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THE GROWING SCANDAL OF PEOPLE TOO POOR TO EAT IN THE UK

“Last year, 23 million meals were given out by food banks and other charities to people too poor to feed themselves – a 44 per cent increase over the previous 12 months.

BELOW THE BREADLINE

Their plight has been exposed in ‘Below the Breadline’, a newly-published report into food poverty by Oxfam, Church Action against Poverty and The Trussell Trust which calls on the Government and all political parties to reinstate a social safety net as a core principle of the UK’s welfare system.

LOW AND STAGNANT WAGES

The report attributes the steep rise in those needing food handouts as a ‘perfect storm’ brought about by changes in the welfare system, benefit sanctions, low and stagnant wages, and insecure and zero hours contracts which make planning impossible for people living on a financial knife edge.

RISING ENERGY PRICES

Add rising energy prices to the mix, and the choice between eating and heating means many people have literally no idea what – if anything – is for dinner tonight… Food poverty can happen to anyone, and it can happen fast.

UNEXPECTED ILLNESS

Unexpected illness, a sudden redundancy or the break-up of a long-term relationship can mean the difference between making ends meet and finding the cupboard is bare.

And even prosperous neighbourhoods will have pockets of hidden poverty where people are struggling to survive.

HIDDEN POVERTY WHERE PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE

Their plight is particularly shocking in a country such as the UK, which ranks as the seventh richest in the world.

But although wealthy, Britain is also deeply divided. The ‘Sunday Times’ Rich List reported in May that the 1,000 richest people in the country have seen their wealth double over the past five years. But during the same period, millions of others have traded down to the cheapest food products from the budget shops.

UK FOOD PRICES INCREASED BY 43.5 PER CENT

They go without ‘treats’, they have given up meat – and now they have reached the point where their only remaining option is simply to buy less food. Some of those interviewed for ‘Below the Breadline’ eat only one meal a day: more than half a million children in the UK live in families who are unable to provide a minimally acceptable diet.

Despite their best efforts, many hard-working people simply do not earn enough to live on.

And it’s not hard to understand why. UK food prices increased by 43,5 per cent over eight years to July 2013; UK housing costs are among the highest in Europe and the price of energy rose by 37 per cent between 2010 and 2013.

EXORBITANT HOUSING COSTS

But as prices for food staples rise inexorably, stagnant wages and insecure work contracts mean many households are bringing home less every month than their essential outgoings.

HUNGER AND FOOD POVERTY

In the past year an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty has been set up to look into the issue, and the Work and Pensions Select Committee is investigating how social security reforms and the increase in food aid may be linked.

But the three charities behind ‘Below the Breadline’ say more needs to be done to discover the causes behind the almost 50 per cent increase in food bank usage which has taken place over the past year.

WOMEN GO HUNGRY TO FEED THEIR CHILDREN

They also called on the Government to look at how food poverty affects men and women differently. Many women go hungry to feed their children, and lone parents – 89 per cent of whom are women – are twice as likely to live in poverty as two-parent families.

‘Protecting its citizens from going hungry is one of the most fundamental duties of Government,’ a spokesman for the charities said…’Cuts to social security since April 2013 have had a severe impact on poor and vulnerable families across the UK.’

DESTITUTION AND HUNGER

…In light of their findings, the three charities are pressing the Government to develop an action plan to address food poverty in Britain… They also want to see parties across the political spectrum commit to increasing the minimum wage to a ‘living’ wage by 2020.

– – – – – – – – – –

‘A family in destitution, in a country as wealthy as this, is a disgrace that should not happen. I think the current welfare system does need reform and I don’t disagree on the principles with which the Government is working. But it cannot be at the cost of casting people into destitution.’ (Cardinal Vincent Nichols)

‘People who are using food banks are not scroungers who are cynically trying to work the system. They are drawn from the six million working poor in this country, people who are struggling to make ends meet in low-paid or bitty employment.’ (Rev. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and patron of Cambridge City Foodbank)”
– This article entitled “There can be no place for food poverty in Britain” was published in “The Catholic Universe” issue Friday, 13th June 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.thecatholicuniverse.com (external link).

