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, 25 April 2014

Second Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014

2nd. Sunday of Easter (A)

(Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47; 1st. Peter 1:3-9;
St. John’s Gospel 20:19-31)

Peace be with you!

That was the ordinary Hebrew greeting, ‘Shalom’; a word to which we have become accustomed through our modern hymns.  But in today’s Gospel passage it has no merely conventional meaning: it is repeated twice, and in both cases is the first word in the clause; two details which tell us that the word ‘peace’ is being strongly emphasized.
At the Last Supper Jesus had promised His disciples:

Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give you.  (John 14:27)

To be able to give peace was generally considered a royal prerogative: that is what kings were for, to win, protect, and confirm peace and prosperity for the people.  But, in Jewish society chosen, taught, and formed by God over thousands of years, it was above all the divine prerogative to give peace.  Jesus as the promised Messiah --- the ‘Prince of Peace’ foretold by Isaiah --- gives His own special gift of peace as the Messianic King.  Moreover, He does not give it as would worldly kings, for they give a peace won through victory in war and maintained by coercion and struggle.  Here in England, when the Romans invaded so many centuries ago, they waged a bitter war against the native inhabitants, and thereby provoked a British chief to remark, ‘Where they make a desert they call it peace!’

Such was never Jesus’ way.  Quite the contrary, He – the Messianic Prince of Peace – won peace by sacrificing Himself.  And now, having risen from the dead, He gives His peace – the fruit of His self-sacrifice – to His disciples, showing them, at the same time, the wounds whereby He had won that peace.

The disciples were filled with joy

we read, just as Jesus foretold at the Last Supper where He had said:

You are sad now, but I shall see you again, and your hearts will rejoice with a joy that no one can take from you.  (John 16:21s.)

For Jewish aspirations in those days, peace and joy were distinguishing features of the final glorious time when God would rule as King, giving harmony to human life and to the whole world.  That time had now arrived:

Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’ and showed them His hands and His side. 

Mankind finds peace before God because Jesus – Son of God and Son of Man –died sinless in His human fidelity to, and love for, God His Father; and then by His rising from the dead He destroyed death along with its ‘sting’, which is sin.  In Jesus and by His Spirit men and women of good will can now overcome sin for love of God.  

 Peace be with you!

Notice that this Paschal gift of peace belongs not to individuals as such, but to the Christian Community as a whole.  It was first given to the Community deliberately gathered together as one for common prayer and in the face of a common threat; it was, that is, given to the Church both militant and witnessing.  Jesus does not makes His presence manifest as some prophetic prodigy for the amazement of the  world, but to the assembled brethren, as divine Head of His mystical Body, His Church, and only here, at this sacred encounter, does He say, ‘Peace be with you.’  And that, incidentally, is why, when we sin and lose our peace with God we have to confess our sins to a priest; because peace is the gift of the Risen Christ to His Church, and in order to regain our lost, broken, peace we have first to be received back into full communion with the Church and share again in her prerogative: Peace, with God and man in Jesus the Risen Christ.   

Jesus then declared:

            As the Father sent Me, so am I sending you.

Once again these words of the Risen Lord Jesus pick up a thread in His discourse at the Last Supper.  There Jesus had prayed for His own who were to remain behind in the world, saying:

Sanctify them in the truth.  Thy word is truth.  As Thou didst send Me into the world, l so I have sent them.  And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.  (John 17:17-19)

That is, before the disciples could be definitively sent out on mission they had to be themselves renewed and re-sourced through the truth: through the word of Jesus and the Spirit of truth.

Righteous Father, the world does not know You, but I know You; and these know that You have sent Me.  I made Your name known to them and will make it known.  (John 17:25s.)

It is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, Who thus sanctifies the disciples, makes them holy as He, the Spirit, is holy, so that having been consecrated as Jesus was consecrated they could be sent as Jesus was sent:

            As the Father sent Me, so am I sending you.  

Whereupon He ‘breathed’ upon and said:

            Receive the Holy Spirit.

In the book of Genesis we read (2:7):

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.

