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 July 2014

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A 2014



17th. SUNDAY OF YEAR (A)

(1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52)

What beautiful readings we have heard today!!  Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of heaven as a treasure … something we normally ‘treasure’ in our hearts, to ourselves; He also compared it to ‘a pearl of great price’, something one might delight to display to, and share with, others.  Both these attitudes can, without difficulty, be given perfectly Christian expression: a treasure leading one to exclaim, ‘thanks be to God’ in personal prayer; and a pearl of great price leading me now, for example, to delight in displaying before you and for you: ‘Such is our Catholic faith, how beautiful it is!’
The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a man finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Forgive, or at least understand me, People of God, for I changed the word -- the modern, politically correct, word -- ‘person’ into the original ‘man’, which they dare not print even though they could not avoid a few words later saying ‘he has’.   Political prudence is such a craven attitude at times and can lead to somewhat ludicrous formulations!
Now let us turn away from tortuous, modern, secular ideas of charity and equality and look at the simple beauty of the Gospel of Jesus.
Did you -- on hearing those words of Jesus I have just quoted -- experience any ever-so-slight qualms of modern conscience which anti-religious people can so easily drum up against the Gospel of God?  ‘He should not have bought that field after hiding the treasure!’ they can say with most righteous indignation.   Remember last week’s weeds growing tall among the wheat and crying out, ‘Look at me how tall I have grown and how beautiful I am, just like, indeed, even better than, the wheat’?
We, however, know better than that; we can learn from our Blessed Lord always. For, though He may occasionally choose to shock us, we know for certain that He is always -- so to speak -- deeply right, and has much to teach us if we will but listen so as to learn and love.
This ‘treasure’ of the Kingdom found buried in a field is of such absolute, total, all-embracing, and indeed all-comparison-excluding importance, that it can never – under whatever circumstances – be set aside or passed over.  It is a matter of life and death, indeed, eternal life and death.  Think of the boy Jesus after His coming of age as a Jewish young man staying behind in the Temple speaking with those who knew God deeply (‘we worship what we know’), and communing with, delighting in, His own Father at a level He had never known as man before (‘never call anyone on earth you father, for you have only one Father, and He is in heaven’).  He forgot all about Mary and Joseph, about returning home with the caravan to Nazareth among relatives, friends and acquaintances!  Indeed, He forgot all about Himself: what did He eat, where did He stay?  On finding Him in the Temple Mary dutifully expressed her concern as being primarily for Joseph, ‘Your father and I were worried’; but that was inappropriate at that moment, provoking, as it did, Jesus’ immediate response: ‘Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business, in My Father’s house?’
Dear People of God, Jesus’ deliberate ignoring of modern ‘humanistic, science-of-ethics’ morality, just as He ignored so often the Pharisaic morality of His accusers, was demanded by the supremely transcendent importance of His teaching:
The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a man finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Jesus then went on to address another parable to His audience highlighting a further, most important, aspect of the Kingdom of heaven:
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all he has and buys it.
Here we have a man searching for what is beautiful.   It is true that he sells all that he has to buy it, but he is able to pay for it: he divests himself of what is good, helpful, useful, and to a certain extent necessary, for all these things cannot rival the sheer pleasure, joy, admiration and delight, this beautiful pearl affords him.  Therefore Jesus tells us that he buys it, pays for it in open bargaining: it is not something of transcendent, life or death, importance that absolutely cannot be missed, it is rather something of such great beauty that the buyer wants to possess it even though it be at very great cost.
These two minuscule parables (61 English words in total) say absolutely all that needs to, must, be said about the Kingdom of God which Jesus came to bring!  Further words can add nothing to them:  the Kingdom is life, divine in its nature and in its beauty; and one can surely say with St. John (21:25):
I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would (have to) be written to unfold all that they contain and promise.
No one can tamper with the Gospel of Jesus because it is Jesus as Word, just as the Eucharist is Jesus as Sacrament.  Jesus made abundantly clear that no one could come to Him unless the Father had drawn them thereto; and that the Father gives, sends, followers to Jesus so that He, Jesus, might save them for eternal life: it is not our job to persuade people to come to a Jesus we concoct up for them.  We all -- priests and people -- are, in our degree, Catholic witnesses to Jesus, and as such we have to offer all who seek their Saviour the Jesus revealed in the Scriptures as understood by Mother Church; in other words, we have to be authentic, Spirit-guided, witnesses to Jesus, not purveyors of popular or personal human persuasions concerning Him.   Such is the Jesus for Whom the Father Himself calls disciples that they might learn to know, love and serve Him in sincere faith; and such disciples the Father Himself loves and will visit because of their commitment to and love for His only begotten and most-beloved Son.  How we -- practicing and proclaiming Catholics -- can fittingly respond, and bear authentic witness, to such love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is our foremost vocation, privilege, responsibility, and glory.
Once again, dear People of God, notice Jesus’ third parable today, repeating what He said last Sunday but with even greater clarity and emphasis:
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.  When it is full … the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Such a net is expected to collect fish of every kind, good and bad.  Such bad fish are -- I say -- to be expected but not, ultimately, tolerated; because they, at the end of the age, will be separated and thrown into the fiery furnace.   For the present, however, it is no disgrace that the Kingdom of Heaven – like a good fishing net – collects bad fish as well as good, because the Kingdom only collects fish that are candidates originally called to become good fish, which the Kingdom as such nourishes, helps, and encourages that they might fulfil their calling (from the Father) and their own original promise.   That some, perhaps many (Will the Son of Man find faith when He comes?) fail, is a cause of sorrow rather than surprise; it is always a reason for prayers: of intercession for sinners, for the blessing of Mother Church, and of sorrow and ‘compassion’ for the God Who is great enough to be able to ‘suffer’ on such occasions.
Let us now give our attention to what is most attractive in our two main parables today, where the Kingdom of Heaven is portrayed as a supreme, and incomparable treasure, and also as a pearl of outstanding beauty and great price.   Why the Kingdom is such a unique treasure and so beautiful a pearl today’s reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans explains; for there, Paul tells us what – so to speak – ‘goes on’ in the Kingdom of Heaven in the course of its earthly preparation:
All things work for good for those who love God, who are called (by the Father) according to His purpose.  For those He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son He also called; and those He called He also justified, and those He justified He also glorified.
 
