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, 24 November 2012

Christ the King (Year B) 2012

Christ the King (B)

                 (Daniel 7:13-14; Apocalypse 1:5-8; John 18:33-37)

In our readings today we are given a magnificent portrait of Him Who is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Christ, Son of God become Son of Man:
As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the One like a Son of Man received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, His kingship shall not be destroyed.
Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.  And all the peoples of the earth will lament Him.  Yes.   Amen.
And, in answer to Pilate’s question, Jesus pictured Himself as follows:
I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.
Jesus is, therefore, most worthily our King, and today we gratefully celebrate His kingship and rule.  As He tells us, He came, as King, to bear witness to -- that is to proclaim in word and deed, by His death as through His life – the ultimate truth about God and His plan of salvation for us:
Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  (John 17:2)
He came as King because His proclamation of the truth had to be both authoritative and unambiguous, it could know neither frustration nor failure; and His sublime witness of love and forgiveness had to be seen and experienced in all the fullness of its beauty and power:
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  (John 17:3)
As King, therefore, He not only proclaimed the ultimate Truth, He also manifested that Truth in all its sublime reality, because He Personally was and is, the eternal  Truth:
            I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
But did not St. John also tell us that, God is love?  Indeed he did, and this is just how he put it:
We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.            (1 John 4:16)
That means that those who have known and believed the love that God has for us, that is, those who have believed in Christ’s proclamation of and witness to, the only true God, have God -- Who is love -- abiding in them.  Therefore, God is Truth in the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel and He is Love in the hearts of those who receive that Gospel of Good News and Hope.
And so we can appreciate that truth is not just to be heard and acknowledged, it has to be lovingly believed and responded to, in order to fulfil God’s purpose as Isaiah prophesied (Isa. 55:11; 61:11):
My word that goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it;
The Lord GOD cause(s) righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
Those prophecies are rightly fulfilled when God’s word is both proclaimed in truth and received in love; for then, and then only, does God loved in the Word become God ‘lived’ in our heart, a fulfilment which the Psalmist (Ps 85:10) celebrates with the words:
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.
It was strange, however, to hear the author of the book of Revelation so emphatically assuring us that, when our Lord and Saviour will come in His glory:
Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.  And all the peoples of the earth will lament Him.  Yes.   Amen.
His coming will cause all the tribes of the earth to mourn, every eye to lament?  Obviously, it would seem to us, all those who killed Him might mourn at His return in glory; but why will it be that all will lament, even those who loved Him?  
This will be because of the Truth; since it is, indeed, Gospel truth that all, each and every one of us on earth, have sinned:
There is none righteous, no, not one; none seeks after God.  All have turned aside; there is none who does good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10-12)
Those who receive the truth proclaimed by the Lord’s coming, will see Him and lament the evil that was done Him; above all, they will lament their own part in that evil: that is, they will lament and mourn out of love, out of sympathy, for Him, and out of regret for and displeasure with their own behaviour.  Consequently, in their case, those words of Scripture will be fulfilled:
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory (soul) may sing praise to You and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever. (Ps 30:11-12)
On the other hand, those who did not receive, will not embrace, that Truth made manifest, will mourn simply and solely because of His return.  There will be no love for, nor sympathy with, Him; nothing other than continuing rejection of Him and concern for self.
The kingdom of God, Jesus once said, is among you.  And so, today as everyday, the question -- the drama -- of truth and its reception is going on around us in society, within us as a community, and in the secret depths of our own, individual, hearts.  How do we, can we, should we, respond to God’s truth revealed to and treasured in Mother Church?
There are those, who seem to think that truth is above all to be known with our minds, hopefully, as extensively and as accurately as possible; and, at the other extreme, there are others who think that love is all that matters.   Let us consider these two attitudes a little more closely.
Many Catholics are perfectly content with themselves when they go to Mass and receive the Sacraments on the appointed days, just as they have always done: they say they know the faith; they were taught it at school or received it in the instruction given them by a priest, say at conversion and baptism, or when they were preparing for marriage.  Thereafter, they merely fulfil the obligations they originally accepted as part and parcel of the faith.  Here we have an example of the truth proclaimed being received with but a minimum of heart commitment: believers doing what they have been taught, but no longer fulfilling with love that which they themselves had, perhaps, originally sought and embraced with love.  At the head of such disciples can be found clerics of all levels who will ‘say’ Mass and give the Sacraments in double-quick time; they will present Catholic doctrine and spirituality with words that are nothing more than bloodless transcripts of Jesus’ words of life or of the experience of saints revered throughout the Church: too often, that is, mere abstract truths or cold mental concepts, apparently standing upright and firm only because they are backed by ‘authority’.
On the other hand, those of the contrary inclination are most content when they can give themselves exclusively to devotions or charity, to social involvement or emotional prayers: these have a full heart, indeed, but not infrequently, are somewhat dismissive of the idea that they might have any true need for better appreciation or greater understanding of their faith.  These Catholics rarely have any doubts about themselves, they do not experience any need to ask about, search for, a deeper understanding and appreciation of what they think they already know and most firmly believe.  They are totally satisfied with their own warm heart, and fully approve of and uphold the sincerity of their own intentions.  And yet, Jesus, early on in His public ministry, had lovingly yet unhesitatingly declared of Samaritans encountered in His travels:
You worship what you do not know, we worship what we know. (Jn. 4:21)
How many sects, originally enthusiastic disciples of Jesus, have separated themselves from Mother Church over subsequent centuries because of like  ignorance of the will of God and of the fullness of the maturity of Christ!
People of God, Jesus is come to bear witness to the truth for us, and He tells us:
            Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.
For Jesus’ disciples, His truth is ever a living and loving issue whose beauty is to be unceasingly and increasingly admired, not just a memory from the past, however  firmly fixed; nor can worship in His name ever be just ritual, no matter how beautiful, but is essentially, a total and vital commitment with Him to the Father and for the brethren, by the Holy Spirit. 
So, People of God, on this feast of Christ the King of Truth let us open both our minds and our hearts to Him in His Gospel proclamation, that proclamation which continues to this very day to be made for us and offered to us in and through Mother Church.  It is not just to be remembered as ammunition for argument; we have to increasingly appreciate and love it, by committing ourselves to live for it and grow in it.  Only thus will we allow it to fulfil God’s purpose in our lives.
Jesus assures us that with God, Truth and Love are one; let us also recall those other words of His to the effect that, what God has joined together none of us should ever separate.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

