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.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

17th Sunday of the Year (C) 2013

 17th. Sunday Year (C)
(Genesis 18:20-32; Colossians 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13)

Our Gospel reading today is all about prayer: Jesus gave us what we call the "Lord’s Prayer", and then He told us a parable exhorting us to persevere in prayer.  I was very struck by those final words of His:

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

How many people, in their prayers, ask to be given the Holy Spirit?  Surely, most who, in their prayer ask to be given something, will ask for a blessing suited to this world: health, food, success, comfort, strength, or whatever, for themselves or for those dear to them.  Now, it is clear from the prayer Jesus gave us that He does not disapprove of such requests: for He gave us words asking for bread, forgiveness, and protection; and He Himself, in His own personal prayer, frequently asked His Father to strengthen and guide Him.  So how is it then that He speaks, in the verse I have just quoted, as though the heavenly Father gives only the Holy Spirit, no matter what we might request?

We have here a wonderful example of the hidden riches of Holy Scripture!  We do pray for all sorts of blessings for ourselves and, as the example of Abraham encouraged us to do, also for others.  When, in such prayers, we pray according to the will of God, He hears our prayers and grants our requests: but He does this through the Holy Spirit, ever secretly at work in our lives and in our world. 
Even more important, however, is the implicit teaching contained in those words of Jesus: namely, that we can ask for nothing better than the gift of the Holy Spirit: this is because He is, Personally, the "Gift of God" which means that He, the Holy Spirit, is the Gift the Father wants to give, and Jesus wants us to receive, above all; and therefore He is, indeed, the supreme Gift for which a disciple of Jesus can, and should, pray.   Let us try to understand why.

In the first reading we had the vague hint of the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity - three Persons in one God – found in the deepest layers of the Old Testament:

And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. .
Three "men" had come to Abraham's camp in the heat of the day and had accepted his hospitality; then, as you heard, they spoke as one: "The Lord said … I will go down to Sodom."  Not "we will go down", but "I will go down".  However, we are then told that it was two of the three who "turned away and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord."  Somehow those heavenly guests of Abraham were one and three. 

As you know, the Son and the Holy Spirit were sent by the Father on earth, as it were to sinful Sodom, for our salvation.  The Son was born of Mary and was called Jesus because He it was – the Son of Man - Who would die and rise again to free us from our sins.  After dying on the Cross, Jesus rose to heaven as He had foretold (Luke 22:69):
Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God, 

and it was the Holy Spirit Who came down upon the Church to extend Jesus' salvation to all mankind.

This had been foretold in Psalm 110:

The LORD said to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool."

Jesus, therefore, the Son of Man, having conquered sin and death, is now seated at the right of God the Father in glory, while the Holy Spirit -- working in and through Mother Church and, indeed, all men and women of good will -- makes His enemies and the enemies of mankind’s salvation a footstool for His feet.

Now, perhaps, you can begin to see why we should want to receive, above all other gifts, this Gift of God, the Holy Spirit, into our lives.

For He is, first of all, the Spirit of Truth, Who alone can lead us to the truth of Jesus and about Jesus:

When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. (John 15:26)

Again, He is the Spirit of holiness:

Jesus Christ our Lord was declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:4)

Who, therefore, can lead us to holiness of life more surely than the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of holiness.

Moreover, He alone knows God's will for us, what He expects of you and me individually, and what He has prepared for us (1 Corinthians 2:11):

            No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit knows us through and through: for if, according to the Scriptures, no other human being can know us as we know ourselves:

what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?     

how much more true is it, that the Holy Spirit Who knows the things of God Himself and who dwells in the hidden depths and secret folds of every human heart,  knows us infinitely better than we could ever know ourselves?

Finally we should pray for God's Gift because Jesus Himself has put this request first and foremost in the prayer He taught His disciples:

            Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 
Only the Spirit of holiness can hallow the Father's name; and He, moreover, is the One Who has been sent by the Father to make Jesus' enemies a footstool under His feet and thus bring in the Kingdom of God:

            Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.

People of God, Mother Church is suffering greatly today for the sins of the world no doubt, but also for her own sins.  There is no sure defence, nor can there be, against personal sin ... it is the work of one far more powerful than men: Satan, the Devil.  Against such a foe, only God, the God of truth and love, holiness and power, can defend and redeem us.  When, therefore, society as a whole turns away from God, when governments accord Him no power or authority in their social structures, then we are guided and governed by nothing more than strictly limited human wisdom at the best which is totally incapable of defending us against sin.  Politicians, and government ministers of all sorts, here and abroad, strike attitudes and use pretentious words that, often enough, serve no other purpose than to hide, cover up, not only human ineptitude and institutional malfunctions, but also international greed and malpractice of all sorts.  Money can and does lead men and women of apparent rectitude to do great evil, not only in secret and against individuals but, what is much worse, against the public body.  The desire for popular acceptance together with the fear of public disapproval, motivate the political body as a whole much more forcefully than does solicitude or respect for their fellow men.

