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, 30 March 2013

Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Day 2013

The Resurrection of Our Lord (C)
(Acts 10:34, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9)

Today’s readings give, directly, the Good News of Jesus’ glorious resurrection from the dead, and, indirectly, a picture of the Church and her Scriptures, a picture that is both admirable and reassuring.

Let us look at the Gospel first which says much – relatively speaking – about the Apostles Peter and John, and about the appearance, the condition, of the tomb with its remaining contents, along with a passing mention of Mary Magdalen and the previously opened (by whom?) entrance to the tomb.  Of Jesus Himself, however, there is nothing at all apart from the statement that His Body was not to be found in the tomb.  In fact, all that we are told about what might have happened to Jesus is to be deduced from the closing passage:

They did not yet understand the Scripture that He had to rise from the dead.

Now none of that is very surprising to us who believe, because we know and appreciate that the Resurrection was a supernatural and transcendentally holy occurrence to serve God’s glory and mankind’s salvation, not an intriguingly mysterious event staged for the titillation or satisfaction of human curiosity.  Let us therefore turn our attention to what we are told, directly, about the Apostles Peter and John (as we presume) and indirectly about holy Mother Church, her Scriptures, and her proclamation of Jesus.

On hearing from Mary Magdalen about the empty tomb Peter and the other disciple went to see for themselves:
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not  go in.   When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths  there and the cloth that had covered his head not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 

The ‘other disciple’ (John) being younger than Peter was quicker to the tomb into which he glanced; but, out of respect for Peter, he did not enter until Peter himself had arrived and gone first -- as head of the nascent Church – into the tomb of the Lord and Master Who had purposely chosen him for that role.  John then entered after Peter.

That order of precedence is important because some have tried to use the following words of the Gospel account to the detriment of Peter:

Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

Some have picked up, carpingly, on the fact that John is reported to have both ‘seen and believed’, whereas of Peter it is only said that ‘he saw’.  This ‘enhancing of John’ at Peter’s expense is shown in other ways by those who would say that John showed the greater courage at Jesus’ trial by going into the High Priest’s house while Peter remained, fearfully, outside; and, of course, John, alone of the Apostles, stood by Jesus’ cross on Calvary with Mary.   None of this special pleading, however, in any way detracts from Peter or disturbs the faithful who remember that John was still a young man who could lean on Jesus’ breast at the Supper, someone whom the Temple guards or Roman soldiers would not in any way have regarded as a possible threat, whereas Peter was well known to have a sword which he had already, not long ago, used in an attempt to defend Jesus.  As a result, the fully adult and manifestly strong and capable Peter was under far greater threat at the trial and thereafter than John. 

When Simon Peter arrived, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there and the cloth that had covered his head not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, he saw and believed.

There, I believe, we have further evidence of the difference between Peter and John, between the humanly, fully mature, man, and the gentle youth John.  John ... the great mystic among the Apostles, and the future author of the supremely spiritual Gospel ... was ‘youthfully’ (not, however, wrongly) impressed by the atmosphere of the tomb and what he saw there: the cloth that had been used -- out of respect for the deceased -- to prevent the bottom jaw from sagging, was carefully rolled up in it’s own place  separate from the other cloths; and it is not outlandish to guess that a young person like John, one with mystic inclinations, might see and appreciate much in that separately-positioned cloth, much that would impress him and stir him to deeply consider and further contemplate the ‘never-to-be-silenced’ aspect of Jesus’ Good News.

Peter, on the other hand, as head of the Church, and already graced for that supremely responsible role, carefully weighed up what he found in the tomb and what he did not find there.  He then went away and recalled what Jesus had said and done since he had known Him, and what the Jewish Scriptures had foretold about the coming Messiah.   Again and again he went over all these considerations together with what he had seen in the empty tomb, he prayed and prayed -- ever so much – in order to appreciate how all these might fit together into the one whole, and essential, truth about Jesus.
Thanks to our second reading today we have the result of Peter’s thinking, for there he proclaims the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus, in the name of the Church and at the ‘command of God’:

(Cornelius said) All of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say. (Acts 10:33)

Peter then went on to give his summary of the Good News about Jesus in these few and precise words:

He went about doing good and healing those oppressed by the devil; they put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree; THIS MAN GOD RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY; God granted that He be visible to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with Him after HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD; He commissioned us to preach and testify that He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead; to Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness through His name.

