If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

21st. Sunday of Year (C)

    Twenty First  Sunday of Year (C)          

 (Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30)

Jesus was asked, as you have just heard:
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?" He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter and will not be able.”
Notice the question: ‘Lord, will only a few people be saved?’
That phrasing of the question really means, ‘does God save only a few?’, and that, I say, is a typically human, and indeed modern, way of phrasing the question, in that it implies that any blame for human failure to find salvation is to be laid at God’s door, so to speak.
Jesus often refused to answer questions as desired because frequently they were put not simply to learn the truth but rather to help in the justification of the questioner: simplicity and love of truth have never been common human virtues.   And so, here, Jesus responds not to the carefully chosen words but to the real situation and needs of the questioner; He responds as One Who truly loves God and whole-heartedly seeks to do His will; He responds as the only-begotten, uniquely beloved, Son of the Father:
Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will attempt to enter and will not be able.
For Jesus, the question is not whether God saves only a few, but whether men and women will make the required effort to enable themselves to receive what God chooses to offer them.  Many will, indeed, seek to enter the kingdom of God, but they will not strive to enter through the narrow gate; rather, they will present themselves late in the day at some other point of entry they imagine to be more easily accessible.
Our first reading told us of God choosing people from nations of every language, while the second described what would be involved for those thus specially chosen, emphasizing above all their need of serious and even painful training:
My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by Him; for whom the Lord loves, He disciplines; He scourges every son He acknowledges.”    Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?  At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.
However, such is the modern, largely self-indulgent, Western society to which we belong that I can already imagine someone saying: ‘Why should we have to suffer like that, why should religion entail suffering?   The answer is given us by Jesus Himself elsewhere in the Gospel:
His disciples were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"   Jesus looked at them and said: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt 19:25-26)
The reason why no man can save himself is simple enough: salvation is beyond all human powers, it is something that God alone can bring about, because it gives human beings a share in divine life, in the eternal blessedness and glory of God Himself, by making them partakers of His holiness.  This we have learned from our Christian faith and formation which teaches us what the original disciples, with their Jewish background, could not begin to understand until they had seen Jesus rise from the dead and subsequently ascend in bodily glory to heaven.  A faith that promises such heavenly glory to weak and indeed sinful human beings obviously entails training; and that training will, inevitably, involve suffering in some way or other since it is a training intended to change us, to raise us up above our earthly limitations, to purge and purify us of our inherent selfishness and sinfulness.
We can recognize all this in the response given by the Master in our Gospel reading to those arriving outside the house after the doors have been closed:
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’
Only those are recognized for salvation whose origin is known, and we are personally known in that way to the Father if He can see Jesus, His beloved Son, in us: that is, if we, as living members of the Body of Christ, are being formed into the likeness of our Head; if we, as dutiful children of Mother Church, are being guided -- by the Spirit with which she has been endowed -- to follow her teaching and so to  live and walk as true disciples along the way of Jesus Christ, the one and only Lord of Salvation.   Only those thus showing themselves to be sincere disciples of the goodness and truth in Jesus are beloved of the Father.
Of course, all who are left outside, having no appreciation of the holiness and majesty of God, cry out in self-justification:
We ate and drank in Your company, and You taught in our streets.
Dear People of God, those words should give us cause for serious thought, because they are most appropriate for people like ourselves, who, every Sunday, hear the teaching of Jesus in the readings and the homily at Holy Mass before going on to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion .  Let us pray that our situation be nothing like that of the outsiders of the Gospel parable in whom the old adage, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ was fully exemplified. 
They confidently proclaimed their familiarity with the Master:
            We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets;
but such protestations merely brought into prominence their hidden contempt for Him, for they had not really given attention to His words heard in their streets, they had never seriously tried to appreciate His teaching in their hearts; nor had their eating and drinking in His presence ever been honest and sincere expressions of their love and longing for personal communion with Him.
Jesus’ answer is given in words of clear and deserved condemnation:
I do not know where you are from.  Depart from Me, all you evil doers.
Many today have little respect for religion and so have almost no appreciation of heavenly matters: instead of the transcendent God they can imagine nothing more than a mythical, white-haired, old man sitting on a gilded throne high above; while natural charm of manner, emotional exhibitionism, and the dynamics of spiritual careerism, are the only signs they consider to be indicative of the holiness engendered by the presence of God’s Spirit of truth and life.  Consequently, it is not surprising that this parable of Jesus and the attitude of the Master of the house can cause vehement complaints of self-righteous indignation from many: ‘Why should religion, discipleship, entail suffering?’
Because self-indulgence and self-satisfaction is prevalent among men and women of all ages the same teaching was given by Jesus on many other occasions and in many other ways throughout His ministry so that there could be no possibility of it being overlooked or ignored by anyone in the slightest degree serious about serving God:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt 7:13-14)

Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. (Mk 8:34-36)

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Luke 11:9)
Assuredly, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:3)
People of God, in modern society, as we know it, positive words and actions frighten people: leaders of all sorts prefer to be able to avoid responsibility for difficult decisions by saying that events left them with no other option, or that they did all that was humanly possible in straightened circumstances.  This they do, not because they love peace or have a high concern for others, but simply because they want to protect their own back from any possible attack, their own person from any cloud of suspicion or threat of criticism.  Even in religious matters, leaders can feel so vulnerable, so open to bitter criticism, that it is rare today for anything positive to be said if, so to speak, the direction of the wind and the temperature of the water have not been thoroughly tested and suitably allowed for beforehand.
Now Jesus had no such taste for self-preservation, no such fear of what human beings might think, say, or do, in His regard: He served only His Father’s glory and our salvation.  Therefore we should take Him most seriously when He warns us, who, in this world, are privileged Catholics:
There will be wailing and grinding of teeth, when you see yourselves cast out of the Kingdom of God, and (others) come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.
We should take notice even more carefully if, within that privileged Catholic society, we are in any way influential, powerful, or leaders -- such as priests, teachers, and parents -- because:
Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.
However, although we seriously, indeed anxiously, allow Our Lord’s words to admonish us, we must never forget our primary duty and privilege of filial confidence together with gratitude: we must always take to heart from, and place our trust in, words of comfort such as the following heard in our second reading and echoed throughout the whole of Our Blessed Lord’s life and teaching:
The Lord loves those whom He disciplines; He acknowledges every son He scourges.
To be loved by the Lord, to be accepted as His children, what a privilege!!  Surely,  any passing, earthly, trials and suffering imposed by the Lord Who thus loves us in His beloved Only-Begotten Son, are to be embraced with humble confidence and firm trust by all who would be true disciples of Him Who embraced the Passion and Cross on Calvary with such enduring patience and consuming love for us. 
Son though He was, He (for us) learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.  (Hebrews 5:8-9)
Having thus been made perfect in His own manhood when He rose in glory to join His Father in Heaven, He now awaits our purification and glorification as members of His Body; a perfection to be brought to fulfilment in us by the Spirit He has given us and the teaching He has left us in Mother Church.                                                                                       

Saturday, 7 August 2010

19th Sunday (Year C)

Nineteenth Sunday (Year C)       

  (Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-12; Luke 12:32-48)

