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.

Friday, 26 April 2013

5th Sunday of Easter Year C 2013

5th. Sunday of Easter (C) 

(Acts 14:21-27; Rev. 21:1-5; John 13:31-35)

The subject of our readings this week is summed up in the following words you have just heard from the book of Revelation:

He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new.”

How is God making all things new?   Beginning with Jesus Himself.

At the Last Supper -- Judas having left the room -- Jesus, knowing that a sequence of events had just been set in motion that would quickly lead to His crucifixion, said to the Eleven:

Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.

Jesus understood well enough what would await Him once the Romans were provoked to put Him to death: the pain, the agony, of such an experience would be hard to endure even for the Son of Man.  And so He went on:

If God is glorified in him God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.

That is, the Son of Man, having triumphed over the imminent sufferings of His crucifixion, would be raised from the dead and given once more His rightful place as divine Son at the right hand of His Father in glory; and His human nature -- abidingly and uniquely His -- formerly befitting the humble figure of Jesus of Nazareth, would be transfigured into a glorious Temple for the heavenly Son of God made Man. 

God's work of making all things new began in that way with Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God.

The Son had shared with His Father and the Holy Spirit in the original creation when God made all things in the Son by the Spirit; that is why -- now that all things are being made new -- Jesus, raised in the power of the Spirit, appeared to His Apostles and breathed His Spirit on them, locked -- as they were -- in the Upper Room for fear of the Jews.   His breathing upon them was precisely the sign of a new creation being made; for just as God had breathed on the original creation to give it life:

The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Gen 2:7)

so Jesus, appearing in the midst of His disciples and after having shown them the wounds in His hands and His side, said to them (John 20:19-22):

Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

God is making all things new, and Jesus, the Risen Lord, shares in His Father’s work by breathing His Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, thereby making them into the nucleus of a new creation where sin is to be cast out by the cleansing and empowering presence of God's Holy Spirit.  A new creation indeed: Mother Church, the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

However, that work needs to develop and spread so as to be able to embrace the whole of mankind, because, as we heard in the first reading:

            God has (now) opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 

And so, in the book of Revelation we heard the seer declare:

I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.   Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

That is how the new creation appeared to the seer in the book of Revelation, like a bride, beautifully dressed, prepared and preparing, for the coming of her husband.  The husband for whom the beautiful bride is prepared and preparing is the Son of Man Who will, one day, return in glory to usher in, on earth, God's ultimate Kingdom, where sin and suffering will be totally destroyed, and Mother Church will be:

(presented to Him) in splendour, without spot or wrinkle ... holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)

That beautiful bride is now preparing herself by gathering together, nourishing and forming, all those called to Jesus by the Father; and she does this by her teaching, her sacraments, and her communion.  Thus God's work of making all things new proceeds even now, in us, among us, and in our world of today, despite personal troubles and public antagonism, secret discrimination, and open persecution.   Her sacraments have been instituted by Jesus; her teaching is guaranteed by the Spirit; but her life and fellowship depend also on all of us, her children on earth, faithfully walking in the power of the Spirit along the ways of Jesus towards the Father.

Jesus helps us in this by giving us a new commandment, one that is new not because it is novel, but because it is the summation of all that He had previously taught us:

I give you a new commandment: love one another.

However, notice carefully how we are to love one another if you would learn why we are to love one another:

            As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. 

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loved us, and He does this in order that His love, His divine love, might be present and supremely active in the world and in His Church, today.  It is not just human love – a love which is very often nothing more than transient emotional sentiment – but Jesus’ love, a divinely enduring, selfless, and saving love, that we are called to share with one another; and we are able to learn of that love because Jesus Himself told His Father how He had loved us whilst He was among us when He said:

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and the glory which You gave Me I have given them (the Gift of the Holy Spirit). (John 17:6-7, 12, 22)

Notice, there is no mention of sentimental affection.  Because Jesus was truly and fully human He did, indeed, have such love: for example, He wept at the death of Lazarus, and He wept over the fate of Jerusalem.  Nevertheless, the truest love He showed us was not sentimental; His best and truest love was shown by His revealing the Father to us; by giving His Church the words He Himself had received from the Father; and ultimately by keeping His disciples in His Father’s Name and protecting them from the evil one by His own dying for them on the Cross, before rising and endowing them with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  That is divine, holy, love; and that, fundamentally, is the way we too should love one another.  Earthly, emotional love is good, but it is merely human, it is not good enough; because we are called to a higher and divine way of living humanity needs to share a saving, salvation, love -- which used to be called charity – and which alone befits God’s new creation. 

