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.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Pentecost Sunday (Year B)


 (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11; Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:26-27; 16:12-15)

Jesus promised His Apostles:
When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, He will testify to Me.
How would the Spirit testify, bear witness, to Jesus with regard to the Apostles?
He, the Spirit of truth, will guide you to all truth; He will declare to you the things that are coming.  He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.  Everything that the Father has is Mine.
Here we should notice that the Spirit will not speak of Himself, as Jesus explicitly declares:
He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears.
And so we gather that the Spirit will speak to the Apostles about the things Jesus taught and did, as revealed by the Father.  Notice also, People of God, how careful Jesus is to confirm the oneness of divine witness by explicitly declaring:
The Spirit will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears. He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.  Everything that the Father has is Mine.
Thus there will be no opportunity for individuals in later years to claim private revelations from the Spirit in imitation of pagan oracles and practices in Greek and Roman times: the Spirit leading Mother Church would inspire the Apostles to recall and proclaim, exclusively, all that Jesus had taught in word and deed as  revealed by the Father:
He will testify to Me; and you also testify (He will testify so that you also may testify) because you have been with Me from the beginning.
In the Church of Christ, since the Holy Spirit of Truth Himself does not speak on His own authority, most certainly, private individuals cannot do so: the authentic teaching of the Church on faith and morals is divine, both in its authority and, ultimately, in its origin, being the truth about God’s intimate nature, and His Personal will for human life on earth and for mankind’s eternal destiny.
How does the Spirit move the faithful in the Church?  Since He guides the Apostles into all truth, correspondingly He guides the faithful in Mother Church to appreciate all truth, clearly recognizing it and lovingly responding to it.  And this He does by informing our lives in such a way that we gradually develop an affinity with divine truth and beauty, love and strength.  It was of such guidance of the Church by the Spirit that St. Paul spoke in the second reading:
I say then: Live by the Spirit, and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.   If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Those words do indeed make living by the Spirit sound most attractive for many modern men and women who do not want to be obliged by any law that might interfere with or intrude upon their personal choice of life style.
On the other hand however, further on in our second reading St. Paul reveals what many consider to be the true, and most objectionable, aspect of his character when he says:
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.
Now such crucifying of the flesh does not sound quite so attractive to modern sensitivities!  What therefore are we to think of living (walking) by the Spirit which seems first of all to promise freedom from oppressive and constraining law but yet involves us in crucifying the flesh?
I suppose many, perhaps most, nominal Christians in our modern society have shown, by the fact of declining church attendances and the lowering of public morals, that they have, in fact, decided to ignore what they consider a somewhat vague and uncertain promise of spiritual freedom in order to avoid an uncompromisingly physical prospect of moral discipline and observance.
Such a decision is not made easier or more comfortable, however, when those words of Jesus are called to mind:
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  (Matt 11:29-12:1)
And again, St. John tells us in the name of Jesus:
            This is the love of God: that we keep His commandments; and His    commandments are not burdensome.   (1 John 5:3)
It would appear then that either there is some confusion in the Gospel or else many people today are wrong in their understanding of St. Paul whom they regard as being both harsh and unfeeling, indeed even exclusive, as exemplified by what they consider to be his teaching in our second reading today: ‘no one can belong to Christ Jesus unless he crucifies all self-indulgent passions and desires’ … a teaching which many say leads them to reject Christianity.
Perhaps, however, in many cases, that reason is more truly an excuse, proffered by those attempting to justify their rejection -- not of what is impossible, but -- of something they would consider to be unattractive, restrictive or difficult.  For St. Paul does not use those exclusive words ‘you cannot belong to Christ Jesus’ and no modern bible attributes such words to Him; in fact he actually says:
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
And he follows that up immediately with the words:
            If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.
We should, therefore, understand Paul in this way:
Those who are Christ’s, who live by the Spirit and follow the Spirit, have crucified the flesh.
There all of us are afforded hope, because it is by our living and walking in the Spirit, Paul says, that the Spirit will be able to crucify in us and for us ‘the flesh with its passions and desires’; whereby the ultimate aim and purpose of the Christian revelation and life may be attained, which is the supreme glory of God and the salvation of mankind, together with our individual, personal, fulfilment in knowledge of, commitment to, and love for the One God revealed in Himself by Jesus as a Trinity of Persons Father, Son and Holy Spirit, while in us and for us as  my Father and yours; the Brother, Lord, and Saviour of each and every one of us; mankind’s Advocate and our individual Comforter and Help.   Of course we have to co-operate with the Spirit by following His lead, but that is a far different prospect from having to set about, ‘off our own bat’ or ‘under our own steam’ so to speak, crucifying the flesh.  The fact is that we cannot, of ourselves, crucify our flesh in any saving way, for St. Paul himself tells us:
Things done according to the commandments and doctrines of men indeed have (at times) an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but (such practices) are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Col 2:22-23)
The great fault of lapsing, faint-hearted, Christians today, the great mistake of the critics of Mother Church’s moral teaching today, is the fact that they neglect or ignore the presence -- the active presence and power -- of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We, of ourselves, can do nothing that leads to salvation, and God does not in any way command that we should, of ourselves, try to do anything of that nature.  Jesus, the risen and ascended Lord, sends the Spirit promised by the Father to enable us to do what He, Jesus, commands in order that we might be raised up, in Him, ultimately to take our place -- in Him and with Him -- at the right  hand of the Father. 
The Apostles had received a commission and a command from the risen Lord to proclaim the Good News to the whole world, but they first went back to their fishing, awaiting Jesus’ promise of ‘power from on high’, and only began their task of evangelisation after they had received that Gift of God, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of holiness and power, on His very first outpouring upon the Church, as we heard in the first reading.  The Apostles could do nothing until He came into their lives to enable them to live in the power and holiness of the Risen Lord.
People of God, we should, on this wonderful day of celebration and hope, beg the Holy Spirit to come upon us, beseech Jesus to send His Spirit into our lives, ever more and more, for He is, indeed, our strength, our joy, and above all -- being the Bond of Love between Father and Son -- our ‘new-life love’ as St. Paul tells us:
God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
Now, all activities of whatever sort in the Christian life are to be related to His loving, Personal purpose.  And so, first of all we must learn from the Spirit to love Jesus; for, by loving Him we will be enabled, in the Spirit, both to obey His commands with a measure of sweetness and to walk in His ways with due reverence and perseverance.  In that way, we will gradually find Him more and more lovable, because of our growing likeness to Him; and thus appreciating Him more we will be able to hear His Spirit speaking ever more intimately in our hearts and guiding us along ways that are increasingly personal to our relationship with Jesus.  We will never, of course, desert or set aside the common way of His commandments for all; but experiencing the great delight of finding ourselves growing in intimacy with the Lord and in responsiveness to His Spirit, we will, indeed, gradually become aware of the Person of the Father Himself in our lives.  For Jesus did promise that supreme delight and joy as St. John tells us in his Gospel:
Jesus said, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (14:23)
People of God, this day is the birthday of the Church, it is the day which commemorates and renews the birth of hope in our hearts, purpose and power in our lives: for the Spirit offers us a common goal and an eternal destiny of glory and joy as children of God in the Body of Christ, and such a destiny also promises us an unutterably beautiful personal fulfilment, in Jesus, by the Spirit, with the Father.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