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: JESUS FORETELLS THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND THE END OF THE WORLD

“In great sorrow Jesus brought His public preaching to a close with a solemn warning of destruction to Jerusalem. Then He sat down opposite the Temple treasury and watched the people offering their gifts to the Temple. He observed the splendid gifts of the rich. But he also observed a poor widow putting in two mites, a small sum, but all she had to live on. He called this to the attention of His disciples.

‘Amen I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who have been putting money into the treasury. For they have all been putting money in out of their abundance; but she out of her want has put in all that she had – all that she had to live on’ (Mark 12:43-44).

JESUS CHRIST’S OWN PEOPLE WILL REJECT HIM

This little incident is both a solace to Jesus and a lesson to His disciples. Jesus has come from heaven to offer men the precious gift of salvation, to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. But the Scribes and the Pharisees have rejected Him. Under their leadership His own people will reject Him and demand His death. Their unwillingness to receive Him shows, on their part, a lack of total dedication to the love of God. When Jesus sees the poor widow giving all that she has to the Temple, His heart rejoices at this example of total love of God. In pointing it out to His disciples He means to tell them once again that it is the spirit which inspires a gift that makes it valuable in the eyes of God. The rich gifts offered by the wealthy were praiseworthy. But since they were only a small part of the abundance of the wealthy, they did not symbolise so well the total gift of one’s self which God demands of every man. But by giving all that she possessed the widow showed in fact that she was totally dedicated to God.

‘THERE WILL NOT BE LEFT ONE STONE UPON ANOTHER’

After this incident Jesus and His disciples remembered His warning of the approaching doom of Jerusalem. They could not help but contrast the beauty and the solidity of the stone walls of the Temple with the sad forecast of the ruin of the Holy City. One of them said to Jesus,

‘Master, look, what wonderful stones and buildings!’ Jesus replied, ‘Dost thou see all these great buildings? There will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’ (Mark 13:1-2).

Jesus and the band of disciples went then to the Mount of Olives. There the curiosity of the disciples could no longer be restrained. Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Him, ‘Tell us, when are these things to happen, and what will be the sign when all these things will begin to come to pass?’ (Mark 13:4).

DID JESUS MEAN TO CONVEY THAT THE END OF THE WORLD WAS COMING SOON?

In the minds of the disciples there must have been great confusion. They had accepted Jesus as the Messias. Since they were Jews it was natural for them to expect the Messias to bring great glory to the Chosen People and to Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. But Jesus had just told them that Jerusalem would be left desolate and the great Temple, the centre of worship of Jahweh, would be destroyed. Perhaps they thought also that the destruction of the Temple would occur only when the Son of Man (spoken of by the prophet Daniel) came in glory to establish the final Kingdom of God at the end of the world. Of what then could Jesus be speaking? Did He mean that the end of the world was coming soon and that then His own glory would be manifested to all men?

WOULD THE GLORY OF THE SON OF MAN BE MANIFESTED TO ALL MEN SHORTLY?

Jesus, in replying to their question, spoke of both the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world. But He distinguished the two events. They were not to be simultaneous, but rather separated by some interval of time. The destruction of Jerusalem would come during the lifetime of the generation of men who had listened to Jesus Himself. But the end of the world would come later, at a time determined by God the Father. When this time might be was not permitted to men to know. But it would be preceded by signs which would warn the followers of Jesus of its approach.