You, dear People of God here at Mass for our Sunday celebration, have been called, drawn, by the Father to Jesus, and you are thereby in the Kingdom of heaven’s preparatory stage.  You are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son; and in the Kingdom God is justifying you, beautifying you, so that you might be enabled to put on, be endowed with, some share -- an ever greater share -- in the glory of Jesus as a member of His glorified Body.  
Notice, People of God, that it is at this precise point that we can appreciate the real nature of the horror, the tragedy, of sin among Catholic and Christian figures: as apparently representative members, called-by-the-Father members, of the Kingdom, they are actually refusing, rejecting, repulsing and distorting His desires and efforts to beautify them.
However, forget that necessary aside about the tragedy of sin among the chosen, and let us turn back in gratitude and admiration, love and humility, to the God of great goodness and the Lord of salvation, opening our mouths and our hearts wide to welcome and embrace their Spirit of beautiful hope.
Lord, let Your kindness comfort me according to Your promise, let Your compassion come to me that I may live; for Your law gives understanding to the simple, and is my (great) delight.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

16th Sunday of the Year (A)



16th. Sunday of Year (A)

(Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43)



Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, among those regarding themselves as devout Jews in the time of Jesus were at least two groups who claimed to be the ‘holy remnant’, alone faithful to the commands of Israel’s God-given Law in its fullness, and who thought they would, exclusively, usher in the coming  Kingdom of God.  Outsiders were, in the eyes of these two groups, ‘beyond the Pale’.  They formed, so to speak, ‘closed’ remnants, small gatherings of those alone worthy to belong to God’s Chosen People because of their strict obedience to the Law of Moses, their passionate adherence to and observance of all their groups’ requirements for liturgical purity and traditional piety, and also for their own personal asceticism. 

One of these two groups, the Pharisees, separated themselves from other people’s popular society but not from their physical proximity; the other, however – the monastic community of the Essenes at Qumran, near the Dead Sea -- carried out this separation to most stringent extremes.  The Pharisees set out to represent the priestly character of God’s chosen ones in their spiritual practices; but the Essenes expressed this claim even in their clothing: each member of the order, even the laity, wore a white linen robe, the ceremonial dress of priests in office.  The Pharisaic movement demanded ritual washing of hands before meals from all its members; the Essene community accentuated, and indeed exaggerated, this requirement to the extent that it demanded a full bath before every meal, in order to achieve the highest possible standards of purity.

