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, 30 May 2014

Ascension of Our Lord, Year A, 2014


   (Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20)

At the end of his Gospel St. Matthew keeps our attention firmly focussed on Jesus: he does not tell us about the promised Gift of the Spirit to be awaited with prayerful expectation and hope by the disciples, he fixes our minds on Jesus alone:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain  which Jesus had appointed for them.  When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and  make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. 

All authority has been given to Jesus but He is going away; He is not, apparently, going to use this authority, not, that is, in the eyes of the world.  The glorious work of making disciples of all the nations is to be accomplished by His disciples, His glory is to be theirs not His, so far as the world will be able to judge (John 14:12):

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 

This is in accordance with a consistent principle of Jesus He gives His own Self, He gives us His own Spirit, to help us in all things and to make us, in Himself, adopted sons and daughters for the glory of His Father; on the other hand, He takes our sins upon Himself and subsequently, consistently seeks to glorify us while, apparently, disappearing into the background Himself: 

In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. (Jn. 16:26s.)

Indeed, Jesus even goes so far on one occasion to speak of the Spirit and of the Father in our regard while omitting to mention Himself altogether (Mt. 10:19-20):

When they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak, for it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

The reason why the world hated Jesus and still hates Him and His, is not because of His human character, which is universally admired by all unbiased students of His life; no, the great trouble, so to speak, with Jesus, is that He claims authority over us, and intends to make us divine in Himself, using His divine ‘version’ of our humanity to wipe out our sin and, ultimate, to totally destroy the sin of the word!!

Worldly men and women want to live morally-carefree lives, they want to feel themselves free to enjoy any, if not all, of the worldly pleasures available.  Many modern scientists, delighting aright in their rational ability to scan and thereby gradually conquer the universe, cannot bear to think of mankind being in any way above and beyond their rational observations, calculations, and hypotheses: there must be other planets beside this earth where mankind – or the likeness of mankind -- is to be found; there is no such thing as a soul to make man essentially spiritual rather than merely natural, totally observable and predictable; sin is nothing real, and personal responsibility is a degrading myth.  Mankind, many hold, is merely a most superb machine, governed by genes, and showing pre-determined attitudes and reflexes; Christian marriage is inhuman; and the Christian faith is not only an illusion, but even criminally judgmental.

Today’s celebration of Our Lord’s Ascension is -- for such opponents -- another example, indeed, perhaps the supreme example, of the objectionable nature of Christianity:  for it tells us, they say, that Jesus goes away; goes away to pray, in order to effect the ultimate change on earth.  Yes, it is the central teaching of Christianity that good -- all good -- comes from God, by the gift of God, for the glory of God; and the great glory of human beings is that they are made for, in the likeness of, God: able to delight in and respond to His Personal Self-communication and Gift; called to sing His praises and to glorify His Name by serving as a channel for the  exercise and extension of His saving power on earth; and ultimately to find supreme peace and eternal fulfilment in His presence.

People of God, we who humbly and gratefully accept the authority of Jesus, can joyfully appreciate why, on this wondrous day, He should say (Mt. 22:38-40):

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.  

He loved us, He seeks our glory at His own expense -- according to human standards -- in all things; and today, He is gone to the Father, is eternally with the Father, though never leaving us alone.  The Father’s glory and our salvation, that was always and is eternally Jesus’ aim and purpose; and He has left us – His disciples aspiring to be living members of His glorious Body – His own example, His words, and His Holy Spirit in the sacraments with which He has endowed His Church.

The Ascension of Our Lord is a ludicrous scandal to most of the exponents and expounders of modern scientific thought.   They can only accept as real what can be seen in some way and correspondingly measured, what can be tested, replicated and repeated.  But when you think on that, it means that scientific thought has a strictly limited awareness and minimal appreciation of our human life and experience.  It can stir us to the most sincere admiration and indeed astonishment for its discovery of innumerable facts and forces, both great and small, that govern and hold sway within us and without us in our universe; it does indeed provide us with food and all sorts of instruments and appliances that make life healthier, easier and more comfortable; it provides countless things for our use and profit, countless facts and figures for our cogitation.  But .. that is all!!

