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, 26 June 2014

Saints Peter and Paul Year A 2014

 Saints Peter & Paul                       

(Acts 12:1-11; 2nd. Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18; Matthew 16:13-19)

My dear People of God, we are invited today to give thanks to God for the gift of faith with which we have been blessed; to thank Our Blessed Lord for establishing His Church on the abiding foundation Rock of His Good News proclaimed by Peter and Paul and the Apostolic College; and finally to express our gratitude for the witness given by both Peter and Paul in Rome.

In the infant Church there were certain people who claimed to have knowledge of some teachings of Jesus hidden from the general body of disciples, teachings which only those could learn who had been specially initiated by rituals of a secret nature.   For such people, the faith of the simple Christian was only the beginning; the first step indeed but not, of itself, enough for deep intimacy with God in Jesus.  

All those who fought the very idea of such secret doctrines did so stating that:

The authentic Christian teaching is addressed to all Christians; and is essentially based on, and to be found in, the New Testament and other public and Holy Scriptures of Mother Church;

The faith taught publicly in the Church is guaranteed by the fact that it is one with, and truly expressive of, the traditional Church presentation of the original Good News of Jesus given to the Apostles and handed down to subsequent ages  through the unbroken line of their successors.  

In that way it was made clear that the fullness of the authentic teaching of Jesus is open and available to all in the Church.

You must remember that in the early centuries of the Church there were no printed books; what books there were had to be copied by hand and were difficult to find and very expensive to buy: there were few roads, and the best of them -- though direct -- could only facilitate slow transport by horses and wheeled carriage, while transport by sea was very slow due to ships having to wait for favourable winds and tides; and, of course, both modes of transport were open to attack by robbers and pirates.   All this meant that the Church in each town generally preached what it had received at the beginning of its foundation from the wandering teachers who first came and proclaimed Christ to them and baptised them in His name.   These teachers were all accepted as true disciples of Jesus risking their lives to proclaim His Gospel, but those with the greatest authority were, of course, the twelve apostles and their closest associates.  Those churches founded personally by an apostle, or where an apostle was known to have been active, were specially respected.  Above all, however, churches whose apostle had not only worked among them but had died and was buried in their midst in a tomb open to veneration, such churches were, indeed, shown the very greatest respect and their tradition of faith was recognized as being most sure.  Such churches could be found, for example, at Antioch in Syria, at Philippi, Ephesus, Corinth, and Thessalonica.  But even among these “super” churches with “surer” faith because of the originating apostolic presence and witness, even among these, there was one which stood head and shoulders above all others, and that was the church at Rome, where both Peter, the Rock on which Jesus had said He would build His Church, and Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, had both worked and, indeed, suffered martyrdom for their unflinching witness to the truth of Jesus.   If any church could remain free from heresy, if any church could preserve the teaching of Jesus in its purest integrity, it had to be the church at Rome.

All, therefore, who wanted to know the true teaching of Jesus would find it proclaimed most fully and surely in the apostolic churches, above all in the church at Rome.  That true faith in Jesus and His teaching was known as the Catholic faith, because “catholic” means “universal”, and that faith was proclaimed in Christian churches all over the known world because all were teaching the doctrine of the apostolic churches, and, above all, the doctrine proclaimed by the church at Rome.  The Catholic Church, was one and potentially universal because it was present in local churches to be found in cities, towns, and countryside, throughout the known world, proclaiming the one catholic faith received from Paul and the original apostolic college, and sealed, confirmed, by the witness and authority of Peter the Rock.  And even today, we above all, are rightly called Christians because we believe and proclaim the authentic Catholic faith.

Let me just give you the words of two of the earliest fathers and writers in the universal Church concerning the church at Rome.  First of all the words of St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in France, whose memory we celebrated yesterday, and who was writing about the year 185, having been taught himself by St. Polycarp who had heard the Good News from the lips of St. John the Evangelist:

We do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.   (Adv. Haer. III, 3, 2.)

