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, 30 January 2014

The Presentation of the Lord 2014 Year A

        The Presentation of the Lord   
                          2014 Year A

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.   

Mary did not just have to fulfil that dictate of the Lord as did every other mother of a new-born son in Israel; she was not even merely called to make most special thanksgiving for such a miraculous Gift as her virgin-born Son; she was, in fact, being called upon to thank God in the name of the whole human race for sending His very own Son as one of us: come to free us from the original sin of Adam and Eve with its ensuing bondage to Satan -- that is, from sin and death -- and to open up heaven’s portals once again for us with the prospect of eternal beatitude as sons in the Son called to the marriage feast of the Lamb in the Kingdom of the Father.

However, such a bare statement of the immense responsibility resting upon the young virgin from Nazareth is not adequate for you to understand sufficiently the supernatural significance and spiritual beauty of what was taking place.  

The Lord of all creation -- the magnitude of which, being revealed to us daily ever more and more by the Hubble Space Telescope and Voyager Spacecraft, defies our comprehension -- the All-Mighty One, and God of Israel’s ancient fathers, the All-Holy One enthroned in the highest heavens and worshipped by all the angelic hosts … He Himself had risen in divine majesty, wisdom and love, to help and to save mankind, because He had originally made and formed it in His very own image and likeness.  He had come to rescue it from the degradation, stain and stink of sin, from the hubris of Lucifer’s personal pride mirrored in the Eve’s deliberate choice of the delightful and seductive fruit, and Adam’s pathetic compliance with his wife to the forgetfulness of His God.  

If God had come with pomp and power to destroy Satan and his hoards, that would at least have manifested to angels and to men something of His incomparable glory, and the irresistible power of His holiness.  But He did not do that.  He took our plight and the hubris of Satan so seriously that, in order to totally condemn Lucifer and most lovingly reclaim what was His alone, He divested Himself of all that divine glory, power, and majesty so coveted by Lucifer: He  came in humility (no pride!), in weakness (no power!), and dependency (no authority!). 

How Lucifer despised such dispositions and whole-heartedly loathed the One thus coming against him -- as David had done with his sling and stone against Goliath – wearing such contemptible apparel; He was coming uniquely as Father, Sublime and Supreme, in the Person of His beloved and only-begotten Son, to lift up those called to become His true, adopted, children:

I bent down to them and fed them, for I am God the Holy One in your midst, I will not come in wrath.  (Hosea 4:9)

There is a famous sermon by Saint Bernard celebrating Our Lady’s ‘Fiat’ in response to the angel Gabriel’s message at the Annunciation, in which he pictures angels and mankind imploring the Virgin to say but that one word and  thereby save so many from such great distress; he has individuals coming one after another to the forefront with ever more urgent words of heart-felt concern for those who she alone is in a position to help… say, pronounce, whisper, declare just that one word, o holy maiden, please, let it but come from your lips and God will be glorified and mankind saved.

Mary’s ‘fiat’ at the Annunciation was, indeed, of ‘stellar’ significance and importance, but Mary’s situation today, presenting her Son to God in the Temple at Jerusalem is of like consequence; for who can thank God for His great goodness to us other than Mary, the Immaculate Virgin and Mother of God’s true Son?   She was only young, very young we would think, and what she knew rationally we cannot know; but -- of God’s great goodness -- she was totally pure and humble before the Lord, incomparable in her faith and responsiveness to God’s leading, while her human heart was aflame with love for the Child God had given her, and her mind and sensitivity totally attuned to His every need and intention.

Jesus’ ultimate death on the Cross on Calvary was the total commitment of His humanity to paying the price for our redemption and to giving human glory to His beloved Father; and Mother Church has, since then, searched endlessly to understand, appreciate, and praise Him for the sufferings He thus endured to win us salvation. She has searched and will continue, unrelentingly, to search yet deeper, that she might ever more appropriately proclaim and respond to His love stretched out on the Cross for our sake.

But the Divine Condescension involved in the Incarnation, whereby, wherein, God, in Jesus, was humbled, humbled Himself, to a humanly inconceivable degree, to a sacrifice of self, so to speak, both awesome and alarming in its totality … who could praise God for that?  Only Mary’s sinless humility, only her boundless gratitude to God, only her completely unreserved awareness and confession of her own nothingness and indebtedness, only her boundless love for and commitment to Jesus, her Son and God’s Son, could give appropriate – that is, no mere human could possibly give more -- thanks for that divine self-emptying decided and entered upon in order to triumph over angelic and human pride and win love through incomparable love!!

