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This Sunday's Programme

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13th Sunday A

Sunday 2nd July 2023

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mt 10:37-42

Jesus taught the Twelve, ‘Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Anyone who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. The one cultivating their life is destroying it while the one giving up their life for my sake is actually finding it.

Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me and whoever welcomes me is welcoming the one who sent me.

The one who welcomes a prophet because they are a prophet will receive the prophet’s reward and whoever welcomes a holy person because they are a holy person will receive a holy person’s reward. And whoever gives as little as a drink of cold water to an insignificant person simply because they are a disciple will not lose their reward.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 88:2-3, 16-29

I will sing forever of your kindness, O Lord,
from age to age, I will proclaim your faithfulness.
I proclaim, ‘Kindness is what God builds upon.
God’s faithfulness is revealed in the heavens.’

Happy the people who know how to shout in praise,
who walk in the light of your presence!
Exultation of you fills their day.
Your righteousness fills them with joy.

You are the beauty of their strength,
and your kindness is the source of their might.
God is our shield,
our ruler is in the protection of the Holy One of Israel.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving Jesus, you know how I desire to be a follower of yours. Order my heart that over and beyond all my loves, my love of you will lead and order my days. Give me the courage to face all within myself that hinders me from following you with a full heart.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

This Sunday’s Gospel is the conclusion of the second block of teaching material in Matthew’s Gospel. This began after a narrative section which recounted Jesus performing ten miracles after which we see him distressed over the crowds because they were harassed and in need of a shepherd. He tells his disciples to pray for labourers for this harvest. Then he commissions the Twelve, who are explicitly named, to do just that – go out and care for the sick, suffering and distressed. Much of this teaching section stresses the persecution that Jesus’ disciples will face in this ministry.

Overall there is a chiastic structure to this teaching block with this Sunday’s reading mirroring the opening commission to go out to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. While in the first section of this teaching, Jesus called the disciples to divest themselves of material possessions, money, haversack and spare clothes, in this final section the disciples need to be prepared to divest themselves of any relationships that would hinder their following of Jesus. If it seems tough to expect them to prefer him to family members, Jesus makes it even tougher in saying they have to divest themselves of their very ‘life’ in order to follow him. He does not downplay the cost. It amounts to a cross. These disciples, living under Roman rule, would have understood the starkness of such an image. Following him for the sake of the Kingdom takes priority over all.

But it is not without its rewards. Those who follow become the presence of the one who sent them. The people to whom Jesus sends these disciples will be receiving Jesus and in doing so, even in as simple an act as giving a cup of water, will be entering the abundance of life that the Kingdom of God brings. Both the givers and the receivers enter into the life and love of the One who sent Jesus.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

Our lives have times and seasons but no matter how charmed our life might be at any point in time, we have crosses to face. At other times, our crosses may dominate our days, leaving us with a sense of barely making it, if at all. No matter what season we are in, there is an instinctive indignation that overtakes us when a cross comes our way: ‘Why did this happen to me?’ Sometimes we really do need to ask ourselves that question in order to change our ways and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. But more often than not that ‘Why’ is really a cover for the assertion, ‘This should not be happening to me!’

But why shouldn’t it? As Christians, as human beings, we have crosses to face. Not simply is this the nature of reality. Our Saviour, our Master embraced the cross and made it the way of salvation. Since that is the case, the question we should be asking when a cross confronts us is, ‘What am I to do now?’ The ‘why’ question either sends us back into the past or entrenches us in the present. The ‘what’ questions opens us to the mystery of the moment and gives us options into how we are to act. The ‘what’ question affirms that we, as humans, can choose our future, knowing that God is with us, on our side., No matter how difficult the challenge our dignity as children of God cannot be taken from us by whatever circumstances we face. This is especially important to affirm when we are in the worst of times that can come upon us. In such situations, the only option we may have is the attitude we can take. We can embrace the cross even though we may feel that it is killing us.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

Many people turned up to my grandfather’s funeral. Much as we loved him, we, the family, were taken by surprise at the numbers. Poppy died in his late nineties and had not been a prominent person. His last job was as a cleaner in a factory and he had never been involved in community service. Yet obviously he influenced many. When I went up to these strangers at the funeral, I heard the same observation, over and over, ‘He was so good to us!’ Really! Friends of the family and neighbours, all they had received was his simple welcome, ‘Would you like something to drink? What’s happening in your life?’ And then real genuine interest in what they might have to say…little more than that simple cup of water Jesus recommends.

One could say that his greeting and the offer of a shared drink was almost the least that a decent human being would do but saying that betrays our prejudice against the small acts we can do. Our tendency when we think of Christian service is to consider the grand gestures we might make, the hard or difficult things that would make a difference. Thinking that, we can then fail to treasure the importance of the small courteous actions we can do many times each day. The simplicity of Poppy’s care was that it got in under your guard and drew you into being a better person. When you were with him, you only spoke good of others, you felt better about yourself. Twenty years later, I still marvel and ponder on the good he did. While seemingly little, it resonates down the decades.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

Jesus carrying his cross by Titian.

Carrying the Cross ) by Sieger Koder.

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross.

 

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through your day, mull on the smallest ways in which you can show the love of God through your actions.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

When you feel at home with God, ask yourself what you see as the crosses in your life at present.  What is your attitude to them?

When you feel you have answered these questions, ask yourself, what things cause you inconvenience, challenge or discomfort at this time?  Do you see them as crosses? If you did see them as crosses, how would you attitude to them change?

Rest in the love of your God.