33rd Sunday in Ordinary time 2012

Thirty-third Sunday (Year B)

(Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32)

For us Catholics and Christians there is a mysterious cohesion between ourselves and creation around us: all given life or brought into being by the One true God, with what is material and temporal serving and supporting all spiritual degrees, and our own supreme spirit polarized towards God and eternity.   As a result of this, things of earth and temporal events can help our spiritual awareness, our understanding and appreciation, of God’s mysterious presence for us in our experience of the world, and contact with us in our spiritual life.
This year of 2012 is coming to its end and that fact leads Mother Church to call upon her children to think appropriately about the end of this world, the ‘great and final end’ which we prepare for individually by the way we face up to all the little ‘ends’ we experience throughout life, and for which God’s People have been gradually prepared over many centuries by God’s grace at decisive junctures of their history.  The readings Mother Church has given us for today sound very strange to our ears for we cannot understand much of them; and yet they surely make a deep impression with words both awesome and majestic, concerning events great and even cataclysmic, and yet for all that, most wonderfully full of hope for all who know and love the Lord Jesus.
Those descriptions of ultimate, cosmic, disturbance:
In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken;
had been used earlier in the Old Testament predicting the ruin of nations hostile to Israel; as we find in the prophesy of Isaiah (13:10) foretelling the ruin of Babylon:
For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light;
and again when the same prophet speaks of the downfall of Edom (Isaiah 34:4):
And all the host of heaven will wear away, and the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; all their hosts will also wither away as a leaf withers from the vine, or from the fig tree.
After Isaiah, the great prophet Ezekiel (32:7-8) spoke in similar tones of the then forthcoming destruction of Egypt:
‘And when I extinguish you I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light.  All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land’ declares the Lord God.
Like words were also used by one of the later prophets, Joel (2:28-32), to evoke the latter times when God’s Spirit would be poured out upon mankind:
And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all  mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.  And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth; blood, fire, and columns of smoke.  The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.  And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
And now, we hear Our Lord using similar words to foreshadow God’s final purifying of His People when the evil that was in her would be purged away and God’s true servants shown forth:
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