Our democratic politicians – more and more of whom are ardent supporters of earthly love in all its manifestations -- are extending their remit to the whole of life, civic and religious, private and public, in such a way as to take over what used to be recognized as the spiritual realm.  They are -- they like to assure us – not intending or endeavouring to do away with religion, just to renew (!!) it and make it rational and acceptable without overtones of sin and responsibility.  Politicians legislate for a life they themselves like to lead: a life where their own legislation is the supreme law, indeed the unique law ... where no superior authority is to be taken into account, no other law to be acknowledged or obeyed.

We should, however, be well aware of who best loves us in Jesus’ way: it is Mother Church.  Individuals -- apparently members of her flock -- can and always will -- either with mistaken or with wrong intent – abuse, for their own selfish purposes, her work for the coming of God’s Kingdom: that is an ever-present and ever-more-to-be-faced-up-to-and-combatted manifestation of the sin that is in all of us.  But Mother Church, by the Spirit of her ever present Lord and Saviour,  never does, never will, and never can, fail to reveal the Father and His plan of salvation to us, through her Gospel proclamation of the Faith in the fullness of its truth and integrity.  She guides us along the Way of Jesus, and warns us of dissembling evils within and around us that threaten us, though she is often  reviled and has to suffer for so doing.  Above all, however, she alone bestows  upon us the Bread of Life and the Gift of God's most Holy Spirit of peace, hope, and love.  She indeed it is who, most truly, loves us best in Jesus; and that is why we call her Mother Church.  

Loving one another in such a way -- neither disregarding nor denying our human love, but rather, most beautifully sublimating it -- the work of Jesus is able to continue effective among us, His New Creation, through His enduring Eucharistic Communion with us, whereby He continually bestows upon us the refreshing and renewing presence and power of His most Holy Spirit:

The Holy City, the new Jerusalem prepares (herself) as a bride adorned for her husband. 

Such preparation is not always easy, indeed, casting out the devil is very hard work at times: that is why Paul and Barnabas, as we were told in the first reading, went about strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith, with the words:

            We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.

While not an easy task, however, it is always a glorious and supremely fulfilling calling to share in this divine work.  Let us, therefore, strive hard to walk in the way of Jesus as children of Mother Church and let us look forward with ever more joyful and confident hope for the glory that will be ours when God's Kingdom is finally ushered in at the longed-for return of the Son of Man; for, in that heavenly Kingdom, we will shine as true children of the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah:

You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.   (62:3)        

Friday, 19 April 2013

4th Sunday of Easter Year C 2013

4th Sunday of Eastertide (C) 

(Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rev. 7:9, 14-17; John 10:27-30)

After Jesus rose from the dead and had poured out His Most Holy Spirit upon His disciples, there were men and women to be found already living, here on earth, the eternal life of heaven; and today’s readings lead us to celebrate that heavenly gift of eternal life which, even now, begins to take hold of, and shape, the lives of Jesus' true disciples here on earth.  From the book of Revelation we heard:

I John had a vision of a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches.