Let us now listen to another very early witness to the Church:

Come now you who would indulge a better curiosity if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; (and there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of apostles themselves). How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood!  Where Peter endures a passion like his Lords!  Where Paul wins his crown in a death like John the Baptist, and where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile! …One Lord God does she acknowledge, the Creator of the universe, and Christ Jesus (born) of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God the Creator; and the Resurrection of the flesh; the law and the prophets she unites in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks in her faith. This she seals with the water (of baptism), arrays with the Holy Ghost, feeds with the Eucharist, cheers with martyrdom, and against such a discipline thus (maintained) she admits no gainsayer. 

Those words were written by one called Tertullian, a famous and influential figure in the early Church who lived from 160 onwards.

There are so very many ancient witnesses to the unique position of Rome in the Church!  Were there disputes about the faith?  Rome was asked to decide.  Was anyone being persecuted for upholding Catholic truth?   Such a person would go to Rome seeking sanctuary and support.  Were innovators seducing the faithful?  The example of Rome was invoked and her help sought, because she was known never to have been deceived by innovations detrimental to the tradition she had received from Peter and Paul.

In our present world of change and uncertainty, where faith is often denied and tradition ridiculed, we should be both grateful for, and proud of, the blessing we have received: the supreme blessing and gift of the one, true, faith proclaimed by Paul and guaranteed by Peter; the inviolate faith, preserved and revealed in the one Church of Christ through the power of the Spirit of holiness and truth bequeathed to her by the Lord.  And for so great a blessing each and every one of us should, on this feast above all, give most heartfelt thanks to God our loving Father whilst offering most sincere prayers that mother Church, under the guidance of Peter the Apostle in the figure of the present Pope, might continue to further the fulfillment of the work Jesus originally committed to her charge.  Though the world criticizes and even persecutes Mother Church, we -- her children -- must ever remember and unceasingly call to mind that Jesus is always with her as He promised, and that, just as He committed His mother Mary to John the Apostle's care, so also He commits Mother Church to our active care and loving service, not just to our plaints and cries:

Jesus said to His disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the labourers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out labourers for His harvest

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 9:37-38; 28: 18-20)


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Corpus Christi Year A

Corpus Christi (A)

(Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; 1st. Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58)

Anyone who loves Jesus will occasionally think “How wonderful it must have been to actually see Him, hear Him speak, experience His Presence and Personality!”  What a privilege: incomparable and unrepeatable!  Such a person might then go on to wonder: “What difference might it have made to my life if, indeed, I could have known the Jesus Who walked and talked in Palestine; Who taught, smiled on, and blessed His Apostles, disciples, and the thronging crowds; Who looked on the poor and needy with an immediate and personal sympathy, giving evidence of a patient understanding deeper than any possible words of exhortation or explanation.  Oh, to have known Him thus!   Had that been my lot, might I not have turned out immeasurably better than I find myself today?”

Let us, however, recall these words of Jesus to His sorrowing disciples who were distressed at the thought of losing Him (John 16:7):

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.
God’s blessings are now bestowed on us in the name of Jesus by the Advocate, the Spirit of Jesus, through the mediation of Jesus’ Sacramental Body and Blood, and these two aspects we need to look a little closer at in order to appreciate them more.

Had we personally heard and seen Jesus Himself here on earth, we would have been looking upon Him as One other than ourselves, looking outside ourselves to Another.  Moreover, we would have been listening to Him with ears that do not always hear accurately, looking at Him through eyes that often see only what we expect or want to see and are conversely, at times slow to notice or appreciate the unexpected or the unwelcome.  And then, having seen and heard in our own way that which others might have seen and heard somewhat differently, we frequently recall only that which -- for some perhaps unknown reason – particularly stirred our personal sensitivity, and so fixed itself in our memory.  It is a fact that we can rarely, if at all, remember all that actually happened; and police will tell us how difficult it can be at times in the search for objective facts to reconcile different, even mutually contradictory, eye- witness accounts.