And how exclusive these groups were!  Even the physically handicapped were not allowed to belong to the assembly of the Essene community.  So what hope was there for sinners?  

Now, such separation from outsiders was utterly foreign to the community of the Church founded by Jesus, as was patently clear from the way in which He recommended His disciples to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to their table; and from His own sitting at table with the friends of Levi/ Matthew, the former tax-collector become a disciple, and uttering those most famous words of public reprimand to critical Pharisees:

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but the sick do.  Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’.  I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.  (Luke 5:31s.)

What distinguished Jesus from these groups was the universality of His message of salvation: proclaiming the Father’s will to save all – without exception -- who would turn to Him; offering unlimited grace, uniquely able to bring about the eternal salvation of each and every person willing to repent in accordance with Jesus’ own proclamation of truth. 

Of course, Jesus was aware that there would be a division between sinners and those ultimately chosen, for He preached a call to repentance, and not all want to repent from the evil of their self-promoting and self-satisfying practices which ultimately and inevitably destroy their hosts and perpetrators.  In Jesus’ public and popularly-understood parables there were five wise virgins with five foolish ones, there were goats and sheep that needed to be ultimately separated.  However, the final manifestation and separation is not for this world, and so there was and is still a chance for all who hear the Lord’s message, now become the teaching of His Church, to open themselves up to His boundless and all-powerful grace, and bring forth fruit worthy of repentance.

And so, in the field of the Church wheat and tares live side by side, not as in the parable, just for the exclusive good of the wheat, but also for the ever-possible improvement and benefit of the human tares; for the fruitless, sinful, and stupid members of the Church receive and can profit from countless blessings percolating down to them because innumerable saintly men and women have lived, and are still living, holy but largely inconspicuous lives … unknown to those around them but not unnoticed by God, Who for the sake of such fruitful and much-loved disciples of Jesus, pours out His innumerable blessings on all in the Church.  We cannot know how much each of us may owe – perhaps even something of decisive significance – to some simple, holy person we neither knew nor would perhaps have sufficiently appreciated if we had known them.    Conversely however, and we should never forget this, every time we knowingly sin, we harm the whole Church by impeding the full flow of grace throughout the whole Body, just as when some cell or organ fails to function appropriately in our own physical bodies. 

But the wheat and the tares growing together are not only to be found in a farmer’s field as in Jesus’ parable, not only in Mother Church, but also in our individual lives; and some saints -- for example, the CurĂ© of Ars -- are known to have asked God to let them see their sins as they really were.  The holy and humble CurĂ©, however, was unable to bear the horror of the sight allowed him, and he immediately besought God, of His great mercy, to withdraw the vision.

Even the so-called, at times self-styled, ‘little sinners’ – massively insensitive as they are to the grace of God -- find their lives pretty intolerable under stress, as a very famous French philosopher, Blaise Paschal, wrote centuries ago:

‘Whoever fails to see the vanity of the world must be vain himself.  For who does fail to see it except those young people surrounded with noise, distractions, and dreams of the future?  Now, take away their distractions and you will almost see them dry up with weariness; they then feel their nothingness without recognizing it; how unfortunate it must be to find oneself in unbearable sadness as soon as one is forced to think about one’s self, one’s own state, and not to be distracted from that thought.’

Again Paschal wrote: ‘If our condition were really happy, we would not find it necessary to seek our happiness in distractions.   How many people – especially young people – can endure a quiet night, day, week?  And yet, if we really were happy we would not want distractions, amusements, all the time.’
Well, that is what Christian life is all about.  It is meant, in God’s great goodness, to give us real happiness, true love and fulfilment, deep peace, and unshakeable hope; it is meant to make us fully human, more human than any irreligious life – no matter however charismatically endowed and successful -- could ever make us; for Jesus Christ alone was and is Perfect God and Perfect Man possessing the keys of life and love both here on earth and in heaven.

This week-end we have some very topical and comforting teaching concerning Mother Church in Our Blessed Lord’s three parables.

