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, 25 December 2011

Christmas Mass of Day

(Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18)

War was never far removed from the experience of Israel, and few indeed would have lived out their lives without having had some experience of its campaigns: not only those waged on foreign soil, but also those undertaken to repulse attacks on the homeland. Certain individuals might even have been caught up in a siege, when the enemy camped outside city walls wherein crowds -- swollen by refugees and suffering shortages of food and drink -- had to hold firm despite mounting hazards for public health and gradual draining of public confidence.  Someone might, indeed, even have personally experienced, or heard an eye-witness account of, an occasion like that pictured for us by the prophet Isaiah in our first reading where anxious watchmen on the look-out had observed a single figure in the distance, running towards them with vigour in his stride and joy in his bearing, a runner who -- when within hailing distance -- shouted out glad tidings of victory or news of relief forces, near to hand, bringing security and promising hope:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things.
Isaiah even went on to picture for us others on the walls running to whatever sector where the messenger was said to be visible, in order to glimpse him for themselves, before breaking out into loud shouts, raucous singing, and perhaps even claiming they could already hear his voice:
Hark!  Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord restoring Zion.
What news did the messenger bring?  Isaiah has him report the supreme message of good tidings and joy: "Your God reigns!"  Whereupon, having already seen and heard the excitement of those on the walls, the whole heaving population crowded inside the city walls bursts out, with one great sigh of relief and thunderous explosion of joy, into a paean of praise:
Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem!  For the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.  The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations.
The ultimate reason for such exultation, was that a victory had been won or a danger averted: not an ordinary victory that might be reversed when armies went out to war again next season, but a victory of universal and eternal significance and validity, as Isaiah explains:
            The LORD has made bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations;
a victory of such magnitude that:
            All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Now, why does Mother Church, in her great wisdom, put before us on Christmas Day’s high feast these words of Isaiah evoking past experiences of war?
Because she wants us to rejoice on this most wonderful day of Our Lord’s Incarnation with a joy so deep and heart-felt that it can only be evoked by the joy of those saved from death, of those from whose shoulders have been lifted heavy burdens of oppression and scorn, whose minds and hearts -- long terrorised by anxieties and fear -- have once again been able to experience some security and peace, and to entertain fresh hope.  All of which means that, to best appreciate our Christmas celebration and receive most fully the comforting of God through the ministrations of Mother Church, we must have a deep, indeed acute, awareness and appreciation of the unheard-of freedom and wondrous hope Mary’s new-born Child brings for mankind.  Our celebration today is, indeed, much, much, more than a cosy ritual with some traditional, sentimental, associations readily on tap.
For, all the torments of pain and suffering, of exploitation and oppression, being endured in the world today, all the greed, hypocrisy, and jealousy of society in general, and all the envy, selfishness and indifference of our individual lives, all, that is, that so ravages the peace and integrity of human experience, riddling it with countless regrets and endless anxieties, is the work and result of personal sin.  For sin is the most terrible enemy of mankind and indeed of the whole of creation, and only those who have come to recognize, and have the will to whole-heartedly reject, the evil that threatens them, can fittingly and fully embrace this Christmas feast, where the die is so beautifully and definitively cast against the power of sin.  For, in Bethlehem that night, sin was totally and absolutely excluded: for the shepherds were told of, and the angels acclaimed, a Child All-Holy, the very Son of God Himself, together with His spotless, maiden-mother; and we, like them, praise and glorify our divine Shepherd and holy Redeemer Who still comes ever-anew into our midst at this most holy season to receive the welcoming embrace of the Church, His Spouse and our Mother, whose true children no longer fear the devil’s former o’erwhelming power of sin and death, because they can now hope and aspire to mount with Christ His tree of life.
With such an understanding in our minds we can now allow the second reading to fill our hearts with the wonder of this occasion of which Isaiah the prophet spoke, and which Mother Church now invites us to share:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, Whom He has appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, uphold(s) all things by the word of His power.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Mother Church today announces this glorious news of salvation to us and invites, indeed urges and exhorts, all of us her children to respond with heart-felt joy and gratitude to her proclamation of the Gospel.  For she not only authoritatively proclaims God’s Good News, she infallibly shows forth the splendour of His Glory and the beauty of His Truth:
(God’s co-eternal) Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 
How blessed are we who are privileged to hear such tidings of salvation!  For, as John said:
            No one (absolutely no one) has (ever) seen God at any time.
It is true, John allows, that God’s Law had been given through Moses to prepare God’s people, but God Himself was only clearly revealed and truly known when:
The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, declared Him; (for) grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
You also heard, in our second reading, the following words so rich in significance:
To which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, today I have begotten You"? 
Now this is the second and confirming reason for our great rejoicing at Christmas;  for to each and every one of us gathered here as true children of Mother Church and bearing faithful witness to Christ, God the Father is saying:
If you will hear (My) voice aright:  today I have begotten you.   I will be a Father to (you) and (you) shall be a son to me (a child of mine).
And that is the comforting spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said:
Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem!  For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.
Words still most appropriate and true today!  For, all of us whom the Father is now comforting and calling, all He has chosen in His Son, cannot fail to recognize that we, like those shut up in some threatened and besieged city of old, are indeed today in “waste places”: this world, even our own society, is evil to an extent that can disgust us; nevertheless, because it is our society, our world, it also draws on our heart strings, thus threatening to besmirch us with something of its own filth.  And, being in this condition, since we might fear this renewed coming of the Holy One of God to do battle with the evil and filth around us and within us, He comes as a Child, for He is well aware of, and full of compassion for, our weakness.  Moreover, surrounding Himself at His Birth with shepherds from the midnight fields He assures us that He Himself comes as Shepherd into our darkness in order to search out those of His sheep who have strayed and, disregarding the mud that may cover their feet and flanks, the thorns that may entangle their wool, He wills to take them up in His arms and carry them back to the flock which He is leading to that heavenly fold where the Father already awaits them, Himself looking expectantly into the distance to see His own dear Son, Jesus our Lord, at the head of the flock He is leading with joy towards the eternal pastures of salvation.
Therefore, the joy Mother Church would inspire in us needs to be a joy arising from the depths of the human heart and truly expressing and promoting human fulfilment; and that is why she has chosen her words from the centuries’ long history of Israel’s journeying along the way traced out for her by God.  But since the peace and hope supported and proclaimed by such joy are more than earthly,  they must bear witness to a little babe indeed, but One Who is divine, God’s Only-begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself;   One, to be found wrapped in swaddling clothes, but also heralded by an Angel of the Lord, a visible display of divine glory, and the grateful song of a worshipping multitude of the heavenly host praising God for this Child Whose very Being, Person, and destiny proclaim: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Third Sunday of Advent (B)
(Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; 1st. Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28)