If our remembering and reporting of all that might have happened could prove so difficult, what about our understanding of those events?  We can misunderstand what others do, even when we know them intimately …. How would we -- sinners as we know ourselves to be -- have understood aright what Jesus in His infinite wisdom and 'caritas'-as-distinct-from-emotional love chose to do and say to us and in our hearing?

In the days of His public ministry Jesus – though devoutly accompanied and attended to by the company of the disciples and Apostles we have learned to admire so much -- was nevertheless led on several occasions to reproach them for their slowness of understanding and the weakness of their flesh.  Had we been with them, we might have watched and admired Him in His work, but surely we ourselves would frequently -- probably more frequently than the  Apostles -- have been found unable to rightly appreciate the significance of His words and actions, nor would we have been either more committed and courageous than they so as to be able to disregard the fear that originally held them back from confessing His Name, or so as to stay our feet from leaving Jesus’ side and running with them, each and every one of us, on our own way.

Now, however, Jesus has given us His own Spirit, to be with us in Mother Church to the end of time and we know more of Jesus’ words than did His disciples of old because the Spirit has brought, and is constantly bringing, to the Church’s mind all that Jesus said and did, intended for us and wanted of us, as He so gently but yet irresistibly guides her into all truth about Jesus’ saving work.  And in our individual lives, too, through all the changing circumstances of our daily routines, no matter what the joys or sorrows, difficulties or trials, the Spirit of Jesus is in us, with us, and for us: speaking to and communing with our spirit, comforting and supporting us, moving and guiding, inspiring and sustaining us, whereby we are enlightened to appreciate what Jesus does for us, and also empowered to work with and for Jesus, making full use of the blessings He has left us in His Church.
All this is what was shown when Our Lord ascended to heaven.  The disciples were left gazing after Him, whereupon they were admonished by angels saying:

Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.  (Acts 1:11)

“Why stand gazing up into the sky?”  Admiring indeed, but not involved.  That was our situation at the beginning when we were thinking about how wonderful it would have been if we had been able to see, hear and follow Jesus on His saving mission.   The present and enduring fact is that now we are not just watching, we are involved; we have been given riches beyond any of our imaginings, riches meant to enable us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” as St. Paul said.  We are no longer like children innocent of any responsibility, just watching, waiting, wondering and wishing; but rather we are now called upon by the Spirit of Jesus -- working within the Church and in each one of us -- to actualize, bring about, what Jesus planned, suffered, and died for, by bringing forth acceptable fruit in our lives and growing to full personal  maturity in Christ, having a part with Him in His sufferings for the salvation of mankind, and thereby hoping to attain to a share in the glory of His Resurrection, under the guidance and in the power of His Spirit within us.
In order that we may be able to fulfil this our glorious calling, and to grow continually in union with Jesus, we have been given His own Most Precious Body and Blood in Holy Mother Church, so that, receiving Him from her we might be filled ever anew with, purified and perfected by, His Most Holy Spirit.

The Spirit is indeed given to each of us at our Baptism.  However, the Spirit is a Divine Person to Whom we must learn to respond; He is not a thing we irrevocably possess; and our awareness of a developing presence of the Spirit within us and for us is dependent upon the sensitivity and sincerity of our response to His initiatives in our lives.  And therein lies the difficulty, for it is difficult to respond to One Who is invisible and intangible.  

