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, 28 November 2013

1st Sunday of Advent, Year A, 2013

1st. Sunday of Advent (A)

(Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44)

Advent has come round once again and I imagine that all of us here who are mature adults will be thinking how the time since last Christmas has flown.  I really should say the time from last Advent, but perhaps many of you would not remember the beginning of Advent last year, whereas you will certainly remember last Christmas: how the time has flown since then!!
People of God, I want you to think on that: how quickly the last year has passed by!   I ask you as disciples of Jesus to do this because it is so easy for people to live their whole life and, when it comes to an end, find themselves not only surprised -- the years having passed like a dream, as the poet puts it – but also quite unprepared for what awaits them.  That is why, in God’s Providence, the Church’s liturgy has periods of preparation – Advent and Lent -- that recur annually and thereby remind us: “Look, another year has gone by!   How many more do you think you have?  You need to prepare yourself.”

Why do we need to prepare ourselves this Advent for the coming of the Lord?  After all, most people today, probably the great majority in our supposedly ‘sophisticated’ countries which control the world’s purse strings, think that there is no God worth bothering about: if He is there, it doesn’t really concern us because we are very busy and He is very good and kind, or so Church people say; They must say that, of course; they cannot proclaim an unpopular God; He has to be good, kind, and forgiving … otherwise we, and all the others like us, won’t be going to Church again!!  So, what do we need to prepare for, and why do we need to prepare for it?

Dear Catholic and Christian people, let us first of all be very clear about one  supremely important fact:


orgies and drunkenness, promiscuity and lust, rivalry and jealousy as St. Paul told us, and that unpreparedness  of which Jesus Himself spoke in today’s Gospel:

For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.    They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.   Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 

So many want to die without having to think about religious matters on earth or about their eternal future in the world to come: they want to be happy and carefree concerning such matters because they like to think that GOD IS TOO GOOD TO PUNISH ANYONE JUST FOR BEING CAREFREE AND IGNORANT OF HIM.

Today’s readings serve to protect us wonderfully well against such folly, against such EVIL, by reminding us of the ultimate significance of our life here on earth and how supremely important it is for us to make good use of the time at our disposal.  

The first main theme of our readings is the joyful expectations of those pilgrims going up to the Temple in Jerusalem:

Come, let us climb the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may instruct us in His ways, and we may walk in His paths.

We can almost feel the excitement and anticipation of those pilgrims journeying to meet Him Who, they most firmly believe, will guide them along the way of salvation.  And surely, our sharing in such a God-given belief, such a hope and longing, stirs up in us a like determination and confidence as that which filled the breasts of those ancient pilgrims, who walked along, exhorting each other with the words:

            Oh, House of Jacob come, let us walk In the light of the LORD. 

Compared with them, we are -- as St. Peter said -- a privileged People, for we have already, and in a far truer sense than those pilgrims could ever have imagined, reached Jerusalem, the dwelling-place of the Most High, because we have the privilege of being children of Mother Church.  For, in her, the letter to the Hebrews (12:22-24) tells us:

You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant. 

Therefore, being so privileged, we should come -- each and every Sunday -- with even greater joy and expectation to the house of the Lord,

            that He may instruct us in His ways, and we may walk in His paths.

Let us therefore pray now, gathered before the Lord, that we may indeed grow in understanding of His ways and learn to walk more steadfastly along His paths, in accordance with the second theme of our readings today:

Stay awake!   For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

For, not only do we not know the day of the Lord’s coming, but we have even been warned -- quite explicitly by Our Lord Himself -- that it will take place when we least expect it:

For, at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.   

St. Paul, that most faithful apostle of the Lord Jesus, told us what this means for us, and how we might set about doing what Jesus requires of us in preparation for that meeting:

It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light;  let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh. 