             Sing praise to the LORD, you faithful; give thanks to God’s holy name.  

With my whole being I sing endless praise to you.   O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.  (Psalm 30:5,13)

So, in our celebration of this feast of the Presentation of the Lord, let us with Mary look much deeper than the charm (surely irresistible!!) of this Baby, let us look and, perhaps, tremble with awesome awareness and deepest gratitude before our God of such unimaginable goodness and love.  Let us also be aware that Jesus’ living-out of His divine Sonship in human flesh will, inevitably, lead Him, for love of His Father and for us, to His embracing the crucifixion of His human flesh on Calvary; but ultimately and most gloriously it will lead Him to the, so to speak, combined and complete self-emptying, when, Risen and in glorified, heavenly Flesh, He ultimately and most sublimely gives Himself with His Most Holy Spirit to us and for us under the appearances of simple bread and ordinary wine.  Oh, the Goodness of God!!!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A 2014

 3rd. Sunday (A)
(Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3; 1st. Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12 -23)

Today’s readings speak to us of the joy God’s People experience when the ultimate yoke – no longer that of slavery or of foreign occupation and oppression, but the yoke of sin, the rod of Satan -- is lifted from their shoulders by the proclamation of the Good News brought by Jesus and given to His Church:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.  You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils.
Jesus, as you heard in the Gospel reading, intended to make His apostles “fishers of men” by associating them with Himself in the work He was about to begin after John’s apprehension and imprisonment:

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew to Galilee.  He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea.  From that time on Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Notice how strongly God impressed upon the great prophet the joy that would be occasioned by this ultimate preaching of Gospel freedom, for he repeated himself several times: ‘abundant joy’, ‘great rejoicing’, ‘rejoice at harvest’, and, ‘as men make merry when dividing spoils’!  And all those differing expressions striving to promote fitting awareness and appreciation of that one transport of delight he heaps together in a short and simple sentence:
 You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils. 

Such joy -- joy at God’s saving intervention freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt and from Assyrian terror – was, as Isaiah portrays it, most real and truly intense for those faithful ones who lived through it and cherished the memory of it.  However, Isaiah being a truly great prophet, is also allowed to foresee and foreshadow God’s ultimate future intervention that would bring an end to not only Israel’s, but also the whole of mankind’s, slavery and oppression under the yoke of sin, for all who will truly embrace the Good News of Jesus and the eternal salvation God offers in and through Him.  How wondrous will that joy be for all who will live for it!!  Israel of old had lived through temporal saving events; we, the true Israel of God, are called to know inconceivable joy by living for eternal salvation in accordance with Jesus’ Good News. 

For that purpose and to that end, Jesus chose special disciples -- twelve in all -- to be intimately associated with Himself in His life and work and, in particular, to be witnesses to His resurrection. These men became known as ‘apostles’, a designation highlighting their oneness with Jesus, Himself the apostle and high priest of our confession as the letter to the Hebrews tells us (3:1).  Ultimately, after the defection of Judas Iscariot and the adoption of Matthias, they were known and revered as ‘the Twelve Apostles’, or simply as ‘The Twelve’, who would continue Jesus’ work by establishing and consolidating His Church -- among both Jews and Gentiles throughout the world -- by their authoritative preaching and witnessing, in the power of His Spirit, to the fullness of His Truth (Mark 16:15): 

Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
St. Paul -- the Apostle of the Gentiles and Jesus’ supreme disciple according to the measure of his sufferings for Christ – emphasized the nature of his apostolic calling when he declared:

Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. (1 Corinthians 1:17)

Now, People of God, bearing in mind Isaiah’s prophecy of joy and those authoritative words of St. Paul, do you, in this modern age, rejoice to hear the Gospel preached?  Being aware that you need salvation, do you truly want to hear the Church and her ministers’ proclamation of Jesus’ saving Gospel?  Without doubt, there seem to be many in Church on Sunday who are not deeply conscious of their need; for, being more aware of the person of the priest than attentive to Jesus, their appreciation of a sermon depends largely on its length, not on its content.  They much prefer a short -- even a very short -- homily, and when that is the case, they leave the Church positively congratulating themselves on their good fortune.

