Reflections. Extracts from THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY November 2019.

REFLECTIONS.    The reflections this week from 11-16 November are from the book of Wisdom. The book belongs to a genre known as Wisdom literature, written mainly after the Babylonian exile as theological reflection on the history of the chosen people.

The reflections from 18 – 23 November are from other Old Testament books, Maccabees 1 and 2.   They  recount the history of a time of wars and oppression by foreign rulers in the 2nd century BC in their own country. The faith of the Jews was challenged by the exposure and imposition of foreign religions. The central event was the desecration of the temple in Jerusalem.  These books are included in the Catholic canon because of certain doctrinal issues including prayers and sacrifices for the dead, intercession of the saints and resurrection on Judgement Day.  They are particularly meaningful during November because of this.

Sunday 17th November has been instituted by Pope Francis as the WORLD DAY OF THE POOR.  He asks us all to pay special and personal attention to those around us who are poor.

Artwork on the Stations of the Cross booklet by the late Fr Claudio Rossi SJ

November 15th.  Mrs Mpumelolo was invigilating the matric science exam and thought to herself.   “Nowadays young people leaving school and looking for work often go for the technological field where admittedly a great deal of beauty is created but how many are going into the area of environmental awareness where the natural beauty of creation is being lost, sometimes forever. Are we really concerned enough about that I wonder.“

All men who were ignorant of God were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works.  They supposed fire or wind or the stars to be gods that rule the world. If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them. Wisdom 13:1-9.  Pope Francis: A firm conviction, like that of St Francis, cannot be written off as naïve romanticism. If we approach nature and the environment without the openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on our immediate needs. LS11  

November 16th . The Bible Study group had pored over the beautiful imagery in the passage of the day but found it difficult to capture its deeper meaning.  Tony had been fascinated too and had made a study of this type of Wisdom literature and was able to explain the passage. The Exodus event, when God led them out of Egypt, is foundational in  the faith of the Jews and at times of oppression and even division amongst the people a message of God’s particular care for his chosen people would give them hope and courage.  Tony concluded, “Let it be so for us too in our times of trial and tribulation.”

While gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone your all-powerful word leaped from heaven into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior carrying the sharp sword of your authentic command, stood and filled all things with death, while your children were kept unharmed.  From  Wisdom 18:14-16. Pope Francis: Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the way of beauty.  Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy even in the midst of difficulties.  EG167

November 17th  Sunday 33C. World Day of the Poor theme 2019.  Fr Ivor asked his congregation, “Is giving R5 to a beggar on a street corner, or to each of the many beggars we can come across in a day’s driving through town making a meaningful contribution to the poor?  Does that give them hope? Do you agree that the issue of the poor is one of the most important but most complex issues in our call to evangelize?  As individuals, families and groups we can all read, reflect and share.  Can we identify with the views of Pope Francis? How can we each respond in the most meaningful way possible?”

Extracts from Pope Francis letter on the third World Day of the Poor. “The hope of the poor will not perish for ever” (Ps 9:19).These words express a profound truth that faith impresses above all on the hearts of the poor, restoring lost hope in the face of injustice, sufferings and the uncertainties of life.

The Psalmist describes the condition of the poor and the arrogance of those who oppress them. Today we must acknowledge many new forms of bondage that enslave millions of men, women, young people and children.     We encounter families forced to leave their homeland to seek a living elsewhere; orphans who have lost their parents or were violently torn from them by brutal means of exploitation; young people seeking professional fulfilment but prevented from employment by shortsighted economic policies; victims of different kinds of violence, ranging from prostitution to the narcotics trade. How can we overlook, too, the millions of immigrants who fall victim to any number of concealed interests, exploited for political advantage and refused solidarity and equality?  And all the homeless and ostracized persons who roam the streets of our cities?

How many times do we see poor people rummaging through garbage bins to retrieve what others have discarded as superfluous, in the hope of finding something to live on or to wear!  They themselves become part of a human garbage bin; they are treated as refuse, without the slightest sense of guilt on the part of those who are complicit in this scandal.

The setting of the Psalm is tinged with sadness at the injustice, the suffering and the disappointment endured by the poor.  At the same time, it offers a touching definition of the poor: they are those who “put their trust in the Lord”, in the certainty that they will never be forsaken. They trust. The Psalmist also gives the reason for this trust: they “know” the Lord In the language of the Bible, such “knowledge” involves a personal relationship of affection and love.

The poor know that God cannot abandon them; hence, they live always in the presence of the God who is mindful of them. God’s help extends beyond their present state of suffering in order to point out a path of liberation that profoundly strengthens and transforms the heart.

“The option for those who are least, those whom society discards” (Evangelii Gaudium, 195) is a priority that Christ’s followers are called to pursue,  The involvement of Christians in this World Day of the Poor and especially in the events of everyday life, goes beyond initiatives of assistance.  Praiseworthy and necessary as they may be, they should have the goal of encouraging in everyone a greater concern for individuals in any kind of distress.  “Loving attentiveness is the beginning of true concern” (Evangelii Gaudium, 199) for the poor and the promotion of their genuine welfare.  It is not easy to be witnesses of Christian hope in the context of a consumerist culture, A change of mentality is needed, in order to rediscover what is essential and to give substance and life to the preaching of the kingdom of God.

Hope is also communicated by the sense of fulfilment born of accompanying the poor not for a brief moment of enthusiasm, but through a constant commitment over time.   Before all else, the poor need God and his love, made visible by “the saints next door”, people who by the simplicity of their lives express clearly the power of Christian love.  God uses any number of ways and countless means to reach people’s hearts.  Certainly, the poor come to us also because we give them food, but what they really need is more than our offer of a warm meal or a sandwich.  The poor need our hands, to be lifted up; our hearts, to feel anew the warmth of affection; our presence, to overcome loneliness.  In a word, they need love.


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