From the beginning of His ministry Jesus had used the title Son of Man, and now, in those words He identified Himself, for the first time, with the One seen in a vision by the prophet Daniel (7:13-14):
I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.  And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language, might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.
In Daniel the Son of Man heads the Kingdom of the Saints which is to supersede the heathen empires of the Four Beasts (Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome?); and now Jesus, showing Himself to be the Son of Man, allows us to appreciate that, in Him, humankind finds its supreme glory and God’s People its supreme Head, while God’s Kingdom knows the irresistible beginning of its definitive establishment:
And then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.
This process is now going on before our very eyes, so to speak; for the Church is being purged of evil-doers whose secret sins are now being both made manifest and publicly rejected; while former hangers-on, members not by virtue of their love for and faith in Jesus but for reasons of social acceptability and personal advantage, are freely abandoning her for those very same reasons.  Indeed, even at this very moment, we ourselves gathered here are all part of it, for God the Father has called us here today as the Body of Christ to celebrate and acclaim the glorified Lord as our Head:  He brings us together from all corners of the globe as the Church of Christ, called to become ever more truly the fruitful Spouse of Christ for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls. 

People of God, recognize where we find ourselves at this moment: the process for the purification of God’s People and the establishment of His Kingdom has begun, since Jesus has risen from the dead; He is to be seen and heard, known and received, by those who love Him in His Church; and all this is leading to a final dénouement in which Jesus will be seen by all mankind whether they love Him or not.  He will appear, not humbly as Bread and Wine totally given over to our service, but in all His glory as the Son of God, our Redeemer, and the Judge of mankind.  At present the words of the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews are being fulfilled:
He offered one sacrifice for sins, and took His seat forever at the right hand of God; now He waits until His enemies are made His footstool;
and we all , in the bosom of Mother Church, are being led to justice, as the first  reading put it, being instructed in virtue and wisdom as we learn to lead our lives in conformity to Jesus’ teaching, that we might truly know something of the beauty and goodness of God our Father.
It is a fact today that we see all around us ‘the wicked proving themselves wicked’: we find that wisdom and understanding, far from being valued and sought after, are mocked and disregarded, while the most abominable practices are openly flaunted and accepted; indeed, they can even be found covering themselves over with a cloak of pseudo-respectability, to such an extent that some simple Christians and even some Catholics, are troubled, as Jesus foretold:
False messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect.  
In our Gospel reading Jesus again mentions “the elect” as you heard:
Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory,  and then He will send out the angels, and gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.
Who are these “elect”?   Daniel told us in those words: many shall be refined, purified, and tested, because the elect are those faithful disciples who are being formed into a likeness of their Lord through their experience of life under God’s Providence, by the sacraments of Mother Church, and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whereby they are encouraged and enabled to walk perseveringly and faithfully along the way of Jesus.  A notable part of the purging and purifying of the faithful elect is accomplished by the sufferings they have to endure in order to remain true to Jesus despite the allurements and trials of life; and today mockery is one of the great trials Christians have to endure for Jesus, especially mockery of Jesus’ teaching about a future judgement. 
 Now Jesus speaks of the coming of that judgement day when He says:
After that tribulation (the appearance of false messiahs performing their signs and wonders), the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
We can imagine something of the calamitous nature of such pre-judgement events, for today we are not unaware of the primeval powers at work in our own sun and Milky Way, and in the astounding galaxies above and beyond us: galaxies that defy counting; involving powers and occupying space beyond human imagining.  In fact, we have learnt and are still in the process of learning so much from the heavens that some scientists regard the heavens as the source of the knowledge of all times, past and future.
For the psalmists of old, however, the heavens spoke resoundingly of the glory of God. In those days, though there were few facts available other than what our human senses could immediately discern, the psalmists however, being filled with the gifts of humility and wisdom, were able to understand and interpret aright what facts were known to them.  Today, on the other hand, for many moderns, the facts are so multitudinous and often so tenuous that their mind is overwhelmed as it seeks to co-relate and then co-ordinate them into a comprehensible whole; and, where faith has been lost or rejected, and pride acknowledged as an acceptable guide, many falsely interpret what they have correctly but only partially observed, with the result that their reading of the heavens proclaims not the Glory and the Goodness of God, but rather power for no purpose, majesty without meaning, and beauty alien in its cold irrelevance.
Therefore, dear People of God, do not let yourselves be troubled by scoffers who ignore the teaching of truth, who walk, indeed run, merrily, along ways that lead to destruction.  Let Mother Church guide you, let the Spirit of Jesus lead you, to righteousness and insight; for then you will come to know, even here on earth, something of the plenitude of peace and fullness of joy promised by Our Lord, before ultimately sharing in His transcendent glory and most sublime joy:
When all things are subjected to Him (and) the Son Himself (is) subject to Him Who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be All in all.  (! Cor. 15:8)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

