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, 24 April 2015

4th Sunday of Easter (B) 2015

 4th. Sunday of Easter (B)
 (Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12; 1st. John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18)

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
In the oldest parts of the Bible the word ‘shepherd’ is bound up with the idea of nomadic life.  Nomads lived above all as shepherds moving their flocks or herds from one pasturage to another.  The prophets of the OT always tended to look back on Israel’s early years when the people were nomads moving from place to place, as the ideal period in her history as God’s Chosen People; because – like nomads – true seekers of God should never be settled, fixed, attached to any particular place or situation, but be always in search of God, ever listening for His voice and prepared to follow wheresoever it might lead them.
Jesus presents Himself in today’s Gospel as the true shepherd sent by His Father to lead His flock of believers on their journey through life to the rich pastures of eternal beatitude before His Father in heaven.  Let me now quote a pertinent passage from H. V. Morton’s book, “In the steps of the Master” (p. 154s.):
On the roads of Palestine and on the hills, you see the good shepherd.  He comes along at the head of his flock … He never drives them as our own shepherds drive their sheep.  He always walks at their head, leading them along the roads and over the hills to new pasture; and as he goes he sometimes talks to them in a loud sing-song voice, using a weird language unlike anything I have ever heard in my life.  The first time I heard this sheep and goat language I was on the hills at the back of Jericho.  A goatherd had descended into a valley and was mounting the slope of an opposite hill when, turning round, he saw his goats had remained behind.  Lifting up his voice he spoke to the goats in a language that was uncanny because there was nothing human about it.  The words were animal sounds arranged in a kind of order.  No sooner had he spoken than an answering bleat shivered over the herd, and one or two of the animals turned their heads in his direction.  But they did not obey him.  The goatherd then called out one word and gave a laughing kind of whinny.  Immediately a goat with a bell round his neck stopped eating and, leaving the herd, trotted down the hill, across the valley and up the opposite slopes.  The man, accompanied by this animal, walked on and disappeared round a ledge of rock.  Very soon a panic spread among the herd.  They forgot to eat.  They looked up for the shepherd: he was not to be seen.  They became conscious that the leader with the bell at his neck was no longer with them.  From the distance came the strange laughing call of the shepherd, and at the sound of it, the entire herd stampeded into the hollow and leapt up the hill after him…..  Everything is done by word of mouth – not by our principle of droving.  The sheep dog is used not to drive sheep but to protect them against thieves and wild animals.  One reason why the sheep and the shepherd are on such close terms in the Holy Land is that the sheep are kept chiefly for wool and milk, and therefore live longer and exist together as a flock for a considerable time.  Also, the shepherd spends his life with them.  He is with them from their birth onwards, day and night, for even when they are driven into a cave or sheep-fold for the night he never leaves them.
We can understand from that picture just how absolutely important and quasi-personal is the relationship between the shepherd and his flock: the sheep have to be in the flock and in tune with the shepherd in order to find food and protection, because the shepherd not only leads the flock in search of fresh pastures but he also guards it from animals which would slaughter and men who would steal.  With that, therefore, in mind we can recall the following words from the Song of Solomon (1:7):
Tell me, you whom my heart loves, where you pasture your flock, where you give them rest at midday, lest I be found wandering after the flocks of your companions.
Lord Jesus, all Christian people would say that they love you.   Therefore, why are so many of them content to be among the flocks of your companions?   Surely, if they loved you as much as they say they would pray in those words:
            Tell me, O You Whom my soul loves, where do You pasture Your flock?
Jesus is the ultimate, the sublimely unique Good Shepherd, Who, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us (10:12s.):
Offered one sacrifice for sins, and took His seat forever at the right hand of God; now He waits until His enemies are made His footstool.
Knowing that He was indeed soon to leave His disciples and go back to His heavenly Father at Whose right hand He now makes constant intercession for us:
Jesus, when they had finished breakfast, said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs”.  He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”  Peter was distressed that He had said to him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” (Jesus) said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (Jn. 21:15s.)