We human beings are creatures of habit: we can do something one way, and then, by repetition, allow it to become first of all a tendency for us, and then finally develop into a firmly fixed habit that we do almost instinctively.  Now, in God’s Providence, the liturgy of Mother Church each year invites, indeed, urges us, to observe Advent as preparation for our celebration of Christmas not merely with deep gratitude for the birth of the Messiah as the Infant of Promise but also with firm hope and joyful preparation for His Second Coming as the Lord of Fulfilment. She does this because, without repeated observance of such seasons of preparation, we might easily, indeed almost inevitably, drift into a habit of unthinking and – at the best -- merely material observance of feasts of great moment for the Spirit at work in our lives, instead of establishing a truly Christian habit of preparation that will enable us to appreciate, celebrate, and profit ever more and more, from the ever enduring and constantly recurring goodness of the Lord.

Consequently, People of God, I urge you to use this Advent well: try to form a habit of welcoming the Lord into your life.  We have a month in which to start a new habit, or in which to strengthen a habit we have already been trying to build up over several, perhaps many, years.  The whole point is that if we do not have a habit of recognizing, welcoming, and gratefully responding to Jesus, a habit diligently practised and firmly established over years, then when He comes, unexpectedly, at the end of our days, we will find ourselves unable to welcome Him.  For, be sure, People of God, one cannot live a forgetful life and then, when suddenly challenged, come out with the right response of appreciation and love.  
This is of great importance not only for us but with the Lord Himself, for He has quite deliberately and explicitly told us that His coming at the end will be unexpected, and so there will be no time to collect our thoughts and weigh up what should be our attitude; we will find ourselves responding instinctively, at that unprepared moment, either in accordance with the character we have carefully built up by faithful devotion over the years, or with that thoughtlessness and insouciance allowed to develop over years of selfish, careless, and faithless living.  And that response will, for better or for worse, prove to be our final response and our last opportunity: a violent person, under pressure, will react violently; a weak-willed person, under threat, will be craven; a faithless disciple will always prove himself a hypocrite.   No wonder Jesus said (v. 46):

Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing (his duty) when He comes. 

Recognize yourselves, People of God: sudden trials, sudden and unexpected threats, leave neither the time nor the ability to act in an unaccustomed manner; in order to be found doing the Master's will when He comes we need to have seriously formed good habits and right instinctive attitudes.  Advent is an opportunity given us by Mother Church to try to establish the supremely good habit of recognizing and welcoming the Lord into our lives this Christmas.  Therefore, the way we prepare during the course of this Advent could be the mirror image of our state of preparedness when He comes – suddenly -- to settle accounts with each of us personally at the end of our time of preparation and formation in Mother Church.  

In Psalm 53 we read:

God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God;

and, according to the Psalmist, He found none:

Every one of them has turned aside; there is none who does good, no, not one.  They do not call upon God.

That was the situation, even in Israel, before Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, came to redeem us; and that is still the situation of many today who turn away from, reject, Jesus.  They do not acknowledge God; they do not seek or call upon Him; they have not understood the probationary nature of their life experience on earth, where both the wonder of God’s creation – so beautiful with all its natural powers and sublime human potential -- and the depth of mankind’s needs seem to be so impenetrable and irreconcilable for them.
So, dear People of God, use Advent to prepare yourself to welcome Jesus not only this coming Christmas but whenever He might choose to stand at the door of your soul and knock.  Try to recognize all those occasions, both great and small, clear and only glimpsed at, where truth and beauty, goodness and love, sympathy and help, power and fragility, fear and wonder, impinge on your consciousness and invite you to respond to God sensed, somehow, to be present there; and may your Advent character of awareness and appreciation, gratitude and trust, peace and joy help the Spirit further Jesus’ Kingdom of faith, hope, and charity in your souls.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Christ the King 2013

CHRIST THE KING (2013)                

 (2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43)


There was a time when Jesus asked His disciples what people were thinking about Him:

Who do men say that I am?

They answered saying that people thought Him to be one of the former prophets back on earth.

Shortly afterwards, however, at His crucifixion, there was, as we heard in the Gospel reading, a public proclamation, made by the highest authority in the land for all peoples to read, concerning the identity of Jesus:

An inscription was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

The distinguishing mark for membership of the Jewish nation was, of course, circumcision, or so the Jews of Jesus’ time thought.  St. Paul, however, in his letter to the Philippians (3:3), tells us that circumcision of the flesh is not the true circumcision:

For we are the circumcision, we who worship through the Spirit of God, who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in flesh.

