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, 27 September 2013

26th Sunday in Year C 2013

 26th.Sunday (Year C)

(Amos 6: 1, 4-7; 1 Timothy 6: 11-16; Luke 16: 19-31)

The rich man – let us give him the traditional name Dives which is simply Latin for ‘rich’ – was a family man, he cared about his brothers; nevertheless he was in hell because he cared only for his family.  He could have helped Lazarus in his most dire need, but never did; perhaps he never thought of it; however, that would not have excused him because he should have given some thought to Lazarus’ great need, at his very gate.  Perhaps he ignored Lazarus because he was simply impervious to and unaware of him, being totally wrapped up in himself and in the present enjoyment and future anticipation of his own pleasures and plenty; if so, that would have greatly increased his guilt. 

However, Dives’ lack of charity is not the point I wish to dwell on today, for I think the answer Abraham gave to Dives’ concern for his brothers has much that can be of profit to us who are seeking to become better disciples of Jesus.

If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

We should recognize, of course, that Jesus is speaking though Abraham’s name is used in the parable, and so, the ‘someone rising from the dead’ is ultimately Jesus Himself; and thus, the parable gives us a remarkable instance of the continuity between the old and the new in God’s dealings with His chosen people.

Moses and the Prophets were sent to the Chosen People of Israel to convict them of their sinfulness by the offer of worldly salvation -- originally from the slavery of Egypt, and then, through subsequent ages, from the belligerent opposition and persecutions of surrounding nations and ‘world’ powers – subject to their humble acknowledgement of, and faithful response to, not only the formative justice of God’s Law in their regard but also to the paternal warmth and sympathetic awareness expressed in the human words of God’s chosen prophets.

Jesus, however, came not to convict, but to invite and to save.  He called for disciples in the name of His Father, the God of Israel; inviting them -- as Son -- by the very beauty and goodness of His Person and His truth, to love and learn repentance, as did Peter (Luke 5:8) when, making a remarkable catch of fish:

He fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.’

Thus were they to find and share, in their heavenly Father’s home, an eternal salvation, to be won by the power of Jesus’ self-sacrificing love for God and man. 

‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets’ ... Why should they not listen to them?  In so far as they would not accept their conviction as sinners, they could not listen to, that is, embrace and respond aright to, Moses and the Prophets; with the result that, through indifference they ignored, or else, through pride and self-love, they rejected, such admonitions and warnings as were given them.

How then could they possibly accept even the most loving invitation and call of Jesus, a self-sacrificing (how they hated such a thought!) Son of Man and of God; One willing to die (though, indeed, on their behalf and for their sins) before taking up His life again in accordance with His Father’s command?

Neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

In the history of the Church there have been many who have welcomed or sought extraordinary ‘spiritual’ experiences; not necessarily experiences of someone rising from the dead, but certainly something out of the ordinary and something they could experience and perhaps lead or induce others to experience it (or seek to experience it) too.  That is how so many of the religious sects which abound in the world today first began.  Finding the traditional Church too boring, having too little devotion and too much formality, being too institutionalised, or whatever the fault or the criticism might have been, they sought new and ‘spiritual’ experiences outside the Church.  And then that sect, in its turn, became, inevitably, more of an institution, with greater organization and less spontaneity in the eyes of critics, who were dissatisfied thereat and once more went off, on their own, in search of, or following after, personal experiences; and soon, another sect, an offshoot this time from a previous sect, was born.  There are literally hundreds and possibly thousands of such Christian sects (and no doubt Muslim, Hindu etc. sects) in the world today.  

One could say, perhaps, that the indifference of the many who refused (or just failed) to listen to Moses and the Prophets in old Israel, and of the many ‘nominal only’ Catholics and Christians in the world today, is really the popular, ordinary, manifestation of perennial and pervading dissatisfaction; not only with religion, but also with whatever is considered as institutionalised; indeed with life itself.

Dissatisfaction, however, can be found a great blessing rather than a great temptation or subtle sickness; but, if it is to turn out as God’s work, the true nature of such dissatisfaction must be closely observed and humbly recognized.  Dissatisfaction with oneself can be the source of untold blessings from God; dissatisfaction directed against the Church and ones’ brothers and sisters in the Faith is the devil’s work; dissatisfaction with ‘institutions’ and/or with life itself is probably incipient or rampant sickness, unless it is the result of sufferings endured, indeed, but not in any way humbly accepted or positively ‘absorbed’.

