Thursday 2nd February 10.00am Said Mass
Sunday 5th February 9.30am Parish Mass
N.B. As part of the new Mission Area working there will not be a Service every Sunday at St Andrews, please check if you wish to come. (There will be a Service somewhere within the Mission Area).
Generally there will be Parish Mass at St Andrews on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month with an additional Service when there is a 5th Sunday in any month.
These continue to take place every Tuesday from 10.00am.
If we want to know who Jesus really is, then the Beatitudes in St Matthew’s gospel would be a good place to begin. Here we get a picture of the kind of person we engage with when we encounter Jesus.
In a sense, what Jesus says was always there in the Scriptures. The prophet Zephaniah calls us to seek integrity and to seek humility so that we may then find a place of shelter in the presence of God. The Psalms also – such as Psalm 145 today – tell of God’s compassion for those in need: the hungry, the prisoners, the blind, the widow and the orphan. These were the people who were so easily overlooked, but we are reminded that they are not overlooked by God. Jesus captures the spirit of all those writings and distils it into a clear message to show us what life looks like when God is at the centre of our life.
The teachings Jesus gave here seem to turn the values of the world around. In the world it is the rich who are admired and who get what they want. The gentle are trodden upon and brushed aside. Those who mourn are pitied, but then expected to supress their sorrow and carry on just as before. Worldly compassion, it seems, has its limits. But in the face of all the cynicism and indifference the world has to offer, Jesus urges us to continue to hunger and thirst for what is right; to be merciful to others; to seek purity of heart; to make peace; and never to despair if our efforts meet with resistance and opposition.
Perhaps we might find this teaching difficult because it might seem that what Jesus is calling us to do is to become weak and ineffective. But that is far from the truth. It takes strength not just to go along with the expectations of the world around us. Not so far ahead in time we shall be observing Lent. At the beginning of that season we shall be reminded of what Jesus had to face near the beginning of his ministry – how he struggled against temptation – the temptation to hunger for worldly power, to put his own human desires first rather than what he knew to be God’s will. He was tempted to exercise control over other people and to be impressive so that he could make gains for himself. But Jesus knew that this would be a misuse of what his Father had put into his hands. With strength of spirit and with a strong desire to do the right thing, Jesus resisted and chose instead a route of humility and compassion – the way of God.
The desire to exercise power over others for its own sake is all too often seen at work in the world and also closer to home. We are reminded of the misuse of power in Putin’s war on Ukraine, or again, as we remember the terrible events of the Holocaust at this time. It was often said of Jesus that he spoke as one who had authority. But this was not the kind of authority that puts other people down. It was a deeper and quieter kind of authority, built upon a life of prayer – the knowledge of God at work in a human life. Because Jesus lived and breathed the word of God – in fact he embodied the word of God – he was able to speak with authority. But in his dealings with other people the truth he spoke went hand in had with compassion for the needs of those people. Although he was called “master”, Jesus came among us as one who serves. The humility and the desire to serve that we see in Jesus are what gave him authority, because this allowed the power of God to shine through his every word and deed.
So what Jesus teaches us is that the desire to dominate the people around us and to put other people down has no place in the life of the Church or in the life of individual Christians. However right we may think we are, we have no mandate to speak harshly to others. Jesus introduced to us a community faith which he called the kingdom of God – at the centre of that kingdom the love of God is supreme and the one thing that cannot hurt us or hurt other people is love. We will not always get it right but as Christians we must set our hearts on that goal.
St Paul reminds us of our own status. We all have our gifts, but God has not chosen us because we are impressive. He has chosen us to serve. As he says in the first letter to the Corinthians, the human race has nothing to boast about and yet God has called and chosen us to be his people. If we are to live as the people of God then boasting and pride has no place among us. If we want to know how to be lifted up as human beings and to find a peace and joy that the world cannot give, then we ought to reflect prayerfully on the teachings Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount. The more we can live by those teachings, the more our lives are filled by the presence of God.
As we live out the values of the kingdom of God here on earth, we are called towards something higher. Our lives come to their fullness in the life of heaven. It is there that we shall recognise the people who have lived lives of humility, who have hungered and thirsted for righteousness and who have striven for peace on earth. As we live out the Beatitudes, God calls us towards the Beatific vision. As St Augustine expressed it so beautifully:
“There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom without end?”
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, keep us, we pray, from all false pride and from the desire to exercise control over others. Give us peace in our hearts, so that we may serve you and our fellow people with humility and grace. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.