So, here on earth, there is one flock, one Catholic and universal Church, belonging to the one Good Shepherd, and that flock is under the leadership of a shepherd who is himself a sheep, but one expressly appointed and endowed by the Risen Lord to bear the Keys of the Kingdom, one whose supreme privilege and  most solemn duty it is to lead the flock in such a way that it might become God the Father’s chosen instrument to:
            Make all His (the Lord Jesus’) enemies a footstool for His feet.
And when that will have been achieved Peter himself, the leader chosen for that work, tells us (1 Peter 5:4):
            When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory;
for Peter knows himself to be shepherd of the flock only to glorify the Chief Shepherd and -- in the power of the Spirit -- to prepare a people for His coming.
Why, then, are there so many who – loving Christians at heart – do not cry out in chorus with the lover in the Song of Songs again:
Tell me, You Whom my heart loves, where You pasture Your flock, where You give them rest at midday?
Why are so many Christians apparently content to be where she says could not bear to be found:
 Wandering after the flocks of your companions?
The answer, People of God, is: the mystery of sin.  For, though we in Mother Church are the instrument which the Father has specially chosen to:
            Make all His (Jesus’) enemies a footstool for His feet;
nevertheless, we are still not allowing the truth of Jesus to shine clearly in and through our lives; with the consequence that some of those apparently content to be separated from the flock of Jesus shepherded by Peter, are not, it would seem, as yet able to recognise the fullness of the truth about the Jesus they love, in our proclamation of His Name.  For Jesus said quite unequivocably:
            Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice. (John 18:37)
Let us therefore pray most urgently, People of God,  that we may be able so to listen to the voice of Our Lord that it may penetrate into and resonate deeply within us, transforming our personal lives so that, His voice, His truth, may be persuasively perceptible in our humble proclamation of and daily witness to His most Holy Name.
I am not speaking here about any dramatic endeavours, certainly no histrionics; I am not even thinking of deliberate efforts to witness before others, certainly not of publically arguing with any; I am just thinking of heart-felt, personal, love of Jesus; humble obedience to His will; and sincere gratitude to God the Father for His great goodness to us in Mother Church… because that is the ‘ammunition’, so to speak, that the Spirit wants us to provide for Him, with which to target those He seeks to bring into the glorious beauty of Catholic Unity.
To that end, we – His witnessing disciples --  must have greater desire and deeper longing to personally re-discover, hear afresh, and respond more faithfully to, the voice of Jesus sounding clearly in the teaching and Sacraments of Mother Church today:
First of all in our conscience: ‘when he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking’ (Catechism 1777).   People of God, seek to consult, learn to listen to, and try to follow, your conscience in simplicity and humility, and gradually you will come to hear and more clearly recognize, appreciate, and  more lovingly obey, God thus speaking most intimately with you and to you.
Secondly in our intimacy with the Scriptures of Mother Church; as, with Mary, we ponder them, lovingly and frequently, in our heart:
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Jesus said, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”      
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17; Matthew 4:4; Isaiah 55:11)
And finally, the voice of Christ is to be heard in the public teaching, and our personal experience of divine worship (above all the Most Holy Eucharist), and Christian fellowship in Mother Church:
Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.  (Matt. 28:20)
Whoever listens to you listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One Who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16)
That great mystery of human sinfulness -- which does not only occasion, more or less unwittingly, the obstruction and/or distortion of the beauty of Jesus’ ‘Good News’, but can even lead to and provoke the deliberate rejection of God’s great goodness and mercy contained therein -- is the reason why our blessed Lord Himself had to die: His supreme sacrifice alone could save us.   
And that brings me to a complementary aspect of our Gospel reading today:
This is why the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life in order to take it up again.