Science can tell us nothing – other than mere statistics – about the most immediately important aspect of life for the vast majority of human beings: it can tell us nothing about our relationships of love, our appreciation of what is beautiful and our awareness of truth; our sometimes vague but always most intimate and at times most objective (you are the guilty one!) sentiments of right and wrong; our awareness of, response to, and delight in innocence, which can cause, for example, the young of even the most rapacious of animals such as the tiger, polar bear, to appear almost irresistibly attractive.

People of God, Jesus has ascended into heaven!  He has indeed opened up for us a totally new possibility for life; not, as our scientific opponents rightly say, for natural life, but for that supernatural life (which they deny!) that Jesus offers to us and bestows on us through our faith in His Resurrection:  an eternity of loving fulfilment before the God and Father of infinite glory and all-embracing goodness!   All of which is rubbish, those who deride us loudly and repeatedly proclaim.  Why is it rubbish, one might ask?   The reply is, ‘We can’t find any place like heaven, we can’t locate or allocate it, nor can we measure, test, reproduce its supposed effects nor can we imagine ourselves devising ‘filters’ or programmes that might ‘provoke’ some manifestation of its being.  In other words, it is all RUBBISH!!

Are then our daily, most intimate and enduring experiences of love and friendship rubbish too?  Are there no such realities as beauty and truth?  Is there nothing behind our feelings of right and wrong?   Science says that there is no great, grey-haired Old Man judging us from up there!  Science is right there; but surely science cannot be proud to proclaim such a ridiculous idea.  And by such derision does science, do such scientists, mean to say then, that there is no one, anywhere, greater than the individual ME?  Am I known and answerable to no-one but Myself?  Are each and every one of us inviolable, untouchable, little ‘me’s until publicly found out and criminally accused?  Are goodness and wickedness illusions?  Are legal and illegal perfectly the same as, indeed even better expressions than, right and wrong, for the good and bad experiences we have in the course of our lives?

For believers, the Ascension is a celebration of the Sacred Humanity of Our blessed Lord in His most glorious achievement for us, and the ground of our surpassing hope and heavenly aspirations in Him: a new and transcendent home awaits us, where sin and death are unknown, where divine love (charity) reigns supreme and all that such love -- in whatever measure -- has moved, guided and sustained us to become and to accomplish here on earth will find both acknowledgement and sublime fulfilment there: 

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?   if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  (John 14:2-3)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

6th Sunday of Easter Year A 2014

6th. Sunday of Easter (A)

(Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1st. Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21)

In our Gospel reading we heard Jesus make this promise to His disciples:

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him.  But you know Him for He remains with you and will be in you. 

You know Him for He remains with you: under God’s Providence, though Jesus would apparently depart from His disciples, the Holy Spirit would come to abide with them, keeping them as one: one, in their shared memories of life with Jesus from its beginnings in Galilee to His Death, Resurrection, and final Ascension into heaven; one in their remembrance of His divine teaching, inspiring them with the ineffable hope of His heavenly promises, and climaxing in their increasing awareness and assurance of the mysterious actuality of His promise to be with them always

Moreover, that same Spirit of Truth, Jesus went on to say:

            Will be in you.

For -- with Jesus having ascended to heaven and asked it of the Father -- He will come to be with them as Pentecostal Endowment for the whole Body of Christ; and as Eucharistic Gift and Sustenance, to be in them individually as disciples to be formed in the likeness of Jesus by Him as living members of the One Body for the honour and glory of the Father. 

Because I live, you will live.

Indeed, He even went on to promise:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to My Father. 