Advent is a time of expectation … what are we to look for, what should we prepare ourselves to expect?
On reading today’s Gospel I was somewhat surprised at St. John’s version of the contre-temps between John the Baptist and the priests and Levites from Jerusalem, because John does not give us those words of the Baptist reported by all three of the Synoptic Gospels, saying that though he himself baptized with water, the One to Come would baptize with the Holy Spirit, and also -- according to Matthew and Luke -- with fire.
Now the cause of this omission is not something I do not want to discuss here, but the result of it might be significantly helpful for us today, for, undoubtedly, the mention of the Holy Spirit suggests supreme, sublime, power, while that of fire confirms the impression of power and colours it, so to speak, with one of threat.  John’s Gospel, on the other hand, simply reports the Baptist as saying:

I baptize with water; but there is One among you Whom you do not recognize, the One Who is coming after me, Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.
There we have it: just pure expectation … indeed, tantalizing expectation because the expected One is already present, among them at that very moment -- someone wonderfully holy -- and yet, they are not seeing Him!!
And here, Mother Church, in her Spirit-gifted wisdom, comes to direct our expectancy this Advent, for she sets before us a most beautiful passage from the prophet Isaiah:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, and to announce a year of favour from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.

According to that, we are expecting One the Lord has endowed with His Spirit to bring glad tidings to the lowly, bestow healing, restore liberty and grant freedom: all favours from the Lord in vindication of His people.  No threatening mention of power, nor one of destructive -- though purging -- fire …. Just Someone wonderful, coming peaceably with so much that is totally desirable and longed-for in those days and in our present state.
Now notice what joy, gladness, and blessing results for the recipients:

All who see them shall acknowledge them as a race the LORD has blessed.  I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, Like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.  As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, So will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

How wondrously does Isaiah who begins:

All who see them shall acknowledge them as a race the LORD has blessed

continue with words referring to but one … a woman most beautiful … as if he knew, prophetically, that indeed, only one, Mary the Immaculate, would be able to fully receive and possess all those blessings from the Lord.  Nevertheless, she represents us, and all faithful disciples of Jesus do indeed receive their measure of His blessings; of this Mother Church assures us with her choice of the second reading taken from St. Paul’s exhortation to his converts in Thessali:

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in all circumstances give thanks.  May the God of peace make you perfectly holy: (for He) the One Who calls you is faithful and He will also accomplish it.

Without doubt, I believe, all of us will wholeheartedly agree that Mary, our Mother, is indeed rejoicing in the Lord as depicted by Isaiah and in accord with all our readings today; but the question is, does she represent us therein, does our experience of the Christian faith and of life in the world today cause us heartfelt rejoicing as Mary’s true children?
Again, without doubt, it did and does bring such joy and happiness to God’s saints and Mother Church’s most committed members; again, it can bring and does offer such joy and happiness to all faithful disciples of Jesus and sincere members of the Church.  But why, indeed, do we come across so many lapsed or lapsing Catholics, hear so often of Christians, who are unsure disciples of Jesus, or dissatisfied with their experience of faithful living?
We should look again at Isaiah’s reading today, for he rightly foresaw and portrayed the great glory and abounding goodness and generosity of the One to Come; however, he also was prophetically endowed and enabled to appreciate that only a unique individual -- the Immaculate Mary of Nazareth -- would be able to receive and possess, would allow the Lord to freely bestow on her, all those heavenly blessings.  What then, hinders us and so many Catholics and Christians, from being faithful enough, willing enough, open enough, hungry and empty enough, to follow in the steps of our Mother, the handmaid of the Lord?
Let me just give you a short passage from a recent book about the experiences of one journeying in the Caucasus (the area of Grozny in Chechnya) where there are lots of Christian sects to be found:
Before going to church, Sergei explained how he would call on those in the community whom he thought he might have offended. He would ask their forgiveness.  It took time but he didn’t mind because he loved to talk and he was able to go to church happy.  “It’s difficult in those services because they’re so long.  They go on and on, for hours!  You stand and stand and you can hardly go on standing.  But then afterwards you come home and you feel not just clean in your soul but in your body as well and you’re all dressed up and your wife looks beautiful and everything else looks beautiful too.”
In our modern, affluent, Western society many do not experience their own Church-going as did Sergei: they seem to find regular Sunday observance a burden, even when they do not find it also a bore.  Perhaps this difference is because Sergei made “going to Church” something special: for him, it involved being at peace with others, and required that he take greater care with his dress for the honour of God.  Many members of our Western culture, on the other hand, having their minds filled with money matters and the many varied opportunities available to them for their enjoyment of it, easily find themselves not even noticing harm done to others in the general struggle for success; and, thinking that they are doing God a favour by attending Church on Sunday, would scoff at the very idea of what they would call “dressing up” to come before His Presence.
Now, that is not something I want to enter into here, but there can be no doubt that the joy and peace Sergei experienced after Church on Sunday was, as I said, in some way related to his efforts to make that day special; and that is in perfect accord with a dictum of St. John of the Cross: ‘where there is no love put love and you will find love’. 
Yes, People of God, during Advent the true disciple not only hopes for future joy, but can even aspire to experience, here and now, something of that joy which is described by the inspired words of the prophet Isaiah.
However, John the Baptist, giving clear testimony to the Lord, used words that express precisely why many contemporary Catholics find too little joy in their religious observance:
There is One among you whom you do not recognize, the One who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.