This was the saving of the virtuous, for by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes you made us glorious by calling us to you.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, those words, from the OT book of Wisdom, which refer originally to God’s destruction of the pursuing Egyptian army in the Red Sea in order to bring His People out of slavery, find a two-fold relevance and fulfilment in the New Testament: first of all when Jesus breaks the bonds of sin and death and ascends -- in the glory of the Spirit -- to heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of the Father; and secondly when through baptism, human sins are washed away and the prospect of heavenly life restored to men by the gift of the Spirit of Jesus.  And these two distinct events – where salvation is first of all won and then allowed to exert its saving power -- are made one through our faith in Jesus.
This new life with its promise of glory is, however, but the outline, the beginning and the end, so to speak, of our salvation; the main body -- all aspects of our character and all actions of our making – must, whatever their apparent significance or insignificance, serve to make a coherent and ultimately glorious whole of our lives, and therefore must be penetrated, through and through, by that original gift of divine significance, namely, our faith.
A few words from the second reading explain why faith is so supremely important for our life in Christ:
      Faith is the substance of things hoped for.
Our Christian hope is for those heavenly realities and that heavenly fulfilment put before us by Jesus in promises that resonate to the furthest depths of our being,  made -- as we human beings uniquely are -- in the image and likeness of God,  realities which cannot be apprehended by us here and now, because they transcend us, but which, in the ultimate realization of God’s providential plan, will be our sublime fulfilment in the glory of Jesus.   Nevertheless, such blessings hoped for from God, according to the promise of the Scriptures, can begin to be appropriated by us, even here and now, through faith in Jesus, in Whose divine humanity the fullness of God dwells, by the working of His Spirit in us, through the ministry of Mother Church.  We can, indeed, begin here and now, to truly appreciate such heavenly realities and really apprehend something of the fulfilment they offer through faith, because:
      Faith is the substance of things hoped for.
We must turn to the Gospel, however, to learn an aspect of supreme importance within this broad outline of our salvation.  Jesus there tells His disciples:
Provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.
Now the reason why He tells them to provide a treasure for themselves in heaven is because, as He went on to explain:
      Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Because He is seeking to draw us, in Himself, to heaven where there is no gold or silver, no tight purses or secure safes, He draws attention to our heart -- the seat of human affection and attachment – for which personal love alone is the supreme and exclusive treasure. 
Likewise, when He advises His disciples to:
            Sell what you have and give alms
He is not really interested in seeing us reduced to poverty: He wants us to open our hearts, unreservedly and fully, to receive His Father’s gift of the Kingdom:
            It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom;
He wants us to unreservedly love the promise and the prospect of heaven, where, He assures us, our dearest and most precious treasure -- our heart’s treasure -- awaits us.
And so we have this outline of our salvation:
(In) the saving of the virtuous: by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes you made us glorious by calling us to you.
By the glorious Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, and through our faith in Him, God has called us to Himself.  And we have learnt, broadly speaking, how that glorious calling is to be realised: through the prospect and promises of hope, faith leads us to open our minds, hearts, and lives to the ultimate inspiration of divine charity.  That is the way we are to finally attain ‘our treasure’, our hope, or, as Jesus put it earlier, ‘the Kingdom of God’:
Seek the kingdom of God, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Jesus spoke repeatedly of the Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of heaven; St. Paul, however, tells us that the Kingdom of God is also the Kingdom of the Son:
He (the Father) has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. (Col. 1:13-14)
Why does Paul speak of the Kingdom of the Son whereas Jesus always spoke of the Kingdom of God?
First of all Paul speaks in this way because, ultimately, Jesus Himself is the Kingdom of God present in our world and in our lives.
And secondly, because the Kingdom of the Son, of which St. Paul spoke, will ultimately to be handed over to the Father, and in that way become the Kingdom of God, the Father.  Listen to Paul’s explanation:
In Christ all shall be made alive, but each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.  Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.  For He (Christ) must reign till He (God the Father) has put all enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. … Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him (God the Father) who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:22-28)
Jesus is the load-stone drawing the affection of our hearts to God by the fact that He is God-in-human (our)-flesh.  Like loves like: and our shared flesh enables us to respond most deeply to Him Who is God-like-us.  Our response to His promises, His example and call, our faith in Him and our human love for Him, will gently open our hearts to the working of His Spirit Who will then form us gradually in His divine likeness until we come to love God for His divine beauty and goodness.
From this we can see that our personal treasure will ultimately be the glorious Jesus when He returns to make the final proclamation and manifestation of His eternal glory and to hand all that is His over to the Father, so that He, the Father, might be ‘All in all’.
Now we can, as it were, ‘pull all the strings together’ in order to get a complete picture, a full understanding.
‘Treasure in heaven’ is essential, as Jesus Himself said, if our hearts are to be fully, totally attached to heaven.  Faith guides us towards the attainment of our heavenly hope, but faith is essentially commitment directly to the teaching of Jesus and only mediately commitment to the Person of Jesus; love, on the other hand, being, most accurately, the gift of divine charity, commits our whole being immediately, directly, to the very Person of Jesus.  This personal commitment to Jesus – mediated, I say, by faith in His Person and in His word, and directly attained through our sharing in the gift of divine charity -- is absolutely and supremely essential, indeed, it is the only essential, for Jesus is Himself the Kingdom for us.  And this love, being, as I said, a heavenly gift, indeed the Gift of the Spirit, our sharing in Divine Being of union in Charity, transcends our present time and this visible world and takes us into the eternity of God Himself where Jesus will, as we have heard, ultimately hand over His Kingdom to the Father and lead us -- as members of His Body in and with Him -- to love, yes, to love divinely, the Father Himself, as Jesus would have us love Him, for the Father must become, as you heard, ‘All in all’.  
Faith is the ‘substance of things hoped for’; by our faith, in our life of discipleship on earth, we can already gain some experience of what will be our heavenly fellowship with Jesus, before the Father, in the Spirit.  That experience, that fellowship, that love of charity, can and should deepen within us throughout our life on earth, but that can only come about in Mother Church, through our faith in her proclamation of the Gospel, and by the grace of her sacraments, which bestow on us the Spirit of Love and Truth Who unites and binds together Father and Son. 
And then, for all those faithful sons and daughters of Mother Church who thus grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus our Saviour, the words of the Psalmist are most beautifully appropriate and consoling:
Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.  I will deliver him and honour him and show him My salvation. (Psalm 91:14-16)


