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This Sunday's Programme

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Sunday 11 A

Sunday 18th June 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

Jesus went about through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.  He healed every disease and illness.  On seeing the crowds, the depths of his being churned with compassion for they were distressed and desperate, as sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, the harvest is ripe and bountiful but the workers are few.  Therefore, beg the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest.

Then calling forth the twelve apostles, he gave them authority over evil spirits so that they could expel them.  He gave them authority to heal every disease and every illness.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: firstly Simon, the one named Peter, and Andrew his brother. James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, the tax-collector, James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot, who was his betrayer.

He sent them out, giving this order: do not go to the Gentiles or the cities of the Samaritans.  Rather go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  And as you go, proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near.  Heal the sick. Raise the dead. Cleanse lepers. Cast out devils. As you have freely received, freely give.

 

Psalm

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

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 99: 2-3, 5

Shout and acclaim your God, all the earth!
Serve your God with rejoicing.
Come before his face singing with joy.

Know this: The Lord is God indeed.
He made us, not we, ourselves.
We are his people, sheep of his pasture.

God is good.
His mercy is everlasting.
His faithfulness for every generation.

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, your heart turns in compassion upon me.  Let me accept your loving kindness in my life so that strengthen by these, I may go out and spread compassion in the ripe harvest of our world.

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 section of Matthew’s Gospel in this Sunday’s reading appears to be three separate pieces put together with no apparent theme but when we consider it within the wider context of the Gospel it becomes clear that Matthew has actually produced a pivot on which this part of the Gospel turns.  In the previous chapters, Jesus has been healing and curing various illnesses and casting out demons, the very actions he now gives the apostles power to perform.

Matthew sums up Jesus’ care for the crowds in strong and lively terms, the impact of which is lost in our English translation.  In saying Jesus ‘felt sorry’ for them, we miss the imagery of Jesus’ very insides, his bowels, churning in pity and compassion.  The word splagchna is the strongest word for compassionate pity in the Greek language and, apart from the parables, is used only of Jesus.  Similarly, the words for ‘harassed and dejected’ are more vivid than our English words.  One ‘harassed’ is plundered, treated with extreme insolence, utterly weary.  One ‘dejected’ is laid prostrate.  We do not have to look far within our experience to know people who suffer like this and who lack someone to guide them.

Jesus refers to the crowd before him as a great harvest: people ripe for the compassionate love that he is offering.  To these, he sends his disciples, workers for the harvest.  Now, as then, the harvest is rich and ripe around us.  The challenge is for us Christians to discern how we are to ‘work’ with this harvest, how to be channels of God’s compassionate love.

In using the image of shepherd, Jesus draws on an overriding experience of the Israelite people.  God had been their shepherd, remaining faithful across the centuries even when the people strayed.

From amongst his disciples, Jesus calls twelve as his apostles, and, in a handing on of his compassionate care, he gives them his power to drive out evils spirits and to cure illness and disease.

All synoptic Gospels name twelve as apostles.  The names vary a little between Matthew, Luke and Mark.  In John’s Gospel too, some of these twelve are named.  The tradition of the twelve apostles was firmly known in the early Church, even though we know little of the lives of most of them, aside from traditions and legends.  They are a parallel to the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Finally, the final sentence actually begins a section of the Gospel given over the attitudes of generosity and endurance in the face of unjust persecution that should characterise the apostle’s mission.  In short, the servants are to be like their master.

 

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

Matthew says that Jesus summoned twelve disciples giving them authority over evil spirits and the power to heal.  Then Matthew names them, two by two, the band of apostles that the Church has honoured ever since.  Mark, and Luke, in both his Gospel and in Acts, name twelve, these names differing slightly to Matthew’s.  Before Pentecost, this early group was quick to fill the place left by Judas.  The usual understanding has been that these twelve are to the Church what the forefathers of the twelve tribes were to Israel.