John’s words: “there is One among you Whom you do not recognize” are, sadly, still too true for many Catholics and Christians, although in a manner somewhat different from that intended by John.  John was saying to the crowds on the banks of the Jordan, where he was immersing penitents in the waters flowing by, that they did not know, were not aware of, could not recognize, the Holy One standing in their midst.  Most Catholics and Christians today, however, do know, are aware of, Jesus, in that sense.  Where they fail in knowledge of the Lord however, is in the fact that they have no personal relationship with Him: their minds know of Him, but their hearts are not attuned to Him, nor are their lives lived with Him or for Him.  Their knowledge of the Lord in their midst is objective, not personal. 
Now, it is indeed necessary to know the truth of and about Jesus, because any relationship with Him has to be based upon reality open to our minds, which is why Mother Church insists that her catechetical, scriptural, and dogmatic teaching be based on accurate scholarship, backed up by philosophical and scientific truth, and exemplified by authentic Catholic and Christian spirituality.  Such true teaching about the reality of faith, however, is meant to enable us to aspire and attain to personal contact and living communion with the Lord in and through the Scriptures and sacraments of Mother Church, and the intimacy of personal prayer; for only such sincerity and commitment can lead to real love for, and joyful fulfilment in, the Lord Jesus.
In our modern sophisticated social structure, money and education are readily available, and consequently we are inclined to self-satisfaction; and, having no real, basic needs of a material kind, we easily imagine that we have no spiritual needs either.   Because our experience of the world seems to offer everything for relatively easy taking, many are unwilling to make efforts to satisfy spiritual needs of which they are almost unaware.  Therefore they do not search for Jesus: their Bible is rarely opened let alone studied; their reception of Holy Communion is routine and perfunctory; and since the house of God is no house of prayer for them Jesus is left in splendid isolation in the tabernacle. It is because of such things that the divine truth in the Church’s teaching, and the heavenly grace available through her sacraments, bring forth but little fruit in the lives of many.
However, it is lack of personal prayer that is the most fundamental failing in most nominally Christian and Catholic lives, and St. Matthew, quoting Isaiah the prophet, gives us the reason:

Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.

Gross, coarse, are the hearts of too many to hear the Lord speaking with them, guiding and encouraging, admonishing and warning them. For a society where normality it too often considered boring, and excess routinely craved, where joy is inconceivable without pleasure and peace unbearable without excitement, there is no opportunity for the voice of the Lord to be heard, no possibility that He will be appreciated or understood; too little good soil into which the divine seed can fall and take root, no humble mind or longing heart where divine love can take hold and flower. 
People of God, seek Jesus more and more; Advent is a time for joy, peace, and hope.  His promises are true and His coming is at hand; it is we ourselves we must indeed attend to but not despair of, because He comes with gifts to offer: not to those worthy to receive them but to those wanting and willing to accept them; to those wanting and willing to turn away from themselves and embrace Him, to those able to forget self and serve their neighbour.
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Refrain from every kind of evil.
He Who is to come shall come; he will not delay.  But my just one shall live by faith, and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.  (Heb. 10:37-38)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Thirty Third Sunday of Year (A)

 (Proverbs 31:10-13, 19s, 30s; 1st. Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matt.25:14-30)