THE FOLLOWING THINGS TOOK PLACE BEFORE THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN THE YEAR 70 A.D.:

As for the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus first warned His disciples to beware of false Christs, men who would claim to be the Messias. These false Christs would only lead the people astray. There would be wars, and rumours of wars, He told them, pestilences, famine and earthquakes. The He added, ‘And when you see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not – let him who reads understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let him who is on the housetop not go down and enter to take anything from his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. But woe to those who are with child, or have infants at the breast in those days! But pray that these things may not happen in winter’ (Mark 13:14-18).

All these things took place before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. False Messiases arose and led the people into revolt against the authority of Rome. Jerusalem was besieged. Its people suffered from famine and pestilence.

As for the disciples themselves, Jesus told them, ‘But be on your guard. For they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, a witness to them’ (Mark 13:9).

THE APOSTLES WERE NOT TO BE AFRAID

When this persecution came upon the disciples they were not to be afraid. ‘And when they lead you away to deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to speak; but speak whatever is given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit… And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake; but he who perseveres to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:11-13).

The disciples of Jesus are urged by Him to face persecution without fear. They will be working for God, for ‘the gospel must first be preached to all nations’ (Mark 13:10).

JERUSALEM WAS ENCIRCLED BY VESPASIAN’S AND TITUS’ TROOPS

God Himself, therefore, will speak through them, and if they persevere they will be saved.

That the first Christian community took His warning seriously is proved by the fact that the Christians there fled to Pella just before the encirclement of the city by the troops of Vespasian and Titus.

THE ANGELS WILL GATHER HIS ELECT FROM THE FOUR WINDS

The mind of Jesus then turned to the thought of the end of the world. With prophetic insight He foresaw the signs which would precede His coming as the Son of Man in power and majesty to judge the world. ‘Then,’ He said, ‘there will be great tribulation, such as has not been found from the beginning of the world until now, nor will be. And unless those days had been shortened, no living creature would have been saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then, if anyone say to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, he is in the desert,’ do not go forth; ‘Behold, he is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes forth from the east and shines even to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together. But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then will all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty. And he will send forth his angels with a trumpet and a great sound, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other’ (Matthew 24:21-31).

‘BUT OF THAT DAY OR HOUR NO ONE KNOWS… BUT THE FATHER ONLY’

Before the world comes to an end, then, a number of false Christs will appear, seeking to lead men astray. So powerful will be the forces of evil that even the elect would be led astray except that God will shorten the time so that they may be saved. Just when the end will come Jesus does not say.

‘But of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only’ (Mark 13:32).

Jesus does not mean that as the Son of God He is Himself ignorant of the day when the world will end. He means that this is knowledge which God the Father does not allow to angels or men, but reserves for God alone. Jesus, as the Son of God, knows the day and the hour, but as the Messias He will not reveal it to men.

OUR LORD JESUS’ COMING WILL BE AS QUICK AND AS SUDDEN AS LIGHTNING

The destruction of Jerusalem, as Jesus foretold it, would not be sudden, its approach would not be unrecognisable. Men would have an opportunity to flee from the city and escape its fate. But the end of the world would come suddenly and men will find no chance to escape.

Neither will they be able to recognise its approach clearly.

‘And as it was in the days of Noe [Noah], even so will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noe entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and swept them all away; even so will the coming of the Son of Man be’ (Matthew 24:37-39). Or, as Jesus had already said, His coming will be as quick as sudden as a bolt of lightning searing the sky from east to west.

‘TAKE HEED, WATCH AND PRAY’

Because of the uncertainty of the time of the end of the world Jesus warns His disciples to be ready at every moment for that final catastrophe. ‘Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is’ (Mark 13:33).

In several parables Jesus emphasised the necessity of being prepared for the coming of the Son of Man to judge the world. ‘As a man,’ He said, ‘when he leaves home to journey abroad, puts his servants in charge, to each his work, and gives orders to the porter to keep watch. Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or early in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping’ (Mark 13:34-36).

Or again, ‘Watch, therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come. But of this be assured, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would certainly have watched, and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man will come’ (Matthew 24:42-44).