People of God, let us learn from the Apostles just how important is the Gift of the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus promises, the Spirit we indeed, at this joyous season, are now awaiting and expecting:

When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent off Peter and John, who went down there and prayed for the converts, asking that they might receive the Holy Spirit.    (Acts 8:14-15)

Today we, as living members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are in the constant process of being formed by the Holy Spirit Who is living with us and in us.  And yet, every day we are being shown, with brutal clarity at times, that the society for which we are meant to be both sanctifying salt and guiding light is deeply alienated from God, to such an extent that we are inevitably forced to call into question the witness that we, as members of the Body of Christ and as channels for the Spirit of God, are giving to Jesus.  We look, therefore, with ever more humble expectation, for a renewed coming of the Spirit of Truth this Pentecost, that He, the Advocate and Helper as Jesus called Him, might indeed help and enable us to pursue more effectively the work for which we have been chosen, the work of proclaiming Jesus’ Gospel of Truth and Love with its joyous offer of eternal salvation, to the whole of mankind.
Today we are in a situation very much like that in which the first Christians found themselves in the pagan society of the Roman Empire and to whom Peter wrote in his first letter, as we heard:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear.

‘Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts’, that is, guard against the poisonous atmosphere of much of today's popular thinking, proclamation, and practice, lest it corrode the strength and beauty of your relationship with Jesus; and, be ready, always ready, to give both an account and a defence of your faith to everyone who asks you.  

So often, in countless little ways, we Catholics and Christians can close ourselves to the Spirit of truth with the result that He is not able to work effectively either in us or through us:

The Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain in a human being for ever, because he is mortal flesh.” (Genesis 6:3)

We can so easily live as children of the flesh: yielding to vanity, refusing to accept unpleasant truths, speaking wild words from emotional upset, uttering calculated lies to avoid what we fear, using words as weapons for aggression rather than as channels of truth and mutual understanding; and in doing such things we shackle the work of the Spirit within us, indeed, perhaps we may even drive His presence from us.  We must never forget that our enemy is the spirit of deceit, and we should never allow him to deceive us into thinking that we can rightly express truth in a way that needlessly hurts, for the Spirit of Truth is also the Spirit of Love, and our calling in Jesus is to live and express the truth in love.

Here, however, a major question arises: what sort of love should we have for Jesus and proclaim as the truth about Him?

In last week’s Gospel reading Philip hurt our blessed Lord deeply when he asked:

            Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us!

To which Jesus answered:

Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know Me, Philip?  Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?

There we have a most perfect illustration of the absolute importance of the Spirit’s work of ‘forming us in the likeness of Jesus’.  Philip had not been looking aright at Jesus:  he had been loving Him, yes; but in too human a way; in relation, that is, to himself, Philip!  He had not been regarding Jesus as Son of the Father enough.  It is indeed lovely and most helpful to recognize -- with many popular and indeed beautiful spiritual songs -- Jesus as our Friend.  But, that is most certainly not enough, for there is so much more to Jesus!!   Love for Jesus is not true, nor is it authentically Christian, if its content of human affection and commitment tries to transcend, pre-empt, Christian Faith in Jesus:

            Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?

And perhaps the very best way to get things right in this respect is to ever remember and reverence, love and delight in, Jesus’ own most sublime and total love for His Father, the very root and source of and ultimate model for, His love for us.  The whole of His Passion and Death on the Cross of Calvary was motivated, sustained, and sublimated by His transcendent love for His Father:

The world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.  (John 14:31)

If we could admire, appreciate, and delight in that love aright then we would indeed be able to proclaim the truth about, and bear authentic witness to, Jesus before the whole world and thereby give unparalleled glory to God the Father.

We have to recognize that in today’s world and our modern society we do not address a ‘People of God’ prepared for over a thousand years to hear and understand the word of God.  As Jesus Himself told us, the Advocate Whom He asked the Father to send to us and abide always with us is unacceptable to the world because it can neither see nor does it know Him!  How then is the Gospel to be proclaimed?  

As disciples of Him of Whom the prophet Isaiah (42:2) foretold:

He will not cry out nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street;

we cannot always be condemning the world.  Nor, as disciples of the same Jesus of whom the prophet went on to say: 

A bruised reed He will not break and smoking flax He will not quench;

can we always be arguing with youngsters who are misguided or older sinners who have turned their backs on God. 

 Here we need to pay attention to Peter addressing us in the second reading:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts!  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. 

You will remember that Jesus had previously said (John 6:44):

No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draw him.