That puzzled John the seer, and he was told:

These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  

Multiform cleansing is one of the main purposes to which we dedicate our use of water.  Those, however, who come out of the great tribulation of which the seer speaks, have washed their robes with the only cleansing agent able to wash away the stains of human sin, that is, the Blood of the Lamb; for it is that Precious Blood, poured out for us, which alone gives the power for supernatural cleansing to the baptismal waters of the Church.  As Jesus said:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

People of God: it is a fact of Catholic spiritual awareness that the sacraments of Mother Church are to be regarded as the fruit of the outpouring of Jesus' Blood, and that such a precious outpouring should never be rendered vain by thoughtless irreverence, let alone by downright disdain.  Today, however, far too many parents think they will have their child baptized merely to satisfy their own parents, or, perhaps, to gratify their own pseudo-conscience ("I would like to have my kids done … then I will feel I have done my best for them"), without having any real intention of bringing up their child in the ways of Jesus according to Mother Church's teaching.  They understand baptism only as a ceremony, where water is poured over the child's head whilst a few words are said, and then all is over and done with.  They have little or no reverence for the sacrament, little or no awareness that the water poured out is most truly holy water, water empowered by the shedding of Jesus' blood and enabling those dedicated to Jesus (by personal innocence or intention) to thereby wash their (souls) and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. Such water, and indeed the grace of all the other sacraments, should only be used, poured out, or received, in Spirit and in Truth, that is, in a sincere love of and reverence for Christ in His Church, showing itself as a desire both to obey His teaching and to follow the guidance of His Spirit.

But let us leave doubtful Catholics behind.  Let us look forward and upward, let us seek to learn more about this new life He has won for us, so that hopefully we may come to more fully appreciate our calling and find ever greater delight in worshipping God and serving our neighbour as committed disciples of Christ:

They stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in His temple.  The One who sits on the throne will shelter them.
The Lamb who is in the centre of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.   And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  

Those before the throne of God serve Him day and night in His Temple; that is, they delight in Him, praise, worship, and glorify Him in Mother Church, and above all, in JESUS, with ever deeper joy and more consuming zeal.

To understand something of this, just think, my dear people, of the spontaneous "Oh!" and the outburst of clapping which can take place when some big throng of people are surprised by beauty or majesty, power, wisdom or skill, seen or portrayed.  Now those who are before the throne of God catch glimpses of His infinite beauty and truth, wisdom and holiness; His awesome majesty and power; His unimaginable goodness and humility: they see God.  And because God is infinite, just as when travelling by car over countryside or through woodland and guided only by the stars above and the full beam of your car's headlamps, you catch ever-fresh glimpses of beautiful trees, gardens, streams, cottages, valleys and hills lit up by your headlights and all following one another in seamless continuity as you continue on your journey through the night, so it is for those before the throne of God: those thus blessed can never weary of praising and delighting in Him because He is endlessly new and totally beautiful, admirable, and good, filling to overflowing any and every human desire and capacity for joy in being.  Moreover, He who sits on the throne, we are told, will spread His tent over the blessed: they will never have any fear for their treasure and well-being is secure, nor can their love ever be compromised or diminished, for eternal peace and security overarch and protect the plenitude of their heavenly blessings.

The Lamb at the centre of the throne will be Shepherd of those He has brought to springs of living water in the Father’s presence.  Yes, Jesus will be there -- with us and for us -- as our Shepherd, our Leader and our Glory, leading us along the heavenly paths of eternal life, so that, with Him, all that is truly human in us, far from being smothered or denied, will be glorified as He, our Lord and our Brother, is glorified in His humanity. 

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Who can fittingly speak of the intimacy and tenderness of God the Father's relationship with each and every one of His children redeemed by the blood of His Only Begotten and most Beloved Son?  All lingering hurts and humiliations, all accumulated anxieties and fears, will be tenderly wiped away by the all-knowing, fully-understanding, and ever-watchful, love of our Father in heaven.

That is some slight idea, and I hope, some glad anticipation, of the life of heaven.  Now, that life -- Mother Church teaches -- begins here on earth for Jesus' true disciples, but its heavenly fulfilment can only be attained by those who have passed through tribulations of varying degrees chosen by God in His Fatherly goodness to cement their union with Jesus in sincerity, depth, and trust.

These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have  washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 

What are these tribulations?  Let us recall our first reading:

On the following Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.  When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.  

