01 August 2013

'Christ is all, and in all.' Sunday Reflections, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Apse mosaic (detail), Italian mosaic artist, 1145-60 [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 12:13-21 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

One of the multitude said to Jesus, "Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?" And he said to them, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." 

Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11, Second Reading). 

One of the most characteristic features of international World Youth Days is groups of young pilgrims proudly carrying their national flags, not with a sense of trying to express superiority but rather with a sense of being part of a wider and deeper reality. That reality is the Church, a Church given the mission by Jesus to Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), the theme of WYD Rio2013 that ended last Sunday.

St Cyril of Jerusalem in his instructions to catechumens describes the Church this way:

The Church, Catholic or universal, gets her name from the fact that she is scattered through the whole world from the one end of the earth to the other, and also because she teaches universally and without omission all the doctrines which are to be made known to mankind, whether concerned with visible or invisible things, with heavenly or earthly things. Then again because she teaches one way of worship to all men, nobles or commoners, learned or simple; finally because she universally cures and heals every sort of sin which is committed by soul and body. Moreover there is in her every kind of virtue in words and deeds and spiritual gifts of every sort (Office of Readings, Wednesday, 17th Week of Ordinary Time).

The young people in the video who welcomed Pope Francis to Copacabana beach on the evening of 25 July showed The Church, Catholic or universal, by carrying their countries' flags. On the following Sunday morning in the same place they showed that same universality in a different way by lowering their flags before Mass began as they engaged in one way of worship, as the Church had taught them.

On the evening of the 25th Pope Francis said:

I greet you with affection. All of you assembled here from the five continents and, through you, all young people of the world, in particular those who wanted to come to Rio de Janeiro but weren’t able to come. To those who are following us by means of radio, television and internet, to everyone I say: Welcome to this feast of faith! In several parts of the world, at this very moment, many young people have come together to share this event with us: let us all experience the joy of being united with each other in friendship and faith. And be sure of this: my heart embraces all of you with universal affection. Because what is most important today is your gathering here and the gathering together of all the young people who are following us through various forms of media. From the summit of the mountain of Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer welcomes you and embraces you in this beautiful city of Rio!

Christ the Redeemer was embracing them as one. This embrace of Christ was symbolised beautifully a few days later when a little boy wearing a Brazilian football shirt made his way to the popemobile and whispered his secret to the Argentinian Bishop of Rome, I have a very important message for you . . . I want to become a priest.

These photos were taken in Rio. I came across them on Facebook and they're from the FB of Zenit, one of the leading Catholic news agencies. Here is the story that goes with the photos.

I spent much of the summer of 2000 in the Faroe Islands in the north Atlantic. The first settlers came there from central Norway around AD 1000 but the islands, while semi-autonomous, are under the sovereignty of Denmark. Out of the 50,000 or so population there were only about 100 or so Catholics, the only church being in the capital, Tórshavn. But I celebrated Mass one Saturday in Klaksvík, the second largest town in the Faroes. We had to take a ferry on the last leg of our journey, though a tunnel has since been opened. 

We celebrated Mass in the home of a Filipina. There were about 15 of us but we had no common language. Sr Marisa FMM was from Malta, there was a Canadian woman, some university students from Poland working in a fish factory for the summer and one or two other nationalities. (Sr Marisa is still in the Faroes). The Mass was mostly in English, which not all understood, and we had a reading in Tagalog. However, all participated fully. (If I were in that situation today I would use some Latin). We experienced the truth of the words of St Cyril of Jerusalem in the quotation above: the Church teaches one way of worship to all men, nobles or commoners, learned or simple.

After Mass we had lunch, which consisted mostly of Filipino dishes, a new treat for some present.

Despite our lack of a common language we were totally united in our celebration as Catholic Christians of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is where we find our deepest identity, where we 'lower our flags' as we engage in one way of worship as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, as brothers and sisters of Jesus, God who became Man, as brothers and sisters of one another, where Christ is all, and in all.

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