Home » Gospel Encouragement – 29th Sunday of the Year

Gospel Encouragement – 29th Sunday of the Year

Dear sisters and brothers,

It’s been a month or so since last I wrote to you, and I thought that it was time to start again as the country – and the world – gets a little more tense day by day in light of increasing Covid related restrictions.  About 200 people are coming to Mass each week, and another 160 people are accessing Mass via the parish’s Facebook page, but even with these opportunities many of you no doubt feeling isolated in the fears that we all share with you.  I always think that the title that the church gives me as ‘Father’ highlights that, as best I can, I need to take responsibility to encourage you through good and bad days alike.  While I may not be able to do much more in our current circumstances, I hope and pray that the words that I write do something to bring you the hope that we all need.

This week’s readings are really quite appropriate.  In the Gospel we hear Jesus’ opponents trying to trick him, using a coin with Caesar’s head on to question where he will give his allegiance – to God or to Caesar – and in his wisdom he highlights the need to give our lives to God, whilst honouring human authority.  This develops our first reading, where King Cyrus – the king of another country that has authority over Israel – is hailed by some as a messiah, even though he doesn’t know God, as he seeks to release the people of Israel from their exile.

These two readings together highlight the dire situation that Israel found itself in at the time of Jesus.  From 720BC onwards foreign empires had been taking over Israel.  The northern part were taken into exile that year, and the south followed suit in 587BC.  70 years later King Cyrus let them return home, but from there on Israel lived under successive oppressive regimes, right  down to the Roman occupation of Jesus’ time, and the final elimination of Israel as an independent country in 70AD.  That’s nearly 800 years of incredible difficulties.  Generation after generation knowing nothing other than oppression and fear.  Jesus was born into that, and was crucified by it, reflecting that he knows what it is like to live in a culture of fear, much as we experience at the current time.

And St Paul, writing to the people of Thessalonika, knows that fear too.  The early Christians were facing persecution, and so he writes the words of encouragement that we find in today’s second reading:

“We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ. We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.”

So, as we face our own fears today in the face of this pandemic, let’s remember that Jesus’ love is more powerful than any disease, and that with St Paul we stand together as the family of God, praying for each other that we will continue to show our faith in action, working together for love and persevering through hope!!!  And in my role as Father, be assured that I remember you constantly in my prayers, carrying you in my heart, and entrusting us all to the ‘power’of the Holy Spirit who brings us his hope and conviction, even in the most troubling of times.