6th Sunday of Eastertide

Sixth Sunday of Eastertide 

 (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17)

In the Gospel reading we heard an expansion of what is possibly the most famous, the most appreciated, and surely the least controversial, of all the fundamental statements made in the Bible about God:
            God is love.  (1 John 4:8,16)
However, many rejoice in those words not because they themselves want to rest in, delight in, their meaning and significance for the spiritual life, but to use them as a dialectical springboard that would enable them to assert that all love is divine, and that all earthly forms of loving, including even the most blatantly sensual, are expressive of, and come from, God – which, most certainly, is not true.
Our difficulty lies in the Greek New Testament use of the word ‘agape’.  The original Greek text says that God is agape; the Latin Vulgate, old and new, always translates that with ’God is caritas’; and, for their part, our older English bibles translated that into ’God is charity’.  However, when the word, ’charity’ came to take on the unacceptable connotation spread abroad by the saying, ’there is nothing so cold as charity’ -- meaning the charity of Christians who do not really care about the person they are dealing with but are mainly intent on showing off their own supposed virtue -- then our more modern English bibles began to translate ’God is agape, caritas’ with the words ‘God is love‘.  As a result we now have the situation where the almost universally used expression for sex between consenting adult men and women, ’making love’, unavoidably resonates in the translation of divine ’agape’ and ’caritas’.  Whereas, formerly, although ‘charity’ -- for some -- seemed a somewhat cold and unfeeling word, nevertheless it always carried with it a divine implication; now, ‘love’ in the modern sense, is – unavoidably, and for most people -- a word with implications that are too often sordid and unacceptable; and even though, at its best, it can evoke what is noble and beautiful, hardly ever does it, of itself, suggest what is divine.
There is another, not dissimilar, difficulty connected with our Gospel reading today.  Jesus, as you heard said:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.
In our modern society, ‘joy’ is no longer necessarily to be understood in a Christian sense, being frequently mixed up with, understood as, ‘pleasure’.  Now, there is no true comparison between those words.  In the Christian understanding ’joy’ is spiritual, whereas ’pleasure’ is sensual: one feels pleasure,  joy can only be experienced; pleasure can be bought or provided, whereas joy is only to be received as a privilege, an elevating privilege, given – in its most sublime form -- freely from above.
Jesus loved the Father; and before leaving the Upper Room to face His enemies and impending death His final words were:
The world must know that I love the Father, and that I do just as the Father has commanded Me.  Get up, let us go. (John 14:31)
He desired above all to lead His disciples to a relationship with the Father like to His own.   Jesus’ love for the Father was and is ‘agape’.  ‘Agape’ is the Father, ‘God is agape, caritas’ and the Father’s agape causes Him to give His Son for the life of the world; that agape-inspired gift leads His Son to embrace the Cross for love of His Father and become agape Himself in His human form able to pour out that divine agape into our lives by the Gift of His Spirit:
The love of God (‘agape’) has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who was given to us. (Rom 5:5)
In that way the love which originates with the Father -- God is agape -- comes down to earth:
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us (with agape) and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
However, though come down to earth in and through Jesus, agape is never earthly, it remains divine; and, by the inevitability of irresistible love it returns to the Father because the Son is always and eternally -- by agape -- related to, one with, His Father:
            (Father) all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine. (John 17:10)
Thus, the whole aim of our Christian life, the whole purpose of Catholic spirituality, is to allow that full tide of agape, given to us by Jesus through His Holy Spirit, to rule in our lives, as St. Paul testifies:
If we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you, for the love (agape) of Christ compels us. (2 Cor. 5:13-14)
If agape is allowed to compel us likewise, it will draw all who are one with, and in, Jesus, back to the Father; and that will be for our most sublime joy, for Jesus’ relations with His Father were characterized, as He said, by joy and He wanted that joy to be shared by His disciples too:
As the Father loves Me, so I also love you.  Remain in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy might be complete.
Jesus’ essential significance for the world’s salvation is summed up in His revelation of the Father, His bestowal of the promise of the Father -- His own most Holy Spirit -- to His Church at Pentecost, and the bequest He made to her of His own most Precious, Eucharistic, Body and Blood at the Last Supper; from these divine sources spring the sublime peace and joy of Christian hope, and the irresistible life and power of agape:
            REJOICE Mary, the Lord is with you.
The angel said, "DO NOT BE AFRAID, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-12)
Peace I leave with you, MY PEACE I GIVE TO YOU; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
BE OF GOOD CHEER, I have overcome the world. (John 14:27 and 16:33)
Dear People of God, in order to experience the beautiful truth, the unutterable joy, and the supreme power of the Christian way of life, that is, in order to benefit from the fullness of revelation and grace in Mother Church, we must learn to swim with the tide of divine agape which determines her whole being: sustaining her unwavering hope and faithfulness on earth and preparing her for the eternal joys and glory of the coming Kingdom.  We must come to know and love the Father; and, as you are well aware, no one can draw near to the Father except through Jesus, because Jesus alone gives us the Spirit, Who is the bond of agape between Father and Son:
There are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these Three are One. (1 John 5:7)
Embrace therefore, People of God, the Gospel proclaimed by Mother Church, that, knowing the Truth and delighting in Jesus, you may receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit Who can fill you with that unique love which is divine Agape.  Allow the Holy Spirit of agape to rule your life in Jesus, and He will guide you most surely along the way to the Father, bearing fruit for the Father and experiencing something of Jesus’ own joy  and peace here on earth, before ultimately, in heaven, sharing in the eternal blessedness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to Whom belong all blessing and honour, glory and power, now and for ever.  Amen.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

5th Sunday of Eastertide (Year B)

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)         
 (Acts 9:26-31; 1st. John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8)