To help us in that respect the Spirit Himself, our Advocate and Helper, puts the presence of Jesus in Mother Church before our eyes; for, just as Jesus lived for the glory of His Father, so the Spirit too, lives and works in us, not for Himself but for the glory of Jesus.  He knows we can more easily recall, love, and appreciate the human figure of Jesus Who, though Himself no longer with us visibly, is nevertheless indelibly etched on our minds and hearts through His shared humanity with us: in the memories of Him enshrined in the Scriptures and in the traditions and practices of Mother Church.  Above all else, however, the Spirit insists that we never forget that Jesus left us one supreme and sublimely perfect memorial of Himself -- His Self-sacrifice to the Father and Self-communion to us -- in Holy Mass:

Then Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of Me."   And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which will be shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

In our Holy Communion, Jesus is present to us as He promised: He is present in His glorious body under the appearances of bread and wine because He comes offering us life, eternal life.  Indeed, He even offers us a share, a place, in His glory by the Gift of the Spirit Who raised Him from the dead:

If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit that dwells in you.   (Romans 8:11)

In this way our continued growth in understanding of, love for, and likeness to, Jesus can know no limits until we are, finally, one with Him in all things for the Father.  Jesus, on earth, was necessarily leading His disciples from the outside; now, however, by the Gift of His Spirit – ever renewed and refreshed in us by our communion with Him in His Eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament -- Jesus wills to make us, by His Spirit, perfectly one with Himself in love for and service of His Father, Who Himself comes to us and wills to abide with us, that thus He might make us His own truly and fully adopted children and show Himself to be our most truly sublime and loving Father.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Most Holy Trinity (Year A) 2014

The Most Holy Trinity (A)

(Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18)


Catholic doctrine concerning the Most Holy Trinity is, in the strictest sense, a mystery of faith; a mystery known to us only due to the fact that it has been revealed to us by God: by hints and suggestions in the Old Testament Scriptures, and above all, in the New Testament, by the most intimate words of Jesus’ lived relationship of loving obedience before His Father and by His promised sending of the Holy Spirit to be our unfailing Helper, and the fulfiller of all Jesus’ prospects and purposes for us.

Notice that, People of God: the Most Holy Trinity was first, and is best, revealed through Jesus’ own loving relationships with His Father and the Holy Spirit, before ever it came to be -- in theological discussion, and even at times in monastic liturgy -- an almost mathematical conception: ‘One in Three’ and ‘Three in One’, even, most amazingly, ‘una Unitas’ (one unity!).   This most holy mystery does indeed necessarily involve our making use of the mathematical concepts of one and three, but, in itself, it always and exclusively concerns PERSONAL relationships of divinely ecstatic love and total commitment, in an absolute oneness of Unique Being.

There is also another thought to be born in mind whereby this ‘mystery’ becomes more easily and lovingly understandable:  none of us knows the most intimate depths of the mind and heart of those we love, even perhaps most dearly.   In the beginning we have to trust the sincerity of their expressive words and actions; only later on, when we have learnt through experience and thereby come to greater maturity, we trust them themselves.   But always, we must trust; because Personality is inviolable, and is indeed that likeness to Himself originally given us by God as His special creation:

            Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.  (Genesis 1:26) 

Faith characterises lovers everywhere, and the need for Christian faith is not alien to our nature nor does it make God inaccessibly distant.  Faith and trust only -- but indeed supremely -- add in human relationships the aspect of difference we frequently call attractiveness and beauty; so too with God, the awesome transcendence of omniscient wisdom and unfailing goodness.  

Jesus makes this known to us in the Gospels where He declares that there is only one true God; that He Himself is the Son of God, truly God, distinct from and sent by His Father, and that the Holy Spirit is God, sent by the Father and the Son to console and enlighten, strengthen and sustain, His Christian people.

Intimately present to One another through absolute knowledge and perfect understanding, bound together in inexpressible unity of love and purpose, the Blessed Trinity is the model for, and can be the goal and fulfilment of, our lives as personal beings.  For through the gift of sanctifying grace we are admitted to the fellowship of the three divine Persons: we are, by faith, baptized into Christ, and He, the Word of God, gives us knowledge of and access to the Father; and together, the Father and the Son infuse the Spirit of Love into our souls, and the Holy Spirit comes with all His gifts which, if we respond, will lead us to the perfection of the life of grace.