Just recall words from our second reading:
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him. (3:1-2)
It is, therefore, absolutely important for us to fix our hope on Jesus: not just for our own selves, but for the whole world, indeed for Jesus and the Father.  For, as you heard, Jesus -- Risen from the Dead -- and speaking most intimately of His heart’s desire and of His own future Kingdom and Glory, said:
I have other sheep, not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
Therefore, if we are indeed sheep who rightly belong to His fold, then “hearing His voice” we must recognize that His words are our vocation.  “I must bring them also”, means therefore for us, “we must bring them also”.  How?   Through fixing our hopes on Him and thereby seeking most seriously to purify our lives:
(For) we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
That work will only approach completion to the extent that we Christians and Catholics become pure enough to allow the Spirit of Jesus to shine in and through our lives, thus giving authentic witness to Him before the many who are not in the flocks of those ‘companions’ of Jesus mentioned in the Song of Songs; the many who, indeed, have not yet come to any spiritual awareness of and responsiveness to Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and are to be found consorting -- unwittingly perhaps -- with His enemies or those who thoughtlessly mock Him.
All that demands a deeply serious, loving and committed, spirituality: a continuous walking with Jesus in all the steps we take, the decisions we make, the thoughts we entertain, and the hopes we treasure.  We, His disciples, have to learn from Jesus’ Spirit how to sacrifice ourselves with Him in Mother Church: not, generally speaking, in His sacrifice of body and blood, but, most certainly and not less importantly, in His sacrifice of loving obedience and trust in His Father’s loving Providence, His daily praise and thanksgiving, His patience and strength under trials and temptations, together with our very own humble contrition.  Note however, all such efforts at personal sincerity and spiritual commitment to Jesus in all the nooks and crannies of our life will gain for us who make them the most wonderful blessing of the Father’s special love even here on earth:
Jesus answered and said, “Whoever loves Me will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.  (John 14:23)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the Risen Lord said: “I must bring them also”; surely, therefore, our lips will best express our hearts in harmony with the Apostles, with the words, ‘let us join with you Lord’.  For, to quote Peter (Acts 4:12):
There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name (than that of ‘Jesus’) under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Friday, 17 April 2015

3rd Sunday of Eastertide (B) 2015

 3rd. Sunday of Eastertide (B)                         (Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19; 1st. John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48)

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, once again we have a beautiful Eastertide apparition of the Risen Lord Jesus to His disciples in which we in Mother Church are privileged to be able to share thanks to her Holy Scriptures.
Jesus appeared to His Apostles in Jerusalem as they were gathered together discussing the report of two disciples who claimed to have encountered Jesus – risen from the dead -- as they had been on their way to Emmaus.  To prove that they were not mistaken they told the Apostles how, as He walked with them along the way, He had opened up the meaning of the Scriptures for them, and how they had managed to persuade Him to stay with them and share their meal; a meal which -- in a most wonderful manner -- became quite unmistakeably His meal being shared with them!   The Apostles gathered there in secret in Jerusalem were amazed to hear what had thus transpired on the way to Emmaus, and as they were considering together what it all might mean, suddenly Jesus Himself was standing there in the room with them, and despite His greeting:
            Peace be with you,
they -- thinking were seeing a ghost -- were startled, and indeed terrified to such an extent that Jesus went straight on to say to them:
"Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Touch Me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have."    And as He said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.  
Thereupon He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures -- just as they had heard of Him doing for those two disciples on the way to Emmaus -- and He said to them:
Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.
Now let us turn our attention to the Apostle Peter in our first reading today, addressing the devout Jews gathered in the portico of the Temple in Jerusalem immediately after he, Peter, together with John, had enabled a man who had been lame from birth to walk upright for the first time:
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in  Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release Him.  You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised Him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
Peter was making his first attempt to carry out the commission called to the attention of His Apostles by the Risen Lord Jesus, that:
Repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in the name of the Christ to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Peter, who had wept so profusely over his denials of the Lord, was immensely grateful that Jesus, appearing so unexpectedly in that upper room, had addressed them with no words of recrimination but only a peaceful greeting and comforting exhortations to confidence; and he, Peter, was here trying to follow his Master’s example:
Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance.