Or, ‘Who, dost thou think, is the faithful and prudent servant whom his master has set over his household to give them their food in due time? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, shall find doing so. Amen I say to you, he will set him over all his goods. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master delays his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day he does not expect, and in an hour he does not know, and will cut him asunder and make him share the lot of the hypocrites. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 24:45-51).

THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH VIRGINS

Lastly Jesus made the same point in the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins. Ten virgins went out joyfully to attend a wedding. They carried lamps to light their way. Five were wise and carried also some vessels of oil to replenish their lamps if it became necessary. But five were foolish and carried no extra supply. The coming of the bridegroom was delayed. The virgins fell asleep. When the bridegroom came they arose and prepared to attend the marriage feast. But the lamps of the foolish virgins had gone out and so they were late in arriving at the feast. The door was shut. The bridegroom, not knowing them, refused to let them in.

…TO MEET JUDGMENT UNAFRAID

In all these parables Jesus was emphasising the point that His disciples should be prepared always to meet judgment at the hands of the Son of Man. ‘Watch, then, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to be, and to stand before the Son of Man’ (Luke 21:36).

No man may know when the end of the world will be. But all men must be prepared to meet it at any moment. They must watch and pray so that they meet judgment unafraid.

‘HE WILL COME AGAIN IN GLORY TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD’

This thought of the end of the world and of the second coming of the Son of Man is followed quite naturally in the discourse of Jesus by a description of the judgment of men at the end of time. ‘But when the Son of Man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory and before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the just will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and feed thee; or thirsty, and give thee drink? And when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and come to thee?’ And answering the king will say to them, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left hand, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked, and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.’ And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the just into everlasting life’ (Matthew 25:31-46).

THE JUDGMENT WILL BE BASED ON THE LAW OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

As the Son of Man, the apocalyptic figure spoken of by the prophet Daniel, Jesus will come at the end of the world to judge all men. His judgment will be based on the law of love which He so often preached to men. Those who have loved their fellowmen enough to aid them in their need will be given eternal life with God. Those who have not followed this law of love will be punished eternally in the fire of hell prepared for the devil and his angels. At the moment of judgment the secret of all history will be revealed.

THE SECRET OF ALL HISTORY WILL BE REVEALED

Jesus does not tell us the full nature of this secret. But He tells us enough for us to know that it flows in some mysterious way from the free wills of God, the angels and men. In the transcendent freedom of His will God has loved the universe enough to give it being, existence. And He has given it existence for the sake of His elect, angels and men whom He will gather from every corner of the universe to share His Kingdom with Him. The elect are those who live by the law of love, love of God and love of one another. Their love is the free choice of their own wills, echoing generously the creative act of God’s free decision to make the world. But some angels, and some men, will freely choose not to imitate the divine love; they will refuse to love [unconditionally], and in their refusal they will reject both God and all others. They will be punished by their own refusal; having rejected [unconditional] love, the secret of the universe, they must live forever in the self-corrosion of hate.

TO LOVE ANYONE IS TO LOVE HIM WHO IS THE BROTHER OF ALL

The disciples of Jesus might have wondered that Jesus mentioned only love of men as the basis for the final judgment of all men. Surely, they might have thought, men should be judged on the basis of their love for God. But Jesus had already taught them that it was God’s will that they should love all men as they loved themselves. In so doing they would be loving God Himself.

And in Jesus Himself there is an ever deeper reason why this is true. Jesus is God Himself come to earth, God-made-man. By taking to Himself a human nature, the Son of God has become the neighbour, in fact, the brother of all mankind. By His own free decision He has identified Himself with all men. To love anyone, therefore, is to love Him, Who is the brother of all. And to love Him is to love not just a man but God Himself.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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PRAISE THE LORD! – IF GOD DOES “SEND” SUFFERING, IT IS MORE LIKELY TO BE TO A SAINT THAN TO A SINNER, BECAUSE THE SAINT IS BETTER “QUALIFIED”

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me (Mat 1:38).