Therefore we must remember:

We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit Who is from God,  that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. ( 1 Corinthians 2:12)

We must treasure "the things freely given to us by God", that is our faith, His truth and grace, and the hope which it inspires in us; we have to reject the worldly craving for popularity and political correctness if we would hope to have the Holy Spirit of God at work in us: forming us, secretly but surely, in the likeness of Jesus.  The world loves to plan and plot now for its own future profit and advantage; we, as disciples of Jesus, must live in the present in such a way as to sustain hope for our eternal destiny, and that we can only do by the active rejection of sin in the present and the persevering practice of prayer for the future.  

Which one of you convicts Me of sin? (John 8:46)

We can, as did Jesus in the desert, turn away from temptation and reject sin in our lives by the power of His grace, in the power of His own Spirit Whom He shares with us; and in thus fighting to overcome sin in our lives we will, inevitably, practice and grow in true virtue. The acquisition of holiness, however, is not within our sphere of competence, so to speak: we cannot plan to become holy of and for ourselves, for such endeavours, be they moved by spiritual simplicity or, more likely, by spiritual ambition, by virtue of their being fatally flawed with presumption, can result in nothing more than an imitation holiness for human appreciation only.  God alone is Holy, and true holiness for a child of God is not a worldly commodity humanly conceived and fabricated, so to speak; neither is it even the faithful following of a predetermined path apparently walked by saints or taught by spiritual guides: it is a human sharing in the very nature of God, and only persevering prayer can help us toward that which is essentially His Gift alone;  and even then, such prayer is largely a matter of listening and longing, looking, waiting and aspiring, come what may.

The Holy Spirit, the Gift of God, alone can lead us to that holiness which God wants of us individually: He is the Spirit of holiness, indeed, He is the Spirit of Love, and love of Jesus, love of God, is the only truly authentic holiness for human beings.  We have to humbly and perseveringly pray for that; firmly trusting that the Father, of His great mercy and goodness, will give it to us, for Jesus' sake, in His own way and according to His own measure, not as the world or our own pride would have it.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on a day such as this, let us confidently and whole-heartedly renew our hope in His promise:

If you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?


Friday, 19 July 2013

16th Sunday of the Year (C) 2013

16th. Sunday, Year (C)

(Genesis 18:1-10; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42)

Mother Church has set before us today readings from the treasury of her Scriptures which urge us to pay careful attention to the sort of welcome we give  Jesus into our lives.  The Gospel reading told us:

Jesus entered a certain village and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.

In the first reading we were told of a theophany in which Abraham:

Looking up, he saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said: ‘Sir, if I may ask you this favour, please do not go on past your servant.  Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest yourselves under the tree.  Now that you have come this close to your servant, let me bring you a little food that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way.’ ‘Very well,’ they replied, ‘do as you have said.’

Both accounts told of a sincere welcome being given to divine and angelic visitors.   Abraham, however, was as attentive as he could possibly have been:  

He took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.

Martha, on the other hand, was not quite so whole-hearted:

Martha was burdened with much serving, and Jesus said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.’

What was Martha so anxious about?  First of all, something that perhaps she did not recognize, or would not admit had she been able to recognize it: namely, her desire not only to prepare well for Jesus, but also to be seen to prepare well, a desire not to let herself down, so to speak.  But there was something else too; after all, Jesus said that she was not only “anxious” but also "worried" about something.  Now Martha had a sister, a younger sister, Mary, and it may perhaps have been the case that Martha, being the elder, and also a dynamic sort of person, was accustomed to taking or giving a lead, and the difficulty, the "worrying" aspect for her today, was the fact that Mary was not following her lead, for we are told that:

Mary sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak.   

Consequently, it was not possible for Martha to be whole-hearted in her welcome of Jesus because she was both concerned about her own image, and, at the same time, irritated by what she considered to be her younger sister’s lack of consideration.  And so, Martha, being an honest -- even blunt -- soul, could not restrain herself from making known to Jesus what was, indeed, troubling her:

She approached 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.’

Looking again at Abraham, we see that he had been well rewarded for his hospitality and attentiveness; but not only Abraham, for Sarah too had shared fully with Abraham by preparing food for the guests in the background.    Both, therefore, had been rewarded with the promise of a son, the child for whom they had prayed long and hard but who, they had come to think, would never be theirs.   In the Gospel story, therefore, though Jesus appreciated Martha's toil and solicitude, He considered Mary's attentive love and self-forgetfulness to be of another order, and so He said in reply to Martha's complaint:

Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.