Sunday, 1 August 2010

18th. Sunday (Year C)

18th. Sunday (Year C)
(Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23.  Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11.  Luke 12:13-21)

Watching a news programme on the television, I saw a picture of a Mosque in Birmingham filled with men worshipping.  You can go, on the other hand, to Christian churches, even to Catholic churches, and find them half empty.  Why is this?  Because so many Christians, so many Catholics, are not living their faith today: they are living for the world, for the pleasures and advantages the world seems to offer them.  The Muslims I saw filling the mosque, on the other hand, were there because they feel themselves to be a minority under threat, and so they were rallying together round the one thing that, in a currently alien and historically Christian, society and country, most distinguishes them from others and most unites them among themselves, that is their Muslim faith.  It was like that in Ireland over a hundred years ago when Irish men and women, under persecution and oppression, held firm by rallying together round their faith, their Catholic Faith, which distinguished and sustained them in the face of their Protestant persecutors.  Even more recently the same phenomenon occurred in Poland when Catholic Poles were under atheistic Communist rule.  When oppression ceased more or less in Ireland and Poland, then the practice of the Catholic faith also began to fall in fervour as men and women, living in an apparently more friendly world, began to enjoy living in the world more than they rejoiced to practice their faith: with the world an enemy, the faith was a lifeline; when the world seems friendly, why should the precepts of Catholic faith be allowed to disturb that mutual acceptance and approval of surrounding society?
Today then, even where Catholics still appear to value their faith, many are tempted to live for the world: they do not openly or totally give in to the temptation, but, not infrequently, they make serious concessions to it.   Now, these concessions have to be justified in some way or other, because these people want to regard themselves as practicing and true Catholics, and so, they begin to talk about the need to make our faith acceptable to modern people who, they say, now have a much greater knowledge of science and a much wider understanding of other, non-Western, cultures than their forebears possessed. In this way some modern Catholics come to justify singular interpretations of the Faith by claiming that the practice of faith must be made more popular: indeed they seem to feel it their vocational calling to do all they can - watering down difficult teaching and brushing aside unwanted rules - in order to make their presentation of the Faith as attractive, as pleasing, and as easy to understand, as possible for others whom they hope to thereby persuade to accept the Catholic way of life.  People will come to the Faith it is thought and said, if, and only if, they find us nice people not overburdened with troublesome principles, if they find our message accommodating and comforting, and if the portals of our church are open wide,  welcoming and obstacle free, to all and sundry.
This is a most fundamental and insidious perversion of the Faith.  Jesus tells us quite categorically that it is the Father alone who draws disciples to Jesus:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. (John 6:37)
The Father draws and gives to Jesus disciples who have come to know Him through the witness of Mother Church and her children, who make Jesus known by proclaiming His Truth and presenting His teaching to all who are sincerely seeking God and His salvation.  But, People of God, how could anyone come to love the authentic Jesus if His followers are intent, first and foremost, on presenting themselves as nice Jesus-people?  How can followers whose aim is to offer a popularly acceptable message, rightly proclaim the teaching of Jesus?  Their want to present their own version of the Gospel, a version adapted to modern ideas and current preferences, not the Good News of Jesus as given us in the Scriptures and proclaimed in the traditional teaching of the Church.
Now this state of affairs comes about because people all too easily think only in terms of this world, as if everything will be decided here on earth according to human judgements and expectations; and therefore our readings today, warning us, most explicitly, about this folly, proclaim that this world is not the be all and end all of life:
Here is one who has laboured with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; and yet to another who has not laboured over it, he must leave property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune.
In fact, it is but the essential preparation for what is to come, a life of either eternal fulfilment or eternal loss:
Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.   He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’    And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”
But God said to him, 'You fool! This night your life will be demanded of you; and then the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?'
The currently widespread persuasion that the Good News of Jesus has to be subjected to our adaptation is an unacknowledged capitulation to modern society’s craven worship of popularity.  Therein is the root error: for popularity has neither role nor authority in matters of faith; indeed, at the best it is irrelevant, while potentially it is most harmful, in matters of faith.
There are some disciples in the Church today who follow Pilate rather than Jesus:
Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."  Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38)
What is truth? Pilate doubted there was such a thing as truth.  Today, pseudo-disciples give the same thought a different twist: since the only true proclamation of the Gospel is one that makes Jesus and His teaching popular, therefore we must study modern attitudes and practices both carefully and sympathetically, so as to be able to make suitable adaptations to the Gospel message that will enable it to win more widespread acceptance.
Now that can never be the authentic Christian, Catholic attitude; we only need to look at and listen to Our Blessed Lord once more to realize that:
Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John 15:20-22)
Today we need to renew our trust in God; indeed, we have to stir up some courage on the basis of our faith.  The original apostles, the original Christians who were called Catholics from the very beginning, did not cower before the world's criterion of popularity as so many do today; for example, the gentle, loving, Apostle John  (1 John 4:6) says quite bluntly:
We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
And they had this confidence and strength because they firmly believed what the infallible Faith taught them, as we heard in the second reading:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think on what is above, not of what is on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory.
In other words, they looked forward to a heavenly, not an earthly, fulfilment, and, in order to attain that blessedness they proclaimed a Gospel of Truth, knowing that only divine truth can form a human being in the divine likeness:
The new self is being renewed for knowledge in the image of its Creator.
That very truth required them to preach what would be unpopular at times.  Indeed, because the essence of the Gospel message is that we can only find salvation through the Cross of Jesus, Who died for our sins before rising again for our salvation:
(He) bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24).
Therefore, even in the early Church, there were those who wanted to preach a Gospel without the Cross, a popular Gospel instead of the Gospel of righteousness.  Of them, the Apostle Paul said with incisive clarity in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:18-19):
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." 
And again in his letter to the Galatians (5:11):
Brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offence of the cross has ceased.
People of God, in times of trial we must cling to Jesus all the more closely in Spirit and in Truth, for:
This is a faithful saying: if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.  (2 Timothy  2:11-13)