Peter was, indeed, following the example of His Master so closely that not only did he not condemn the people who had been led astray into sin, but he even refrained from condemning those who had been responsible for thus leading them into sin:
I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did. 
However, since for disciples of Christ there can be no repentance without sin being acknowledged, therefore, Peter was trying to lead his fellow Jews to recognize and to acknowledge their sins as he himself had so broken-heartedly acknowledged his own public betrayal of his Lord and Master.  That done, there would be no recriminations, no accusations, only that which the Apostles -- and above all Peter himself -- had received from Jesus: understanding and forgiveness.
I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfilment what He had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer.  Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.
Peter then went on to add a little something more, something personal, saying:
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment.
There we see something of the beauty of a right understanding of the work of the Church!  There we realise why we call her Mother Church: because she uses the Scriptures, given into her care by the Lord, for our refreshment: that is, not only for our understanding and enlightenment, but also for our consolation and comfort, our strength and our hope; if -- that is -- we will treasure them in our hearts and ponder them lovingly in our minds as we look to our Lord and God ever more hopefully and confidently.
Notice, People of God, in these times when the Church is often accused of preaching homophobia, exemplified above all by hatred of the Jews, notice that there is no hatred in Mother Church’s earliest response to the Jews through her supreme leader on earth, Peter the Rock who openly said:
            Brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
Nor was there hatred in the personal attitude or apostolic preaching of Paul, even though the Jewish Christians had by then been driven out of Jerusalem and begun to experience persecution from the Jewish authorities.   Paul’s public proclamation in his letter to the Christians of Rome testifies to this:
I say then, has God cast away His (Jewish) people?  Certainly not!  For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. (Romans 11:1-2)
People of God, be likewise in no way afraid of charges of homophobia against the present teaching of the Church.  It was Jesus’ lot to slowly grow to manhood in order that He might bring back to God human nature in the full development not only of its human potentialities but also of its divine possibilities, and that is why His Resurrection is absolutely pertinent today, when men aspire to live to the utmost.  Let us learn from Our Lord to give glory to the Father and testimony to the world as He did, the glory and testimony of fully matured Christian men and women finding their supreme fulfilment in living with Christ and doing the Father’s will in all things.  The contemporary desire for integral personality in the exercise of responsible commitment is good, but let us try to show how it can be realized in Christ alone; for in Him alone, by the power of His Spirit, can all our warring passions be restored to their original cohesion and unity, and in Christ alone can we find not only ourselves but also the heavenly Father, dwelling in our soul where we can hear Him, speak with Him, love Him, in an unceasing and ever-more intimate ‘I and Thou’ communion.  All this is ours in Christ, if we use the means He has given to us, that is His Church, His Sacraments, and His Sacred Scriptures, our Bible. All are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is the Father’s.
St. John, addressing us for our refreshment in the second reading, says:
(Jesus) is the expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.    The way we may be sure that we know Him, is to keep His commandments.
All true seekers after God must have fears, at times, if not doubts, about their own sincerity as disciples of Jesus.  It is therefore refreshing, indeed, and comforting, to hear St. John explain what makes a true disciple of the Lord.  For he tells us that, although there are people who think themselves to be true disciples of Jesus because they have warm feelings for Him, and can speak enthusiastic words about Him, nevertheless, in so far as they pay little attention to His commandments, such people are mistaken about themselves:
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
Despite modern popular assertions, such words are neither cold doctrine nor do they express homophobia; but, on the contrary they are the very core and centre of Jesus’ own relationship with His Father, and of His and His Father’s love for mankind (John 12:49-50):
I did not speak on My own, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and speak.  And I know that His commandment is eternal life.”  
