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, 29 May 2015

Trinity Sunday Year B

Trinity Sunday (Year B)           
 (Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20)


What is the basic and ultimate signification of the Catholic Doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity: three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sharing equal dignity and divinity in the otherwise absolutely one and undivided Godhead?  It is that our faith is centred upon Personal relationships, divine Personal relationships of Truth and Love, and on our coming to share in them through being made -- in Mother Church which is the Body of Christ -- adopted children of God the Father, in Christ Jesus His only begotten Son, by the Holy Spirit.
 
On the basis of our Christian and Catholic faith in and commitment to such religious hope, all our earthly obedience, endeavours, and aspirations, are necessarily person-orientated, in the sense that our supreme calling to love God above all also requires that we love our neighbour as ourselves.  Moreover, the fullness of the beauty and coherence of our Faith is clearly shown in Mother Church’s teaching that the Christian family … where we first experience and learn about the most basic and authentically human of personal relationships … is absolutely necessary for the social living of our Faith, and in the command to honour our father and mother which transcends all merely emotional responses or any possible psychological difficulties.
 
Today our readings show us a wonderful panoply of the glory and goodness of the Most Holy Trinity, and it all begins with the origins of Israel as referred to in our first reading:
 
Ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?   Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation … with strong hand and outstretched arm which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
 
One hears of scholars today who, confident of their own great wisdom, and with approval from like-minded social reformers cum agitators, want to  deny the fact -- and deny Israel the glory -- of God originally choosing one people to be His own Chosen People.   Uniqueness, according to such people, seems to assume and necessarily bring about exclusivity and superiority, nationalism and racism, and as such must be condemned for causing far too much human strife throughout history.
 
However, we know and our faith teaches that God chooses only those destined by Himself to be servants of His own good plans and purposes and ministers of mankind’s better-being and ultimate salvation.  Israel was indeed chosen by God and remained uniquely honoured as His Chosen People for thousands of years until she was able to bring forth glorious fruit for the establishment of Jesus’ Church as the new and ultimate People of God by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  God does make choices – sometimes, indeed, with an outstretched arm -- and that means for us, as believers and disciples of Jesus our Lord and Saviour, that we too have, each of us individually and in Mother Church, been chosen by God (“no one can come to Me unless My Father draws him”) for His glory, our salvation, and the salvation of mankind.  Moreover, our world, indeed our universe is not, as so many would like to believe, the result of the chance -- untraceable and infinitesimal -- coalescing out of original chaos of unimaginable powers and conflicting processes over many millions of years before ultimately heading for inevitable self-destruction into the void of oblivion … No! Our world itself, in its very physical reality has been deliberately willed and created by the God Who shows the fullness and beauty of His hand most clearly in His dealings and dialogue with us dwellers upon His earth, by willing to choose, and then by speaking with love – originally from the midst of the fire, then by His continuing words of the Mosaic Law and through the inspired Prophets – first to Israel for her formation and guidance, and now, ultimately and definitively, in and through Jesus His Word made flesh and proclaimed by His Church.  For God unreservedly loves His creation, and it is His will -- abiding and true in His beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ -- to share His Personal Beatitude and Blessedness with those originally created in His own image and likeness and subsequently reformed to that likeness in Jesus by His Holy Spirit for an eternity of blessed fulfilment.
 
Let us move on to our second reading from St. Paul: 
 
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
 
In those words St. Paul refers to a transcendent blessing won for us by Jesus Our Lord and Saviour: for, by dying in our flesh He destroyed our death, and by rising, glorified in the Spirit, He restored our Life.  That is, by His transformation of His human horror of dying on the Cross into an act of sublime obedience and supreme love for His Father and His plans for us, He shattered the tyrannical hold of death over our human experience of life.  Having risen from the dead glorified in His human flesh, He bestows, in fulfilment of the Father’s promise, His Spirit upon His Church to drive out our sin and set us free; and thereby He gives us the hope of sharing – in Him, as living members of His Body victorious over sin, and with Him, as divinely adopted children of God -- in the life of eternal beatitude which is His, in the Spirit, before the face of His heavenly Father.
 