The word ‘breathed’ occurs again in the book of Wisdom (15:11):

            The One Who fashioned him … breathed into him a living spirit.

From these texts we understand that this moment when Jesus breathes His own Spirit into His disciples, is the moment of a new creation, endowing them with eternal life.

For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; 

not just ‘forgotten’ by God, but forgiven, whereby the sinner is restored to peace and supernatural health as well. 

For those whose sins you retain, they are retained;

for there is no peace, no gift of the Holy Spirit, apart from the Body of Christ.  God does not deal with ‘loners’, He has only One beloved, His only-begotten Son, Whom He sent as Jesus among men and Christ for men, and Whom He recognizes as Head of the Body which is His Church, the gathering together in conscious and willed community of all those who believe in Him as the One sent by His heavenly Father.
Here we see the true essence of the Holy Spirit’s work amongst men on earth: to make manifest and give judgment against, to abolish, sin; because He is the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of the all-holy God. 

Of course, it is undeniably true that He is the Spirit Who worked wonders of all kinds in and through chosen individuals throughout Old Testament history; but His greatest wonder is shown here in the gradual obliteration of sin in the world and the ultimate re-making of sinful men and women into a holy, consecrated, family of God.

Yes, in the Old Testament the Spirit won salvation for Israel on many occasions; but here, ultimate salvation cannot brought about through an occasional triumph in battle, but through the destruction of sin and the forgiveness of sinners.

Yes, in the Old dispensation the Spirit foretold future events, but here in the New Testament His greatest pronouncement is the word of God which consecrates in truth.
Jesus Himself, here on earth, had once sent out some of His disciples on a mission to go before Him to the towns and villages where He Himself was to visit, and we are told that:

He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal every disease and every infirmity. (Matthew 10:1)

That sending had been only a trial run, so to speak.  Here, in today’s Gospel we have the real sending, the real mission, of the disciples; and here too we have the real ‘gift’, the real ‘power’ bestowed upon them by Jesus to enable them to fulfil their mission: victory over sin in themselves and authority over sin in others by virtue of themselves having been sanctified in the truth.

And yet the Apostle Thomas himself refused to accept and be sanctified by the truth proclaimed by the infant Church!  As you are aware, Our Lord, knowing Thomas through and through, had pity of his weakness and his ignorance, and allowed him the sight he wanted; but He gave him a very strong rebuke, the words of which abide for an eternal lesson to mankind:

Have you come to believe because you have seen Me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed! 

The beloved disciple John who tells us of this was well aware of the privilege he himself had been granted by God which enabled him to look into the tomb and to believe, whereas Mary Magdalene saw and feared, and Peter saw and was puzzled.   And here John tells us about the Apostle Thomas in order to humble himself and show us where the greatest privilege of all is to be gained: by believing without seeing, believing, that is, on the testimony of the Church.

People of God, if we wish to be part of God’s new creation, if we long for such a purification that we might be able to enter upon a life of eternal fulfilment in presence to and appreciation of divine beauty and truth, goodness and love, we should pray that we might ourselves be sanctified in truth by the Spirit of truth; that we might know and appreciate through faith God’s message of salvation --still proclaimed by Jesus in and through His Church -- ever more fully, and love it ever more deeply.  The only proof that we have indeed received the Holy Spirit into our hearts and are allowing Him to rule there, is the objective fact that we sincerely seek to overcome sin by the Christian discipline of expressing our faith through love.   As Saint John says:
            This is eternal life, the keeping of God’s commandments.

