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, 19 September 2010

25th. Sunday Year (C) 
(Amos 8:4-7; 1Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13)

He who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and he who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.
This teaching is applicable to many and varied aspects of life and training: for example, when learning to play the piano I was told that if I could play the piece slowly, in a controlled manner with no mistakes, then I would soon be able to play it at speed; and in all forms of endeavour, intellectual, technical and athletic, it is essential to acquire the basic skills if one hopes to attain to any degree of true proficiency.   There is, however, one decisive sphere in the human experience of life where it is supremely necessary and beneficial: that is, in parental upbringing of children.
Although most parents would say they agreed with the principle, nevertheless, far too many seem to have difficulty in their practical application of it; since, for whatever reasons, they do not want, or do not feel themselves able, to closely observe and lovingly guide their children in certain basic aspects of humanity that promote and protect happiness as individuals and peace and cohesion as members of society.  As a result they allow their children to grow up without any clear understanding of right and wrong, and no appreciation of the need for and dignity of good manners for life in society.  Never having learned to practice obedience towards their parents, such children grow up with little respect or reverence for the elderly or those in positions of authority; and being unversed in the practice of discipline and self-control, they have little awareness, and even less appreciation, of the rights of others, especially the humble, the weak, and the needy.  
Parents who thus, instead of trustfully and confidently facing up to their responsibilities, consistently speak soft and self-excusing words such as "He is only a baby, she only young", and thereby allow children in their care to grow up unruly, disrespectful, disobedient, selfish and cheeky, will, inevitably, be themselves found  responsible, in their measure, for the many subsequent excesses of the lout and the mugger, the addict and the drop-out, the lawless and the violent adult, gradually formed and finally turned out by their school of self-absolving, careless, indulgence over many years.  As a result, many in positions of authority and obligation with regard to children will have a very severe judgement to face because of their failure to recognize and teach the truth contained in those words:
He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
Having already glanced at the roots of crime in our modern society, we are now invited to turn our attention to wealth, worldly wealth.  In our Gospel reading Jesus went on to tell us:
If you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with  true wealth?
This "dishonest" wealth, of which Jesus speaks, is often called "worldly wealth" which is – often enough in the case of great acquired wealth – dishonestly acquired, and always dishonest or unrighteous because it tempts those who seek it into sinful, unrighteous ways, as we heard in the first reading:
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and destroy the poor of the land!  "When will the New Moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating!  We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!"
The true riches, on the other hand, of which Jesus speaks, are those given us by God, as Jesus promises elsewhere (Matt 25:34):
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’  
Our Western society, and in particular, current American society, is marked by, and hated for, its abuse of wealth:
When will the Sabbath be past that we may sell grain and trade wheat, making the ephah small and the shekel large, falsifying the scales that we may buy the lowly for silver?
Whilst we cannot deny that unsavoury side of our western world, especially when it is represented by certain multi-national companies, nevertheless, it is by no means a western evil, for when we look at so many of the ruling classes or the ruling authorities in all parts of the world we see individuals and groups who are just as ready and eager as any western tycoon, to abuse wealth for the satisfaction of their own lusts for pleasure and power, without any real consideration for the needs of their own people.  Moreover, not just rulers and those in authority, not only multi-national companies, but indeed, all of us, need to look at our attitude to worldly wealth, for there are many so-called Christians who gladly put wealth first of all in their list of wishes to be fulfilled by some genial genie out of a bottle; and, in that respect, they too share in the guilt of those whose abuse of wealth they like to vocally condemn.
We must first of all realize that worldly wealth is not, of itself, an evil.  It does, indeed, lead easily to evil, but, of itself, it can be accepted on trust for the good of others.   We have had examples of this in our own society over the centuries; and in the early Church, some very wealthy members of Roman society, on becoming Christians, used their wealth to help fellow-Christians.   Indeed, the very making of honest wealth, can be good: for Christian business men and women can indeed do great good by providing work for others.  What is evil, however, is a desire for worldly wealth which would overstep the commands of God and override the rights of others, and in this respect many ordinary Christians are as guilty in their hearts and in their lives as those they may curse with their tongues.   How many men will indeed call a businessman a fat cat, even though he provides work, while cheering a much wealthier, and perhaps totally self-centred, footballer with all his heart?  In this matter we must remember again the words of Jesus:
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another man's, who will give you what is yours?
The wealth of this world is possessed not by all men but only by a small minority; nevertheless, the natural riches of this world from which all personal wealth arises are most certainly given by God directly for all men.  Moreover, all the natural endowments of human nature together with the multitude of personal talents bestowed upon individuals are again given by God and intended indirectly, mediately, for all men: the talents of Beethoven and Handel, for example, while supporting and fulfilling their individual lives and aspirations, were also and supremely meant and bestowed to afford joy, comfort, and uplift, to all men.  In other words, whatever our situation in life, we all have gifts and corresponding responsibilities for those gifts: parents, teachers, the wealthy and the workers, those in authority and those in humble service, all of us have something which is not just for ourselves but for the good of others too, for the good of society, and of the world;   and we are commanded to use those blessings, our wealth of whatever sort, for the good of others not just for ourselves:
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
The unjust steward in our Gospel parable eventually learnt to do just that: he learnt to put mammon to the service of God insofar as those debtors, relieved of a considerable portion of their burden would, as St. Paul tells us, praise the Master in whose name their debt had been remitted:
You (he is writing to his converts in Corinth who have just made a collection for needy Christians in Jerusalem) are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.  For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God; (for) they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
We come finally to the question of authority and power, so closely allied to and connected with wealth.  Here we are not to judge so much as to pray.  We need men and women who are able and willing to bear authority and exercise power; but today many are again duplicitous in this respect, for they expect, and at times demand, that everything should be explainable to the ordinary public, who – they say -- can then give a definitive judgement on, or supreme authority for, the measure in question.  And yet, we are all well aware of that definition -- laughable but true -- of a camel or a dromedary, being the result of a committee trying to plan a horse!  Individuals are essential for decisions, governments are vital for policies, and we must never forget our Christian duty, a more serious and more essential duty than that of monitoring and criticising everything we do not, and cannot, fully understand, is the duty of prayer for those at the helm of the nation.  Politics is supremely important for the well-being of millions, and it is also is extremely involved: it is a devious skill at the best, where good intentions can easily be poisoned by a lust for power, or diverted by scheming and flattery, and where opportunities for self-serving abound, whilst true friends are rare if only because they are not easily to be discerned from the many pretenders surrounding those in high positions.  All this results in our joking frequently about politicians as if they could, and should, be dispensed with, consigned to the dust bin.  Dishonest ones should, of course, be removed, but we can never dispense with politicians as a whole; and because the world in which they live and work is both dangerous and even, at times, evil, the most sincere prayers of Christians are truly needful for such men and women to persevere as true Catholics and Christians, faithfully seeking to uphold Christian values and diligently serving the good of the whole of society:    
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone, for kings and all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our saviour who wills everyone to be saved
Our readings today have shown themselves to be very pertinent for our present-day situation; indeed, their ultimate message is pertinent for all times and for all societies:
He who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and he who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.
The greatest temptation for individuals, and the gravest danger for society in general, arises when the requirement of faithfulness in small things is disregarded: whether such negligence be that of ordinary people thinking their failings make no difference to the overall picture, or that of the powerful and influential who believe such faithfulness to be a subject suitable indeed for their public, and condescending, commendation of others, but not one for personal observance in their own private lives and public office.   Let us all, therefore, whatever our station in life, remember that the God we serve and the Saviour we follow:
Raises up the lowly from the dust, and from the dunghill He lifts up the poor, to seat them with princes, with the princes of His own people.
For, despite our differing earthly stations our responsibilities are all needful and obliging, because their reward is for the present blessing of the whole of our whole society, and will be ultimately for our own personal share in eternal glory.