Such forgiveness of sins is a most wonderful blessing indeed.  After all, what good is money, power, or pleasure, if, in all that you hope or do, you are weighed down by the awareness of your sins and of the inexorably approaching time when you will have to give an account of your life and pay for the wrong you have done.  Poverty, suffering, even loneliness, can be borne by one who has peace of soul; on the other hand, no matter how far and wide, however diligently, we may search, there is no refuge to be found that can still the nagging qualms and soothe the haunting anxieties of a guilty conscience:
 
What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For, the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.  (Matthew 16:26f.)
 
Of course there are some who like to think that they can distract themselves from the awareness of right and wrong characteristic of humanity, and learn to forget God and, with Him, all traces of any sensitivity to sin or awareness of personal responsibility.  Of them the psalmist says:
 
Sin lurks deep in the hearts of the wicked, forever urging them on to evil deeds. They have no fear of God to hold them back.  Instead, in their conceit, they think they can hide their evil deeds and not get caught.  Everything they say is crooked and deceitful; they are no longer wise and good.  They lie awake at night to hatch their evil plots instead of planning how to keep away from wrong. (TLB.  Psalm 36:1-4)
 
However, though they may to some extent hide their sins from themselves, and though their eyes may refuse to recognize and their minds to admit the truth about themselves, nevertheless, God is the One Who sees all and knows all, and He hates wickedness; above all, He hates the wickedness of those who claim to be innocent of wrong-doing, holy – that is, to be divine -- without Him:
 
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
 
For all who, on the other hand, live humbly in Jesus by the Spirit for the Father, the gift of forgiveness of sins and freedom from their enslavement can bring into our lives truly sublime, though as yet transient, experiences of peace and hope, as we find clearly outlined in the next blessing of which St. Paul tells us:
 
We are children of God and, if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may be glorified with Him.
 
St. Paul is indeed able to speak of the:
 
Freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21);
 
for the present time, however, the joy of such fullness of glory is something we cannot possibly conceive, for it is heavenly and transcends all earthly categories or human imagining.  Nevertheless, we can begin to experience something of that heavenly glory because it is given us – even here and now -- to enter into communion with the Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the explicit prayer of Jesus (John 17:5, 24):
 
Father, I desire that they also, whom You gave Me, may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me. 
 
That means we are able, even now, to have some share in the Son’s loving relationship with His Father by the Holy Spirit: in Jesus, we can commune with the Father, speak personally with Him as His children, and experience His Fatherly love, as the Spirit of Jesus -- gently working in our spirit and guiding us along His ways – forms us ever more and more in Jesus’ likeness.  In that way, in Jesus and with Him, we can come to know that we are not left to ourselves and that, whatever our weakness, whatever our need, we will never be left alone:
 
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)
 
(Father) I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)
 
And so, dear People of God, there is every right reason for our whole-hearted celebration of the Most Holy Trinity today: for, thanks to Jesus, we know by faith, and can appreciate in our spiritual experience, something of the love of the Father: that love from all ages, which upholds our world and embraces us; that intimate and abiding love which is ever at hand to comfort, guide, and protect us; that inviting love, to which we can give whole-hearted response in the wisdom of Jesus’ words and the power of Jesus’ Spirit.
 
For such incomparable blessings we are undyingly grateful to Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, because it is He alone Who both reveals the Father and bequeaths to us His Most Holy Spirit:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through Me. (John 14:6)
 
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)
 
And Jesus does all this for us through His faithful Spouse, Mother Church, which continues to do as He originally commanded her:
 
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen.
 
Therefore, dear People of God, our gratitude to the Father, to His Son -- our Lord and Saviour -- and to the Holy Spirit, necessarily holds also Mother Church in its embrace.  And although Mother Church is not yet become the ‘spotless Bride of Christ’ of which we hear in the letter to the Ephesians (5:25-27):
 
A glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, holy and without blemish;
 
nevertheless, gleaming through the stains of our weakness and wilfulness, her love for Her Lord and Spouse is unfailing; and, being blessed as His chosen instrument for the salvation He has won for us and as the channel for the grace He bestows on us, we recognize her as our Mother and see in her the likeness of Mary, the Mother of Jesus to whose tender care and prayers Jesus committed us by His dying wish and command.
 