God’s commandments, People of God, are eternal life and express divine love; they must be understood, appreciated, and appropriately accepted and embraced as such, not manipulated and adulterated for the human expression of pretentious, insufficient, and ultimately fake love.
And that is why Jesus asks for that indisputably authentic sign of love from us:
                    Whoever has My commandments and observes them is the one who loves Me. Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words; yet the word you hear is not Mine but that of the Father who sent Me. (14:21, 24)
Far from being cold doctrine, it is the keeping of Jesus’ commandments that alone can prepare us to receive the ultimate privilege that human life and death can afford:
Whoever loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.  Whoever loves Me will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.
And so, from the readings set before us today by Mother Church, we have learnt something about ourselves as Catholics: we should be here in Church not simply out of obedience responding to our acknowledged obligation, not even out of fidelity to our bounden duty, we should be here desiring and seeking for our supreme refreshment as true disciples – admirers, lovers, and most willing servants -- of Jesus, by giving our very selves to Him (above all in Holy Communion) as He gives Himself to us.
Let us, therefore, not fail to renew our willingness and resolve to obey His commandments for we know that His commandments are eternal life.  May we leave this Church today gratefully strengthened and confirmed by an obedient spirit bountifully refreshed for the service of, and witness to, Mother Church; she who is so divinely wise as to cling resolutely to her Scriptures and to her earliest and most firmly established teachings and traditions despite, and in the face of, all modern flights of intellectual froth and fancy (not true scholarship) or tides of popular, emotional feeling (not true devotion).  And thus being herself obedient to Her Lord, and true to His founding truths and her own most ancient traditions, she has not failed us; she has called us, in His Name, to come here obediently today and rewarded us with the most sublime nourishment and incomparable comfort for our souls.  

Friday, 10 April 2015

2nd Sunday of Easter (B) 2015

 2nd. Sunday of Easter (B) 
(Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35; 1st. Letter of John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31)

Jesus said to Thomas, "Have you come to believe because you have seen Me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book.
What precisely is John’s intention in that passage from today’s Gospel reading?   For among the evangelists John is unique in designating certain miracles of Jesus as ‘signs’ because he considers them as being most important and eminently conducive to faith (cf. v. 31!); they are by no means ‘ordinary’, they are in fact, John thinks, quite special.   John picks out four of those miracles which he calls signs of Jesus, explicitly designating the wedding feast at Cana as being the occasion for the first of them:  
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and his disciples began to believe in Him. (John 2:11)
He then goes on (John 4:54) to explicitly call another of Jesus’ miracles (the healing of the son of a royal official) as being the second of those signs he wishes to bring to our special attention:
             Now this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea.
How then can he at the beginning of his Gospel account start to pick out for special notice certain miracles which he regards as worthy to be called ‘signs’, and then, at the end of his Gospel, tell us that has decided to omit ‘many’ of such signs that reveal His glory?
Could it be because of those words of the Risen Lord to Thomas, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed’?   But, after Jesus’ Resurrection, could ‘many’ signs somehow be no longer necessary for faith, or perhaps even somewhat detrimental to it? 
The fact is that Jesus performed all those many signs:
            In the presence of His disciples, and His disciples began to believe in Him.
Those disciples, apostles, who were to be sent out to the whole world were starting with no background awareness of death being followed by ‘Resurrection’ (whatever that might be) other than Jesus’ words of warning concerning His own destiny.  The many signs had been judged necessary by Jesus in order to fully prepare and ultimately convince those who, in His Name, would proclaim His Gospel to the world.   And yet, even then:
Later, as the Eleven were at table, He (Jesus) appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had been raised.