“THE POWER OF PAIN

Pain is one of our great supernatural resources. That statement is out of line with our usual pattern of thought. We are accustomed to viewing pain as an unmitigated evil. For some persons, the existence of pain even is a source of temptation against their religious faith. ‘If God is good,’ they ask, ‘why does He permit suffering, particularly so much innocent suffering?’

‘IF GOD IS GOOD,’ THEY ASK, ‘WHY DOES HE PERMIT SUFFERING?’

Thoughtful people realise that we could not have the world we do have, without suffering. A great amount of suffering is caused by man’s own inhumanity to man. To prevent this, God would have to make man a puppet, with God pulling the strings on each man’s actions. Being no longer free, man would cease to be human.

FREE WILL AND CREATION AS WE KNOW IT

Similarly, to eliminate all pain caused by nature, God would have had a different kind of world. Fire burns. Coal tars initiate cancer. Gravity crushes. Electricity kills. The world could not be our world, as we know it, without pain.

Still, after all possible explanations of pain have been made, there does remain a large element of mystery in this question of suffering. For example, why deadly microbes, why poisonous reptiles?

THERE DOES REMAIN A MYSTERY

It helps a little to remember that God’s plan for the universe encompasses billions of years. Our own world with its pain is but one pinpoint in that vast plan and only one moment in those uncounted eons. How the phenomenon of pain may eventually contribute to God’s over-all design, we must await to discover.

‘GREATER LOVE THAN THIS NO MAN HAS, THAT ONE LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS’

The really important truth about pain, for the Christian, is the fact that it does have a meaning in the here and now. In Eden God gave to suffering its value as an atonement for sin. On Calvary Jesus Christ gave to suffering its ultimate nobility as He expressed, in the language of pain, God’s infinite love for man. ‘Greater love than this no man has, that one lay down his life for his friends.’

SHARING THE SUBLIME FRUIT OF SUFFERING

Jesus did not hoard to Himself this sublime fruit of suffering, this ability to make one’s pain count for others. In His scheme of salvation, our Lord has chosen to share with us His redemptive work. Each of us who has been baptised in Christ has the privilege of helping Him to carry His cross. Each of us has the power to atone by our sufferings for the sins of others and to crack the locks on hearts that have been closed to God’s grace.

‘WHO NOW REJOICE IN MY SUFFERINGS FOR YOU, AND FILL UP THAT WHICH IS LACKING IN THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST IN MY FLESH FOR HIS BODY’S SAKE, WHICH IS THE CHURCH’ (Colossians 1:24)

Whatever pain may be our lot, in honesty we must admit, ‘I deserve this for my sins.’ Only an innocent child can truthfully say, ‘I do not deserve to suffer.’ If God’s justice were not tempered with mercy and if we had to pay the full price of our infidelities, we should be living our whole lives in pain.

However, when suffering does come to us, it would be a mistake to conclude, ‘I am being punished for my sins.’ God is not a vindictive God. He may permit us to suffer for our spiritual good and to better assure our eternal happiness, but He does not send suffering to ‘get even’ with us for our offences against Him.

MOST SUFFERING IS THE INEVITABLE RESULT OF LIVING IN THE KIND OF WORLD THAT IS OURS

In fact, it probably is quite rarely that God positively ‘sends’ suffering to anyone. Most suffering, such as disease or accident, is simply the result of natural causes; or, it is the result of the evil will of fellow humans. Most suffering, in other words, is the inevitable result of living in the kind of a world that is ours.

If God does ‘send’ suffering, it is more likely to be to a saint than to a sinner. The saint is better qualified to use suffering unselfishly for the salvation of others.

‘I OFFER THIS CROSS, BELOVED JESUS, IN UNION WITH YOURS’

Suffering comes in all styles and sizes. It may be a simple headache, a slight cold or a minor disappointment. It may be the excruciating agony of cancer or of acute arthritis, or the mental distress of deep despondency or loneliness.