When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”  Then, to His disciple, “Behold, your mother!”  (John 19:26-27)
   

Friday, 22 May 2015

Pentecost Sunday (Year B) 2015

                   PENTECOST SUNDAY (B2)   

                              (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11; Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:26-27; 16:12-15)

Jesus, speaking to His apostles before His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and wishing to both comfort and strengthen them, said (John 14:16–18):
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, because He remains with you, and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

The Holy Spirit is, indeed, our very own – and in that sense -- secret treasure for:

            The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.

However, He is ours because He remains with us in Mother Church by the fact of our abiding membership of Mother Church, the Body of Christ; and He is in us by our personal reception of the sacramental Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Mass.

Today  we celebrate His abiding in Mother Church with deep joy and hope as the crowd of pilgrims-cum-converts celebrated with wonder and amazement the first Pentecost when:
       
Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.  Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.  At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?  Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?” They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:2–12)

Our rejoicing is, of course, for different motives today since we do not actually hear Apostles speaking miraculously to people of many nations; but we do hear – with most humble admiration – of so many apparently ordinary Catholics and Christians heroically suffering mockery, loss of homes and property, personal hatred, and public persecution even to death, for the Name of Jesus throughout the world today.  We do, indeed, through their witness recognize the fact that the Spirit is still -- and indeed most manifestly -- in Mother Church today; and we celebrate His abiding presence with fitting pomp and glory, giving expression to the gratitude and praise that fills us all for such a Divine Presence of Power and Truth with us in the Catholic and universal Church of Jesus.

We must, however, on this special day celebrate, quite deliberately, the fact of His being in us personally and individually through Jesus’ timeless and enduring promise I will come to you in Holy Communion; for this personal and most intimate celebration is absolutely necessary for Mother Church herself, since without such ever greater delight in, and commitment to, the Person of Jesus we will not be able to serve and succour her in all her needs in the increasingly deviant, hostile, and sinful world surrounding us today.  He comes to us from the Father indeed -- at Jesus’ request -- but most secretly, because He is the supreme Personal treasure of both Father and Son being the Spirit of their mutual Love; He comes almost unnoticed … on the coat-tails of Jesus so to speak … only to those who have come to believe in, and learned to love and obey, Jesus Whom alone we explicitly welcome in Holy Communion.  At Jesus’ request He comes from the Father with but one supreme purpose expressive of His Mission, He comes as the invisible bond of Love to make us, individually, one with Jesus for the Father.

He, Who alone knows the Father and the Son in the fullness of Truth and Love, comes to form each of us in Jesus for the Father.

Jesus in the course of His Public Ministry once, with both manifest indignation and great courage, cleansed the Jewish Temple for His Father:

He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, money-changers and those who sold doves saying, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of scripture, "Zeal for your house -- which shall be a house of prayer for all nations -- will consume me."  (cf. John 2:14ss. Mark 11:15ss.)

That same zeal for God’s house, a house of prayer, still consumes Our Blessed Lord; but now, in Holy Communion, He comes:

(As) it says: “(Having) ascended on high and taken prisoners captive; He gives gifts to men.” (cf. Ephesians 4:8)

Yes, and His most sublime Gift is -- with Himself -- His Own Most Holy Spirit of Love and Truth, that He, the Spirit, might in His uniquely Personal way, purify our souls -- already partially prepared by faith and charity -- for the indwelling of Father and  Son:

He who receives Me receives Him Who sent Me.  (John 13:20)

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)

At the last Supper, when endeavouring to prepare His Apostles for His Own imminent departure, Jesus said:

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. (John 16:7)

It is as if He were saying, ‘It is to your advantage that I go, for in your subsequent feelings of abandonment and dereliction, in that state of humble recognition of your own emptiness, and desire for fulfilment in and with Me … I will send you the Holy Spirit, My own Spirit.   In the past it has been I Who have known loneliness and dereliction, for although you were mostly by My side, yet your hearts and minds were at times far from Me; your thoughts were not My thoughts, for your desires and fears were still carnal and selfish.  But when I send you My Spirit He will enlighten your minds, inflame your hearts, strengthen your wills … so that, although you will no longer see Me with the eyes of your body, yet, through the eyes of faith and by the Holy Spirit, you can be truly one with Me in mind and heart; and thus, a great joy -- a joy this world can never take away from you -- will fill your whole being, at the unheard-of experience, in Me, of oneness with the Father Himself.