God-given dissatisfaction with one’s own self in the Church, whilst recognizing that the Church herself is God’s gift, guided and protected by His Spirit, can force us to seek to delve deeper into that Spirit-guided teaching which the Church proclaims, can constrain us to approach more seriously and sincerely the Sacraments whereby the Spirit flows into our lives, and in so doing can lead us to change our own attitudes, overcome our own lassitude and half-heartedness, and enable us to see more and more of the true beauty and glory of God’s wisdom in the Church’s teaching and learn something of the presence and power of the Spirit Who alone can raise us up to more intimate life in and with Christ. 

In the Church we have indeed Moses and the Prophets, but we have more, much more: we have Jesus, the Christ and the beloved, only-begotten, Son of God, Who, through His Apostles and in the power of His Holy Spirit, still speaks to us today.  If we do not listen to Him and learn from His Spirit, no miracle, no extraordinary ‘spiritual’ experience can be of any help. 

Do you feel dissatisfied, unfulfilled, in your life as a Christian in Mother Church at times?  Let that feeling be a blessing from God by recognizing it as dissatisfaction with yourself, and as a call from the Father for you to turn, away from yourself, to Christ, His Son, your Saviour:

In Whom (Colossians 2:3) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;

a call to seek a deeper personal relationship with Him, to understand and love ever more and more, His words brought to mind in their integrity by the Spirit in Mother Church’s teaching; for that has always been the prayer of Paul and the  Apostles:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling (of you), what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (showing what He can make of you), and what is the surpassing greatness of His power (to protect and prosper you) toward us who believe.  (Ephesians 1:18-19)

Beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on you guard lest, being carried away the error of unprincipled men, you fall from you own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.  (2 Peter 3:17-18)

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

26th Sunday of Year C 2010

26th Sunday Year (C)