Today’s parable was relatively long and quite detailed, with special emphasis being given to the lot of the servant who received one talent and did nothing with it.  Some people might think that what he did with the one talent is irrelevant because he was unfairly, if not unjustly, treated from the beginning by being given only one talent while others had much more given them; and so, feeling somewhat sorry for this servant who “only received one talent”, they harbour a kind of grudge against the master of those servants and don’t really want to learn anything from the parable. 
However, we should take care not to project our own selves into the picture and rather try to objectively appreciate the value of a talent in those times long-ago.  One talent was equivalent to 6000 denarii, and a man and his family could live adequately for one day at the cost of 2 denarii.  So you see that he who received “only one talent” had actually been given sufficient to provide a man and his family with a living for over 8 years!  He had, in fact, been entrusted with a not-insignificant amount of money!!
People of God, have nothing to do with the prevalent greed and self-love which lead certain vociferous protagonists to cry foul wherever some seem to have more than others; avoid those who bristle with pseudo-sympathy for what they like to call ‘under dogs’ who have not -- in their estimation -- been personally endowed with all the talents, or given all the opportunities and advantages, that others seem to enjoy.  Have nothing to do with such ‘defenders of the downtrodden and the poor’, I say, for -- without doubt -- all of us have, indeed, been most generously endowed by God for the task of bringing forth fruit for eternal life.
We need, therefore, first of all, to ask our heavenly Father for wisdom – personified as ‘the perfect wife’ in our first reading – and then calmly turn our attention to the two faithful servants of the Gospel so as to learn from their experiences.
Their master said to each of them on bringing their profit to him:
Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.
Such words make us all feel glad, happy for and happy with those servants.  And if we attend more directly to the nature of that happiness, we can recognize three  aspects mentioned or implied in those words:
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’
“You were faithful” implies the joy, the peace, the happiness of a good conscience.  “I will give you great responsibilities” implies being able to use one’s talents and abilities to a still greater extent, which is what we call the fulfilment of our being.  However, even so great a natural happiness is not able to fully captivate our attention in this parable because of those last words:
Come, share your master’s joy!
Ultimately the joy of a good conscience will lead not only to our natural fulfilment but even -- thanks to Jesus -- to joys that are beyond our natural capacity, to the eternal joys of our divine Lord and Master in heaven:
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’
Let us now, for just a few moments, compare those three aspects of happiness and you will realise how wonderful is that invitation to enter into the master’s joy.
We all know something of the innocent joys and deep happiness we, as human beings, can experience at times, many and various as they can be: sometimes we have the joys of success and achievement; most of us treasure the happiness of love and family; we can appreciate too the peace and contentment of truth known, and of beauty recognized and appreciated.   Many such earthly types of joy and happiness truly delight us and can give us a sense of deep fulfilment; and yet, they are also so easily linked with sorrow and sadness.  There is a famous song, “Plaisirs d’Amour” which tells of the joys of love which swiftly pass away, and of its pains and sorrows which endure.  That might be a jaundiced, poetic, view, but, nevertheless, we all know that, in this world, true love is inevitably accompanied by its own particular sorrows.  That is why so many modern people opt only for pleasure, and avoid love: they want loose relationships, for pleasure without any binding commitment, so that if and when too much sorrow looms ahead, they can escape from the relationship and take up another source of comfort and pleasure that promises further security -- for a time, at least.  Yes, earthly love and family, though they are such deep and essential joys for us, nevertheless, they also bring with them their own particular and inescapable sorrows.  Moreover, our work, at best, offers us successes that are quite limited; and, of course, our moments of fulfilment are always liable to be obscured by the threat of competition and accompanied by the ever-present danger of failures such as redundancy.
The joy of a good conscience, however, is not in any way connected with sorrow and is therefore, joy of a superior kind; moreover, it leads to another unsuspected joy which can also be ours: that is, a share in God’s eternal happiness which totally transcends all earth’s joys.  But how can it come about that we, who know ourselves to be so weak and fragile, are yet capable of receiving and appreciating something of infinite and eternal happiness?   Despite all the outstanding advances of modern scientific thinking and industrial techniques, we still can hardly begin to conceive the immensity of the universe God has created and sustains: how then can our poor hearts expand to be able to accept the corresponding fullness of His infinite happiness which can be ours to share?  The Psalmist gives us the answer:
I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide; (Ps 81:10)
How shall we open wide our mouth?  Listen again to the Psalmist:
I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart. (Ps 119:32)
So that is, indeed, the way we can prepare ourselves to receive the divine happiness that can be ours: we open wide our mouth by walking, indeed by  running, in the way of God’s commandments; and He then  enlarges our hearts so that He might subsequently fill them with the riches of His blessings:
I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (Ps 81:10)
It has often been derisively objected against the teaching of eternal happiness, that it must be very boring.  ‘Not that happiness itself is boring’, such people would add, ‘but surely eternal, everlasting, happiness must become, eventually, boring’.  Let me counter such a remark with a question: could eternal, everlasting, pain be found boring?  Of course not! … real pain does not allow anyone sufficient respite ever to think they might be bored!  The cry ‘I am bored’ is a luxurious expression -- neither logical nor purposeful -- of a spoiled child, or of an idle adult indulging his or her self-love.  And yet, its derivative ‘eternal life must be boring’ does induce many to put aside the thought of heaven, and it does help to explain why the Church’s teaching on, and Jesus’ promise of, heaven means so little to unthinking souls.
Therefore I would like to help you do a little thinking about heaven now: not intellectual work, so much as considering, going over, experiences that probably most of you have known several times in your life.
I want you to simply try to call to mind one of the happiest experiences of your life.  Do you remember how quickly the time passed by? … you were so happy it seemed to last but a moment, even though hours, days, or even perhaps years could be a truer measure.  Now that gives us the key to heavenly happiness!   For even though time is earthly, part and parcel of creation where things are always changing, nevertheless, there are occasions -- yes, even here on earth -- when time seems to disappear, melt, in the presence of happiness.   How much more then is the question of time utterly irrelevant to eternity where there can be no time!  Eternity is not endless time, eternity is timeless; time has no meaning for, no reality in, heaven, before God’s Presence.  St. Peter tells us this in a pictorial way in his second letter:
Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)
Therefore for those who are called and being led by the Holy Spirit to share, with Jesus, in the blessedness of God’s heavenly and eternal Kingdom, time can, occasionally, be temporarily set aside before being, ultimately, totally obliterated by the influx of divine joy.  Think People of God!  You have had plenty of experience here on earth -- which is, so to speak, a time-zone -- telling you that when you are bored (!), weary, anxious, or worried, time can drag ever so slowly, while, on the other hand, when you are happy it seems to fly!  Therefore, even here on earth, time is relative.  Now, heaven is a time-free zone, that is, in heaven time is totally irrelevant: not only because we won’t notice it, but because it has no being, no reality in itself; and, most certainly, it has no place whatsoever in the bliss of God to which we are invited in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.
People of God: each one of you has been richly endowed by God and each one of you is unreservedly called, and seriously offered the chance, to share in God’s eternal blessedness.  Don’t think little of the gifts with which you have been endowed, don’t be fool enough now – or finally, wicked enough -- to ignore a happiness which can transfigure your whole being, making you eternally fulfilled and happy beyond all imagining! It can, most assuredly, be yours in Jesus. Therefore, let Him lead you now -- in the Church and by His Holy Spirit -- so as to be able, ultimately, to enter with Him into the presence of the Father Who, Jesus assures you, will greet you with those sublimely fulfilling words:
Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