First of all note that God puts good seed in His field of the Church by drawing souls to Jesus through the discipline of faith and the obedience of love.  The enemy (the devil, do not forget him!) slyly puts in some pseudo-seed of his own, and such seed can – and, as Jesus tells us, is allowed to -- grow to maturity with the wheat, and even at times to stand upright alongside it, proclaiming to all the world, ‘Look at me, how tall I have grown, just like wheat; look how good and holy I am too!’.  The devil can also produce other weeds by perverting some initially good seed or making it disfunctional.  This presence of weeds in Mother Church should not cause alarm – Where have the weeds come from? -- it is sad indeed when friends or loved ones are involved, it is also humbling at times to our pride and/or indolence, but it is always a clear warning for Mother Church that her true seed needs to be further protected and more deeply cherished against something about which Jesus has warned us from the very beginning, and about which the Apostles, especially Paul and John in their letters, who -- following the Lord and Love of their lives -- were not afraid to serve His memory with such a commitment to His pure teaching and so ardent a love for the spiritual well-being of His disciples and children, that led them to speak with a clarity and decisiveness often considered too risky and unpopular for some politically over-sensitive prelates and priests of today.

Dear People of God, reverence, respect, and whole-heartedly trust Mother Church for the good seed sown in her and growing to maturity through her teaching and sacraments; that good seed which is still bringing forth good fruit for the Lord and which -- when left standing and shining in its sunlit and  golden splendour after the weeds have been collected and burnt -- will be found ready and worthy to be ‘gathered into the Lord’s barn’.

There are also many in the world looking for and aspiring to Mother Church.  The mustard seed parable tells of the little birds, not flying to the ‘mountains’ for human help:

In the Lord I take refuge, how can you say to me, ‘Flee like a bird to the mountains’?  (Psalm 11:1)

but finding shelter and rest from storms and predators in the shelter of the Kingdom: for the sceptical, so insignificant and powerless; for those of faith and self-commitment, so comprehensively sustaining, protecting, and inspiring.

The parable of the leaven shows us yet another essential aspect of the Kingdom of God here on earth in which the power of Mother Church’s teaching, worship, and fellowship can not only illuminate some of the pressing human questions and resolve certain of the immediate personal difficulties we encounter daily, but which can penetrate to the very core of our being and raise up the whole tone of our life to transcendent aspirations and blessings that lead ultimately to heavenly and eternal fulfilment and joy.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ we owe such much to our Blessed Lord for this time of His glory and our refreshment!  To Him be glory, honour, and our whole-hearted and most grateful thanks now and for ever.

Friday, 11 July 2014

15th Sunday in Ordinary time (Year A) 2014


15th. Sunday of Year (A)

(Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23)

 

 

You may well have thought that the sower did a pretty careless job: sowing on patches of rock and among thorns ….. indeed one popular translation seems to support that idea by making the sower seem a little more accurate in his work by saying that some seeds ‘fell on the edge of the path’!   That, however, is not accurate enough for most modern translations say quite clearly:

            Some seed fell on the path and birds came and ate it up.         

All this is, however, easily understood if we realize that in Palestine of Jesus’ day sowing preceded ploughing; hence, in the parable, the sower is depicted as striding over the unploughed stubble.  This enables us to understand why he sows ‘along the footpath’ because he sows intentionally over the path which locals have made walking through the stubble, since he intends even that seed to be, perhaps, sown sufficiently well when he has ploughed up the adventitious footpath.  Likewise, he sows intentionally among the thorns standing withered in the fallow, because they too will be ploughed up.  Nor need it even surprise us that some grains fall upon rocky ground, for the underlying limestone -- thinly covered with soil -- hardly shows above the surface and is not noticed until the ploughshare jars against it.  He sows thus because he is a working man who has not the time (even if he had the patience) to keep stopping and starting, avoiding first this and then that …. He needs must work over the whole field in order to get the job done in preparation for the seasonal weather and, as I have said, to have some hope (by the goodness of God!) for what might appear to be the otherwise totally useless sections.

How many circumstances there were to frustrate, even thwart, the sower’s labours!  How much that could quite possibly have disheartened him! But, amazingly, what a wonderful crop resulted:

            Some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty!!

Beyond all expectations larger than the normal good harvest, which yielded only tenfold!