There, People of God, you can see and appreciate the wonder of Jesus pictured and officially proclaimed by Mother Church through Peter: with the Resurrection of Jesus as the centre-piece, the absolutely essential centre-piece indeed, but nevertheless, a piece that fits into and binds together an even more wonderful and coherent mosaic of divine truth giving most sublime expression to divine goodness, love, wisdom, and mercy for the whole of sinful mankind through all the ages.

John, the mystic, the contemplative, learnt and revealed most beautiful and intimate truths of the relationship of sublime love between Jesus and His Father; truths in which one can immerse oneself: not to proudly investigate and criticise, imitate, or grasp for oneself, but, most humbly and gratefully to admire, and hopefully -- of God’s great goodness and gift – thereby to absorb something of the Spirit.

But for the whole picture, in all its majestic embrace of mankind’s needs and possibilities under the Providence of God’s infinite wisdom, goodness and truth ... look to Peter and the proclamation of Mother Church, passed down to us and interpreted, today, by Paul the most providential link between the wisdom of the Old and the revelation of the New Testaments and our own guide -- as Doctor of the Nations -- to the Church’s doctrinal fullness of truth, and the inspired and inspiring channel of her heavenly spirituality:

Brothers and sisters, if then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory.




Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Maundy Thursday 2013

Maundy Thursday

In Jewish circles this is a most holy and a most joyful night: it is a night of family feasting in grateful remembrance of God’s wondrous blessings.  It is a family night because the Passover feast was, from the times of Moses, not a Temple feast celebrated according to minute details of public ritual, but a family gathering in the privacy of the home, a celebration with family and friends.
On returning home for this celebration, and after prayer, the head of the family-gathering had to consider himself a prince: decorating his table with the best food and the most acceptable wines: it was his duty to prepare sumptuously according to the measure of his possibilities.   We are told in the Gospels that Jesus reclined at table with His disciples for what we call the Last Supper.  This was prescribed for faithful Jews; they would have been seated for an ordinary meal, but for this special Passover meal they had to eat reclining, stretched out on their left side with head towards the food; it was a symbol of the liberty they were enjoying and celebrating, the liberty God had won for His Chosen People by the wonders He had worked in Egypt and throughout their desert wanderings, whereby He had delivered them from slavery and brought them to freedom in their own land.  They had, indeed, much to be grateful for, and this was the night on which they gave whole-hearted expression to that gratitude in accordance with the Lord’s command.  Each successive generation of faithful Israelites was taught to consider that they themselves had been brought out of Egypt and saved from slavery by the Lord their God; they were not celebrating something that happened in the past to their fathers only; no, they had to realize that they themselves were among those that had been saved.  The sages, the wise men, of Israel, when speaking of this night’s celebration, tell us that when it is celebrated with such dispositions, the God of Israel, the Holy One Himself, leaves His normal, familiar, entourage of angels and of the righteous in the Garden of Eden, and comes this night, to watch with delight the children of Israel here on earth rejoicing in the deliverance He won for them, gratefully singing His praises and loyally observing His commandments.
This was an occasion to which Jesus had really been looking forward, for it would serve as a launching-pad -- so to speak -- for the ultimate deliverance and freedom of God’s People that Jesus was about to win and hand over to His Apostles’ care:
And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Luke 22:15)
Thus the Last Supper was no sad occasion for saying “Good-by”, nor should our memorial of it be overshadowed by impending loss and grief.  How on earth could Our Lord have eagerly desired to eat such a sorrowful leave-taking meal with His disciples?  This was, on the contrary, something to be eagerly desired, something towards which His whole life’s work had been leading, something that would express the fulfilment of all His previous efforts and presently-consuming desires for His Father, His disciples, and for us.  This was to be a celebration based on the grateful remembrance of God’s historic goodness indeed, but much more, one looking forward to something memorable beyond measure, for they were now prefiguring and indeed actually setting in motion the ultimate fulfilment of the mission Jesus had been given by His Father, for which Israel had been prepared over many centuries, and for which the nations had been waiting ages long; a fulfilment the disciples had been chosen to serve with their lives, and one that would – drawing them through Calvary to the Resurrection and Gift of the Holy Spirit -- totally transform them into most loving and devoted Apostles of the Risen Lord and  selfless servants of His Church on earth:
I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