Sunday, 5 September 2010

23rd. Sunday Year (C)

Twenty Third Sunday Year (C)
(Wisdom 9:13-18; Letter to Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33)

Onesimus, though not a Christian, had hoped to gain some advantage by persuading an honoured Christian teacher, Paul of Tarsus, to intercede with Philemon, a Christian, whose slave he was.  Onesimus’ initial confidence in his owner’s friend and “partner” clearly bore fruit, for Paul, having first guided him to become a Christian, then offered to make good whatever loss Philemon might have suffered by Onesimus’ flight. On this basis, Paul appealed to Philemon to receive his slave back into his household as he would receive Paul himself.

Neither Greek nor Roman slavery was usually a permanent state. Most commonly, an owner granted freedom to a faithful slave as a reward for his or her work and loyalty; this was frequently done by the owner’s will at death. While owners could punish disloyal slaves by including in their wills a clause prohibiting the heirs from ever letting them go, there is also much evidence that others, while still living, had a variety of reasons for choosing to set free some of their slaves, not infrequently  about the age of thirty. Thus the question regarding Onesimus was most likely when, not if, Philemon planned to set him free.

The main features distinguishing 1st century slavery from that later practiced in the New World are the following: racial factors played no role; education was greatly encouraged (some slaves were better educated than their owners) and it enhanced a slave’s value; many slaves carried out sensitive and highly responsible social functions; slaves could own property (including other slaves!); their religious and cultural traditions were the same as those of the freeborn; no laws prohibited public assembly of slaves; and (perhaps above all) the majority of urban and domestic slaves could legitimately anticipate becoming free persons.
You will have noticed, I am sure, that Paul, in our second reading, was not like our modern "human rights" promoters and protagonists.  Neither was Peter in his first letter where he writes (2:18-21):
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.  For this is commendable:  if, because of conscience toward God, one endures grief suffering wrongfully.  For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer -- if you take it patiently -- this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.
Now, I do not, in any way wish to detract from the noble work done by many good people for the human rights of the underprivileged and needy, however, there is something we should understand about the unwillingness of St. Paul, and indeed St. Peter, to adopt such an attitude with regard to the public institution of slavery in the situation of the early Church.
Perhaps we should note, first of all and just in passing, that there are some people who will promote good causes for reasons which, at times, are not so worthy as the causes they are promoting.  For example, some will promote a good cause because, basically, they like a good fight, in which case they are not so much promoters as protagonists; others love to see their own ideas, their own opinions, prevail, and to that extent they promote others' rights only in order to express their own ego, exert their own talents, or to extend their own sphere of influence.
However, there are indeed many who promote human rights from good motives and with the right intentions.  Then why not Peter, why not Paul, with regard to the social institution of slavery?  This is worth considering because we can perhaps learn, from both Peter and Paul, why so much apparently being said and done today, nevertheless, and despite many a fanfare of official praise and media proclamation, seems to bring forth little or no good fruit.  Surely it is one of societies' most anxious questions today why so much apparently well-intentioned legislation and so many, much-trumpeted, positive measures taken in society, are seemingly quite unable to stem the slide into ever-greater indiscipline, lawlessness, moral decadence, and even rank corruption?
In our Gospel reading you heard Our Blessed Lord declare:
If anyone comes to Me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
Our Blessed Lord unequivocally demands that we put Him first in our lives.  And, indeed, since He only wants this in order that we might thereby be enabled to live before God in Spirit and in truth, and to love and serve each other aright, He goes on to show the folly of those who would seek discipleship on any other terms:
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  Which of you, wishing to construct a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?  Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.'
Jesus takes this stand because He knows that if He Himself is not first in our lives, sin will, inevitably, continue to rule there.  And the empire of sin is never stagnant.   And when men -- ignoring or attempting to deny the existence of personal and public sin -- pretend, of their own assumed wisdom and presumed goodness, to prescribe remedies for deep social sicknesses, their tragic misunderstanding of human nature only compounds the suffering by deepening social confusion and anxiety, and inviting individuals’ hopelessness and despair.