Whatever our particular pain may be, it will be a tragic waste if we refuse or forget to say, ‘I offer this cross, beloved Jesus, in union with Yours. I offer it for my own sins and especially in atonement for the sins of others. Let my suffering bring another soul to You!'”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966 (text within the inverted commas; capital headings added afterwards).

(see also Mt 5:2-12)

 

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WHY DID THE DEVIL TEMPT JESUS IN THE DESERT?

THE BEGINNING OF JESUS’ PUBLIC MINISTRY

“The baptism of Jesus by John – or at least the mysterious happenings associated with it – seems to herald the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. As John himself indicated, Jesus did not need a baptism unto the remission of sins or unto repentance. It was, then, not so much the simple human event of the washing of Jesus in the Jordan by John that was significant; it was rather the divinely caused events which accompanied that washing. The descent of the Holy Spirit of God in the form of a dove, the voice of the Father saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ – these are the significant happenings on that occasion. These happenings are a message from God announcing that Jesus is most pleasing and acceptable to God. They are the divine seal of approval placed beforehand on the work of Jesus for the accomplishment of God’s plan to save mankind.

THE FURTHER UNFOLDING OF GOD’S SALVATION PLAN

It is not clear from the texts of the Gospel whether or not any others than John and Jesus saw the dove and heard the voice from heaven. But John, as we shall see later, saw the dove and realised the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. He was prepared then to give testimony to Jesus. Jesus himself heard the voice of His Father and felt the power of the Spirit hovering over Him. Under the guidance of the Spirit He withdrew into the desert. There He fasted for forty days and forty nights. At the end of this period God allowed the devil to tempt Him.

GOD ALLOWED THE DEVIL TO TEMPT JESUS

The nature of the temptations by which the devil tried Jesus seems to indicate that he did not know the true identity of Jesus. He probably realised that Jesus was a threat to his own dominion over the lives and destinies of men. At this moment he would try to determine more exactly the nature and strength of this threat.

THE DEVIL DID NOT SEEM TO KNOW THE TRUE IDENTITY OF JESUS

• ‘COMMAND THAT THESE STONES BECOME LOAVES OF BREAD’ (Mt 4:3)

He begins with a temptation that is both subtle and a tribute to the reality of the human nature of Jesus. Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights. He was hungry. The devil appeals to this hunger, thus acknowledging the real humanity of Jesus. ‘If thou art the Son of God,’ he says, ‘command that these stones become loaves of bread’ (Matthew 4:3). But this temptation is not simply an appeal to the physical hunger of Jesus. The devil knows that Jesus is someone highly pleasing to God. He knows that Jesus also realises this. If Jesus is only a man highly favoured by God, then it may be possible to appeal to His vanity, to His pride in His close relationship of God. And so he does not say to Jesus, ‘You are hungry. Serve me and I will give you bread to eat.’ Instead he says, ‘If you are highly favoured by God, if you are so close to God as to be called the ‘Son of God,’ then call upon the divine power to assist you, ask God to work a miracle for you. Command that these stones become loaves of bread.’

THE CUNNING WAY OF HOW THE DEVIL’S DEMAND IS PHRASED

Now the hunger of Christ was a legitimate human need. The desire to satisfy it was a natural and a good desire. But there are ordinary ways to satisfy this need. The devil is tempting Jesus to satisfy the urgings of vanity by a miraculous display of power.

Jesus answers: ‘Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). In effect Jesus is saying: There is a higher law ruling the world than the law of human desire. Man must not so desire even the food which sustains life that he will seek it outside of or apart from the will and the Law of God. Man must regulate his desires and their satisfaction by the Law of God.

