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, 27 November 2014

First Sunday of Advent Year B 2014

 1st. Sunday of Advent (B)
(Isaiah 63:16b-17; 64:1, 3-8; 1st. Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37)

Our reading from the prophet Isaiah on this, the first Sunday of the Advent season, is a direct preparation for what will be the ultimate realization and fulfilment of the purpose for which Jesus the Christ came as man, and the supreme proclamation of His Good News: namely, the revelation of God the Father, and the re-birth -- by the Holy Spirit -- of Jesus’ disciples as true children of the heavenly Father.
At the very beginning of our adapted first reading Isaiah referred to God as Father twice:
You are our father.  Were Abraham not to know us, nor Israel to acknowledge us, You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever.   
Yes, Isaiah was very conscious and proud of the fact that God was a father to Israel; and yet, what did he mean by that word ‘father’? 
For an answer to our question we must turn our attention to the Law, in particular to the book of Deuteronomy, source of the fountain which inspired Isaiah, for there we read:
You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, you forgot the God who gave you birth. (32:18)
And he then continues, speaking in the name of the Lord:
They have provoked Me with their ‘no-god’, I will provoke them with a ‘no-people’; they are a people having no understanding. (32: 21, 28)
So, though the word ‘father’ is used, and even backed-up by words like ‘begot’ and ‘gave you birth’, nevertheless they are all used metaphorically, since it is all about the creation and establishment of a nation, from those who formerly had been a persecuted minority of slaves in Egypt and latterly a mere wandering, mongrel, collection of tribes-people.  That is why when for the third time the word ‘father’ is used in our reading from Isaiah we hear:
O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.   
Obviously Isaiah did not intend the full and literal meaning of the word ‘father’; for,  though he said: ‘You are our father, our Redeemer You are named forever’, he  showed more precisely what he meant with the word ‘father’ in the words that followed: ‘You are our father, we are the clay and you the potter’.
So we have it: the prophet himself was not, and could not be, aware of the full meaning and true significance of the word he used when calling God the father of Israel; nevertheless, his ignorance of the full meaning of the word he used was and is a true sign of the inspiration of his prophecy.  For, as St. Paul said to his Christian converts at Corinth:
God is faithful, by Whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9).
Yes, God the Father, in His great faithfulness, was true to His originally Chosen People over more than a thousand years – which surely is one of the deepest reasons for our trusting and hoping in Him – and, having led Isaiah and indeed Israel as a whole to use a word they could not fully appreciate, He then guided history itself so that those words of prophecy and traditional faith were ultimately shown to be true in the sublime beauty of their fullest meaning and deepest significance when He brought about -- through Mary of Nazareth, the Flower of Israel -- the birth in time of His only-begotten, eternally-beloved, Son.
Yes, God sent His consubstantial and co-equal Son to fulfil the words of the prophet and save His people from Satan’s power of sin and death.  Through faith and baptism into Jesus our Brother, humankind becomes adoptive sons and daughters of God: truly begotten by the Spirit, in the Son, for the Father.  By the Gift of the Holy Spirit -- bestowed on us in Mother Church by our loving Saviour in accordance with the Father’s promise -- we are established, sustained, and nourished as living members of Him Who is the eternal and only-begotten Son; thereby enabling us to live our human potential to its sublime fulfilment, becoming, in Jesus, adopted children of the one true God and Father of us all.  That, dear People of God, is why you heard St. Paul exclaim in the second reading:
I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus.
As we are now entering upon a new Church year, it is not only right and proper, but surely, also, supremely helpful and comforting, for us to be clearly aware of the ultimate goal of our life in Jesus.   However, it is not only Jesus and the Holy Spirit Who are at work in us, leading us to and forming us for, the Father; no, the Father Himself comes to us, as Jesus promised:
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:23)
The Father Himself, that is, comes – with Jesus and the Holy Spirit -- to abide within us and to help us become His true children in Jesus, and this He does in a way that is unique to Him, that is, by showing Himself to be our most perfect, and indeed only true, Father:
As for you, call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. (Matthew 23:8–9)
The Father can speak to us -- if we will hear and listen -- from our earliest years, because He is able speak to us in the very centre of our being.  Good parents have this ability also although only to a very limited extent; it is indeed a special gift from God for them, which is why the words and attitudes of our parents can remain with us throughout life.  Since the Father, however, deals with us through unspoken words in the depths of our personal being; and since, in our early years we have hardly learned to recognize His traces, early experiences of such communications seem to originate with ourselves, to be ours: mysterious longings and desires, sudden lights and quiet convictions, protecting fears and simple assurance, all can seem to be very much a part of us because they come from the centre of our being; and yet, because they are communications from the as-yet-not-known Father, they remain inexplicable to ourselves. The Father’s speaking to us only becomes intelligible as we walk, by the Spirit, along the ways of Jesus -- as indicated to us by Mother Church -- and thus growing in awareness of and responsiveness to His loving Presence and continuing Providence.  When diverse and apparently unrelated events come to be suspected as connected and coherent parts of one embracing Providential plan protecting us from our own ignorance and guiding us through our own sinfulness and weakness towards a previously unanticipated goal; when parents, and even perhaps teachers and friends, come to be appreciated as having been aspects – fleeting or enduring -- of a Providence overarching our life; and when the past as a whole is gradually seen to harbour a shape that promises to give meaning and purpose to the present, as well as hope and expectation of future possibilities of good, then the Father’s  Presence and Providence is revealing itself to us in glimpses reflecting the beauty of His truth and the splendour of His grace in the Scriptures and in Mother Church;  glimpses where greater certitude arises from presence rather than proof, and deeper knowledge from experience rather than investigation.  Then, indeed, amazement stuns our mind, while love inflames our heart and restores our soul: God is so wondrously over and above us, and yet so mercifully and lovingly in us and for us. 
In ways such as these the Father can speak to us in any situation and throughout the whole extent of our life.  No earthly father or mother, no friend, no lover, can speak so intimately or be present to us in such a way: because He is the God who originally made us in His Own likeness, for whom He gave up His only-begotten Son, and on whom He bestows a breathing of His very Spirit.
Indeed, such is His great goodness to us that He would be our all, not only in our origins, but also in the end and ultimate justification of our being.  He wants to be for us the perfect Father: such a Father to Whom only Jesus can introduce us, for Whom, only the Spirit can form us; and Whose Presence we can encounter only as living members of the glorious Body of Christ, our Brother and our Head.  He is indeed, and wills to be for each one of us, the sublime Father Who is always there -- with us and in us -- far closer to us than we are, or ever can be, to ourselves; the Father who first of all draws us to Jesus and, in Jesus, forms us for Himself by the Spirit.
If we bear in mind that, in the Catholic patristic tradition, the Son and the Holy Spirit have been spoken of, figuratively, as the hands of the Father, we are now in a position to understand the true significance of Isaiah’s words:
O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.
Understanding the significance of Isaiah’s words and realizing that they were pronounced hundreds of years before Jesus, we are also in a position to appreciate not only the loving providence and sublime wisdom of our God but also the fact that, as the most perfect of Fathers, He has indeed loved us before we were born, and continues to love us in such a way and to such an extent that, in return, we most surely can and should -- always and unhesitatingly -- commit ourselves to His wisdom and love wherever life may lead us or death o’ertake us.