32nd Sunday in Ordinary time (Year B) 2012

Thirty-second Sunday (Year B)
(1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44)

The Temple in Jerusalem and the synagogues scattered throughout the country were two quite distinct aspects of the service of God in Israel: the Temple was the magnificent, world-famous, national centre of Jewish, centuries-old, sacrificial worship carried out in accordance with the Law, originally given by God to Moses.  It was the glory of Israel and the envy and admiration of all who knew her.  The synagogue, however, was a much more humble -- though equally religious -- centre for non-sacrificial worship based on the exigencies of historical suffering and prophetic guidance: a house of prayer and religious instruction in local communities throughout the country and all over the known and inhabited world.  Priests served in the prestigious Temple where hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, would come from abroad to worship at the great festivals; Scribes served the quiet synagogue assemblies gathered for sabbath prayer and religious instruction.  Robes were accepted and required for priests; they were an affectation for Scribes:
Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes, and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honour in the synagogues, and  places of honour at banquets.  
For those who claim understanding and virtue, indulged faults and cherished failings quickly develop into more serious matters; and with the Scribes of Jesus’ day, their affectations brought along with them ostentation, envy, and competition, all requiring finance to sustain them; and so, it should not surprise us to learn that those Scribes were also keen on money.  The criminality deserving of Jesus’ promised very severe condemnation, however, ultimately came when such love of money lead them to take advantage of the most vulnerable in society:
They devour the houses of widows.
From then on, their religiosity became nothing more than an empty shell:
Recit(ing) lengthy prayers as a (mere) pretext.
The Gospel contrasts such Scribes with the unknown widow, who, without any ostentation, puts her whole living in the collection box of the Temple:
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.   Many rich people put in large sums.  A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  Calling His disciples to Himself He said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."
She required no respectful greeting, she sought no honours.  Unnoticed and unappreciated, probably quite unknown, she treasured what the Scribes abused: God’s goodness and majesty; and the money they treasured to their own ruin she -- totally forgetful of herself -- converted into God’s currency, unfeigned charity, to her own great reward.
Jesus pointed her out as a model for admiration and imitation to His disciples; and through His Church He still puts her example before us, His present-day disciples.
Modern critics and radicals, however, faced with those two semi-parabolic stories from the Gospel are quite likely to conclude, from the first, not that affectation, envy and greed should be resolutely avoided in one’s personal attitudes and conduct but rather that no one should be given marks of special, public, respect; and that prayer – public or private – is probably hypocritical and certainly deluded.  Likewise, from the second story, they would not dream of celebrating the woman’s self-forgetfulness and total dedication to God, but rather mock, if not condemn her, for thus jettisoning her meagre resources.
Let me, therefore, now give you a traditionally Catholic and Christian appreciation and understanding of two of today’s readings; in the first of which the Lord performed a great miracle for Elijah the prophet and for a starving woman of Zarephath, a miracle whereby Israel was saved from famine because that unknown, God-guided, widow had the humility and devotion to accord Elijah – asking for a little food and drink – respect in the name of God:
She said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar, and a little oil in my jug.  Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die."  Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose.  But first make me a little cake and bring it to me.  Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'"  She left and did as Elijah had said.   She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well.   The jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.
How long might that famine have continued in Israel had that destitute widow failed to have respect for God’s servant?
Here is another, not dissimilar, story concerning Elijah:
The king (Ahaziah, king of Samaria) sent to (Elijah) a captain of fifty with his fifty men. So he went up to Elijah; and there he was, sitting on the top of a hill. And he spoke to him: "Man of God, the king has said, 'Come down!'"  So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, "If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men." And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. (2 Kings 1:9ss.)
Exactly the same happened a second time:
Again, he sent a third captain of fifty with his fifty men. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and pleaded with him, and said to him: "Man of God, please let my life and the life of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight.  Look, fire has come down from heaven and burned up the first two captains of fifties with their fifties. But let my life now be precious in your sight."  And the angel of the LORD said to Elijah, "Go down with him; do not be afraid of him." So he arose and went down with him to the king.   
The king, Ahaziah of Samaria, was showing no respect for the Lord’s prophet in Israel, who -- after first having been blatantly ignored -- was now to be publicly and forcefully dragged  (from his own country indeed!) into the king’s presence like some malefactor.
For this, we are told:
The king died according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken;
not even being allowed to:
come down from the bed to which he had gone up.
Now, the Scribes of whom Jesus spoke in our Gospel reading, delighted in the respect shown them by the faithful in Israel, to such an extent that they actively sought to promote it; Elijah, on the other hand, had merely accepted what he knew should and had to be accorded.  Why was one so very right and the other totally wrong?
The Scribes were wrong in their attitude because they sought respectful greetings for their own persons, “I am ME, a very learned man, and expert in my knowledge of the Law”!   Elijah expected respect only because he was the Lord’s appointed prophet: “I am the prophet of the Lord for Israel; have sincere respect for the Lord’s prophet, but as for me personally:
I am no better than my fathers.
This is a most important lesson for us today when many have lost respect for holy things, holy offices and functions, and will only honour those whom they personally consider to be admirable people.  At times such personally chosen ‘admirable’ people are indeed a strange lot: today, for example, some young people have no respect for the elderly, but idolise pop stars regularly doped and/or drunk; others cheer footballers who earn, or rather, get, millions, but they will jeer at, and abuse as fat cats, business leaders who may earn only half as much and yet provide needy work for many people.  Also in family life today, parents are frequently judged merely on the basis of their personal character while children are over indulged at time in their status as children: as a result many young people judge their parents and show them little or no respect, while childhood (extended into youth, long after innocence has been lost) is often thought by social gurus to excuse wild, disobedient, disorderly and destructive behaviour.  That is quite wrong.  A mother or father is due the respect of obedience and attention from their children because they are those children’s mother or father even though, as persons, they may not be as good as they should be.  Obedience due to parents comes to an end with adulthood; respect for parents never comes to an end even though, as I said, they may of themselves merit little.  Likewise, Mother Church, the Holy Scriptures, priests and religious, sacred vessels and church building, all deserve obedience and/or respect in varying degrees, because they belong to God, do God’s work, serve God’s purposes and give glory to His name.
Although God’s love is ever warm to succour, His power is ever ready to save, today we must be aware that there can be no justice among nations, no equity in society, no peace in our homes or in our hearts, when respect for God is ignored or withheld; when His institutions (e.g. marriage and the family) for human development and fulfilment and His order for harmony in personal relations and balance in the natural world, are sacrificed on the altar of human self-exaltation ever seeking to express and impose itself, be it in multi-national exploitation abroad (typically avoiding all local and national taxation) or social engineering at home: all in the service of the ever-more intense personal pride and unrestrained desire for extreme -- even exotic – pleasures of the powerful few; all, however, at the cost of the gradual degradation of the majority induced to satisfy themselves with lack of personal and human fulfilment, group complacency, and individual ignorance.
However, despite all such temporal trials, disappointments, and set-backs, our Catholic aspirations and expectations, our Christian hopes and prayers, will not wilt with time, nor will they ever prove futile and false for, as our reading from the letter to the Hebrews assures us:

         It is appointed that Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second         time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Thirty-first Sunday (Year B)
(Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Hebrews 7: 23-28; Mark 12: 28-34)

Catholics and Christians generally today are not wholly at ease with those supremely important words of Our Lord:
The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.'      
They are not wholly at ease with those words because, broadly speaking, though they recognize their unquestionable character, being perfectly clear and simple; and also their indisputable authority, being Our Lord’s direct answer to a question of absolutely supreme importance in Israel and for the salvation of mankind; nevertheless, they are not at ease with them because they quite clearly expect, call for, and even demand, that we not only agree with them but that we sincerely and seriously work at them:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.'
As sincere Christians and -- as many would humbly say of themselves -- ‘ordinary human beings’, they want to engage in good actions, actions which do good and promote what is good: actions that -- as far as possible – prevent and counter,  thwart and redress, evil, both for the good of individuals and the benefit of society.  Intentions not, indeed, always possible or even realistic, but nevertheless mysteriously comforting and satisfying: ‘I tried my best’; ‘I did what I could’.
A commitment to personal prayer, on the other hand, they are inclined to regard as being wasteful of time in which opportunities for important good works are lost for ever.  Indeed, when provoked in some degree, they even seem to have and to cherish at the back of their minds, so to speak, the secret conviction that what they consider to be overmuch prayer is a somewhat selfish and reprehensible exercise, nothing better than physical laziness or spiritual vanity and self-seeking:
Mary sat beside the Lord at His feet, listening to Him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me!’  (Luke 10:39s.)
In the letter to the Hebrews from which our second reading was taken we find frequent mention of the words ‘High Priest’ in relation to Jesus:
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him.
Now the office of High Priest was supremely important for the Chosen People because, as we are told in the letter to the Hebrews (5:1), he was their uniquely appointed and acknowledged representative before God; and since Israel had only become the Chosen People -- and an independent nation -- by the gift and grace of God, Israel’s continued national existence and prosperity as God’s Chosen People, was seen to depend upon her right relationship with the God Who had made her His own:
Every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 
As you know, that right relationship did not endure, Israel sinned against her God and was ultimately punished, being destroyed as an independent nation and superseded as God’s Chosen People; and that fatal fragility of Israel in her relationship with God had been mirrored or manifested in the very person of the High Priest, for again, the letter to the Hebrews in our second reading, told us that:
The law appoints as high priests men who have weakness.
However, the author then immediately goes on to add, that, for the future, that situation would be remedied by God’s oath:
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind…  You are a priest forever;
an oath which came after the law:
appoint(ing) the Son who has been perfected forever. 
He was perfected because, as Son, He was completely one with God the Father in His divine nature; and perfected forever in His humanity through His Passion and  Death on the Cross followed by His glorious Resurrection, whereby He now lives in human flesh at the right hand of the Father, continually interceding for us through all ages.  He is the perfect High Priest because He loves the Father supremely as the only-begotten Son, and because He was, as man, made perfect by the love with which He bore, for our sake, His personally unmerited and immeasurable sufferings.
It was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)
Love and obedience before God the Father is the supreme key to the perfection of the incarnate Son as our High Priest, and the whole of Jesus’ life on earth was one of continuous union of love in mind, heart, soul and will, with His Father for our salvation.  He was, He is, the perfect, and our sublime, High Priest.
The High Priest in Jerusalem offered bloody sacrifices before God on strictly limited ceremonial occasions in the Temple; but most of the time he was occupied in political negotiations and dealings with the Roman occupying force.  Jesus made no deals with those in power, neither with the Romans, the Herodians, nor with the Temple authorities; He ‘negotiated’ exclusively with His heavenly Father by means of total and most loving obedience together with constant and most intimate prayer, all culminating in the one sublime sacrifice offered by the Son on Calvary and accepted by the Father in the glory of the ‘third day’.