And those commandments are not difficult because God’s Holy Spirit has been given to us.  Therefore, let us open wide our hearts to receive anew the Holy Spirit of Easter peace, and then go from this blessed assembly of all-as-one to bear joyful, individual, witness to Jesus by lives of loving, Catholic, obedience.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Easter Sunday The Resurrection of Our Lord (A) 2014

The Resurrection of Our Lord (A)

(Acts 10:34, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9)

God raised (Jesus) on the third day, and granted that He be visible to us the witnesses chosen by God in advance who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.
Those words of St. Peter are the culmination of an age-long awareness and expectation in Israel, where the ‘third day’ was of special significance for Jewish piety.
In the book of Genesis we are told that Abraham, in obedience to the voice of God, was taking his only son Isaac to offer him in sacrifice to the Lord on the mount which the Lord would show them.  Sorrowing father and innocent, unknowing son, were journeying on together (Genesis 22:4–5) when:
On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar.  Then he said to his servants: “Both of you stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over yonder. We will worship and then come back to you.”
On the third day Abraham had observed Mount Moriah where he believed his son had to be sacrificed to the Lord; in the event, however, it turned out to be the third day when, on Mount Moriah, his son was not only given back unharmed to his father, but restored as the sign of God’s enduring promise of blessing for Abraham and for God’s Chosen People (Genesis 22:16-17):
I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from Me your beloved son,  I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies,
The ‘third day’ was thus, indeed, of momentous significance at the very beginning of God’s Chosen People; and also subsequently, when -- sinful and suffering – she was in dire need of renewal, the prophet Hosea proffered words of supreme consolation in the name of the Lord:
In their affliction, they shall look for Me: “Come, let us return to the LORD, for it is He who has rent, but He will heal us; He has struck us, but He will bind our wounds.  He will revive us after two days; on the third day He will raise us up, to live in His presence.  Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is His coming, and His judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth.”   (Hosea 6:1-3)
Those are but two of the most momentous occasions, two of the most significant texts from Israel’s scriptures, but the ‘third day’ was of such recognized and accepted significance throughout Israel’s history that we are even told of the Chief Priests and Pharisees, being gathered before Pilate in their concern for Body of Jesus crucified, and saying to him:
Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’   Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.”   (Matthew 27:63-64)
You can understand, therefore, what superabundant joy and gratitude the disciples experienced on recalling those ancient and prophetic texts after having found the empty tomb and seen the Risen Lord!  The ultimate bearer of God’s promise, Jesus Whom they had known and loved, had been restored to them on the ‘third day’, restored to life because death had not been able to hold Him!  That is why Peter could so confidently proclaim to Cornelius and his family whom, under the command of the Holy Spirit, he was about to baptise:
We are witnesses of all that He did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree. This man God raised (on) the third day and granted that He be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.  He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.  To Him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins through His name.”
Now let us turn to our reading from St. Paul and allow him to guide our thoughts:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
As you heard, Paul extends this wondrous event of Jesus’ rising from the dead to include us also.  But how can he say that we died with Christ?
Because Christ died as Lord and Saviour of all mankind; though sinless, He died a sinner’s death on our behalf.  When He died on Good Friday the hopes of all mankind seemed to die with Him; and on Holy Saturday we could only experience the hopelessness, helplessness, and indeed the emptiness, of our native, sinful condition.
But now, Peter and Paul, together with all the apostles, bear witness that God has raised Jesus from the dead; and, since He is risen in the glory of the Father and the Holy Spirit, Paul says, you who believe in Him -- being called to that by the Father and empowered by the Spirit – are truly risen with Him and share in His new, risen Life, and as such you are no longer subject to the frustrations of your native pride and self-solicitude, no longer bound by sin to the finality of earthly death:
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
We can understand to a certain extent how the gift of faith in the risen Jesus raises us up with Him, but there seems to be something more ‘substantial’ about our ‘being seated with Him’ at the right hand of God, of which we are explicitly told in the letter to the Ephesians (2:4-6):
God, Who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.
In what sense are we seated in the heavens (at the right hand of God) in Christ Jesus?
The answer is that we are not, of course, physically seated with Him now in heaven; nevertheless, that is where the vital powers of our spiritual life originate and whither they are leading us.  For Jesus is physically, in His glorious humanity, in heaven at the right hand of the Father; but He is also, in a sacramental manner, physically with us in the Eucharist, whereby He draws us up, into, Himself through the Spirit.  Our heavenly food – the driving force of supernatural life within us – is the living Body of the One seated at the right hand of the Father in glory; and the more we live by that food, in the power of His Spirit, the more He draws us closer and more intimately into Himself; for the Spirit, God’s Gift to us in the Eucharist, is ever at work forming us in Jesus’ likeness so that we might be able to share – as living members – in the eternal glory of His Body.
For your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory.
Such was the prayer of Jesus for us to His Father shortly before His death on the Cross, a prayer that overshadows us with the assurance of protection and for the hope of glory throughout the course of our lives:
Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.  (John 17:24)
We who entertain such hopes and trust in such protection cannot surely, allow ourselves to live a life of overriding attentiveness to an endless search for personal success and worldly fulfilment, while largely forgetting our heavenly vocation and inheritance.  Even Jesus’ prayer can only be effective in the lives of those who are open to and in tune with His prayer, in the lives of those who seek communion with, and fulfilment in, Him more seriously and lovingly than they search for earthly appreciation and satisfaction.  And so we must never forget St. Paul’s admonition in today’s reading:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of (and aspire to) what is above not what is on earth.
But let us follow such advice in the spirit of today’s celebration, by taking to heart, first of all, the words of the prophet Nehemiah (8:10):
Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord.  Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength; 
and then, recognizing with the Apostles of old and with Mother Church of today the surpassing wonder of Jesus’ Resurrection, let us appreciate that it offers us not merely a sufficient basis for joy on just one ‘day holy to the Lord’, but can, indeed, inspire and sustain a whole lifetime of grateful and enduring Christian joy dedicated to praising the goodness and beauty of God and serving the true well-being of our neighbour.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Good Friday 2014