Peter would therefore seem to be advising us to allow ourselves to become instruments through whom the Father is able to draw His chosen ones to Jesus. We are not to try to take over the Father’s work by ourselves choosing, cajoling, and chivvying, exhorting and harassing, and always with an eye on Church numbers and popular reputation before Catholic sincerity and truth, or Christian service.  Our very first and most important activity must be to, ‘Sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts’, and if our love for and appreciation of Jesus is authentic and sincere, the Father will be able to use us to help and serve those He chooses to call and draw to Jesus in Mother Church. 

People of God, Jesus' promise to His disciples still holds for you and me in our world today.  We are called to continue His work, indeed, as He Himself said, to do even greater works for Him, in His Spirit.  For this, however, we need to prepare and pray for the coming anew of His Spirit into our hearts and lives by trusting ourselves ever more confidently to His abiding presence in Mother Church, and to the power of prayer when, as her children, we seek to respond and open ourselves up, to the One Who is ever knocking at the door of our hearts for deeper communion with us.  In that way may we be truly ready and prepared to:

Give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for our hope;

the hope, that is, which is summed up in those few words of Jesus:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 

Let us, therefore, pray for God’s Gift of the Spirit to overshadow Mother Church anew this coming Pentecost, that the Father’s Name be hallowed -- as Jesus prayed -- in her public worship and proclamation of His Gospel Truth.   And let us aspire to welcome that Spirit of Truth and Love thus pulsating through the Church into our own personal lives of witness and service, that His most holy Will be done in us and through us; again, as Jesus when on earth, said, ‘Father, not My will but Thine be done.’

At present our Western world is allowing itself to be diabolically deceived as it proudly endeavours to demonstrate itself to be holy without God.  Let not us, People of God -- chosen, proud, and eternally grateful to be Catholic and Christian -- be infected by any such ‘holiness’.  Let us, on the contrary, consider ever more humbly and attentively St. Peter’s advice and guidance:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear

Friday, 16 May 2014

Fifth Sunday of Eastertide Year A 2014

Fifth Sunday of Eastertide (A)

(Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7; 1st. Letter of St. Peter 2:4-9; Gospel of St. John 14:1-12)

With the Gospel passage we have just heard we are introduced into what might be called the ‘Holy of holies of the New Testament’.  These intimate words after the Last Supper which Jesus had so ‘eagerly desired to eat with His disciples’ contain what is, in effect, the last manifestation of His deeply sympathetic understanding of and Personal concern for those whom the Father had specially given to Him, and whom He had long cherished and come to love so dearly, before Himself being given up to death – a death He not only freely accepted but also most lovingly embraced, ‘entering willingly into His Passion’, as the second Eucharistic Prayer puts it. 

Jesus had already gathered the Apostles round Him for their Paschal meal in the course of which He told them – to His great distress and theirs – that one of them would betray Him; whereupon they were left anxiously wondering who it could be since Jesus did not publicly name Judas Iscariot.  The atmosphere in the room was depressed even tense, but Judas then went out -- apparently on a mission confided to him, but in fact into the night and for the powers of darkness -- whereupon the general sense of threat and despondency among the Apostles was lifted and they were free again to respond to Jesus’ words of exultation:

          Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. (John 13:31)

This stark transition from recent depression and foreboding to present joy and expectation affected Peter most of all, for when Jesus went on to say:  

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come’,

Peter could not accept the thought of any such limitation to his zeal for and attachment to Jesus:

          Master, why can’t I follow You?  I will lay down my life for You!

Jesus therefore had to warn him that, despite his present feelings, he would soon deny Him three times.

Jesus, however, having just intoned ‘Gloria’ to God did not want to leave His disciples in any atmosphere of depression due to their own emotional instability, and so He hastened to sustain, strengthen, and confirm them in their Gospel faith by encouraging and advising them how to attain to that peace and joy which awaited them in heaven, however much the threatening clouds might gather around them here on earth and against Himself at this decisive moment:   
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me.  In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 

He says the same to His Catholic people today, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled!’  Difficulties will inevitably arise, for the devil is at work in the world, and in our own weak, sinfully-inclined hearts and minds; which, of course, also means, at work in His Church, and even, most sadly, among those specially consecrated to the glory of His Name.  Nonetheless, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled!’ Have faith in God (He is Lord and Master of all), have faith also in Me (for I have promised to be with you in My Church until the end of time).