In that way the supreme importance of prayer to God was established for all ages among the new People of God.  And since, as St. Peter tells us, the new People of God are a priestly people being members of the Body of Him Who is the High Priest of our confession, we too are consecrated first and foremost to prayerful union with the Father expressed in the words of Our Lord we began with:
The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.'      
As a man endowed with a divine mission and given little time by His fearful and unscrupulous enemies, Jesus deliberately sacrificed countless opportunities to do external good works: people were looking for Him and He moved on, frequently avoiding the crowds; He imposed silence both on devils who would fearfully reveal His true majesty and on many former-sufferers grateful to Him for their cure.  Generally speaking, He had to be sought out by those who looked for healing and, when found, needed to be convinced of, and persuaded by, their faith.  On the other hand, however, Jesus was, at all times and in all circumstances, communing with His Father, and He emphasised this personal and private relationship by often seeking solitude, in order to give Himself more urgently in prayer -- both avid and humble --  to His Father.
We can, therefore, surely recognize how wrong it is to think that Christianity is, first and foremost, concerned with doing worldly, physical, visible, good to people; wrong, because our aim has to be one with Jesus’ proclaimed destiny:
(giving) glory to God in the highest and (bringing) peace toward men of goodwill.
Peace with God, that is, oneness with God that leads to eternal life; the salvation that God the Father wills to confer on all mankind in response to the intercession of Jesus, our heavenly High Priest, together with that of His priestly people here below.
Influenced by the world around them, many people want tangible success in their practice of religion: they want to be seen, or at least to see themselves, achieving something; and, often enough, they find prayer, which produces no immediate or tangible results, difficult and unrewarding; and this lack of “success” easily brings with it a certain distaste for what is regarded as the “nothingness”, the “dryness”, the “uselessness” of prayer.  This reaction is, of course, the result and sign of a deep rooted selfishness common to us all in one form or another, for prayer is first of all God centred: it is homage to, appreciation and praise of, God; it is not something entered into for our own immediate satisfaction and pleasure, indeed, it is a most important step in the practice, demanded of us by Jesus, of dying, with Him, to ones-self.   And since Jesus not only died to self but also rose again to glory in God, where that native selfishness is done to death by a sincere and persevering approach and response to God in prayer, that prayer is indeed able to develop into a supreme delighting in God. 
Jesus intercedes before His Father as the only-begotten, beloved, Son, as we heard:
He is always able to save those who approach God through Him, since He lives forever to make intercession for them.
Here, you will I trust, notice, that the second commandment mentioned by Our Lord has not been forgotten:
You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
The fact is, People of God, that it is impossible to love the Father in spirit and in truth and then to fail to love one’s neighbour.  Modern Catholics and Christians need to learn anew how to appreciate the supreme importance and power of prayer, and the true value and ‘quality’ of work inspired, sustained, and fulfilled by prayer to God, for such prayer rightly gives all glory to God whose wisdom alone secretly and subtly guides and enables the worker, while His mercy graciously and appropriately prepares the recipient, all in accordance with the angels’ song (Luke 2:14):
Glory to God in the highest and peace toward men of goodwill.  
Those who side-step the difficulties of prayer and concentrate on the perceptible rewards of good works, are not only trying to put the cart before the horse and, consequently, sometimes finding themselves blundering where angels fear to tread, but they can also easily harm themselves by slipping into the trap of vain glory either by seeking human appreciation for, and approval of, their labours, or else by imagining that they themselves are doing the works on which they set such store.
True prayer, however, often involves the painful awareness of our own emptiness and need of God, only occasionally being sweetened by a passing experience of God’s great goodness.  Nevertheless, for the disciple of Jesus, aridity and difficulty in time devoted to prayer -- especially in prayer of praise and thanksgiving – can gradually result in a joy and inspiration, a peace and strength, that show themselves, secretly indeed, but yet convincingly enough: as though the One Who would not endanger our prayer with open favours, does not hesitate to comfort and confirm us mysteriously by a certain awareness or secret sense of His presence in ordinary circumstances as well as in moments of personal suffering and special striving:
He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to  him.
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our abode with him.   (John 14:21, 23)