St. Peter and St. Paul, however, faithfully put Jesus first, not only in the letters they wrote but in their whole life and work, above all, in their work of establishing the Church as the Body of Christ.  The Church was being newly born, so to speak, into an alien world, and the very first thing Christians had to understand was that, by living their new lives with unwavering faith in Jesus and full confidence in the strength and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they could now transcend and would ultimately transform their earthly situation.  This new, God-given faith – being, as Jesus Himself put it, like the pearl of great price and the treasure found with great joy in the field – was known by the Apostles to be of such supreme value that they could in no way allow it to be subjected to worldly considerations or made secondary to earthly values.  For those blessed with the gift of faith even the bonds of slavery could in no way be allowed to overshadow the joy of their personal relationship with Christ or inhibit their commitment to and confidence in the power of His Spirit, whereby the lowest and least fortunate, the most despised and worst abused, could work in and for the Church as much and as well as all others, confident that their faith could empower them to joyfully order their lives so as to bear effective witness to Christ and bring about the ultimate triumph of His Spirit.  In those early Christian house-churches there was no distinction between slaves and free, all were equally slaves of the Lord Jesus, and all were totally committed to and equally important for the triumph of the Kingdom of God over the pagan empire of Rome.  Indeed, such was their confidence that even direct opposition and persecution by the imperial power came to be seen as no insuperable obstacle to the new Faith.  However, since such a power could not be openly confronted Peter and Paul therefore considered it their main duty to teach Christian disciples how to rightly worship the Father, in and through Jesus, and to live each day by the light of His truth in the power of His Spirit, thus growing ever more calm and assured in their Christian confidence and love.
That is still of supreme importance for us modern disciples of Jesus; for, if our Christian witness is to be effective before the world, He, Jesus, has to be first in our lives, not our good works, social influence, or personal popularity, :
Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.  (Mark 12:30-31)
At this, the most basic and most important level, however, many Catholics are failing grievously today. For example, all too often they come to Mass not in a spirit of loving obedience, but in compliance with an unwelcome obligation or out of sheer habit: at best, in order to receive Communion.  Now, the supreme reason for our attendance at Mass should always be a will and a desire to personally encounter God in Jesus, worshipping the Father in the only acceptable way, that is, through Jesus: at holy Mass offering Jesus’ self-sacrifice on Calvary -- and ourselves with Him  -- by the Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.
Moreover, that intention to worship the Father should always be imbued with and embrace a desire to know Him and to follow Jesus ever better.  That is why, at Mass, the Scriptures are read and a homily given: because God's Word is, as Jesus Himself said, our bread of life.  And yet, many Catholics do not appreciate it!
And so, the ultimate reason why our modern society is failing, and why Government initiatives fall so short of producing the sort of society we all want, is shown us by Our Lord's words at the end of our Gospel reading:
Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Here Jesus is speaking as the supreme doctor of human souls, seeking to find out what are the possessions that have taken possession of us, and what, by wrongfully possessing us, thereby harm and lessen us. 
There are some who seem to be willing to endure hardship, suffering, and opposition, and even to go so far as to hate their own life, for Jesus.  And yet, despite all that, there remains something that is still theirs, something that modern man and woman find hardest of all to give up, which defines the essence of their own personal identity and being, namely, their own opinion, their own will, their own reputation.  So many apparently good Catholics, good Christians, fail God and the Church, indeed, fail themselves and the world too, because, deep down, they are not willing to give up their own self-approval and that of others.  That apparently little something is so often held back in their offering to Jesus, and through Him, to the Father, with the result that they have, at every serious juncture in life and in every time of trial, to review once again their own belonging to Him and His Church, to re-negotiate, so to speak, their own agreement with Him and His Church; and only after significant hesitation and delay, will they feel themselves able to accept anew the costs involved and signal their continuing but conditional commitment.  Now to such people, Jesus declares without any concession:
No one, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.  (Luke 9:62)
People of God, having ourselves been most wonderfully blessed in Jesus and in the Church, and yet, on the other hand, being faced with the ravages of sin bringing shame upon the Church and turmoil and catastrophic suffering all over the world, we should strive to live our lives ever more and more with Jesus for the Father.  Ultimately, the only life worth living for a human being is one of loving gratitude and joyous commitment to the glory of God the Father, in union with Jesus our Lord, under the rule and power of the Holy Spirit.  Only by faithfully walking along that way can we hope to find the fullness of being for which we long.  As the first reading said:
(Only when You) sent your Holy Spirit from on high were the paths of those on earth made straight and mortals taught what pleases you.