People of God, it is a sign of true love for Jesus (‘true love’ because it may be totally unnoticed by men) when we refuse to allow our hearts to be weighed down, our minds absorbed in or worried by, the cares of this world.  Such trials will inevitably arise in our lives at times, but if we really want to trust God, if we truly aspire to love Jesus, we must not ‘let our hearts be troubled’ in such ways; for yielding ourselves to them, under whatever guise they may present themselves to us, ultimately promotes but one thing: deeper self-solicitude and hidden self-love. 

As Jesus continued speaking to His disciples, opening His Sacred Heart to them more and more, He added:

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be. 

How the Apostles longed to be with Jesus!!  How gladly they had given up everything in order to be with Him in His public ministry!  And here Jesus tells all who -- together with the Apostles -- long for that supreme blessedness of ‘being with Him’, that ultimately it cannot be achieved by our own efforts; we can only be truly and fully ‘one with Him’ by His coming to us and our allowing Him to take charge of our lives. 

          I will come back again and take you to Myself.

Not that Jesus will do everything, of course, because He has come down to us that we might rise to life in Him and learn to work with Him and by His Spirit for the Father’s glory and mankind’s salvation; and so He immediately calls on them to prepare themselves:

           Where I am going you know the way.

The way, that is, already proclaimed by the Good News of the Gospel, the way along which all those who believe in God must walk towards their Father’s heavenly home.  Let the Apostles prepare themselves to start immediately with both confidence and humility, sure in the knowledge that they will ultimately reach their destination if they walk in the company of Jesus.  That is why Jesus will return: to take them with Himself along the Way which is Himself.

To make that journey with Jesus, however, we still need guidance lest we stray away from the right path, and stamina lest we fail to hold fast to the end of the road.  And so it is as the eternal light of Truth and font of Life that Jesus offers His disciples such guidance and stamina, saying:

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

At that moment Philip came up with a question that no doubt astonished his fellow Apostles -- how could Philip have asked such a question in their name and at such a time! -- and Jesus Himself:

          Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us!

This both astonished Jesus and it hurt Him!

Have I been with you for so long a time, and you still do not know Me, Philip?  

That question, I say, hurt Jesus because it showed that Philip was not fully content to be with Jesus; it showed that he did not, as yet, really love Jesus enough, and consequently did not truly know Him either.  Philip, wanted certainty for himself, the relative certainty of sight rather than the obscurity of faith.  He wanted to be secure, safe at the destination; not always walking ’blind’ with Jesus, having to trust Jesus totally, and all along the way.  Philip was not yet content to be with Jesus in faith; he wanted what he thought was more, what was better: to see the Father with his own eyes.   How foolish!!  What eyes could better see the Father than Jesus eyes!

It was clear-- embarrassingly clear even to his fellow Apostles and, of course, painfully clear for Jesus – that He, Jesus, was not yet, Philip’s all; there was so much of Philip not yet given to Jesus, so much of Philip still wanting for Philip!

And how many of us, likewise, want to see results and get more for ourselves! We want to see ourselves – and perhaps we want to be seen by others -- doing things for God, things that show to others and prove to ourselves how much we deserve a place in heaven, rather than trusting in the goodness of God to give freely to all who love Him more than they could desire, rather than living a life of total FAITH in Jesus: seeking to know and love Him with all our hearts and in Him the Father, to the total disregard and forgetting of self.

People of God, let us look to Jesus ever more and more, let us learn of Him, love Him, live for Him … all this by trusting Him.

St. Francis is reported (Ivan Gobry) to have said, ‘The Order and the life of Friars Minor are like a little flock that the Son of God requested of His heavenly Father saying, “Father, I would like You to form and give Me a new and humble people, different from all those that have gone before … a people that will be content to possess Me alone.”’