Our Blessed Lord in the Gospel reading spoke words that we must continually bear in mind and hold close to our hearts as we seek to live as His disciples:
I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing.
Feelings of personal superiority over success Our Blessed Lord in the Gospel reading spoke words that we must continually bear in mind and hold close to our hearts in the ‘rat race’, or of pride for coming out ‘on top of the pile’, though human enough to be known, appreciated, and perhaps secretly admired by many despite being experienced by only a relatively small company of ‘winners’, are totally and diametrically opposed to Christian values:
            As it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’ (1 Cor. 1:31)
For Christians know that what is of importance is not what they themselves do – for Jesus said, without Me you can do nothing – so much as what they allow Him to do in and through them for love of the brethren – fellow branches of the fruitful vine -- and for God’s supreme glory:
             Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit.
Let us look, therefore, first of all at what is meant, involved, by the words, whoever remains in Me.
Many like to think that Jesus is there referring to our abiding in Him by our occasionally calling to mind some of the most lovable aspects of His unique personality, or of our appreciative, though passing, consideration of items of His traditional teachings, somewhat as one might remain attached to the memory of a loved-one, a teacher, or of a friend, who has passed on.
Jesus however is no absent loved-one, no departed friend, nor is He but a remembered and revered former teacher; for He is always available for us, ever present to us.  In addition, the words ‘whoever remains in Me’ speak of our whole being being found in Him, not just our mind thinking on Him, or our heart cherishing His memory.  Indeed, Jesus Himself made no effort to perpetuate His memory in our minds through personal writings, for He wrote nothing.  Nor was He, in His death, surrounded by zealous followers deploring His fate and declaring their hearts’ devotion, for He was put to death in abandonment and His former disciples were, as a whole, quick to desert Him and escape to the safety of obscurity, where they were to be found despairing for the future and unsure of the significance of His work among them.
It was His rising from the dead in the fullness of His glorious humanity that made all the difference: for then He was not only seen, but heard to speak; He was not only touched, but seen to eat, sharing food with His disciples.  His risen presence was, indeed, a true bodily presence, but it was not a normal ordinary presence, because it was a presence evoking worship, a body demanding trust. It was, in short, a glorious body, most gloriously different in some respects, but nevertheless, it was the Body of the Jesus they had known before and followed as His disciples, Who had latterly been crucified, and Who was now – recognizably -- once again truly present among them and for them; and a like mysteriously worshipful, true, and trustworthy real presence is still the manner of His abiding with us today.   Jesus does not just evoke a message to be recalled to mind, He is not merely a memory to be cherished, He is a totally NEW Personal Being to be experienced in humble worship and appreciated through the self-less commitment of love.
‘Whoever remains in Me‘, refers therefore, to one who remains as a whole person, indeed who thus wholly abides, in the whole Jesus, as a living member of His Body and in the Church, living as one made new by the Spirit of Jesus, as St. Paul proclaimed to those he found seeking for God among the traces and shadows of Athens:
He is not far from each one of, for in Him we live and move and have our being.  (Acts 17:27s.)
Abiding in the Body of Jesus we abide in His love, if we keep His commandment to love one another.  We should love all fellow members of the Body of Christ -- that is, concretely put, all our brethren in Mother Church spread throughout the world – so that together we might bring forth acceptable fruit for the Father, for, as Jesus Himself said:            
By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples.
You will remember how Jesus at times took elements from the Law of Moses and  confirmed them by intensifying them:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder,' and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. (Matt 5:21-22)
In like manner the New Testament command of Jesus to ‘love one another’ is not the same as the Old Testament commandment (Lev 19:18) which declares:
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.
That was a command to love fellow Israelites. Jesus, however, as you know, extended that love to all men in His parable about the Good Samaritan:
“Which of these three -- the respected fellow Israelites, Levite and Priest, or the despised and hated Samaritan -- do you think was neighbour to him who fell among the thieves?"  He said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:36-37)
Moreover, the original Old Testament ‘neighbour commandment’ required loving the other ‘as yourself’, and that, Jesus took up once again at the Last Supper:
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Jesus’ ‘neighbour commandment’, therefore does not relate merely to fellow Israelites, it is a commandment for the Body of Christ, which concerns the whole Church, one which involves loving ‘one another as I have loved you’.
Thereby, we can gather some idea of just how much Mother Church should mean for us who aspire to become true disciples of Jesus: she is the only authentic milieu, the truly necessary atmosphere, for the full and vital co-operation of every cell sharing in the life of the Mystical Body of Christ; only through, in, her alone can we ‘contact’ all of those ‘one another’s’ commended to us by Jesus.  That is why she is to be protected, cherished and nurtured by our observance of His  special commandment:
            Love one another as I have loved you.  
Let us now notice how supremely important this membership of, this living in and by Mother Church, was to Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles:
When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.  And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Saul became in the Church, Paul, a preacher whose powerfully independent character was most clearly manifested in confrontations with Barnabas and Mark (Acts 15:37-39), and his famous show-down with Peter at Antioch (Galatians 2:12).  Nevertheless, independent though he was by nature, on becoming, in the Church, the Doctor of the Gentiles, he was concerned and firmly determined to regulate his proclamation of Jesus with that of the original Apostles, above all Peter:
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.   But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother. (Galatians 1:18-19)
After fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. (Galatians 2:1-2)
People of God, let us too with St. Paul respect, love, promote and serve Mother Church, and in her, love one another in sincere truth and with humble co-operation. However, must never forget that we can and should look up to One alone, He Who is the vinedresser and Father; likewise we should always look at One only, Jesus Our Lord and Saviour, the one True Vine Who establishes her, and Whose word prunes and purifies her; and at all times and in all situations we should look for the One Holy Spirit Who is, first of all, the Father’s Promise and Jesus’ Gift to Mother Church before becoming her life-giving gift to us:
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)