(Amos 6:1, 4-7; 1st. Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the readings given us by Mother Church today we are presented with some strong word-pictures made all the more striking by their resemblance to modern-day excesses in our Western society:
Woe to the complacent in Zion!  Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!    Improvising to the music of the harp, like David, they devise their own accompaniment. They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils.
St. Paul had that sort of life-style in mind when, earlier in the letter from which our second reading was taken, he taught his converts:
Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and a trap, and into many foolish and harmful desires which plunge them into ruin and destruction; for the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.   But you, man of God, avoid all this.  Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Compete well for the faith; lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called. 
This same theme was taken up again in our Gospel reading, where Jesus, in His parable of a luxuriant rich man with a poor beggar at his gate, names the poor man Lazarus but gives no name to the rich man, almost as if He was too disgusted to dignify with an honourable name one leading such a life:
There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and         dined sumptuously each day, and lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores which the dogs used to come and lick.
Jesus brought His parable to its climax after both the rich man (whom we have traditionally referred to as ‘Dives’ from the Latin word meaning ‘rich’) and Lazarus had died, thereby revealing to us where such revelling in luxury and pleasures ultimately leads:
The rich man cried out: ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.  Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am suffering torment in these flames.'  Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime, while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here whereas you are tormented.’
Why did Jesus give a parable with Abraham as the heavenly figure?  Perhaps, because He was, at that time, speaking to some Pharisees; for earlier we are told:
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, derided Jesus. (Luke 16:14)
It would seem, therefore, that Jesus was saying to them: ‘You who trust in your descent from Abraham and yet love money so much, it is not I who will ultimately condemn your behaviour.  No, it will be Abraham -- in whom you trust and boast -- whom you will find both unwilling and unable to help you when you come to reap your retribution of punishment for pleasure and humiliation for pride.’  For Jesus has Abraham answer Lazarus’ appeal on behalf of his brothers, with the words:
            They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.
Once again, in another confrontational encounter with certain Pharisees, Jesus invokes Moses in much the same way as today He mentions Abraham:
Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you -- Moses, in whom you trust, for he wrote about me. (John 5:45)
So, attacking His pharisaic adversaries root and branch – proud descendants of Abraham and dedicated adherents to the Law of Moses – all who heard Jesus learned that those who would give their lives over to selfish pride, pleasure, and plenty, would ultimately pay the price, no matter who they might now seem to be.
Moreover, notice how, in the parable, Abraham explained the situation to Dives:
My child, remember that you received what was good (from God) during your lifetime, while Lazarus likewise received what was bad (from men); but now he is comforted here whereas you are tormented.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, those words are also for us.  The God we worship is holy and just, and the gifts He gives us are -- all of them -- good, they are all blessings: strength or beauty, intellectual or physical capabilities, attractive personality or strength of character, a sensitive and understanding nature or an independent and courageous spirit.  But if, in the course of our earthly life, we choose to put these good things to sinful use -- be it by totally absorbing ourselves in personal enjoyment of them as did our rich man (why should we name him?) who never even noticed Lazarus lying at his gate in abject poverty, or by diverting them from their original and primal purpose of giving glory to God and service to society -- into instruments for personal aggrandizement and individual advantage, then such misuse will meet with sure punishment after death.  Strength is debased by the bully and the thug, beauty is sullied by the siren or the tart; intelligence is abused by the criminal and personal charm betrayed by the fraudster.
Mother Church and our society have suffered long from the gentle-Jesus people who have made our Christian, Catholic, faith at times seem spineless, toothless, and totally unable to inspire or challenge anyone.  And yet, just as, in the Old Testament, there was no way back for Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of pottage, even though he pleaded with tears to his father Isaac; so too, in Jesus' New Testament parable, there is no repeal for Dives in hell, not even a hearing for his prayer on behalf of his brothers.
Money, of itself, is not evil; but it is, as Jesus said, ‘a tainted thing’.  Jesus spoke of money in that way because, for the most part, the making of much money comes from dishonest practices and leads to sinful indulgence.  But for an age such as ours, where ideals are so low and worldly goods seem so attractive, we should perhaps allow as much as we can and condemn only what it totally unacceptable.   Therefore let me simply repeat the Christian and Catholic teaching: money and money-making are not intrinsically evil; indeed, honest making of money can bring the great blessing of employment for others, while money personally possessed can be used to benefit others in need, as Jesus Himself had just said:
Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. (Luke 16:9)
Nevertheless, People of God, we Catholics should not allow ourselves to be deceived neither should we deceive ourselves: a life spent trying to get, enjoy, and pile up money, is an evil life. Some, there are, who -- vaguely recognizing this in the vestiges of their conscience -- try, by token gestures and chosen words, to deceive both themselves and others; however, to these Jesus says:
You justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.  (v. 15)
There are others, less devious perhaps, but more pathetic, who like to think there is safety in numbers; and who, clinging to that gentle-Jesus sort of attitude I mentioned before, cloud their minds with such thoughts as: "Surely all those other people can't be condemned!"  The answer is, of course, that we do not know who or how many will be condemned, but we do know for certain that Jesus once said:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
People of God, we are a people whose recent development is marked out clearly by the changes in our appreciation and understanding of the Latin word "caritas” and our translation of it as “charity".  "Charity" originally meant heavenly love; it was God-given and was inimitable.  The word was then changed to "love", and it’s meaning was understood, first of all, as noble human love, the love of friendship  and married love; then, because a downward slope easily becomes slippery, the word ‘love’ in popular use gradually came to signify the sexual expression of all sorts of human relationships, even the most aberrant. Finally today, it is used to designate any and every emotional exuberance: be it that of parents who ‘let their children decide for themselves’ in all things; or of the abortionists ever willing to indulge any weeping prospective-mother by having her child pay for her ‘mistakes’; or of those promoting the right to assisted death for the sick and elderly regardless of the threat such a ‘right’ could easily become for others selfishly considered ‘old and useless’.  For all such people the words discipline, self-control, sacrifice, patience, trust, and supremely, faithfulness, are almost dirty words, said to be unsympathetic and inhuman, certainly inadmissible and totally unacceptable as descriptions of a way of life. 
You justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
People of God, we should try to appreciate our Faith -- in the integrity of its truth and beauty, its strength and sheer goodness -- ever more and more.  We should try to appreciate it better in order that we might come to love it more, indeed with our whole mind, heart, soul, and strength, so that we might give it free and full expression in our lives by refusing to accommodate ourselves to that pervading shallowness of modern society which, for so many, smothers the true light of faith and the real beauty of love, just as it enervates the sure strength of self-discipline and the deep joy of self-sacrifice.                                                                                                                       

Friday, 20 September 2013

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2013

 25th. Sunday, Year (C)

(Amos 8: 4-7; 1 Timothy 2: 1-8; Luke 16:1-13)

If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?  And if you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?

Those are words more easily read than pondered; but surely, we are right to hope that, coming from the lips of our Blessed Lord, they will prove well-worth whatever care and attention we can manage to give them.