Nevertheless, knowing the depths of their minds and hearts and the grace of His guiding and sustaining Holy Spirit, and looking to the future:
He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” (16:14-15)
Now, it is that new vision of the Good News being proclaimed to the whole world by Holy Mother Church -- in His Name and with the persuasive power and saving grace of His Spirit – that is the key for our understanding of those most comforting words of Our Lord for all future disciples:
            Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
John could omit certain signs of Jesus from his public Gospel because, henceforth, they would be made up for, subsumed, by Jesus’ greatest sign before the nations: Holy Mother Church -- the Body of which He is the head, and the Temple of His Most Holy Spirit – proclaiming in His Name and witnessing to His Gospel, by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of all men.
Moreover, as you have just heard, in his letter John also says: 
Who indeed is the victor over the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  
There he is again taking up his Gospel teaching, and saying that whosoever believes the Church’s proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of mankind, that is, whosoever is thus to be praised for believing without ‘seeing’, such a one has overcome the world, and his victory over the world is proved by the fact that he is spiritually alive and strong in Jesus without worldly proof other than the witness and the proclamation of Mother Church.   Indeed, need for worldly proof could only prove an insuperable obstacle for the spiritual life of any aspiring Christian.
Now, why does John praise such a response to Mother Church’s proclamation of Jesus?  Not, ultimately, to praise any human being for his or her own individual spiritual perspicacity or strength, but to show just how sublime and divinely spiritual is Catholic Christian faith, since, ultimately, only God the Father Himself can introduce us to such faith, as John tells us in his Gospel:
Jesus said to the Jews, "Do not murmur among yourselves.  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.   (John 6:43-45)
Acceptance of the Gospel message on the basis of worldly evidence would be no true substitute for faith given in response to God’s inspiring of our heart, enlightening of our mind.  It is not that John is against us using our natural intelligence in response to the Gospel of Jesus, after all, he expressly tells us why he wrote his Gospel:
These (signs) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Rather is it that, for St. John, the supreme function of the Gospel message is to promote our awareness of, our contact with, and our response to, God Himself; and that contact, that response -- though based on the Gospel message -- is not to be limited to or constrained by the written words of the Gospel.   The truth about Jesus, and indeed about God, is broader, wider, goes deeper and extends higher, than the stark words of the Gospel; that is why we Catholics accept the Tradition of Mother Church and acknowledge true development in the doctrine of Faith; all, however, on the basis of, and never against, the original Gospel proclamation.
Here we have an essential characteristic of our Catholic and Christian resurrection-faith.  It is not simply a faith to be learned, it is not even just a faith to be loved; it is a faith to be experienced and lived: not simply in the sense of obeying its commands and fighting for its rights, but as communion with the Father, in Jesus, by the Spirit.   The Catholic and Christian Church, as the Body of Christ living today, is not limited to receiving its faith from a book written in the past, nor can it be restricted to the use of merely human reasoning in its appreciation of such book-based teaching; the Church, which is the Body of Christ living by the Spirit of Christ, is endowed and enabled, through her vital communion with God, to receive ever greater fullness of His grace and guidance that she might yet more deeply appreciate and appropriately understand the Good News of Jesus’ Gospel.  Mother Church today is still called to prepare and allow herself to be inspired by God: not, indeed, to write or proclaim a new revelation, but to understand ever more fully and to appreciate ever more deeply and intimately the revelation originally and finally given to her by God through the Apostles.
This is why the Catholic Church can never be or become a university Church in which the teaching of God is established by and subject to merely rational justification and argument, a Church in which only teaching intellectually sifted and boasting a majority vote of accepted scholarly approval, could be considered as provisional doctrine.  Mother Church, though august in her dignity and truly admirable for many of her achievements while presiding over centuries of human growth and social development is, essentially, a mystical Church wherein human learning and practical expertise, though so deeply appreciated, are also necessarily subject to the transcendent authority of a divine commission for and  spiritual awareness of, the true and ultimate human good, only to be gleaned -- under the guidance of the Spirit -- from communion with, and in response to, the transcendent God.
