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Second Sunday of Ordinary Time A Boarbank Hall 2017
Peace Sunday 2017 1 Cor 1:1-3
Today we are praying especially for peace. To help us centre our minds on its supreme importance we could do no better than pay especial attention to our Mass today. Peace figures very powerfully in it. We have special prayers before communion recalling Our Lord’s farewell discourse at Jn 17. Peace I leave you, My peace I give you. And we conclude that part of the Mass exchanging among ourselves the sign of peace. That is so important that we must not be routine about it. It is a major public pledge to each other of respect and affection and commitment to common values. All over the Christian world the communities celebrating the Eucharist today will be engaged in exactly the same prayerful exchange. How important it is to recall this while inundated with disquieting news in our political world on both sides of the Atlantic, with disenchantment and disengagement, and seemingly disregard for those most in need. By contrast here in Boarbank last week our health care workers spent the days helping each other understand the needs of the sick and those responsible for them. How can we best serve those who are sick and poor and in danger of being forgotten and misunderstood? We all inhabit the same world, and we all make a small difference in it.
Today’s second reading is from Paul addressing his Corinthian converts. He was helping them to overcome difficulties and live in harmony. Some of his best writing was addressed to them. The beautiful hymn to love is found at chapt. 13: Love is patient and kind and so on. …Some of his best passages are marvellously touching. This hymn about love- if it is a hymn- reveals the mind of Paul as movingly generous, deeply sympathetic, and psychologically penetrating. Who would not love love in the way Paul talks about it? He shows himself a master of style, with his careful metrical repetitions, and melodic captivating rhythms. George Thomas, who was leader of the House of Commons then, read it at the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, and he told me in The Beda how he had worried about not being able to practise it enough to do justice to its splendour. It is in the world literature class, appealing to everyone, painting a picture of humanity at its very best. We should not raid such a text merely for information. The more we read it the more we see in it. And its music captivates; we never tire of it.
Or again we may recall Paul’s exhortation to his beloved Philippians 4:4ff. spelling out the way to peace: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things. Whatever you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, put these things into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. The style matches the sentiment. There is something of rapture here. The whole world with its endowments of culture and beauty and achievement and the effects they have for happiness are celebrated here. Paul is no miserable stranger and exile in a fallen world that is always militating against God. These are lines written by a man who said that “For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). These are the Messianic times. Creation and redemption go together. Paul preached the Gospel of Christian freedom and love, but it is so large that it was a pity to find his message hijacked in the Reformation as a polemic about salvation by faith alone. We should never forget that the main protagonists of the Reformation were splendid linguists and stylists, Luther, Calvin and Cranmer! The literary path back to St.Paul may even have an unsuspected ecumenical dimension. And this week we also begin the annual prayer for Christian unity. It is five hundred years since the Lutheran protest that led to the awful divisions that set Christians off from Christians since then. We will be hearing a great deal on this matter during this year as major efforts are being made to reach a common understanding of why these things happened and how they can be rectified. Pope Francis intends to be a leader with those striving for peace between the Churchs and Christian communities. Peace among religions is a major factor in the peace of the world, as we have been reminded by the interreligious meetings that took place in Assisi.
Our Gospel reading today gives the Baptrist’s witness to Jesus as the Suffering Servant referred to in the reading from Isaiah (today’s first reading). The Chosen One would bring peace and salvation to the ends of the earth. But the way to peace was through selfless sacrifice. Selfgiving is the guide to life. Every parent knows love’s sacrifice. Trying to keep peace in the family is a constant effort. Where there is perceived injustice there is expected polemic. Speaking of this in a larger context, the family of nations, Pope Paul VI said that another name for peace is development. These days we know that the refugee crisis exists because of a lack of development. Massive injustice causes massive suffering. Blessed are the peacemakers.
At the beginning of the year we pray again with the High Priest: May the Lord bless you and keep you and make his face shine on you and give you peace. Amen. Richard J.Taylor