This meal was both the symbol of, and the ultimate preparation for, that heavenly banquet that will celebrate by consummating the salvation brought by Jesus: freedom from sin, and membership -- as adopted children and members of Christ -- in the family of God, where all call Him “Father” and share in His eternal blessedness, according to the words:
          Happy are those who are called to His Supper.
That was the blessing the Son had come to bring to a humanity which had long been in darkness, alienated from true happiness and life: a humanity created by God and for God, but deceived by Satan and enchained by sin; a humanity which stirred such compassion in the Father that He sent His only Son to share in and to save the weakness of human flesh by dying sinless and rising again; and in the power of His Resurrection pouring out His Holy Spirit upon those who would believe in His name, the Spirit who would form those disciples in the likeness of their Lord for the glory of the Father.
It was now so near to fulfilment; this was, therefore, no time for sad reminiscences of the past but for ardent aspirations to what was to come: Jesus was indeed to suffer and to die but that was for a divine purpose which would be surely achieved through His human suffering and death and subsequent glorious Resurrection on the third day.
Let us now just look at that suffering and death, which was so close at hand but which, Jesus refused to allow to deter Him:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
It might have seemed that Jesus’ life was to be taken from Him by the superior power of death after having been betrayed by human treachery and condemned by human hatred.  Had that been the case, then indeed, Jesus’ death would have been the supreme tragedy and the Last Supper an occasion for agonizing farewells and deep-felt loss.  That was not what Jesus wanted and was not what Jesus was going to allow, because at this Supper He most deliberately offered His coming crucifixion and death to His Father, resolving to accept it and embrace it out of obedient love and in total commitment.  Neither would His suffering and death be a result of the tragic betrayal that Judas’ action would seem to signify; because that Passion and Death was being dedicated and offered by Jesus now to wipe away the sins and betrayals of men and women of all times.  The whole tenor of tomorrow’s crucifixion was being pre-determined now, at this very meal, by Jesus.  He would die out of obedient and loving zeal for His Father, out of redeeming love for the whole human race, and in accordance with and fulfilment of the wisdom, the beauty, the goodness of divine Providence
At the Passover Meal the Jews celebrated God’s wonders which saved the nation from physical slavery in Egypt; how much more should we, the new People of God, celebrate the wonder of God’s love for us manifested in the gift of His Son to us and for us?  How  much more should we rejoice in the love which Jesus had and has for us; that love which led Him to endure the Cross and to scorn its shame so that He might enable us to have access and attain, in Him, to our heavenly home:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Tonight Jesus rejoices that by dying He is going to destroy death and turn betrayal into faithful love; He rejoices that soon He will meet up, once again, with His disciples in the great joy of a heavenly banquet shared among friends; friends to whom, in the meantime, He is about to bequeath this final liturgy of love with its divine Food along with His confident and consoling request:
Do this in memory of Me.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Palm Sunday (Year C) 2013

 Palm Sunday (C)      
 (Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14 – 23:56)

We are gathered together here in solemn preparation for the Easter Passover of Our Lord Jesus Christ and, having heard St. Luke’s account of our Lord’s Passion and Death, we have been struck by the horror of His most bitter sufferings and by wonderment at His patient endurance: embracing the Cross on the left hand by His steadfast, all-enduring, love for us, and, on the right hand, by His absolute trust in, and total commitment to, the Father Who had sent Him; before He ultimately found Himself -- Suffering Servant and most beloved Son -- at rest in the peace and power of His Personal fulfilment: 

            Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

The Gospel is a light of revelation for us: revealing the transcendent beauty and goodness, majesty and power of God, in Himself and in His relations with us; and  also the truth about ourselves in our present state before God and in our future prospects with Him. Having just greatly admired Jesus’ revelation of God in His Passion and death, let us now -- as His aspiring disciples -- search for truth about ourselves, by confronting our Christian self-awareness and personal conscience as honestly and dispassionately as we can.
Did we, perhaps, find that Gospel reading rather long and -- at times -- a little  wearisome?   If so, that can be a humbling and somewhat depressing acknowledgement, in so far as we tend to think that if we were proper Catholics, true disciples, we would not just hear of His holy Passion and Death, but would experience, go through, it with hearts filled with deep sorrow and ardent longing; and we vaguely suspect and fear that such lack of emotional involvement might betray some hidden fault or serious failing in us.