All this is contained in those words of our Creed which say: ‘I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church’; for those words do not simply state that we believe the Catholic Church to have been uniquely founded, established, by Jesus Christ and to be guided and preserved by His Spirit; they also mean that it is only in the Catholic Church -- only in her atmosphere, so to speak -- that we are fully able to breath as Christians, empowered to recognize and appreciate the fullness of truth about God and His will for the salvation of mankind.
Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.   And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  (1 John 5:4)
            The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth. (1 John 5:6)
Oh you believing Catholics, appreciate and be grateful for what you have been given!  For your faith has been given to you by the heavenly Father Himself Who has Personally called and introduced you to Jesus; and that faith is being continually nourished and purified -- even to this very day, and at this very hour – in the womb of Mother Church, in view of your ever-fuller sharing, as a member of the Body of Christ and by the Spirit of Christ, in the life of Christ before the Father.   

Friday, 3 April 2015

Easter Sunday 2015

Easter Sunday (2015)
(Acts of the Apostles 10:34, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9)

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, on this glorious day let us look at one verse in our Gospel passage which speaks volumes about our Risen Lord.
You heard that both John and Peter ran to the tomb; John, being the younger, arrived first and:
Stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.
Peter, coming next, characteristically went straight into the empty tomb where:
He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around (Jesus’) head not lying with the linen cloths but folded together in a place by itself.
Now just recently, St. John told us (11:43-44) about Jesus miraculously bringing Lazarus back from the dead and out of the tomb:
Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!"  And he who had died came    out bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth.    
The fact that he was still bound in his grave clothes signified that he was not   totally free from death; he must needs face death again. For the present time however, Jesus said to those around, Loose him, and let him go.
As you can appreciate there was a big difference between Lazarus’ being raised and Jesus’ Resurrection, for when Jesus rose He left the linen cloths behind:
Simon Peter saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.
Jesus rose totally, divinely, from the bonds of death, and could never again be subject to them, as St. Paul emphatically teaches in his doctrinal letter to the Romans (6:9-11):
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. The death He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let us, therefore, consider further those discarded binding cloths left behind in the otherwise empty tomb, and, in order to help us, let us recall how Jesus later appeared to His disciples for the first time (John 20:19):
(That) same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."
The doors were locked, and they remained locked, just as if no one had entered.  Nevertheless, Jesus had been able to enter the room, because closed -- even locked -- doors presented no obstacle to His Risen Body.  In like manner, the linen cloths and the kerchief we are now considering: though Jesus had risen, those grave-clothes remained as they had been on His body, save that the head-cloth -- the kerchief which had been round His head -- was now neatly folded and separate from the body cloths.  If we therefore, following that Gospel indication, go on to give more special attention to the kerchief we may find that it has some particular message for us, since the kerchief, which was generally used to cover, protect, one’s head, and also for carrying money, was used in funerals to wrap the head in such a way that the jaw bone was prevented from falling open, thus preserving the dignity of the dead person.
The special mention of the kerchief can therefore be understood in line with its original function of preserving Jesus’ human and Messianic dignity in death, and now seen to be serving as a sign that Jesus’ proclamation of the Messianic News  of salvation will never be silenced: for, thanks to that kerchief the fruit of Jesus’ lips had never been shown gapingly vacuous in death, and so, when the Lord had risen, it was not found to have been thrown on one side but rather, appreciatively folded and neatly placed by itself, in its own place, bespeaking the enduring dignity of the Messianic Lord sent to proclaim and win salvation for those who will obediently hear Him.  For the Risen Lord will continue to speak: the enduring spiritual legacy of His Messianic life and teaching need only to be lovingly gathered, prayerfully matured, and faithfully and integrally handed down through the ages by His Church, established on the rock witness of Peter and the testimony of His chosen Apostles, and under the power and protection, inspiration and guidance, of His ultimate and most sublime Gift, His own most Holy Spirit.