Mary’s self-less commitment to, and appreciation of, the Word that Jesus was speaking, was a choice valid for eternity and it won her a blessing that would never be revoked.   Her love for the authority and beauty of Jesus’ message caused her to forget herself; Martha, on the other hand, though she truly loved Jesus, still cherished herself dearly: she could not yet work whole-heartedly and with humility, as Sarah had done before when plagued with the thought that - by human reckoning - she was not being sufficiently appreciated.
Now we are all here at Mass to welcome Jesus -- all of us, I myself, just as much as you – and the welcome we give is, as our readings show, mysteriously significant and important.   Each of us must welcome Jesus, first of all, into our own heart, and then, all of us together, into our parish community and thereby into His universal Church, and finally - let us never forget it - through us and His Church He must be welcomed into our world:

May this sacrifice of our reconciliation, we pray, O Lord, advance the peace and salvation of all the world. 

At this moment then, the Universal Church and the whole of mankind, are, to a certain extent, relying upon us and the sort of welcome we give to Our Lord: because, the deeper, the more sincere and whole-hearted that welcome, the greater the blessing will be, for ourselves, for the Church, and for the world.

The apostle Paul, speaking to us in the second reading, said:

I became a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the Word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.

Let us now, therefore, listen carefully to him telling us something of the Word he had been sent to preach to us and for us.  It is, he says:

the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past, but now manifested to His holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. 

So, the apostle was to proclaim the mystery of Christ dwelling in all who are His faithful disciples in Mother Church: to make known the riches of this mystery by opening up our minds to the prospect of eternal glory promised by Our Lord, and our hearts to the influx of a joyous and inspiring hope through the gift of His Holy Spirit.  

The question now is, of course, what sort of welcome are you giving - even here and now - to this proclamation and explanation of the mystery of Christ at work in us through His Spirit?  For some misguided and half-hearted Catholics Mass begins and ends with Holy Communion.  Now how can such people truly welcome Christ in Holy Communion when they ignore Him in His Holy Word, having no interest in the Scriptures nor in the God-given power, privilege, and duty of Mother Church and her priests both to proclaim and to explain the mystery of Christ among us and in us?  How can they welcome into their own lives Him Whom they can't be bothered to understand in His Body, the Church?  Who can be filled with gratitude for riches of which they choose to be ignorant?

Holy Mass starts at the very beginning of our assembly when we first ask God to free us from our sins.  We do that so that we may be able to celebrate the whole Eucharistic offering aright: first of all by hearing God's word with our ears, as it is proclaimed, and then embracing it with our minds and hearts as it is appreciated and explained in the homily.  Only after having thus welcomed Christ in His Word are we rightly called and enabled to offer ourselves - in Him and with Him - in His own Eucharistic offering and sacrifice for the Father’s glory and the salvation of mankind.   Welcoming the Bread of Life Himself together with His Gift of the Holy Spirit into our very hearts and lives through Holy Communion is the consummation of our oneness with Him and the sure hope of our enduring faithfulness and fruitfulness in His work.

It is particularly important for us today, however, to give attention to the welcome we accord to the Word of God, to Jesus in the Scriptures proclaimed by Mother Church.  Commonly, these days, people want short readings and almost demand short sermons; and it nearly always raises an easy and rather cheap laugh when this attitude is made into a sort of joke: "If you can't say what you want to say in five minutes, it's not worth saying".   This was not the attitude of the early Church, as can be appreciated from the following account to be found the Acts of the Apostles of a church meeting led by Paul at Troas:

On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight.  A young man named Eutychus who was sitting on the window sill was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. Once overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and when he was picked up, he was dead.  Paul went down, threw himself upon him, and said as he embraced him, “Don‘t be alarmed; there is life in him.”  Then he returned upstairs, broke the bread, and ate; after a long conversation that lasted until daybreak, he departed.  And they took the boy away alive and were immeasurably comforted. (Acts 20:7-12)

Obviously what is prolonged for no good reason is not welcome.  But no one, having some treasured possession, is ever content to look at it, rejoice in it, or express their appreciation of it, for just once, and then never again allow himself to take further delight in it.  Now the Scriptures are like a field that contains countless hidden treasures.  If you are computer-wise you will be aware of some programmes where certain words are signalled, which, if you press on them, up pops further information, further enlightenment.  Holy Scripture is something like that.  A Scripture reading might seem, at first, to be just a long sequence of not very interesting words, phrases and sentences, but, by the grace of God, any one of those sentences or phrases, indeed almost any one of those words can be found to contain so much that is beautiful beyond measure.  Now, the only way to discover such treasures contained in the Scriptures, is not, indeed, by pressing some mechanical button, but by learning from the wisdom of Mother Church, and by entering into a personal relationship with the Spirit of Jesus, that is, by allowing the Holy Spirit, Who first inspired those sacred words, to reveal something of their meaning to you.  If you do not prayerfully approach the Scriptures yourself, if you will not hear them or listen to explanations of them with reverence and respect, then the Holy Spirit will in no way lead you to find the treasures they contain, for did not Jesus Himself once say to His Apostles (Matthew 7:6):

Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine. 