Or, as another version puts it:

We who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.
And the Jews of old -- those of the fleshly circumcision -- showed its provisional and ultimately false character by their rejection of Jesus as their King:

          We have no king but Caesar!

Are we, then, who are of the true circumcision, Christians and Catholics, quite sure that Jesus the Messiah is, indeed, King for us personally, our King, my King?  That question is of the utmost importance, for the Kingship of Christ would seem to be the supreme criterion for the true People of God, the true disciples of the One sent by God as their Messiah and Saviour, the true children of God. We, Catholics and Christians, ascribe the word ‘King’ to Jesus, but what do we mean by that word, is our understanding of it in tune with that of the Scriptures, of God’s Holy Word?

That He is a King, there is no doubt:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.”   (Matthew 27:11)
Jesus was very careful in His reply because the Jews wanted to have Him put to death by the Romans for treasonable activities and royal aspirations, and so He did not directly use the word ‘King’ as the High Priest was provoking Him to do, for that word had a predominantly political import for Roman ears. Yet, neither could Jesus deny the word, since it had too much meaning in the historical, and too much significance for spiritual, development and expectations of Israel.  Therefore, He chose to accept its scriptural content and aspirations while rejecting its political implications by respectfully answering the High Priest of Israel with his own words:
          You (who are this day High Priest in Israel) say so.
Today, however, there is some doubt about whether or not He is our King: do we indeed accept Him as such?  What does that word “King” mean for us?  We can use the word, but do we give it its true, scriptural, meaning?  Are we aware of, do we accept in our lives, the full meaning of “King” when we say “Jesus is our King”?
Well, we are aware, first of all, of the splendour and power of kings; for in this our country we are still privileged to see and be able to appreciate something of that most ancient, imposing and impressive, and even -- perhaps to a small degree – inspiring, regal office and function.  And, in that regard, Jesus yields to no one, as St. Paul makes abundantly clear when telling us of Jesus’ power and splendour:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
We can indeed be proud of, we can glory in, our King; no other earthly king could ever compare with Him.  On that account, we certainly are inspired to claim that “Jesus is King, our King”.
However, as we continue with this examination of the meaning of the word King we recognize in it not only power and majesty, but also authority … for there is no doubt that a king has always been thought to have authority over his subjects.  Do we now want to proclaim so loudly that Jesus is King over us?  Do we -- who so readily and enthusiastically recognize His splendour and glory, His wisdom and might – accept, with similar enthusiasm, that He has authority over us and the way we should live our lives?  Many claim to be Christians -- thereby acclaiming Christ as their King -- but do they, in fact, want to bask only in certain reflected aspects of His glory, without considering themselves in any significant way as being subject to His authority?  There are many so-called Catholics who want to accept Jesus as king in the style of our democratic monarchy: with pomp and circumstance indeed, and with no little popular support and respect, but without any real authority.  
However, that is not the style of kingship recognized in the Bible, such was not the leader that the people of Israel wanted; their king had authority (1 Samuel 8:19-20):
The people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.
And in the very beginning, at the birth of the People of God, the leaders, Moses and Joshua were not called kings, but their authority was very real:
All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death.  (Joshua 1:16-18)
The people of Israel said: “Wherever you send us we will go.”  ‘Wherever’ meant ‘wherever on the way to the Promised Land’, for that was what had been promised them, the Promised Land, their true homeland and ultimate resting place: wherever you command us to go as we journey towards that Promised Land we will go.
Today, however, there are so-called Christians who have no desire, let alone hunger, for the heavenly destiny offered to all who commit themselves, through faith in Jesus Christ, to the Father’s plan of salvation; they have lost their vision of a promised land because passing pleasures in the desert of this present world have distracted their minds and seduced their hearts.
In ancient Israel some tribes had entered the land Promised to their forebears and into their own personal inheritance before crossing the Jordan, but they were not allowed to rest on their territory -- with their families, cultivating their land, and gathering their crops. No, they had to cross over with all the rest of their brethren and fight with them until they too could enter into their inheritance promised by the Lord, the God of Israel.
Today, far too many nominal Catholics and Christians want to settle for what they have got now, they want to satiate themselves with the seemingly endless pleasures this world – or our privileged part of the world -- seems to offer them; or else they have weighed themselves down with cares that suffocate and blind them to all else.  Such disciples are not necessarily against the glory and the splendour of a King they can understand and rejoice in: one appreciated and praised by all for his goodness and wisdom, his humility and sympathy in his dealings with the underprivileged of his time; indeed, many of them would accept a King who, as heavenly Lord, is able to give them spiritual comfort and joy as they participate in the holy atmosphere and liturgical splendour of the Church.  What they cannot accept, however, is One Who has the authority whereby He might refuse to let them rest in the pleasures and plenty of earthly possessions and passions, just as the Israelites of old were not immediately allowed to rest on the other side of the Jordan; One Who will not allow them to succumb to whatever would stifle their aspirations towards the attainment of God’s promises, just as Israel had to constantly resist and struggle against her many enemies.
Joshua (another form of the name Jesus) had been told by the people, may the Lord be with you; only be strong and courageous; that is, given that the Lord our God is with you, and that you show yourself strong and courageous, we will follow you through whatever trials will bring us into the Promised Land.  Was Jesus strong and courageous in His life and in His death?  Was the Lord, His Father, with Him in His Resurrection?  Indeed Jesus was all that could be wanted of a leader of God’s People.  And yet, despite all that, for many today the obedience due to the authority of Christ is withheld and has become the litmus test for true discipleship.