Today many who are turned from God and seeking worldly power and fulfilment behave like the jealous Jews of Paul's time: they reject the Gospel themselves and seek to prevent others hearing and obeying it.  The young are – by peer and social pressures -- challenged to indulge in sex and drugs, urged to be seen having and enjoying as much of the world as anyone one else.  Others have friends or acquaintances who, not trusting God themselves, constantly incite them to worry about the past, the present, or what might imaginably happen in the future; especially with concerns about money, health, or  others’ opinion of them.  For young Christians these are modern equivalents of the persecutions endured by Paul and the early Church; less violent trials indeed but perhaps more insidious temptations awaiting those still immature in the love and discipline required of true disciples of the Lord. 

The Gentiles were delighted, and glorified the word of the Lord.  All who were destined for eternal life came to believe. 

There are many Catholics who have been gladdened to hear the word of God and to experience the grace of God in their lives before such trials and temptations sullied the purity, peace, and joy, of their faith:

The Jews incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. 

Many, when friends and family oppose them – like those devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city – allow themselves to fall by the wayside.  They may not fall away from Church, but certainly, joy in Jesus no longer fills their heart; and as their longing, so too their searching, for Him dries up; they settle for life on earth and no longer think of, or aspire to, that heavenly life which, after its beginning in baptism, should develop through a life of discipleship and reception of the sacraments, into its full flowering in heaven.

My sheep hear My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, they will never perish. My Father Who has given them to Me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are One.

Dear People of God, you have been called into Jesus' flock; listen, then, to His voice, and follow Him alone.  Do not yield to siren voices whose worldly attitudes and aspirations only serve to stir up tensions and antagonisms, worries and anxieties, in your hearts and lives.  In Jesus alone are true joy and peace,  fulfilment and strength, to be found.  Keep close to His traces and He will lead you to eternal life, for such was the commission given Him by His Father, and to do His Father’s will He lived, died, and rose again.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

3rd Sunday of Easter,Year C, 2013

3rd. Sunday of Easter (C)

(Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19)

The Apostle Thomas was the channel for our instruction last Sunday; this week it is Peter -- helped by John -- who will hopefully stimulate and encourage us to better understand, love, and respond to, Our Lord, as His true disciples in Mother Church and before the world.

Peter was a truly strong and undeniably impulsive character as we have just heard: 

When Simon Peter heard (from John) that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.  The other disciples came in the boat.
Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you just caught,’ so Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of 153 large fish.  Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.

However, it is Jesus’ three-fold questioning of Peter that is the most striking and significant feature of the Gospel reading for us today:

      Simon, son of John, do you love Me? Do you love Me?  Do you love Me?

That insistence of Jesus is understood by many as His way of giving Peter the opportunity to revoke what had recently been his hasty, fear-driven, three-fold denial of Jesus.  Such a possibility cannot be denied.  And yet, since nothing is simple about Peter, it may be that here Jesus is showing respect for, and relating to, diverse aspects of Peter’s make-up.  For example, let us consider the very first question of Jesus:

      Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?

Peter was both head-strong and self-assertive; and yet, surely, Our blessed Lord was not inviting him there to assert that his own love of Jesus was greater than the love of all the other apostles present?  Peter did not and could not know the inner hearts and minds of his fellow-apostles to make such an assertion; and although he was -- as we have noted -- self-confident, he could not be said to have shown himself as arrogant.  It would seem, therefore, that Jesus was inviting and encouraging Peter to declare, in all truth and humility, that he loved Jesus more than he loved any one, or all, of the other apostles.   And why might Jesus have wanted such a declaration from Peter?   Well, as I said at the beginning, Peter was a truly strong and, should we say, ‘multi-layered’ character: he was a natural leader and a dominant personality, one whom his fellow apostles accepted unquestioningly as their spokesman, and frequently showed themselves ready, willing, and eager to follow in his personal initiatives.   Now that could, of itself, have insinuated into Peter’s psyche a certain vanity, and with it an accompanying reluctance to knowingly do or say anything that might put a strain on such a relationship of accepted dominance with regard to his fellow apostles. Now that might have been part of the motivation behind Jesus’ question, do you love Me more than these?  Moreover -- following the same line of thought -- there are, throughout the Gospel accounts, many instances of a particularly close personal relationship between Peter and John, which becomes most noticeable when, immediately after Peter’s protestation of supreme love in today’s Gospel:

      Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You,

Jesus had to make clear to him the implications, and insist on the prompt and full observance, of those words, for we are told that:

After signifying by what kind of death Peter would glorify God, Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ ..... Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; ... (and) he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’  Jesus said, ’If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?  Follow Me.’