The great prophet Isaiah foretold joy, gladness, rejoicing, for God’s People privileged to hear God’s Word; and yet, for many today, there is no awareness of privilege, but rather of obligation, weariness, and tedium.  What does that mean?  It cannot mean that Isaiah was wrong or mistaken; God inspired him.  What does it mean then?  Is it not, perhaps, a lamentable but undeniable fact that too many apparent Catholics cannot be regarded as truly living, that is vital,  members of Christ’s Body, but are rather more or less uncommitted hopefuls, perhaps hangers on, or even, in some cases and for whatever reasons, pretenders?

However that may be, for those who are sincerely committed in their faith and persevering in their practice, those who, deep down, acknowledge and confess their need of and desire for the salvation offered by Jesus in the Gospel and in His Church, it most probably means that they are immature members of God’s People.  As St. Paul put it to his converts in Corinth:

Brethren, I could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.  I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal.  (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

Children don’t want food at times, it is not sweet enough, it does not look sufficiently attractive; their criterion for food is what is pleasant, not what is nourishing.   In a similar way, today, too many physically adult people do not truly appreciate the Word of God which the prophet foretold would bring such rejoicing to God’s People; it fails to call forth joy in, it does not meet with appreciation from, a people surrounded and satiated with what is expressly made and presented so as to be found pleasant and comforting, easy and popular.
Of course it is often said that the preacher fails to make the homily interesting, he is so intellectual, or so dull and unchallenging, and indeed it might well be true in some cases.  But just think: what if your father or mother had just died and the preacher was saying some words about them, or if your son or daughter was getting married and again the celebrant was mentioning them in his address, would not you be interested and indeed most attentive, even though the preacher was not brilliant, even though his words – of themselves -- were dull and uninspiring?  Words about your father or mother, about your son or daughter, could not fail to be of interest to you; you would hang on to every one of them.

Why then are the words of the Gospel, why then is preaching about Jesus and His offer of salvation, so wearisome for many?    Today we heard that:

Jesus went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.

People came to Him -- spontaneously and enthusiastically -- in their spiritual need and with their physical infirmities; can it be that for those coming to Church and finding themselves bored to death with the readings and the sermons, that Jesus is not interesting because they are not aware of their need of Him; because they are in no way convinced of the spiritual poverty and moral weakness waiting to betray all of us in times of trial and distress; because they are not even disturbed by the rampant power of evil threatening the peace and stability of our society and of the whole world today?   In other words, can it be that, deep down, they think Jesus’ Good News is not really as good as the worldly pleasure and prosperity they find themselves presently enjoying and which they like to think is assured for them or will be available to them in the future ?

Certainly Jesus saw a deep-rooted malaise in the hearts and minds of the satisfied and self-contended Jewish leaders in His time:

He said to them, "Those who are well do not need of a physician, but the sick do.   I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)

He was addressing deeply religious people, but people who were also very human in their willingness and ability to ignore what they did not want to recognize; a people using literal observance of the Law and contempt for the Gentiles – above all their Roman occupiers -- to bolster their spiritual morale.  Today also, Catholic and apparently religious people have practices and distractions that help them avoid, or put-off, any disturbing awareness of their own deep needs or personal insufficiency: for some of them, reception of Holy Communion is one such practice; for others, a quota of good works provide a very comforting shelter.
Perhaps the modern ease of approach to the Eucharist combined with an aversion to hearing the Word of God preached and proclaimed is, in some measure, due to a failure to understand the true relationship between the Word of God in the Church’s proclamation and worship of Jesus, and the Incarnate Word of God -- Jesus Christ our Saviour -- present in the Eucharist.

Most Catholics want to receive the Eucharist, even frequently, believing It to be the key to Eternal Life as Jesus said (John 6:53-54):

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.   Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.   

However, Jesus also said on that very occasion:

It is the Spirit that gives life; while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.   (John 6:63-64)

The fact is that our Catholic Faith does not in any way practice or promote magic.  When Jesus speaks of eating His flesh and drinking His blood He is referring to His whole Person and Being: it is the whole life and death, the whole Risen Being, of Jesus the Incarnate Son of God, that offers nourishment for eternal life: eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus is intended to signify and bring about the deepest personal commitment to and oneness with the Person of Jesus, Who lived, died, and rose again for us and for our salvation.   We cannot just join the queue to receive Holy Communion and think that thereby eternal life is ours … that is little more than magical thinking.   Our reception of the Eucharist, is intended to be part of our active participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the sublime expression, fulfilment, and confirmation of our sincere desire for oneness of mind, heart, and soul, with Jesus, through the opening up of our inmost selves to the influx of His heavenly Gift of the transforming Spirit.