On the other hand, however, those who do reverence the Scriptures, receive a blessing from the Lord, Who, spoke through the prophet Isaiah saying:

On this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.   (Isaiah 66:2)

They are the ones who, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, discover and delight in the hidden treasures of the Scriptures; for them, the words of the Scriptures are revealed as words of life, as Jesus Himself said:

It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'   (Matthew 4:4)

That is the manna God offers us His People as He leads us through the desert of this world to our home in heaven; it is the food we need for a journey which can be long; the food meant to give us peace and joy, to be our comfort and strength, to become, indeed, our very life and fulfilment.  May all of us gathered here today be enabled to receive and experience it as such, through the loving kindness and mercy of God our Father, Jesus our Saviour, and the Holy Spirit Who is God’s Gift to each and every one of us in Mother Church.

Friday, 12 July 2013

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 2013

Fifteenth Sunday, Year C

(Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the first reading we heard:

The Word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. 

Now listen to the New Testament and recognize the difference between the Old and the New:

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14)

The first lesson almost all religions can accept, for all -- more or less -- have their own teachings which they hand down the generations with like encouragement: the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. 

And peoples thus shepherded do think that they can indeed obey that teaching -- whatever it may be -- and find the salvation promised by, for example, Mahomet, Confucius, Buddha, and many others ... they all follow the same principle: listen, learn, do, and you will find what is promised.

Moreover, in the book of Deuteronomy we heard what was promised:

Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock, and the crops of your land.   The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as He delighted in your fathers. (30:9)

Promises were made which would attract mankind: prosperity, children, success and security ... everyone can appreciate such things, most indeed want them.  Such promises were given to encourage the Chosen People to do what all mankind thinks they can do: listen to the teaching, learn from it, and then practise it.   They tried for nearly two thousand years and never succeeded:

            As it is written, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’ (Romans 3:10)

The revelationary fact is that God was leading His Chosen People – ultimately for the good of mankind -- to a previously unappreciated awareness of the human  condition and the unfathomed depth of human sinfulness; and also, thereby –  most gently and gradually -- opening their minds and hearts to an initial comprehension of the hidden presence and power of sin in mens lives and of Satan’s personal dominion over them ... before ultimately leading them to a stark and crystal-clear realization that their need for salvation and the price of their redemption could only be met by the infinite goodness, power, and faithfulness of the one true God of their fathers: ‘don’t think you have only hear the truth and you will recognise it and be able to practise it; you are in far, far greater need than that!’

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (Romans 3:10)

The Word was not just audible sounds making instructive teaching; no, the Word was a Person, the very Person of the Son of God, and Christian salvation would come from faith in Him, communion with Him:

Jesus answered, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.  (John 14:6)

And the promises made in the New Testament are not earthly joys on a bigger and grander scale, for as we learn from St. John (1:12-13):

To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God; children born not of natural descent, not of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Through faith in, communion with, Jesus, we are called, by His Spirit, to love God  our Father as His adopted children:

With all our heart and with all our soul, and with all our strength and with all our mind;

 and for the ultimate glory of the Father Who loved us and sent Him among us:

            to love our neighbour as ourself  (Luke 10:27);

that they may be made perfect in one and that the world may know that You (Father) have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me (John 17:23).

And so, People of God, let us all clearly recognise that we are not just to hear the teaching – above all the teaching of Jesus and His Church – and try to keep it ourselves, because we most certainly cannot keep it of ourselves and any attempt to do so would be thinking presumptuously of ourselves and showing no true appreciation of Jesus our Saviour.  We have to aim in all things at communion with Jesus, that is why He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist:

Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remain in Me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (John 6:53-57)

Through Jesus’ presence and His Gift of the Spirit to us in the Eucharist, and through the manifold helps provided by our sharing in the life and communion of Mother Church, we have to learn to love Him Who became a human being like us, because:

All things were created through Him and for Him and God the Father wants all things to be reconciled through Him and for Him;

as St.Paul (Colossians 1:16, 20) tells us.  And then will be fulfilled what the Psalmist (37:5-6) taught:

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this:  He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn and your cause like the noonday sun.