws.  But in the morally loose city of Corinth, some of the Gentile Christians might have taken this to include freedom in sexual practices.  Paul has to modify his revolutionary teaching; the freedom doesn’t extend to this; it affected the eating food sacrificed to idols which Jews wouldn’t do, but, Paul thinks that is permissible, since the stomach is just an organ of the body; but our bodies as a whole are ourselves and are the shrine of the Holy Spirit and should not be defiled by inappropriate sexual behaviour.  This is a good illustration for us of how the rules we have in our religion are derived from our beliefs about God, about ourselves and about the relationship we have with God which we know through Jesus Christ.

The gospel (John 1:35-42)

This passage can easily be taken to be a charming and believable narrative about John, Jesus and the first disciples, but in John’s gospel particularly, there are usually deeper meanings within the text.  With no infancy narrative in his gospel the first public presentation of Jesus is made in this passage by the Baptist to two of his disciples, with the words used in catholic liturgy announcing communion: “behold the lamb of God!”  The reply with a depth of inner meaning uses the word ‘follow’ as to walk behind and also as to be a disciple of.  Jesus then asks “what do you want?” the words used by a priest when someone presents to be baptized and a question always challenging us.  Notice also the query where Christ is to be found and the welcome “Come and see.”  The call of the first disciples in the other gospels is while they are fishing (which they seem to abandon immediately, but here Simon Peter is called by his brother who first followed Christ.  This all leaves us with questions about our own relationship with Christ which we need to regularly consider.

See Jeffs Jottings – Bethlehem here and now