Likewise with good works so approved by many who show little respect for the Word of God proclaimed in the Church.  The fruit of good works is, indeed, required, as John the Baptist demanded of those coming to him for baptism in the Jordan, but only as the expression and consequence of the personal commitment of faith and obedience to Jesus:

“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”   Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God: that you believe in the One He sent.”  (John 6:28-29.)

People of God, some want to approach Jesus but only from a position of strength, so to speak; to draw near to Him, indeed, but confident in their own goodness.   They do not want to feel, to be made aware of, their own emptiness and need. And yet, without that saving awareness no one can turn to God as Saviour.

You have been called and chosen by God for salvation, otherwise, you would not be here; and though I am now admonishing some, I have no desire or intention to discourage any, for I am urging all to recall those words of Jesus: 

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you; for everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  (Luke 11:9-10)

People of God, the word of God has gone forth from the prophet's mouth:

You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils.  

Those words -- the Scriptures assure us -- will not, cannot, return to God fruitless: and God's faithful people will always rejoice both in His living Word and in His Eucharistic Presence.  Whether we will be found among them is up to each one of us: but none should try the childish practice of blaming others for what is personal indifference.  If you are looking and longing for God, then, whether the sermon is poor or the liturgy long should in no way cause you to close your mind or seal your heart.  If the words spoken are a sincere expression of the truth about God, and if the liturgy is celebrated with reverence, you should and can participate and worship, love and learn: and, being humble and faithful enough to learn, you will, soon enough, be granted to rejoice with all the blessed; because the God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in Whom you believe and trust is, indeed, awaiting you in the Eucharistic celebrations of Mother Church, where He will not fail to  comfort, strengthen and enlighten you, by His Presence and by His welcome in both Word and Sacrament.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Second Sunday of the Year (A) 2014

2nd. Sunday of Year (A).

(Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1st. Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34)

In the first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard that God, speaking immediately to His Chosen People but ultimately embracing His promised Messiah, had said:

It is too little for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. 

Out of all the nations on earth, God had specially chosen, cherished and taught, one people, which became known as Israel.  By the time of Isaiah that teaching and cherishing had been ongoing for over a thousand years, and Isaiah himself was one of a line of prophets sent by God to His Chosen People to form it into a servant worthy and able to take God’s Name and His saving Word to the whole world.  Israel could not be the definitive Servant of God’s salvation because she herself, in her degree, shared in and was wounded by the sin of the world. Nevertheless, she would be the stock from which that ultimate Servant of God would rise Who would be uniquely able to fittingly reveal the Name, manifest and proclaim the Word, and show Himself to be the Salvation, of Israel’s God for the good of all mankind.
By means of the Old Testament covenant with Israel God did ultimately prepare a people able to bring forth the wondrously holy and sublimely beautiful Mary of Nazareth, of whom we read in the Song of Songs (2:1):

            I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys, a lily among thorns.

Uniquely adorned with true and God-rejoicing humility, she it was who would welcome, endow with human flesh and blood, nurture and bring up, the Son and Servant of God that He might become the Son-of-man foreshadowed in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.  Let the earth open and salvation bud forth.  (45:8)

In Jesus – Son of God, become Son of Mary and Son of Man -- not only the Chosen People are called to become children of God in the well-beloved Son, but also the Gentiles -- who for millennia had walked in darkness and lived under the shadow of death -- are to be evangelized, invited, and empowered, to turn from their former ways and embrace the Good News of Jesus brought to them by His universal Church founded upon the Apostles.   The proclamation of the New Testament is, indeed, God’s offer of salvation to all nations through faith in Jesus, the Spirit-anointed-Saviour Who brings glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to men of goodwill.  For mankind is to become one again in Jesus; sharing, as adopted children, a common heritage in the Kingdom of the Father, a heritage which the only-begotten-Son has won for them by shedding His blood on the Cross of Calvary before rising again on the third day; a heritage for which the Spirit bequeathed by Jesus will prepare them.  