 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.

When lifted up on the Cross Jesus will draw all those whom the Father gives Him to Himself (John 12:32).
The obedience of the Cross is indeed the criterion for distinguishing true disciples from those who are false; those whom the Father has called, from those who have come to Jesus, not out of obedience to the Father’s call, but out of other motives, worldly, selfish, and faithless motives.
People of God, Jesus Christ is King, our King; and we must give true obedience to His kingly authority over our lives if we want to share in the beauty and truth, the goodness  and glory, the splendour, majesty, and power of His Kingdom.  The promise has been made to us; the opportunity is here for us; and we are fully equipped for the journey; indeed, we already have a beginning of the fulfilment awaiting us, for today’s rejoicing in our King should give us some faint inkling and joyful foretaste of the glory and bliss that are to come. 
          Thy will be done that Thy Kingdom may come, Lord Jesus.

Friday, 15 November 2013

33rd Sunday of Year C 2013

33rd. Sunday of Year (C)

(Malachi 3:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19)

After forewarning His disciples of the trials and persecutions which lay in store for them and which would bring them to the same end as He Himself was soon to suffer, Jesus added: 

            That will be your opportunity to bear witness.  

That is, the whole wretched process of misunderstanding, rejection, hatred, persecution, and arrest etc., would not be simply the result of some blind chance, nor even, ultimately, the outcome of human perverseness or opposition … no, the dark threatening clouds would assemble over the heads of the disciples with God’s permission, indeed, as part of His plan for them: That will be your opportunity to bear witness.

Moreover, corresponding to the life or death atmosphere of the situation in which they find themselves will be the measure of God’s grace given to the disciples: as the waters of destruction -- the swelling tide of hatred and the threatening waves of violence -- appear on every hand and mount up against them, when, that is, the time for their witness, their opportunity, is at hand, they will be lifted up on the wings of God’s word and wisdom, for they will not be simply helped to defend the Good News of their proclamation, but Jesus Himself will both defend them and, through them, demonstrate the Gospel’s divine truth and power:

I Myself will give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict.

Therefore the disciples must be able to forget themselves and trust completely in the Lord:

Keep this carefully in mind: You are not to prepare your defence.