• ‘THROW THYSELF DOWN’ (Mt 4:5-6)

Then the devil led Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and said to Him, ‘If thou art the Son of God, throw thyself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge concerning thee; and upon their hands they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone’ ‘(Matthew 4:5-6). Here again the devil tries to appeal to vanity.

If Jesus is the Messias, the One sent by God to redeem Israel, then surely God will care for Him. God will not allow Him to be injured. Moreover, by working such a spectacular miracle before the crowd assembled in the Temple Jesus can begin His work in a blaze of glory; He can attract many men to Himself at once. But apparently it was not God’s will that Jesus should act in this way. Jesus therefore rejects the suggestion of the devil and replies, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God’ (Matthew 6:7).

• ‘ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD’ (Mt 4:9)

Finally the devil takes Jesus to the top of a high mountain and shows Him the kingdoms of the world and says to Him, ‘All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me’ (Matthew 4:9). In his first two attempts the devil has failed to induce Jesus to make a show of His power.

Now He tries to seduce Jesus with the promise of power over all the kingdoms of the world. It is true, of course, that the devil by his temptations has caused man to forget God and to that extent has made himself the master of the world. But it is not true that the world is wholly his. In fact, at this moment he probably fears that Jesus has been sent by God to wrest the world from such dominion as he possesses over it. If Jesus be merely a man, perhaps he can be tempted by offering him the rule of the world.

‘HE DEPARTED FROM HIM FOR A WHILE’ (Lk 4:13)

But Jesus has not come to establish an earthly kingdom. He answers, ‘Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘The Lord thy God shalt thou worship and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10). At these words the devil left Him. Jesus had won the victory. But, as St Luke suggests, the devil will return at some later time to resume the struggle. ‘He departed from him for a while’ (Luke 4:13).

THE NEW HEAD OF THE HUMAN RACE

Since this temptation of Jesus by the devil took place in secret, with no witnesses, it is obvious that it became known only later when Jesus Himself must have told it to His followers. Why did God allow it to take place? The ways of God, we know, are not fully understood by men. This much at least we can conjecture: as Adam, the first head of the human race, had in the beginning of his work in the world fallen victim to the temptation of the devil, so it was fitting that Jesus, Whom St Paul will later speak of as the new head of the human race, should encounter the devil face to face and overcome him.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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FOR YOUR DIARY: G8 DEMONSTRATION, HYDE PARK

Enough Food For Everyone If…

One in eight people on this planet lives with the pain of hunger, yet our planet provides enough food for everyone. It’s unfair, it’s unjust, and – it’s totally preventable.

We can push world leaders meeting at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on 17-18 June to end this injustice by tackling

four big IFs: tax, aid, land, transparency.

There will be a huge event in Central London and Hyde Park on Saturday 8th June. Please join!

 

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MOTHER TERESA’S PRAYER FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE

Make us worthy, Lord,
to serve others throughout the world
who live and die in poverty and hunger.

Give them through our hands
this day
their daily bread,
and by our understanding love,
give peace and joy.
– Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

 

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WHY I LEFT POLITICS TO WORK FOR THE CATHOLIC CHARITY CAFOD INSTEAD

“Most politicians believe deep down that they have the monopoly on good ideas, rarely learning from but constantly repeating each other’s mistakes…”

GOOD-BYE TO THE MACHO CULTURE OF POLITICS

Many people have asked me, since I joined Cafod last year, how working in the charitable sector compares to my previous career in politics, and whether I miss the old life. There are some things I do miss. In my current role as Cafod’s head of communications, I wish getting coverage for some of our life-changing work around the world was as easy as it used to be to get column inches for a relatively inconsequential speech by Gordon Brown.

But there are elements of political life that, with the benefit of some enforced hindsight, I would never want to go back to: the partisanship, the macho culture, the win-at-all-costs mentality and the delight taken in seeing other human beings brought low, all of which I was guilty of in my own time. More than anything, I don’t miss the atmosphere in the House of Commons – behaviour which would not be tolerated in any other
workplace.