32nd. Sunday, Year (A)

(Wisdom 6:12-16; 1st. Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13)

You have heard today’s parable of the 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins many times, People of God, and you might therefore be inclined to think: “Oh, not that again”.  If, however, you have too much reverence for the Lord and respect for His Holy Word to think in that way, you still might be predisposed to welcome a homily that would deal with other matters such as important and/or  contemporary issues in society, or good causes that cry out for greater attention; it is, after all, much more interesting to hear something new, even if you do not fully agree with it, than to hear, and go over yet once again, something you think you already know very well.
However, Dr. Samuel Johnson, one of the wisest men this country has ever produced, once remarked that Christians have much greater need to be reminded of things they have already been taught than they have to hear of new things.  Following his advice, therefore, let us look at the parable once again.
Who is the bridegroom mentioned in the beginning?
The kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
We know for sure that it is Jesus, from the answer Jesus gave when He was once being questioned about the behaviour of His disciples:
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?"  And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.  But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. (Mark 2:18-20)
And John the Baptist gave most beautiful testimony to Jesus as the Bridegroom, when he declared (John 3:27-30):
A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.'  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.
Jesus, therefore, is the Bridegroom come to prepare for the wedding feast of the Kingdom of Heaven.  However, there is, strangely enough, no mention of who the Bride might be; let us, therefore, think about her.
One of the most momentous and uncompromising statements ever made by Jesus concerned the relationship between a man and his wife:
Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,'  and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6)
Man and wife, Bridegroom and Bride, become one flesh.  The Bride for Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom, is Mother Church; that is, saved humanity, all those who will be one with Jesus and with each other as members of that ultimately glorified, heavenly, Body of which He is, even now, the Head.   As we read in the letter to the Ephesians:
May (we) grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ -- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (4:15-16)
And at the heavenly wedding-feast, all those true children of Mother Church, all those living members of the Body of Christ, will be recognised as children of God the Father because of their sharing in the flesh of Him Who is both the heavenly Lord of Mother Church and the only-begotten Son of the eternal Father.
Therefore, the ten virgins waiting for the Bridegroom represent the whole of mankind called to become the Bride, called to enter with Christ as members of His Body into the wedding-feast of Heaven; and of them, five – half their number -- behaved so irresponsibly and foolishly that they were found to be unfit to enter into the feast.
For, although all ten of the virgins grew tired, just as we ourselves, indeed, would become somewhat tired under such circumstances, the irresponsibly foolish ones never once, during the whole of that protracted delay, ever thought about their lamps and their diminishing oil supply.  Those lamps were quite small, not being meant to light up the way so much as to indicate that someone was attentively waiting, ready and willing to welcome the Bridegroom; and so, their shortage of oil showed up quite brutally that the hearts of those five virgins had wandered elsewhere, on to other matters of personal interest and distraction; for, their having become cold with regard to the much-anticipated public arrival of the bridegroom and his entourage was made manifestly clear to all when they were unable to provide a warm welcoming light to greet Him: indeed, a most glaring insult to the Bridegroom, and also a betrayal of the careful preparations previously set in place by the whole community.
Many hearts, Jesus said, indeed -- near the end – most hearts, will grow cold through having to wait without receiving signs.   Jesus was acutely aware of this human weakness even in the case of those near to Him and of whom He had expected more (for example: Martha, but not Mary):
Jesus said to Martha, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you  would see the glory of God?’  Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man (Lazarus) was lying.   And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.      And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”  Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ (Jn. 11:40-43.)
How movingly does Jesus there, as it were, assure His Father that His love for Him was not dependent on signs being given!
I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.
Jesus, as you will well remember, once Sadly however, very many Christians do grow tired of waiting for the Lord to manifest His presence and His power in their lives; and, not being sufficiently established in virtue, are found to be too proud in mind, too impatient in temperament, and too weak in faith, to be able to continue waiting for the Lord with humble expectancy.   Jesus once said:
Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. (Mt 24:11-13)
And in these our days when lawlessness does most surely abound, many Catholics want to experience something happening in their lives; they want themselves to be seen, or at least to see themselves, as achieving and doing something rather than apparently wasting their time and fraying their temper by merely, and above all, invisibly, loving the Lord and humbly waiting patiently for Him.  If He does not quickly show His hand, so to speak, by bestowing tangible signs or blessings, they stop looking for Him and turn to proving their own virtue and winning the comforting approval of men by jumping onto some bandwagon of popularly approved good works
Here we should try to get things clearly into focus. Good works are always, as the words say, good of themselves.   However, good works can easily be diverted so as to proclaim the goodness of the one doing those works; they can also be dwelt upon in such a way as to provide the doer with a warm feeling of self-approval, self-esteem; or again and finally, they can be an escape from more demanding spiritual effort.  And for someone who has grown tired of waiting for the Lord to show Himself in their life, the relief afforded by activity, not to mention the warm glow of self-satisfaction it can produce, and perhaps above all, the subsequent and most welcome praise of others, can be very dangerous substitutes for the real though not manifest presence of the Lord Himself.
Now, Jesus wants, above all, our personal love; He wants us to make personal love for Him the centre and the aim of our lives; He in no way wants us to be centred on doing good, ostensibly for Him, but really for our own relief, self-esteem, and/or public appreciation.
said (John 15:13):
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
Now, love for Jesus has grown cold when a Christian is unwilling to die to self for His sake: when waiting patiently for Him is too like dying and therefore unacceptable; when the distraction of being busy, when the affirmation of one's own worth and the achieving of a good reputation, are considered to be both more desirable and necessary.  In such cases, the works remain good works in themselves but they no longer bear witness to a true love for Jesus; just as the foolish virgins, though they were waiting together with the wise virgins, could not trim their lamps when the Bridegroom arrived and were unable to welcome Him with sincere love.  Those five foolish virgins could not light the flame of personal love for Jesus because He, personally, did not occupy, fill, their minds and hearts so much as the distractions they had followed and the self-seeking which had motivated them.  And this type of thing, carried, however, to its worst extreme, once led Jesus to say to the Pharisees:
You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15)
People of God, seek, above all, to love Jesus at all times and in all circumstances.   When you are In Church, try to keep your eyes lovingly fixed on Him: listen to His Word, seek to appreciate His teaching; receive Him in the Eucharist out of a desire to sincerely open up your whole life to the purifying flame of His Spirit; and pray that you might be enabled to love Him ever more and serve Him ever better.  For, only work motivated by such personal love and reverence for Jesus can bear fruit ripe for eternal life.
The love of many will grow cold.  The five irresponsibly foolish virgins were not able to light a flame of love for the Bridegroom on His arrival.  What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.  Think on these things, and may God’s blessing be with you.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