They must commit themselves entirely to the Spirit of God in the Church Who will give them -- in a way entirely of His own choosing however, and one which may be imperceptible to they themselves at the time -- the necessary eloquence to utter His wisdom, despite their personal inadequacy and possible feelings of natural anxiety.
This belief and appreciation, that Christ is ever with His Church and, through His Spirit, guiding her unfailingly -- that His Spirit seeks to guide all living members of the Body of Christ and may, indeed, be guiding us personally, here and now, for God’s purposes -- that is an essential part of Christian self-awareness in Mother Church, but it is not something to be presumed, imitated, or ‘put on’.
In the realm of classical instrumental music, extemporisations on and development of a given theme can be of the highest inspiration and technical excellence; and for a classical singer it is also supremely desirable to be able to sing the author’s words and the composer’s music (not some personal version thereof) ‘from the heart’, that is, without the direct supervision of mental scrutiny.  Of course that ‘heart’ needs to have been previously formed in accordance with the requirements of careful attention to vocal technique, sensitivity of emotional expression, and a close observance of life; that is, it has to be a seriously and surely ‘disciplined’ heart.   For the concert performance, however, all that is best presumed, in order that the performance itself might be a ‘living event and experience’ thanks to the unmistakable, though intangible, beauty and truth of ‘artless’ (!) spontaneity.

Now, the witness of Christians to Christ is something of that nature.  It is not, ultimately, a matter of expressing -- emotionally and/or intellectually -- a merely human appreciation of, or response to, Jesus; it is a matter of bearing authentic and more-than-natural witness to Jesus the Christ, and to the Church’s proclamation of His Gospel.  And this calling, this invitation, to bear such witness, is not for anybody to snatch for themselves (so to speak, ‘out of the blue’), it is promised, in our Gospel reading, to those disciples only who have been with Jesus throughout His public ministry and who are prepared to suffer with Him, for Him.  That means for us today, that one can only hope to rely on, trust in, commit oneself to, the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God, on the basis of a true and wholehearted conversion to Christ -- a life of faith not to be measured in years but in sincerity and commitment, lived with Him and under His discipline -- and at the call and instigation of circumstances not of our own choosing.

In the Old Testament we are told that the Lord had wanted Moses to go and speak to the People of Israel enslaved in Egypt and to Pharaoh himself, with a message from the Lord.

But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent.  I am slow of speech and of tongue.

Moses was painfully aware – obviously from previous experience – of his inability to express himself with ease and fluency, and was afraid, above all, that he might ‘make a fool of himself’ before the mighty ruler of ancient Egypt, prove to be an embarrassment for the People of Israel, and fail the Lord Himself most miserably.

Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now, therefore, go, and I will be your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.  (Exodus, 4:10ff.)

Likewise, in today’s Gospel reading we heard that only when the disciples’ situation became most desperate, betrayed by relatives and friends and arraigned as helpless captives before:

            Kings and governors, (and) hated by all men on account of My name,

were they to hope for and trust in the ‘Gift’ of God’s saving intervention and inspiring help.

In a similar fashion, only when we have experienced and humbly accepted our own measure of helplessness and personal nothingness, only when we are – as  best we know -- dead to self-glory and seeking but God’s will, can we humbly hope for and confidently trust in God’s supplying grace.

This personal awareness and acceptance of one’s own nothingness is not something to be acquired ‘a priori’, that is, from merely intellectual considerations; it has to be real and must normally be learnt from experience which, though found painful, has been humbly and gratefully accepted from God’s hand.  Moreover, and most obviously, we cannot hope that God’s grace -- His most Holy Spirit -- will be with us to support and guide us, if we seek to specify the time and choose the occasion for His intervention! 

Throughout the Christian life there is a most delicate balance between a God-graced mistrust of self and a like confidence in God … if either one developes without the other, unilaterally, there will result inevitable and deep distortion, dangerous error and disillusionment.

The true, exemplary, source of a life-sustaining-and-promoting balance is to be found in Christ, the God-man alone: He assumed our lowliness in order that He might bestow on us a share in His own divine prerogatives.  Let us ask Him therefore, as we proceed with this Mass, that in Him and together with Him we might come to share His death to the flesh and to participate in His risen life by the Spirit.  Let us receive the pledge of eternal life which He has left to us, His own most precious Body and Blood, with hearts truly humbled and contrite in the acknowledgement of our own sinfulness and poverty, and thereby sincerely opened up to, and ever more desirous of, the infusion of His most Holy Spirit into our lives, for His greater glory and our ever-greater proximity to, understanding of, and love for, the Father in Christ Jesus Our Lord.