The message of the grave-cloths, as with that of the closed and locked door in the upper room, was that the Risen Lord was now glorified.   Lazarus had been called back to ordinary earthly life; Jesus had risen to a new and glorious life not of this creation, but sharing in the glory of that heavenly Kingdom which He had proclaimed to be close at hand.
It is now time, therefore, to turn our attention to the supreme Christian mystery, that of the most Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; three divine Persons, one God.  How are we to think of this?
God the Father, to be a Father must have a Child -- His Son, the Bible says.  God the eternal Father, therefore, eternally begets His only begotten and beloved Son, Who is like Him and equal to Him in all respects, save that the Father is the Person Who begets whereas the Son is the Person begotten.  Thus the Father and His only-begotten Son are eternally One in the power of that begetting -- that uniting power of their mutual Love -- which is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is called God’s Gift, for in and through Him the Father and the Son give themselves to each other in total knowledge, understanding, appreciation, and love; and that is why, when God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- determined that the Son should become man in the Incarnation, He was sent -- as Son -- by the Father and conceived as a human being in the Virgin’s womb by the Holy Spirit.  Moreover, when His earthly life had run its course, we are told in the letter to the Hebrews, of the Holy Spirit uniting the Son to His Father in Jesus’ very act of dying:
Christ, through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, (to) cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God! (9:14)
Therefore, when the Son -- after His Passion and Death -- was raised to new and eternally glorious life, the Scriptures tell us that both the Father and the Spirit raised Him.  We read of Paul preaching the Gospel to the Jews at Perga:
We declare to you glad tidings -- that promise which was made to the fathers.  God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'   (Acts 13:32-33)
Yet when writing his letter to the Romans (1:1-4) the same Paul also says:
Jesus Christ our Lord … was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
St. Peter (1 Peter 3:18) likewise mentions the Spirit:
Christ also suffered once for sins … being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.
Through His Passion and Death, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us (5:8-9), Jesus had been brought to perfect Sonship in His humanity:
Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
And now, the Risen Jesus, having being raised by the Father and glorified in His human flesh by the Spirit -- perfect man and perfect God -- has become the perfect channel through Whom we are able to receive the divine Spirit into our poor, sinful, lives.  For Jesus, Son of the Father and Giver of God’s Gift, comes to us now in the Eucharist so that we, who are of earthly flesh and blood might, by receiving His glorious Flesh and Blood, be enabled to lovingly receive and humbly commit ourselves to His Holy Spirit.
As of old, the Ark of the Covenant had tabernacled God’s Law for His chosen People, so, when He Who had been long-promised came, it was Mary who housed and nourished Jesus in her womb.  Today Mother Church is the treasure-house where Jesus is ever-present to His people by His Word in the Scriptures and by His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist; and it is Mother Church who, by the abiding presence of His Spirit and according to the model set for her by Mary, now treasures and ponders in her heart all that Jesus taught and did (Luke 2:19, 51); and all Catholics who, as children of Mary, live by faith in Mother Church’s proclamation of Jesus, receive the Gift of His Spirit so that they might be formed by Him into a true likeness of Our Lord and Saviour, and as adopted sons and daughters of the heavenly Father.   Mother Church’s proclamation of Jesus is thus by no means cold doctrine but the very food of life and love … for we know Jesus not by imaginary and emotional transports, but by loving and living the Doctrine of the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
People of God, wonderful things have been done for us this Easter: for through oneness with Jesus our Saviour and in the power of His most Holy Spirit, our Comforter and Strength, we -- as our second reading from the letter to the Colossians doctrinally said -- in all our daily endeavours to walk along the way of Jesus, are being offered union with the Father:
You (have been) raised with Christ, (so) seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Your (real) life is hidden with Christ in God, (and) when Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Let us therefore strengthen our faith, as, with deepened understanding in our minds and renewed joy in our hearts, we proclaim our own Easter hymn of praise and thanksgiving, saying: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, in holy mother Church for ever and ever.  Amen.