CHANGING THE WORLD FOR THE BETTER

There are some things the political and charitable worlds have in common, notably that the vast majority of people who work in them are decent and principled individuals who came into those careers determined to change the world for the better. There is also a constant debate in both sectors about what tactics are appropriate to inspire support. Do you appeal to negative instincts like guilt and fear, or positive feelings such as faith and hope? Which has more potency: a campaign based around self-interest or a sense of solidarity?

Cafod’s approach to such issues is clear, inspired by Scripture and Catholic social teaching, always appealing to a sense of hope and solidarity among our supporters, and portraying those in the poorest communities with the dignity and respect they deserve, not as helpless, suffering victims. It is heartening to see that same Catholic social teaching currently so in vogue among politicians looking for alternative ways to address Britain’s social and economic problems in an age of austerity. But the difference between working for an agency like Cafod and working in politics remain far greater than the similarities, in four main respects.

THE LIVING EXPRESSION OF FAITH

First, despite the best efforts of some individual MPs, there remains an unbridgeable gap between the leadership of each party and its core members: those who pay their annual dues and go knocking on doors at election time. Every new party leader is encouraged to assert their authority and prove their mainstream appeal by “taking on” their members over issues such as gay marriage and all-female shortlists. That may be sensible politics, but it is hardly a sign of cohesive organisation. By contrast, Cafod sees itself as nothing more than the sum of its supporters. Its core purpose is the living expression of their faith. We were born 50 years ago from the efforts of individual volunteers and, while we have grown in size and stature over the years, our lifeblood
remains the support of Catholic parishes and schools around the country.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE PAST

Second, despite the pretence of public consultation and their constant rhetoric about “listening to the experts”, most politicians believe deep down that they have the monopoly on good ideas, rarely learning from but constantly repeating each other’s mistakes, and too often inclined to make announcements for the sake of a new headline, without considering how and whether they will ever be delivered in practice.

An agency like Cafod is different in every respect: actively seeking out ideas and new ways of working from our partners in the poorest countries, and benefiting from a vast institutional memory, where every way of operating in those countries has evolved from lessons learned in the past. The practicalities of delivery are the first consideration in weighing up new commitments, even when responding to emergencies.

LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS

Third, politics is all too often, and almost unapologetically, about winning that day’s argument, getting on that day’s news and establishing short-term advantage over your opponents. It is all too rarely about facing up to the most difficult long-term problems and investing in long-term solutions. Little wonder when the politicians making the decisions have their eye on what will get them advancement at the next reshuffle or secure a majority at the next election, rather than what will benefit the country in 15 or 20 years time. Compare that to the increasingly influential approach Cafod has adopted to tackling humanitarian emergencies, not hopping from one crisis to the next handing out tents, food and medicine, but going into vulnerable communities in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and elsewhere together with the Church on the ground, and working with them on major long-term transformation of their livelihoods and resource management, so that when the next cyclone or drought hits, they can withstand it and carry on.

WORKING TOGETHER FOR THE COMMON GOOD

Finally, what I see constantly in the charitable sector that remains almost unheard of in our modern politics is a willingness to work together for the common good. Appalling as it is, the overriding desire for short-term political advantage makes the idea of agreeing a joint approach seem almost pointless to many politicians. By contrast, agencies like Cafod have an automatic instinct to work in coalition, knowing that we are stronger standing with other like-minded organisations than standing alone, even when it means subsuming our own identity. Those coalitions are not characterised by trading of different party pledges, but by agreement of the most important shared priorities, as we will see next year when Cafod joins all the other major British development agencies to campaign on the issue of hunger.

In all these areas I believe my old friends and foes in politics have much to learn from the way that charities like Cafod work, and the contrast with their own practices…
– The above is an excerpt of the article “Give me Cafod over Westminster any day” by Damian McBride, published in “The Catholic Herald” on December 21, 2012

 
 

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