Let us, therefore, take a closer look at that unwanted weariness which can obtrude itself upon us at times when we would much prefer to experience fervent devotion.

First of all, we should be clear in our minds that we are here at Mass, above all, not to get emotions for ourselves but to give ourselves, through devotion, to God.  Those words, ‘I don't seem to be getting anything out of it’ should never be part our thinking.  We also need to be clear in our minds about the difference between emotions and devotion; for they are not the same, nor are they necessarily found together.  Emotions express and affect our natural feelings, whereas devotion is the sign and measure of our supernatural commitment; moreover, our emotions are largely instinctive and self-centred whereas devotion is subject to our will and centred on God.  Devotion benefits greatly when it is backed-up by the power of appropriate emotions; however, devotion is not necessarily diminished by the absence of such emotions; indeed devotion can be at its greatest when deprived of them.  Emotion, alone, is of no worth, its function is to assist what is more worthy than itself, whereas devotion is, in itself, always supremely commendable before God.

Dear People of God, it is essential for us to recognize that we are sinners and that God alone is good; and, because He is so sublimely good we also call Him the all-holy One.  All the blessings we have received in our life, all the ‘goods’ that we have or can have, are His gifts to us: ‘goods’ created for us, befitting and adorning us.  Likewise, all the Christian holiness we might admire, that we might aspire to or long for, is again His gift; but far, far more, it is a gift of Himself, a share in His very own, unique, holiness; it never is, nor ever can be, our own holiness: something we can put on, something owing to us, or something that we can get for ourselves, achieve by ourselves, design for ourselves.  Therefore, we must never be surprised at our own weariness, dryness, or lack of emotional feelings on occasions like today, for that is a true, indeed it is the truest picture of us; for we are -- of ourselves -- naturally barren and fruitless as far as holiness is concerned. 

As Christians, however, our attention and expectation is centred on God, and He is good, so good indeed that He has given His own Son to save us from our sinfulness.  What we have to try to do is what the Suffering Servant, in the first reading, showed us, for:

Morning by morning He wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.  The Lord God has opened my ear and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward.

Jesus was always lovingly in His Father’s presence, attentively watching for, listening to, and ever ready to do, His will; and we can best imitate that by repeatedly putting ourselves in the presence of God, putting ourselves in the way -- so to speak -- of Jesus.  And that, indeed, is what we are doing here, today: we have learned where Jesus is to be found and have come to put ourselves in His way, waiting and listening in case He should turn His gaze, see us, and choose to speak to us as He did to blind Bartimaeus.  If He does not, we should have no complaint, it is His will and we have no claims on Him: whatever He does, we know that He does it for our good and that He is right.  If, on the other hand, He does turn His attention our way, then we should gratefully accept the ardent emotions His glance stirs within us and use them as a spur to our devotion, endeavouring thereby to give ourselves back, in the Spirit, to Jesus and to God our Father more completely and more wholeheartedly than ever before.  In that way, our emotions can, at times, renew our spirit and spur us on to greater devotion; for ultimately, it is only the enduring power and commitment of devotion that faithfully and perseveringly follows Jesus along His heavenward path. 

Our emotions can also be like flowers along the way that afford our spirit refreshment as we pass, gratefully, on.  At other times, however, and perhaps more frequently, emotions can disturb and hinder us like stones (little ‘upsetters’ or big ‘blockers’) that clutter our path; or, indeed, they can even -- and most deceitfully -- serve as honey-traps that would attach us to themselves and lead us to forget the way we have hitherto been pursuing and ignore the promise Jesus has made to us and the place He has been preparing for us in the home to which the Father calls us.