Dishonest wealth would seem to be best understood according to the words of a previous parable of Our Lord:

The land of a rich man produced abundantly.  And he thought to himself, ‘I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.’  But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life is being demanded of you; and these things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.  (Luke 12:16-21)

Wealth did indeed speak dishonestly to that rich man; but the parable also told us something about true wealth which, it said, makes a man rich towards God.

We find the same teaching in the book of Revelation (3:17-18):

You say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’  You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  Buy from me gold that is refined by fire so that you may be rich.

The rich man’s wealth may also be considered as ‘dishonest’ in so far as one person accumulates a great amount and considers it as exclusively ‘his’, whereas, the world and all its resources were originally given, provided, by God for the good of all mankind.
And so we have gathered some light for an understanding of the first part of our original quote:

If you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? 

Which means, Will God trust you with true wealth?  That is, will God trust you who give such credence to the blandishments of dishonest wealth -- relax, eat, drink, and be merry – and for which He has just declared you to be a Fool, will He trust you with true wealth?  Of course not. 

And now Our Lord’s words go on immediately to speak of that true wealth:

If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, will God give you what is yours? 

 Here the words speak of spiritual blessings and heavenly rewards, rewards that God alone ‘gives’ (note the new word, no longer ‘trusts’ -- for a time and on the way --  but ‘gives’ so that it becomes eternally ‘yours’);  and those words, what belongs to another, refer to blessings that lead to, bring about, win for us, God’s giving: blessings and graces that belong to Christ, being the fruit of His teaching, won by His suffering, Death and Resurrection, and bestowed upon us by His Spirit of Truth, Love, and Life. 

If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with (the) dishonest wealth (of worldly riches),  will (God) trust you with true wealth (that would make you rich towards Himself)?  And if you are not trustworthy with what belongs to Jesus, will (God) give you what (would indeed be yours eternally, in and as a member of, Jesus)?

But, finally, how can one be trustworthy with dishonest wealth?

Because wealth -- as such -- is not intrinsically and necessarily dishonest.   It is indeed, always dangerous:

I tell you, Jesus said, it is easier for a camel to pass the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.  (Matthew 19:24)

Nevertheless, our Gospel passage today speaks of the possibility of such trustworthiness because the essential dishonesty of riches comes when, as we have mentioned, their possessor is possessed by such riches and allows them to most truly make a fool of him: treating them as the ultimate aim of his life, or himself as their exclusive owner.  Therefore, we can perhaps finally, for today’s purposes, understand our Gospel reading in the following way:

If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with (the dangerously) dishonest wealth (of worldly riches), will (God) trust you with true wealth (that would make you rich towards Himself)?  And if you are not trustworthy with (such true wealth that) belongs to Jesus, will (God) give you what (could be) yours (now and for ever, in Jesus)?

Let us now sum up what we have profitably learnt from our endeavours to understand, rightly appreciate, and profit from, Our Lord’s words to us this Sunday.

It is possible for a Christian to have riches and prove trustworthy in his use of them, but that can only be done by using such wealth for Christian purposes for the good of others (cf. St. Anthony the Great and his young sister); however, it would seem, that for one aspiring to become most close to God, as was the case with the rich young man who approached Jesus in the Gospel story, then such riches might have to be set aside all together for love of God Himself.

Next we should consider how the rich man in today’s Gospel reading delighted in his wealth:

The land of a rich man produced abundantly.  And he thought to himself, ‘I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.’

So too, People of God, we should delight in the graces of God that enable us to work sincerely for the coming of His Kingdom and for the attainment of our own God-given share in it.   We should, most certainly, recognize and rejoice in God’s present goodness to us on our way, and unashamedly show our gratitude, not only by steady perseverance, but also by wholehearted thanksgiving.

And now, how awe-inspiring are those final words for our consideration:

            Who will give you what is yours? or better, God will give you what is yours.

Such is the wonder of God’s goodness to all who strive to walk with Christ -- according to His words, in the power and under the inspiration of His Spirit, for the ultimate love of His Father – that all those spiritual blessings and gifts we have been using throughout our years of Christian endeavour actually form us in Christ so that we – in heaven – are no longer our fragile and faulty selves as on earth but, as God originally planned, our sublime and glorious selves in Jesus, ‘other Christs’ indeed, as the Good News puts it:

God will give us what is (become) OURS in Jesus,

with the result that our whole being will thrill before, and respond to, the majestic beauty, goodness, and truth, of God with absolute and total, filial and divine, spontaneity and fulness.