People of God, Jesus made a deliberate choice of spiritual presence over mere physical proximity; He wanted totally committed disciples and friends, not just helpers to accompany, obey and serve Him (John 17:11, 13, 21.):

And now, Father, I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to You.  Holy Father, keep them in Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one just as We are.   But now I am coming to You.  I speak this in the world so that they may share My joy completely.  I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, so that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

People of God, we should on this wonderful day of celebration and hope, beg the Holy Spirit to come into our lives ever more and more, for He is, indeed, our strength, our joy, and above all -- being the Bond of Love between the Father and His beloved, only-begotten Son -- our new-life love; and all activities and experiences in our life as Christians should be related to His most loving, Personal, purposes.

Yesterday I bought the current issue of the periodical ‘New Scientist’ and on the outside of the front cover I read: ‘The Blip at the start of the universe made everything.  But why did it happen?’

Whoever heard of science answering the question ‘Why?’ ?   Science can, and most remarkably does, answer ever more and more fundamental and arcane questions concerning ‘what happened?’, ‘when, or how, did it happen?’, but science can never answer the question ‘Why, oh! Why did it happen?’, because such a question calls for, requires, implicitly postulates, the decision of a personal intelligence.   Here we can recall again Our Blessed Lord’s words:

The world cannot receive Him (the Spirit), because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.

Ultimate questions, ultimate aspirations are not foreign to us, dear People of God, they are not inscrutably hidden or forbidden to us, because the Spirit -- Jesus’ Spirit of Love-and-Truth -- has been given to Mother Church to cherish and follow and is given to us that we might learn to share in His Love and live by His Truth.

First of all we must learn from the Spirit to love the Person of Jesus most humbly and sincerely, and to walk with reverence, understanding, and perseverance, along the path He traced for us; in so doing we will enable the Spirit to do His most secret, utterly untraceable, work of forming, indeed transforming, us personally, ever more and more in the likeness of Jesus.  By such obedience to and love for Jesus, by such docility to and reverence for the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we will gradually become more aware of the Father Himself in our lives 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.  

This day is the birthday of Mother Church; it is the day which commemorates and renews the birth of hope in our hearts, of power and purpose in our lives: for the Spirit offers us an eternal destiny of joy and glory as children of God in the Body of Christ, and such a destiny also promises us an unutterably beautiful personal fulfilment in Jesus, by the Spirit, for the Father.


              











Thursday, 14 May 2015

Ascension of Our Lord (B) 2015

ASCENSION OF OUR LORD (B)
(Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20)