The Father is the One for Whom we live and to Whom we aspire; the Son the One with Whom we live and through Whom we learn; the Spirit is Him by Whom we live and in Whom we trust.

The Father sends His Son to us and gives Him for us; Jesus is sent by the Father and bestows the Spirit; the Spirit is the Gift of both Father and Son.

The Father calls us; the Jesus accompanies us and guides us; the Spirit inspires and sustains us.

Such individuality, such complementarity, such Unity!

And that is why Christians, being called to share the divine life, have over many centuries aspired to a gradually more perfect society … to build up a culture where  each and every one seeks to attain his or her individual maturity as members of a heavenly society on earth, where no one lives for self alone but all for each other and all together for God; where no one uses his neighbour for his own personal advantage; where violence and hatred have neither right nor entrance; and where the satisfaction of personal fulfilment is only full-fulfilment when it is crowned with the much deeper joy of thereby contributing to the fulfilment of the whole community.

When Christian society is, today, apparently breaking down in many parts of the world, due to the sins of Christians, the attacks of secularist and atheistic ideologies, and the mindless arrogance and violence of extremists who at times show themselves to be quite specially gifted in the expression of human hatred, we must ever recall with gratitude and hope that the most beautiful and inspiring doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity is still able to inspire, to work in and transform, all who believe in and commit themselves to Jesus.   Such aspirations, both personal and social, are not just beautiful ideals or secret dreams, they are possibilities, realities, which can ultimately be ours; because we are already, by faith and by God’s Gift, partakers in the power and beauty of divine life.

And associated most intimately with this Christian teaching and Catholic doctrine about the Most Holy Trinity is the most intense and beautiful love story that history has to speak of.

At the Last Supper, St. John tells us (30:1ss.):

Jesus knew that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, (and loving) His own in the world, He loved them to the end.  So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God, He rose from supper and took off His outer garments.  He took a towel and tied it around His waist.  Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.  

He then went on (Luke 22:14ss.) to make not only a rare manifestation of His own intimate Personal emotions and feelings but also a most delicate and self-humbling invitation to His disciples to share them with Him:

            I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;

words which can only be related to those He had earlier used to prepare His disciples for the very event that was now imminent and threatening:

There is a baptism with which I must be baptized and how great is My anguish until it is accomplished!  (Luke 12:50)

In such circumstances Jesus entered upon what was to be the culmination of this their special meeting together and the fulfilment of His coming as Son of Man and Saviour of mankind; He instituted His final gift of Self:

            This is My Body which will be given for you; do this in memory of Me;

            This cup is the new covenant in My Blood which will be shed for you.

 The very prospect of the physical and spiritual torments that would actually be involved in that gift of His body and blood were subsequently to cause Him such instinctive horror in the Garden of Gethsemane that (Luke 22:43s.):
To strengthen Him an angel from heaven appeared to Him.  He was in such agony and He prayed so fervently that His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. 

And yet, He brought that Supper with His disciples, for which He had so ardently longed (‘with desire I desired’ translated literally) to a conclusion with those most sublime words of total love and selfless commitment (John 14:30-15:1):

I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming.  He has no power over Me, but THE WORLD MUST KNOW THAT I LOVE THE FATHER and that I do just as the Father commanded Me.  Get up, let us go.

Whereupon, leading His disciples out of that Upper Room, He led them, singing, to the Garden of Gethsemane,  where, in the most intimate presence of but three -- the chosen three -- of His disciples, the torments of His Passion began to take hold of Him:

            My soul is sorrowful even to death. (Matthew 26:38)

Dear People of God, the Catholic and Christian mystery of the Most Holy Trinity expresses and enshrines such wondrous beauty and sublime truths!  Let us thank God today, for this mystery can truly be said to contain,  as in a vital kernel, the whole of Jesus’ revelation to us and hopes for us:

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.   Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Mt.  28:18–20)