31st. Sunday Year (A)

(Malachi 1:14 – 2:2, 8-10; 1st. Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13; Matthew 23:1-12)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our readings today are very topical: we are told of some priests who lead people astray by their bad example and faulty teaching, and, if we are to be fair, of some lay-people who promise much but produce little.  Surely, there should be something here for us to get our teeth into, so to speak, for a short while.
If we take a look at the lay person mentioned in the full first verse of our reading from the prophet Malachi:
‘Cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to (Me),’ says the LORD of hosts, for I am a great King.
There, someone vows to offer a fine animal in sacrifice to the Lord, but then, after second -- and secret -- thoughts, substitutes a blemished and unworthy one in its stead; no doubt saving himself some considerable money thereby. 
It is the same today, People of God, how many there are, seemingly fine Catholics in appearance, who in no way live up to the impression they give in parish life.  They may be relatively well off but put little or nothing on the collection plate; they may speak right words but with no ring of sincerity; they frequently criticise but rarely help; and though requiring certain standards, such as clean pews and nice flowers, they can never find the time to join any rota for church cleaning or the provision of flowers.  I don't wish to stress the point, however, for no one living in a parish today can be ignorant of what I am describing, unless, perhaps, they are themselves among the culprits.
Then we heard of some priests of the tribe of Levi dishonouring the Lord:
‘And now this commandment is for you, O priests.   If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honour to My name,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings.’
Pope St. Gregory the Great, who sent St. Augustine to bring the Catholic faith to England way back in the year 597, over 1400 years ago, bitterly complains in one of his sermons that though there were, in his day, thousands of priests in the Church, very many of them did not do the work required of priests:
Look how the world is full of priests, yet only very rarely is one of them to be found at work in God's harvest.
There is no doubt whatsoever that things are much better now in that respect, for the great majority of priests do give themselves, more or less whole-heartedly, to work in God's vineyard.  Nevertheless, human sinfulness, ignorance and weakness, are still part of every man and woman's make up, and so there are today instances, of which even one is too many, of priests dishonouring the Lord, as we heard from the prophet Malachi in the first reading:
As for you (priests), (whereas) the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts, you (on the contrary) have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by (your) instruction; …. you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction.
By their words and by the example of their lives they were causing people to stumble along the way: inducing and leading them into thinking wrong was right, and right -- as we might say today -- too rigid and out of date.
The Pharisees to whom Jesus spoke in the Gospel reading were neither priests nor simple lay-people.  They were religious leaders and guides, handing down the religious traditions of Israel which they interpreted according to their own group principles and practices.    In that way the Pharisees also were partial in their instruction: smothering the observance of the Law with the stifling burden of their own innumerable regulations and restrictions; which earned them these words of Jesus:
They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.
You notice that Jesus had not failed to notice how adept they could be at excusing themselves from the observation of regulations and restrictions to which they would bind others.  The Pharisees tended to pride themselves on their strict observance and detailed knowledge of the Law, and consequently they were inclined to despise others who were neither so learned nor so meticulously observant as themselves.   Pride easily led them to arrogance.
Today, however, People of God, it can happen that priests who fail the Lord and their people do so, not out of a perverse or domineering attitude towards people but, from a mistaken understanding of how to honour the Lord.  They want to make Him more easily appreciated by their people, more immediately likeable and understandable, and so they seek to make themselves -- as His servants and representatives -- popular with, liked by, the people to whom they have been sent.  Therefore some try to appear always happy and witty;  while others try to show themselves as understanding and sympathetic under all circumstances, studiously avoiding any appearance of teaching with authority, correcting or reproving.  St. Gregory the Great speaks of this in his 'Pastoral Rule' saying:
Just as thoughtless remarks can lead people into error, so also ill-advised silence can leave people in their error … Negligent religious leaders are often afraid to speak freely and say what needs to be said – for fear of losing favour with people.
Besides keeping silent for the sake of popularity – and remember, they think they are making Jesus popular too -- such priests may also pursue the same end by over-adapting the Gospel truth to modern opinions and expectations: the Gospel's strictures being softened; hard words of Jesus passed over or explained away, while those of the apostles (especially St. Paul) being omitted altogether.  The word 'Love' is much used instead of 'charity', and they seem quite unaware that 'love', in our world of today, can mean so many things; at times, things that are quite contrary to the Gospel. 
However, St. Gregory’s appreciation of what was wrong in the Church of his time goes much deeper and spreads far wider:
It is often the fault of those in their care that leaders are deprived of the opportunity preach … sometimes preachers are prevented from speaking through the sinfulness of those in their care, as the Lord says to Ezekiel: 'I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be dumb and unable to reprove them; for they are a rebellious house.'  It is as if he had said quite openly: you are not allowed to preach, precisely because this people is not worthy to have the truth preached to it. (Wk. 27, Saturday reading)
In such situations priests can be encouraged in the pursuit of popularity by people who want to hear only good news, or those who want the priest to preach only that which they themselves are willing to accept and practice.
And so, People of God, it has always been the same: in the times of the Prophets, of Jesus Himself, of St. Gregory the Great about the year 600 AD., and still today in our times, there are some leaders and priests who go astray and fail both God and their people for reasons which can be quite complicated and where, at times, not only those leaders and priests are at fault but also the people themselves and even society as a whole.  Such is the situation for Mother Church today. 
‘Modesty’, ‘self-control’, and ‘discipline’ are, currently, publicly unacceptable words; and that means our people, mothers and fathers of our children, are afraid of, pretend to be ashamed of, those truly Christian virtues.  This is the result to a large extent of the truly virulent promotion of sexuality in all forms of public life and experience, entertainment and enterprise, and also of the liberal acceptance of personal so-called ‘freedom of expression’ no matter how deviant or unsocial it may be at times, and the only remedy lies with Christians and Catholics themselves who must be braver, more confident in Jesus and assured in the Spirit, and more decisive in their personal witness to  the truth, beauty, and strength of the faith they hold.  Such was indeed the most striking impression and supremely effective impact made by the early Christians on the pagan population of Rome in the times of persecution.
With the modern scandal of paedophile priests, however, the most serious failure of Catholic and Christian society to which they bear witness, the deepest evil and greatest danger in our midst, is not, ultimately, their sexual aberrations and cruelty, but their faithlessness and hypocrisy before God and the Church ….
Be very sure of this: no one given to fornication or vice, or the greed which makes an idol of gain, has any share in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with shallow arguments; it is for these things that divine retribution falls on God’s rebel subjects.  Have nothing to do with them.  Though you once were darkness, now as Christians you are light in the Lord. Prove yourselves at home in the  light. (Ephesians 5: 5-8)     
They do not believe in God for they do not believe that our God is a just God Who punishes evil; for, despite oft-repeated personal acts of abuse and secretly storing hundreds and thousands of photographs showing the abuse of others, they make use of, and continue in, their position as honoured Catholics:
Perverse and crooked generation whose faults have proved you no children of His, is this how you repay the Lord?  (Deuteronomy 32:5-6)
Being impervious to the judgement of God, failing to hold Him in reverential awe, they are shown to be without faith, for:
            The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom;
or:       The fear of God is the best part of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
However, we must not think something catastrophic is happening today in and to the Church; nor should we throw up our hands in horror at the scandals we hear of, thinking we would be better off out of it all.   Listen to Jesus speaking to His disciples and the listening crowd:
The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.
And so today, those speaking in the name of Jesus and proclaiming the teaching of the Church for which Jesus sustained the Cross and upon which He has poured out His most Holy Spirit, can and should still be heard for their Catholic teaching which is not invalidated by the personal disbelief and evil practice of some of those preaching the true doctrine of the Church: for Jesus will, most certainly, never fail those seeking Him in and through the Church which is His Body.  No; He Himself defined the supreme danger of our times when He said:
            When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?  (Luke 18:8)
People of God, today, Christians are the most persecuted believers in the world, and the great majority of those will be Catholics, suffering and dying for the Faith.  The blood of her martyrs has always been the seed-bed for Mother Church's future growth and glory: where such self-sacrificing lovers of Jesus and the Church are to be found, the future is ever full of promise and worthy of our unshakeable hope.
However we must be clearly aware of the supreme danger for our comfortable old world and for us who are members of old-established Catholic communities; the danger made so disgustingly clear in the current scandals of some priests continuing in the secret practice of abuse while publicly functioning as ministers of God and the Church: that supreme danger and threat for Mother Church today is lack of true faith; faith being merely nominally professed and insincerely practiced …. That is the wide-spread poisonous threat openly manifested in the activities of paedophile priests but also existing secretly in the hearts and minds of too many Catholics with only a minimal interest in the faith as taught by the Church and little commitment to its right practice.
Surely, Pope Benedict’s decision that the Church will have a Holy Year of Faith in 2012 is prophetic!!  Let us give thanks for him and for such a decision!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

27th. Sunday, Year (A) 

(Isaiah 5:1-7; Paul to the Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21: 33-43)

Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah – privileged to foreshadow the Gospel in Old Testament times – warned of the imminent overthrow of the kingdom of Israel, to be followed later by that of Judah and the destruction of the Solomon’s Temple.  In the Gospel passage itself Jesus warned the Jews of what eventually happened when the Romans razed Jerusalem to the ground, and utterly destroyed the far more glorious Temple of Herod, the jewel and pride of Jerusalem.  In both cases the destruction was punishment for the nation's continued and deliberate sin: in Isaiah, the vineyard itself failed to produce fruit, whereas in Jesus' parable it was the tenants who, repeatedly and deliberately, withheld the fruit to which the landowner had a right.
But of course, God is not bothered about grapes for Himself; what, then, is the 'fruit' He expects of us who are disciples of Jesus and members of His Kingdom?  In the letter to the Hebrews (13:15) we are clearly told:
Through Him (Jesus) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
'A sacrifice of praise' because we are called to offer up the supreme and eternal sacrifice of praise first offered by Our Lord Jesus Himself on Calvary; 'the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name' because we too, as disciples following their Lord, have to learn to offer up our own continual, heartfelt, thanks to God for the many personal blessings we have received from Him throughout our lives.
In order to give thanks, however, we have to be able to recognize and appreciate our blessings; and since many people in our modern western and relatively affluent society habitually relate themselves to the world around rather than to God, it is to be expected that they do not, in fact, express or feel much gratitude to God.  Those who aspire to, strive after, long for, what the  world has on offer and seems to bestow easily and plenteously enough on those willing to accept its standards and conform to its ways, how can they appreciate the gifts and blessings offered by God?  How can young adults, wanting to live it up -- so to speak -- with the wildest and most foolish of their peers around them, appreciate the blessing of a good home with loving parents?  Can those who have developed a lust for pleasures and thrills a-plenty accept and take in even the most gentle, or the wisest, words of parents or teachers about the benefits of a good education and the fulfilling joys of a good life?
Our Christian, catholic, forebears were much more inclined to give God the 'fruit of lips that give thanks to His name' because they lived in a world clearly alien and openly hostile to their faith.  Today, however, too many Catholics think of their faith as being alien to a world they find at times both impressive and attractive, and themselves as unwelcome in a society demanding ever greater compliance and conformity.   As a result, they endeavour to keep in touch with the world's practices and gradually, inevitably, lose their appreciation of the faith of their fathers and their awareness of the blessings of God's grace in their lives:
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
What are the gifts that God gives, the blessings for which we should bring forth the fruit of lips giving thanks to Him?  The Christian tradition, in its Jewish-Christian origins or its Gentile-Christian development, is unanimous from the beginning in its teaching, as witnessed in the letter of St. James from Jerusalem:
The wisdom the is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.  Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace; (James 3:17-18)
and by those of St. Paul, writing, first of all, to the gentile Church at Rome (Rom 15:13):
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit;
and again, to his own converts in Galatia: 
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. (Gal. 5:22)
Joy and peace in believing, hope based on the power of God's Spirit, patience, kindness, goodness, such -- the Christian tradition proclaims -- are the gifts that God gives those who truly believe in, and faithfully follow, His Son.
Listen carefully, however, as St. Paul – further on in his letter to the Romans -- tells us what can threaten that tradition:
The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.   (Rom 14:17)
Apparently, there were, even in the earliest Christian communities some who were beginning to appreciate worldly pleasures more than heavenly blessings.  Now this process begins first of all with what is earthly, imitating or being mistaken for, what is of heavenly origin: pleasure being mistaken for joy; sexual and passionate love-making being passed off as an ideal expression of Christian charity; indifference and indulgence being accepted as substitutes for patience, kindness, and goodness.   In other cases, however, the heavenly blessings are regarded as no longer suited to our modern situations and so are blatantly replaced by worldly counterfeits: righteousness before God cannot be seen by others, and so, for the spread of the faith, the disciples of Jesus should aim at popularity and public appeal.  Again the gift of peace,  which is rooted in God's Spirit ruling our mind and heart, is popularly supplanted by a carefree ignoring of the claims and commands of conscience: after all, a life-style uncluttered by self-discipline or examination of conscience is much more easy to sell on the doorstep or promote in the street, so to speak: just as an invitation to assemblies promising a communal good time will be accepted with far greater alacrity than one to a gathering for true worship and serious prayer.
That is why our Gospel message today, supported by the age-old experience of God's dealings with His People, is so important for us.  It shows us with all clarity that we cannot turn our hearts to, we cannot indulge ourselves in, the sin of the world and, at the same time, seriously aspire to know God and hope for His blessings.  It also warns us that we should not allow ourselves to be led into the inviting downward spiral which, going round and round, would comfort us, at one moment, by offering what is worldly, and then, at the next moment, reassure us with the heavenly; spiralling round and round from earthly to heavenly according to our personal desires.  Round and round, indeed, that spiral goes, but always and ever-more steeply downwards until, in the end, the worldly is found to be totally illusory and the heavenly no longer appreciated, wanted, or forthcoming.
Through (Jesus) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (Heb. 13:15)
To begin to do this, our Christian and our personal calling, we have to invite God much more seriously into our lives: we have to prepare a welcome for Him in our hearts by suspending, holding in abeyance, the cares, anxieties, and fears that can oppress and fill them; we have to make a breathing space in the multitude of our thoughts so that He might be able to speak with us; we have to give time in our daily lives to Him, that is why He gave us the Sabbath rest, and we cannot tell Him, ‘I have only a few minutes, you must do all that both You and I want, in the time I have available.
God is Personal: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  A capacity for a truly personal relationship is a unique gift of God to mankind … but is not a cheap gift, it demands a foregoing sacrifice: a willingness to open up self, and a preparedness to hand over self, yield personal autonomy.
Self …... in some respects the great ‘forgotten’ of modern times.  Boy and girl, man and woman, meet, and instead of encountering someone they are confronted with a body, instead of beginning to like and learning to appreciate someone they a challenged with a body … a girl, woman, displaying a body, or a boy, a man, wanting a body.
Now, our Faith is meant to be far more than our common bond and identity, it has to become also, for each and every one of us, our total and most personal commitment: first of all to Jesus, the Son of God, our Brother and my Saviour; and in Him, to the Father, our Father and my Father; and to the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, my comforter, my strength, and my joy.  And that personal commitment, response, and self-sacrifice should be reflected in the rest of our lives: it should become far more influential than the ‘body’ commitment and culture of our modern society, indeed, it could, and should, lead us to the fulfilment of those words of St. Paul:
Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.