In our second reading Saint Paul said that, having heard of the Ephesians’ faith in the Lord Jesus and of their love for the saints, he had not stopped giving thanks for them and was constantly asking God to bless them with the Gift of the Holy Spirit so that:
The eyes of (your) hearts may be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of His great might, which He worked in Christ, raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens.
Today’s celebration makes clear just what St. Paul had in mind when he prayed that they might know what is the hope that belongs to the call they had received, for surely the holy Apostles exemplified that hope when:
They were looking intently at the sky as He was going, (when) suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, “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.”
Their hope was clear indeed, to follow Jesus to heaven: to finally leave behind this world where beauty does indeed abound, but not without the ugliness of sin,   suffering, and death; where human knowledge, though ever increasing, can never be comprehensive, and thus, being under constant threat from our native ignorance, fallibility and pride, does not always or necessarily lead us to peace or wisdom; and where, consequently, though much is promised and envisaged, true fulfilment is rarely close at hand.
And so, the disciples must wait, perhaps long years, and experience many trials, before they are called to follow the Lord Jesus heavenward.  What, therefore, are they to do, above all how are they to live, in the meantime?   Let us turn back to Saint Paul’s words:
That you may know what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones.
Yes indeed, our hope is not only to ultimately leave behind and below our sinful selves and this sin-scarred world, but also -- and much more urgently -- to know how the riches of God’s glory may become active and fruitful in our earthly lives as they have been so wonderfully displayed in the lives of His saints in Mother Church.   We have some knowledge and awareness of God’s inheritance among the Saints here on earth: saints now glorious in the heavenly kingdom and in the memory of Mother Church for their courage under persecution and torture; saints both strong and faithful despite being, at times, but slight in body and tender in years; saints whose perseverance was not sustained by hatred or bravado but characterized by humility and forgiveness; saints whose goodness towards the poor and needy, the homeless and sick, those outcast and despised, has inspired countless followers over centuries of darkness and cruelty; saints whose wisdom has been such as to enlighten both their world and ours; and again, others whose simplicity and artlessness proclaimed and still proclaims them -- to our great delight -- as true children of God.
Yes, we know something of God’s glorious inheritance among His and Mother Church’s saints here on earth; and we most ardently praise Him, congratulate her, and admire them!   But how can our life and death come to be so resplendent with God’s glory as was theirs!   We admire them; but they do embarrass us, perhaps even frighten us!!   For they remind us of those words of Saint Paul:
If (we are) children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:17)
And how can we – so faithless and full of self-love -- hope to be able to suffer with Him as they did, in order that we –with them -- may also be glorified with Him?
Ah, that is what the Apostle finally prayed for us in our second reading today:
May the eyes of (your) hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of His great might, which He worked in Christ, raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens.
In Mother Church our eyes are nowadays enlightened to know that the Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead up to the right hand of the Father in heaven has been shared with us, sent to us from the right hand of the Father by Jesus.  He is the Spirit of the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord, and has become for us, in Mother Church, the Gift of Pentecost and the shared Spirit of our Eucharistic Lord, sent to fill our minds and hearts with joy, hope and confidence, even in our present times of growing public opposition, opprobrium, and persecution. Above all, however, He is the Spirit Who will work at Jesus’ behest throughout our lives to form us -- according to the measure of our willingness and co-operation -- in the likeness of Jesus for the Father, so that we may be able to celebrate with ever greater love, compassion, and contrition, the Lord’s Passion and Death both in the liturgy of Mother Church, and in our response to life as coming to us daily from the hands of the Father. 
What are the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the Saints?  They are indeed some participation in the glory which He won for us when One with us, and in the glory which He had with the Father before the world began; for He has raised our humanity up far beyond our native state and above all the angelic choirs.  We do not know what our personal share of that glory, of such an inheritance, will be, for even St. John the beloved disciple could only promise:
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  Everyone who has this hope based on Him makes himself pure, as He is pure.
We shall see Him as we have come to know Him -- and be known by Him -- through our faithfulness, love, and perseverance here on earth.
Therefore, as today we celebrate the Ascension of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we look forward in anticipation to next week’s celebration of Pentecost, calling to mind once again and cherishing yet more deeply in our hearts the words of the Apostle’s prayer:
May the eyes of (your) hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of His great might, which He worked in Christ, raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens.




Thursday, 7 May 2015

6th Sunday of Easter (B) 2015

 6th. Sunday of Easter (B) 
(Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1st. John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17)