Obviously Jesus did not intend to give, prescribe, a method of increasing crop production and developing earthly wealth.  No!  This was parable to show that the rich blessings of God’s Kingdom here on earth will come to fruition despite the insignificant, slow, laborious, beginnings of that Kingdom.

My word that goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

In spite of all natural obstructions and human opposition and though it may appear -- humanly speaking – impossible, the Kingdom of God will come for those who have firm faith in Jesus and patient trust in God’s great goodness and mercy; because those wonderfully prophetic words from Isaiah are not only fulfilled in those who hear but do not listen in search of understanding, but most sublimely and over and above all human expectations they are fulfilled in Jesus Himself:

My Word (incarnate) shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent (Him).

And so, in Our Lord’s own life on earth among men, He suffered ‘natural obstructions and human opposition’ to such an extent that He died maligned and deserted: an almost transparent failure in the sight of men.  But His trust in His Father was unshaken; He committed Himself without reserve to Him:

            Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.

The Kingdom of God in our souls expands to full extent in the same way.  With the sower we must do our best: first to work well and then to trust firmly in God.  We must, however, work at the whole field; not only in the better sections, but in those which are thorny and stony, on the trodden down and hard pathway.  We must try to exercise ourselves not only at that which comes easier to us, but also in those areas of life which we find it more difficult to discipline ourselves.  I suppose that for most of us the rough and stony mediocre ground is more plenteous than the fertile.  The points is, we must work at our whole being-before-God with simply sincerity, and quiet, unflagging, endeavour; and then trust in God with calm peace, and confident, childlike, expectance.  Results are His gift and for His glory.

Then the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Why do You speak to the people in parables?’  He said to them in reply, ‘Because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’

It was no arbitrary decision of Our Lord which led to Him speak in parables to the people.  No, it was the consequence and punishment of the poor dispositions of those who listened to Him.  That is why we must work at the whole field of our lives.  It is not enough to be good to our own family, if we are deaf and blind to the needs of others; it is not enough to be sober and thrifty if we are also ill-tempered or wrapped up in the things of this world; it is not enough to say, ‘I don’t do anyone any harm’ if we don’t seek to promote what is positively good.  Otherwise, we are, at the best, only half-disposed, and our vision is distorted, our understanding vitiated or, as Our Lord said:

            They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.

A man who is lustful, though he may have many good points – he may be generous hearted and hard working – but he cannot rightly conceive or meditate upon the love of God, because love for him has a twisted meaning; he cannot really imagine or appreciate a disinterested love, a fully personal love because pleasure and passion clouds and distorts his outlook.  And such distortion spreads elsewhere and can come to contaminate all we do unless we react against firmly it and any other such vices which have a place in our character and a part in our life.  If we are slaves in one aspect of our life, we cannot be truly free in any other, because we are not really ourselves, the selves God intended us to be.  As Jesus said in this respect:

To anyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

And so, People of God, I would recommend you today to aim at being consistent in your effort to let God’s Kingdom take root and come to reign in your lives... not just in one sector but in the whole of your lives, for that alone will bring true, lasting, joy and peace into your hearts:

Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear!  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Yes, you will see God at work in your life, hear Him speaking in your heart, and you will rejoice as they alone can rejoice who have found a love beyond compare which time can never tarnish nor changing circumstances disturb.  That, indeed, is the aim of all our religious practices: to recognize and respond with love to God in all aspects and occurrences of life; nothing being too important, nothing too insignificant; to see God’s beauty and loveableness in all persons and in all things, and to rejoice in Him with all our heart:

             I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

May we have that purpose fulfilled both here and in eternity, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014



14th. Sunday Year (A)

(Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us recall the picture painted of the King-to-come in our first reading from the prophecy of Zechariah:

Rejoice heartily O daughter Zion, shout for joy O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just saviour is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.  He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The coming King there foreshadowed by the prophet is a figure but dimly espied, yet marked out unmistakeably by his humility and the just salvation he brings which -- coming as it does from God – banishes, in the name of God, the weapons of war from His holy land, while proclaiming and offering peace to the nations.  