Nevertheless, there are other scholars who see in Jesus’ three-fold questioning of Peter a then recognized Oriental social procedure used before witnesses when conferring and confirming a ‘legal’ right that is, one fully approved and binding, on someone: 

            Feed My lambs; tend My sheep; feed My sheep.

Most probably, therefore, we have a remarkable instance of Jesus’ great and most compassionate wisdom: He wipes out the memory – in Peter’s own mind and in the minds of the other apostles – of Peter’s moment of weakness and shame and, at the same time, quite dramatically and most emphatically establishes him as head of His nascent Church in accordance with His Father’s manifest will.

Now there are also, in our Gospel reading, revealing words of Jesus relating to Peter’s future crucifixion:

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

Jesus is there speaking the truth concerning Peter facing up to his death after years of labour and suffering for Jesus and the Church.  Many modern Catholics and Christians, however, are neither so truthful to themselves, understanding of others, or simple before God.  As moderns they are complicated by far too much self-love and fear of what people might think; and, augmenting such natural  tendencies and frailties, they may also have yielded far too much to the requirements of political correctness ... which all inevitably leads to a frequently observable and widespread tendency to pretence in matters of religious devotion.  Few would be willing to acknowledge in themselves the truth of Jesus’ words about Peter not wanting to go to his death for Jesus.

At this juncture, however, we should recognize that there is no question of Jesus implying that Peter would refuse to face up to his future crucifixion, only that Peter would not want to go; and, in that regard, we should recall that John tells us that:
Jesus said this signifying by what kind of death he (Peter) WOULD GLORIFY GOD.

Now, human pretence -- no matter how pious it may seem or present itself – ever glorifies God or truly recognizes Jesus.  Peter, as foreshadowed by Jesus, had -- in the intervening years of struggle for and service of the Church, and after countless hours of soul-opening prayer before God -- become both humble and patient to a degree that we find it difficult to imagine nowadays.  He would in no way seek to pretend to himself or to others that he wanted to go where his captors were leading him, and in this he was most sublimely close to and one with Jesus Whom he had personally witnessed, though uncomprehendly, praying to, struggling with, His heavenly Father and His own human nature in the Garden of Gethsemani.  How, indeed, did He now admire Jesus and glorify God!  For, only Jesus wanted, only Jesus could want – so wholeheartedly and eagerly – to walk to, go to, His crucifixion!

Oh! What wondrous love Jesus conceived for the coming sufferings of His crucifixion after His agony of blood-sweating-prayer in the Garden of Gethsemani!!  There He had fought in prayer with, before, and to, His beloved Father; and when His most beloved Father – after Jesus’ most urgent and ardent prayers -- still left the burden on His shoulders, He, Jesus, knew without any doubt, that He would FIND HIS FATHER in those coming crucifixion sufferings.  And that is why, when carrying His cross, He always -- after each individual fall on the way – endeavoured to get up in response to His Father’s call, totally oblivious to everything but His desire to love His Father to the utmost extremity of His living humanity!!

Peter was a most wonderful disciple of Jesus and he had come to find no difficulty in acknowledging, admitting, his own nothingness: of himself he did not want to go on that journey to his crucifixion because he did not love like Jesus the most beloved Son alone could love; but he most fully trusted in Jesus his brother and Saviour that He could and would draw him after Himself, that He would help him, Peter, humbly follow where Jesus his Lord alone could lead.

Dear People of God, let us most seriously pray for the simplicity of heart to admire Peter’ example; and, above all, for the Gift of the God’s Holy Spirit, that, of His great goodness and most subtle grace, we may embrace Jesus’ teaching and follow ever more closely His most precious example in giving praise and honour, glory and thanksgiving, to God supremely and solely.