Today we have heard much about fraternal charity in our readings.  We know, of course, that Jesus said it was second only to love of God; indeed, when asked, He said that it could not be separated from love of God:
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36–40)
However, fraternal charity is so frequently, easily, and even flippantly, bandied around in our modern society that it is often popularly regarded as the main, characteristic, teaching of the Christian faith, relegating love of God to something vague, unappreciable, and ultimately unimportant; with the result that, as you are well aware, monks and nuns who dedicate their whole lives to the worship of God in solitude and seclusion are often enough said to be wasting their lives, which would be better spent in doing good to people.  Contemporary society, being very much influenced by scientific enquiry, consequently likes to think that it can indeed, test, prove, manifest and boast of chosen acts of charity to others in need; but who can show, who can prove, demonstrate, love of God?
Despite such popular misconceptions, however, there can be no doubt that love of the Father is first and foremost in Jesus’ own life and in His will for us; and we, His disciples, must learn to take care in our dialogue with the world and in our zeal to stand up on behalf of, or proselytize for, the Faith, that we do not – so to speak -- joust with people proffering mere arguments, by the use of words made holy by the faith they express; that we do not gradually come to accept the premises on which all the actions, thoughts and words, of our adversaries are based: the scientific reality of this physical world and the exclusive worthwhileness of the hopes and expectations it seems to hold for them.
Our blessed Lord Jesus gave us His disciples -- at their express request -- the prayer we call the “Our Father”.  In it we pray, first of all, to the Father, for His glory and for the coming of His Kingdom: the now inchoate, but to-become ultimate spiritual reality for us, on which all our thoughts and aspirations, words and actions, must be based; and to that end Jesus seeks to lead us, first and foremost, into a truly real and personal relationship with the Father.  The second part of the prayer He gave us is not directly for the world and our life in it, but for God’s family, of which we have chosen, and are privileged, to be a part, emphasising and cementing our oneness in charity with our fellow disciples, each and every one of whom is our brother or sister in the Body of Christ and the family of God.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us the meaning of His life on earth when He says:
          I have kept My Father's commandments and remain in His love.
Likewise, He wills that our life as His disciples should have the same meaning and purpose as His, and therefore He says:
By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; and become My disciples.  
And the ultimate joy of His life, and of ours too if we abide in Him, is the fact of the Father’s love:
The Father loves Me; I have kept (His) commandments, and abide in His love.
Love of the Father is indeed the first and the greatest commandment; it is also the supreme reward and deepest joy of the Christian life of faith even here on earth.
What then is the special significance of the great emphasis given today, especially in the Gospel and letter of John, to love of neighbour?  Let us recall part of that letter:
Beloved, we belong to God, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through Him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.  (1 John 4: 5, 7-10)
John’s whole aim there is to show that love, true Christian love, originates with, comes from, and must involve, God the Father.  Such love is of God’s very essence.  Those words teach us that Christian love – caritas -- is only bestowed, exercised and shared, in God, and among those who already belong to Him and/or are open to Him.
John is writing in his letter to fellow Christians when he says, ‘Whoever is without love does not know God’.  There he is saying, ‘You who claim to be followers of Christ, Christians, adopted sons and daughters of God in Christ by the Spirit, cannot be such without love, God’s love, caritas, being in you and among you’.  And in his Gospel from which our principal reading was taken, the words of Jesus were addressed to His chosen future Apostles at the Last Supper, not to the generality of the Jews or even of His numerous followers.  Fraternal love – caritas -- among Christians is a most intimate aspect of their love for and response to God.
The world has gradually taken over those initial words out of their original context and come up with a parasitical likeness, ‘everyone who loves – not, of course, in God’s way, because there is no God – but everyone who “loves” in our emotionally acceptable way, that is, unfettered by any religious considerations demanding our obedience, such a person is truly good in our eyes.’  It is doing the same with other Christian words, especially key words such as ‘marriage’, ‘conscience’, and ‘sin’.
Because it is essentially divine love, caritas-charity can only become part of our lives as a gift -- the very Gift of the Holy Spirit Himself -- from God.  The fact is, that just as worldly society knows nothing about divine holiness, so too, of itself, it knows nothing about true love, divine love.  Proponents of modern society can and do use words learned from centuries of Christian teaching, but the realities signified by those words are unknown to them, lost by their rejection of God Himself.  We can see evidence of this every day around us: our respectable and politically correct society identifies love with sentimentality or emotionalism and passion, with the result that many parents actually harm their children by the ‘love’ they mistakenly show them.  Again, the majority of worldly pleasure-seekers proclaim, as their pleasures show, that love -- for them -- means the shared pleasure of any and every sexual passion; which, being separated from and independent of any moral law, inevitably brings harm, first of all, to themselves.
The Christian revelation, however, teaches us that only God, only Jesus, can tell us what is an authentic expression of our divinely created nature, and of God‘s love being in and acting through us; and John, in our readings today, insists in the name of Jesus, that one, decisive, sign of the authenticity of our love for the Father, is His Spirit of love being active in us, and leading us to love our neighbour as He would have us do.  For He is the Spirit of Holiness, given to lead us to holiness of life and love in God, and our supreme mission in life is to let Him lead us and form us in Jesus for the Father: in that way we keep God’s commandments.
And in order that He, the Spirit of Jesus, may be able to thus work in us and form us in the likeness of Jesus, we must humbly and patiently endeavour to:
Love one another, just as He, the Lord, has loved us and commanded us.
However, just as the origin and nature of Christian love is divine caritas, so too its end is divine: we are called to love our neighbour in God, we are called to care for his or her good in and before God.  We are not thereby called to publicly acceptable manifestations of human love and liking, but we are called to care for and promote, if possible, our neighbour’s well-being in and before God, that is, according to his or her need and in accordance with the commandments of God our Father Who is the supreme lover of all.  Such being the case, just as there is never a time when, never any circumstances where, we can absolve ourselves from loving the Father, so too, there can never be any people, with regard to whom, we can absolve ourselves from the obligation of such fraternal charity.
People of God, we can never be sure of the authenticity of our own personal love for God, nor can we ever be sure of the true nature of our love for our neighbour: we like to think we know ourselves, but we are aware that people are not always either able or willing to recognize the deep desires that motivate their actions or attitudes, and we must also acknowledge and confess our own personal weaknesses and ignorance.   That is why some commands from God are necessary for us, being totally independent of our own selves and selfishness.  And here today we know that we can be sure of the authenticity of our love for God, if, and to the extent that, we try by the Spirit to love our neighbour as Jesus wills, for the greater glory of the God and Father Who calls us to become His adopted and beloved children.