With such a background in mind we can easily recognize Jesus and well understand the Good News He proclaimed in our Gospel passage today:

Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden light.   (cf. New Vulgate)

We again find Jesus calling out publicly ‘Come to Me’ at one of Israel’s greatest feasts when crowds of pilgrims and visitors were everywhere to be found:

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, "Let anyone who thirsts come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him.' (John 7:37-38)

Whereupon St. John goes on to explain:

He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. (v.39)

Thus we have a more focussed understanding of the coming King Who – Jesus explains – comes not directly to banish war from the Holy City and Israel’s Land but to invite His people to – Come to Me, Come to Me -- and, through faith in Him, learn to find peace for their souls by the Gift of His Spirit. 

We have yet other words of Jesus reported by St. Matthew (25:31-41) where He speaks of the ultimate denouement of His Kingdom:

"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”...… Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  

Now, the Kingdom thus foretold, and to be ultimately fulfilled when Jesus comes in glory, was set in motion from the very first preaching of the Good News as St. Luke (10:1-2.9) tells us:

The Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.  Then He said to them, “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.  And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
 
And so, twenty-first century People of God, know yourselves, your situation, and your calling: you have heard the Word of God, the Good News of Jesus, proclaimed to you not just by the ‘seventy others’ but by the Universal Church established by Jesus on the rock of Peter; and having responded to that word, you have been made -- through baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit -- a member of the Body of Christ and a prospective citizen in the Kingdom of God after the final distinction between sheep and goats has been made; and as such, the Holy Spirit is both encouraging and enabling you to claim your place at the right hand of God by fighting against the enemies of that Kingdom.  First of all by fighting against sin in your own life; and then, according to the measure given you by the Spirit, against sin active in the world around us, that you may finally become fittingly counted among those chosen and blessed ones at God’s right hand.

Let us now turn back to St. Paul to learn what our Christian struggle against sin, involves:

Consequently, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 

Life lived according to the flesh’, what does that mean?  Let us first consider it as meant in St. Paul’s letter; that is, living in flaccid accordance with our natural impulses and desires -- especially our bodily inclinations and drives.  Such living -- St. Paul warns us -- will lead us to death, eternal death; not because such inclinations are always and inevitably totally wrong but because they all too easily become uncontrollable desires and drives blinding and enslaving us: taking no account of the needs and well-being  of others, disregarding the integrity and fullness of our own natural being, and contemning the supreme worth and sublime dignity of our divinely-bestowed calling as children of God.  The restraining of our native selfishness, the guiding of such irresponsible impulses, together with the curbing of blind lusts of all sorts, is what St. Paul means when he speaks of ‘putting to death the deeds of the body by the spirit’, for only through the Spirit communing with our spirit, recalling and enabling us to appreciate the teaching of Jesus, can we find strength to walk perseveringly in accordance with the light of life.

However, that is but one aspect of Jesus’ teaching, for He would see an even greater betrayal of that Christian inheritance with which He has endowed us as being a life lived with no aspirations other than worldly ones; a life spent, enjoyed, without reference to God at all … possibly an eminently respectable-in-the-sight-of-men life, yet lived for nothing other than worldly, human, motives, and seeking nothing more than worldly fulfilment and self-satisfaction; a life ending too frequently these days in a culprit-or-victim’s suicide, causing much understandable puzzlement, regret and sorrow, but also, at times, evoking unprincipled and unchristian sympathy from family and friends, onlookers and observers:

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  (John 15:11; 10:10-11)

Life in abundance and the fullness of joy, such is Jesus’ programme for each of us.  Of that programme, life in abundance is the easy part, so to speak: it is Jesus’ sheer gift to us!  But ‘our joy’, our ‘joy in fullness’ … is not generally easy; it is something to be 'sorted out' individually, to be worked on throughout our life, by the Spirit of Jesus communing with our individual spirit, a most intimate communing characteristic of truly Christian prayer.  In such prayer each of us has to open ourselves up and accustom, attune, ourselves to the Spirit of Jesus, peacefully, trustfully, and wholeheartedly; ever watching for, waiting on, and listening to, the Spirit’s gentle breath warming our heart and stirring our mind, before seeking to move our will in His direction.

Now that, dear People of God¸ is the most deeply fulfilling and transcendently joyful of human experiences, wherein the Spirit gradually adapts and attunes the frailty and blindness of our human capacities to His own infinite wisdom, beauty, and goodness; guiding our individual progress ever more surely towards the plenitude of our ultimate sharing in the eternal life and joy promised by Jesus before the presence of His Father:

No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and any one to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.