We should be filled with gratitude, People of God, as we think on this: God trained the Jewish people for 2000 years, and then, in His immense mercy and goodness, put us -- in Jesus -- alongside and together with those He had chosen and cherished for so long!!  As St. Paul told the Christians of Rome (11:16-17):

If the root is holy, then the branches also are holy. And you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in to share the rich root of the olive tree. 

Let us now turn to today’s Gospel passage where you heard John the Baptist, the fore-runner of the promised Messiah, revealing Jesus to the Jewish people:

“I did not know Him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that He might be made known to Israel.”  John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon Him.   I did not know Him, but the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, He is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.” 

You remember the scene when Jesus was coming up from the waters of the Jordan used by John for his baptism?  It was then -- when Jesus was dripping with water -- that John saw the Spirit coming down upon Jesus in the form of a dove, the symbol of peace, signifying here peace between God and man, and peace among men of good will; that peace which Jesus -- the promised Prince of Peace – alone could bring about.

Think of that scene, People of God, and then remember the words Jesus was later to say to Nicodemus, a leader among the Jews:

Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  (John 3:5)

Water and the Spirit: what did they mean for the Jews and the Gentiles, both called in Christ, the Saviour of the whole world, to become God’s children?  Listen, and wonder at the wisdom, the beauty, and the goodness, of God; for, in order to save mankind from the bonds of sin and death, God had to convict mankind of their sinfulness, in order that they might turn from sin, reject it, and embrace -- gratefully and wholeheartedly -- God’s offer of eternal life in Jesus, His beloved and only-begotten Son.

The Chosen People had, over thousands of years, become a supremely spiritual and moral people; and yet, although they had been given a Law which was holy, they had, in their observance of that Law, become ever more reliant on their own efforts: they had come to think that they were able to observe that Law by themselves and imagined they could, in that way, prove themselves worthy to be the Chosen People of God.  They came to regard themselves as having been chosen, not out of God’s boundless mercy, but because of their own particular spiritual superiority and ability; to believe that God had been right in choosing them, because they -- above all other nations -- had the strength of will and moral character to keep His Law.  There, People of God, we recognize the sin of the Jews: spiritual pride.
In this scene by the Jordan where John was offering a baptism of repentance, the Jewish people were being told that it was only by God's free gift of the Holy Spirit -- to be given through Jesus the Lamb of God -- that they could practice a holiness acceptable to Him Who is the all-holy One; only by God’s Gift, which is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Holiness, could they become holy; and the Spirit was wholly Jesus’ to give, which is why the Spirit was to be seen descending and resting upon Jesus as He came up out of the waters.
The Gentiles on the other hand, although they had risen to great social and cultural heights in the ancient empires, and most recently in the glories of Greece and the achievements of Rome, nevertheless, they had become morally degenerate despite all the truths they had glimpsed, the beauties they had created, and the grandeur of the social fabric they had established.  They had sunken into all sorts of moral abominations for which the Jews had come to despise them, despite themselves being subject to Rome’s omnipresent and all- subduing military power.

St. Paul, himself born and reared as a strict Pharisee, expressed this awareness of the Jews with regard to their conquerors when he wrote to the Romans:

Although they (the Gentiles) knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. …. God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.  (1:21-32) 

There you have the Gentiles’ sin: wallowing in abominations for which they needed to become repentant if they were to be washed clean; a cleansing symbolised by the water dripping off Jesus as He came up, out of the waters of the Jordan. 

Water and the Spirit for the cleansing of Jews and Gentiles: water and the Spirit, whereby Jesus would take upon HImself and redeem the sins of the world!  The whole of human life had been infected with the sin of Adam from its lowest depths to its highest achievements: social life, intellectual vigour, and spiritual aspirations, all had been stained by the Gentiles’ lust for pleasure and power, and the spiritual pride of Judaism; all had to be convicted of their sin in order that forgiveness and fulfilment could be offered to all.

People of God, as we recall these truths, let us rejoice with the deepest gratitude to the Father Who sent His beloved, only-begotten Son as:

The Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world;

let us have generous appreciation for that people specially chosen of old to prepare the coming of Him Who -- as the Glory of Israel and Light of the Gentiles – now offers peace and salvation to all who believe in His Name; let us, finally, open our hearts to embrace His gift of the Spirit Who -- as the eternal bond of love between Father and Son -- wills to make us members of the heavenly Family and eternal Kingdom of God the Father.