Good Friday  2014

During the last world war our Western cultural upbringing was shown, at certain points, to be in stark contrast with that of Japan.  What shocked and alarmed us was the willingness and even the desire of many of the Japanese military to kill themselves in order to drive home their attack, and those who, in this way, deliberately destroyed themselves along with their target, were intensely proud to thus give their lives, it being, for them, a most honourable way to die.
Here we see something of the universal character of our faith: it is, after all, called the Catholic, which means universal, Christian faith.  For we should not, and indeed cannot, identify Christian values with those currently prevalent in our Western world, because our secularized Western culture is quite wrong, for example, in its fixation on satisfying to the full our human capacity for pleasure and endlessly stoking up our passion for pride.  Western society has come to regard death as the end of everything that is desirable, and consequently views death, with all its concomitant forms of suffering, as something to be avoided above all else whereas the former Japanese attitude was much closer to the true Christian appreciation of the significance of death.  On the other hand, the attitude of most Muslim fundamentalists today is more clearly motivated by hatred of others rather than by self-sacrifice for a most worthy cause, and as such is not only totally unworthy of a great religion but is an insult to human nature itself.  As Christians we can never resort to self-inflicted death, let alone to personally-administered destruction of others, as a direct means to express our zeal for the promotion of any earthly cause, because our life is God’s gift for our salvation and His glory, not an earthly weapon of choice in the struggle for power or pride.  Nevertheless, as Christians we are called to become so freed from the fear of death and to be inspired with such love for what is divinely beautiful and true, that we can wholeheartedly embrace death when it is to be encountered for witnessing to Christ and expressing our love for God, or for serving the urgent need of our neighbour.
Looking now, on this Good Friday, at the crucified Jesus, we recognize that, for Him, death was not the end but rather the climax of His life; it was not the loss of all that He had loved, but rather the sublime moment when He was at last able to give supreme expression to the love which had filled His whole life.  Jesus said, “It is finished”: that is, He was aware, and filled with joy, that He had completed the task His Father had given Him when sending Him into this world.  What was it that was finished?  Not simply the work of our redemption, because the full fruit of that has still to be gathered in over the ages by His disciples working in the power of His Spirit in the Church and in the world.  What then, at that very moment of His death on the Cross, was finally and fully finished?  It was Jesus’ constant desire to give Himself utterly and entirely to the Father in His earthly being; to express, as much as the limits of His human body would permit Him, the consuming love He had for His Father.
          I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is           accomplished!  (Luke 12:50)
How He had longed, how long He had longed, to be able to give total expression to the depth and the intensity of His love for His Father!  We can gather some impression of that longing when we recall that as a very young man, having been taken up to Jerusalem for the Passover feast, He had totally forgotten to set off back home to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph in the caravan, because of His absorption in His heavenly Father; and it was only:
After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:46)
Such a Son had forgotten all about Mary, His mother, about Joseph, and the journey back home, because He was totally absorbed in discussions with the teachers in the Temple concerning His Father in heaven!  There He was only about 12 years old …. how great that blaze of love for His heavenly Father must have become by the time He was 30!!  And finally, the consuming intensity such love must have attained during the last two years of His life -- when He was occupied in His public ministry of expressing and trying to communicate His love for the Father to the Chosen People of Israel -- is, indeed, beyond our conceiving, for even Jesus Himself found human words inadequate for His needs, since the only way He could begin to describe it, was, as you heard,
