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27 October 2013
posted by Canon Dakin on 26-10-2013

Some Jews had objected to Paul’s miionary activity. He had been arrested and sent for trial to Jerusalem. Maybe he saw this as his opportubity to get to the centre of things. He appealed to Rome, was transferred here and kept under house arrest for two years before being brought to trial.He seems to sense a lack of support from his fellow Christians. In the circumstances of the time that would be understandable. We are not sure whether Paul was executed just before or just after the terrible persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero. Nero found it convenient to blame the Christians for starting a fire which destroyed a large part of Rome.  This would seem to suggest that people were disposed to think the worst of Christians who were not likely, therefore, to raise their heads above the parapet. History repeated itself centuries later when the Great Fire of London was blamed on the Catholics and a plaque was erected to that effect which was not removed until the 19th century.

 

The Pharisee, in the Gospel, represents a tendency which crops up from time to time: self-righteousness; the idea that  by your own unaided effort you can merit a reward from God. In Christian history this notion attaches to the memory of a fourth cent. man from Britain called Pelagius, who made his way to Rome. He was a learned man and the author of several books but his main idea seems to have been that you can lead a good life just by putting your mind to it.  It’s in your genes, not in help you need from God. This is very much the attitudeof the modern intelligentia.  I have started a book written by a well known journalist about how it was the devotion of her little dog that carried her through a crisis in her life. A sentence in the introduction caught my eye “If this book has any message it is that recovery and salvation can come from most unexpected sources and that largeness of spirit will most equip you for your personal fight.”  Largeness of spirit. In other words you have to look within yourself to discover your own natural resouces. God, if he is a presence, is remote. A Christian actually does look within him or herself and there find God. Through Jesus we relate to God in a new way: we become related to the Father and the Spirit as Jesus does. We share a divine energy which is the source of all the good that we do.  The Pharisee does thank God but so do we, often wih words that have no meaning: ‘Thank God it didn’t rain”; “Thank God he missed that penalty”. The words ‘Thank God‘ are here just an empty formula And yet our whole lives should be a thanksging that in Christ God has made life worth while with an opening into heaven where the consciousness of our relationship to God will broaden immensely. In particular the Mass is called the Eucharist, the Thanksgiving.  We come here not to use the love of Jesus crucified as leverage for our petitions but we come into the  presence of that supreme act of love to be inspired to express our thanksgiving by relating to others as Jesus did, in loving service. Our Holy Communion is our acceptance.   

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