But what do we know about them aside from the Gospel, Acts and some parts of the Letters?  Not much.  Traditions and legends have grown up but little would stand up to strict historical scrutiny.  For all the evidence there is, one could still be agnostic regarding the bones beneath the High Altar at St Peter’s Basilica being those of the one to whom Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom.  We who live in a society fixated in knowing everything they can about ‘celebrities can take heart.  Our lives are of interest to very few but in the eyes of God, we too are called to be pillars of this community, the Church.

So, what can we draw from this careful naming of the Twelve.  Clearly, they were called individually.  Jesus knew them each by name.  But they were called to be part of a group, no, more than a group, a community. In Luke’s Gospel, they are initially sent out to preach and heal, two by two.  Together and individually, they were to go out and reveal the love of God that was revealed to them in Jesus.  For us, we are called individually into relationship with Jesus, but we are also called within a community.  We can too easily say we are part of the Church but there is a very real calling for us to know, and even to name, the people who are by our side supporting us in our faith, and who we, in turn support.

Another thing about this group of individuals in their diversity.  Yes, there were two pairs of brothers.  But there were also a tax collector and a zealot!  One who colluded with the Roman state and another who believed in its downfall.  As I look round my praying community on a Sunday, I see some people with whom I would not naturally get on: people with whom I would not mix other than that we are there together praying.  And that is good.  In my time with God, I am called into communion and service of others.

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

Recently my niece and I discussed an assignment she had to do for her religion class. Part of it was on the New Commandment of Jesus: love one another as I have loved you. She said, ‘What would I as a 15-year-old understand about this!’ I pointed to the deep self-giving love she had experienced from both her parents in a traumatic event in her family’s life. Straight away she knew what love that gives all looks like. I then pointed to her sister and her husband as they delighted in their new born son. She saw clearly how this helpless child just drew love out of the depths of them both and transformed them.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus’ very insides are said to churn over in compassion for the crowds that have been laid low by the pressures and challenges of life. His desire was for them to receive care and direction as a shepherd would give to his sheep. In calling for his disciples to pray for workers for this harvest, he is clearly intending them to be part of that workforce. And indeed us, who have known the care and direction he has given us.

We all recognise profound self-giving love as integral to being a good parent. (Even people badly parented have a sense of what they have missed out.) But Jesus asks something more of us in his new commandment and in the invitation to be workers in the harvest. We are called to follow him in giving profound love to those who are not our own: to reveal self-giving love to those we meet, even to those who hate us or persecute us. Of ourselves, we are less experienced and competent than my 15-year-old. Only by resting in the love and care we have received from God in Jesus, will we become capable of giving and loving as he has loved us.

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

James Tissot was a French painter working in the second half of the 19th Century. He used in a variety of mediums and was influenced by and influenced a number of artistic schools, especially Impression and Post-Impression. He was very much a man of the social scene and was politically involved. His paintings reflected this. Many featured women and he had an extraordinary understanding of a woman’s life in the family and in society.
In 1885, following a religious experience, he returned to his Catholic faith and went to the Holy Land with the intention of producing a number of paintings on the Life of Christ. Eventually he produced 365 paintings made in a realistic style, using gouache. These were acquired in their entirety by the Brooklyn Museum. In later life, he began painting Old Testament subjects in the same medium, exhibiting 80 before his death.
Below are a series illustrating the Compassion of Jesus.

The Sick Awaiting the Passage of Jesus
In the Villages the Sick Were Presented to Him
The Healing of Ten Lepers
Jesus Heals the Blind and Lame on the Mountain

And the Calling of the Apostles
Ordaining of the Twelve Apostles
He Sent them out Two by Two

 

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 this week, mull on the kindness and guidance that you receive through your day.  As you ground yourself in this love, can you discern ways you could let that grace pass through you into the lives of those you meet.

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.

Take time to consider the people who make up your praying community, your local church.

How does there witness to God’s love support your faith? Can you name a variety of ways in which you are strengthened and guided?

How do you support them in their faith?  In what ways do your enrich your local church?

Consider the people in your area who are in need.  How can the faith of your church reach out to this harvest?

Rest in the love of your God.