How distressed I am until it is accomplished!
Now, however, on the Cross, that work has indeed been accomplished, that longing has been fulfilled: He has, at last, been able to give Himself entirely to His Father in total love and trust, to give Himself completely, not only with and in His human mind and heart, but also with and in His human body, given over, totally and completely on the Cross, for the Father’s glory!  Jesus had never tried to direct His own life, He had always tried to do His Father’s will and to follow His Father’s lead: even in the choice of one to serve as the foundation rock for His Church, Jesus had not chosen the disciple He especially loved, but the one His Father had marked out for Him:
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:17-18)
To do His Father’s will had been the whole aim of Jesus’ life on earth, because, as Son before all time, His whole heavenly Being was a response of total glory, an expression of total love, for the Father.
That is how disciples of Jesus should regard their lives too.  We are not, indeed, divine as was Jesus, but nevertheless, we know that God has a purpose for us   to fulfil: we believe that we have, individually, a distinct role to play in the realization of God’s Kingdom.   We do not know what that ultimate purpose is, lest we should turn in on ourselves and be overcome by pride.  No; the disciple has, like Jesus, only one aim; and that is, under the guidance of the Spirit of Jesus, to fully live out the Father’s will, going wherever He indicates, doing whatever He wills.  The disciple of Jesus knows that life is not -- as with the animals -- just for living; life has been given us for a purpose which God has planned, a purpose which, if followed out to the end, will lead to a revelation of the ultimate significance and final glory of our being.
Jesus said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit’ and then He breathed His last.  Life did not just slip listlessly out of His grasp: He wholeheartedly gave over His life in total trust to His Father and then breathed His last.  This final and total gift of Himself to the Father was, in that way, the fullest expression He had ever been able to give of the love that filled Him.  For Christians, therefore, death should be supremely desirable in as much as it offers us the opportunity for the supreme expression of our love for the Father, our trust in Jesus, and our hope in the Spirit.
Elijah, the great prophet of Israel who, together with Moses, appeared to the disciples and was seen talking with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, had once uttered words not dissimilar to the words of Jesus (I Kings 19:4):
Elijah went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "It is enough, LORD," he said.
Elijah, however, was not the Lord; he was only a prophet of the Lord.  Elijah said those words looking back at himself and his work, and counting himself a failure:
          Take my life, Lord; I am no better than my ancestors.
On the Cross, however, Jesus was not looking either at Himself or at the result of His work: all that He had ever sought had been to do His Father’s will, and so, as He said, ‘It is finished’, He was not looking back but rather looking upward and forward to His Father.  He had, at last, been able to give the fullest possible expression to His love for the Father that His human body would allow Him.  As for His work, the Father would bring that to fruition Himself:
          Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit
Dear Lord Jesus, may your Spirit form us in your likeness so that, with You and in You, we might, at the end of our days on earth, lay down our lives in peace as Your true disciples, having learnt to obey the command You gave us when You said:  
Love the (Father) with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and your neighbour as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)