Friday, 1 May 2015

5th Sunday of Easter (B) 2015

5th. Sunday of Eastertide (B)    
                   (Acts 9:26-31; 1st. John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8)


Our Gospel reading today puzzled me somewhat, because it begins with the words:
            Jesus said to His disciples: “I am the true vine …”
and then it ends:
By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples.

I am aware, of course, that one might interpret those last words in the sense of: ‘bear much fruit and thus become My disciples’ or ‘show yourselves to be’ My ‘true’ disciples, but that is not what John actually says.   What then is he saying? 

Part of the second reading from St. John’s first letter, gives us a clue, for there we read:

Those who keep His commandments remain in Him, and He in them; and the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He gave us.

Now, according to John, Jesus only spoke about asking the Father to send His disciples another Advocate -- the Holy Spirit -- in the course of this present discourse; and then He only spoke of the Spirit being sent in the future (14:15-17; 14:26; 15:26):

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him. But you know Him, because He remains with you (all, as a body now), and will be in you (individually).
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything. 
When the Advocate comes Whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will testify to Me.


So, for St. John’s presentation of Jesus, there is an essential difference between His faithful followers during His Palestine days, and those same followers later endowed with the Risen Lord’s Gift of the Holy Spirit sent from the Father: the first are called ‘disciples’ by John who writes, ‘Jesus said to His disciples’; whereas the others are designated as such in accordance with Jesus’ own most positive and emphatic words, ‘bear much fruit and become My disciples’.

John’s letter quoted in our second reading backs up these thoughts, as can be seen, perhaps more clearly, in another translation:

All who obey His commandments abide in Him and He abides in them.  And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit that He has given us. (NRSV)

We ‘become His disciples’ – that is, those who know the abiding-in-them-Jesus, those who know Him thus by the personal communion they have with Him -- by the Gift of the Spirit sent in the name of Jesus by the Father.  For it is the Spirit Who establishes a personal relationship of loving solicitude and devout obedience between Jesus and His follower, whereby all who obey His commandments abide in Him and He abides in them; and, by virtue of that relationship, they also come to know that He abides in them, by the Spirit (He) Jesus has given them.

And so, dear People of God, Jesus demands obedience from all His disciples, but above all He desires such commitment to be imbued with the intimate beauty of personal communion, whereby the ‘do-er’ of His will, delights in the awareness that it is His will.
St. Luke presents the same teaching prominently in our first reading:

The Church was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord; and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

There we have the difference between those who love Jesus and think that Christians have all they need for their understanding and imitation of Jesus in the Bible, perhaps more simply in the New Testament, or even, indeed, in the Gospels alone, and those – like ourselves – who, in the God-given Church, seek not simply to know the words Jesus uttered and imitate the things He did, but aspire to be formed by the very Spirit of Jesus in the likeness of Jesus.  We pray for and invite the Holy Spirit to guide us, who are already members of Christ through faith and obedience, way beyond and immeasurably far above the awareness of our own thoughts and the strictness of our personal discipline… no matter how developed and specialised we (in our pride and folly) may think them to be … into a Spiritual conformity with Jesus.  For God desires that the full majesty and beauty of the Son-made-flesh be manifested in the most sensitive detail and to the closest conformity by a multitude of complementary family likenesses formed by the Holy Spirit for the glory of the Father of all goodness and truth.

People of God, God is holy, we are not; God is good, we are needy; let us not, therefore, try to prescribe ourselves a ‘Jesus’ for our imitation, based on our own thoughts, no matter how studious or learned they may be; on our own aspirations or imaginations, no matter how pious they may be.  Rather let us try to just love the Lord proclaimed by Mother Church with all our heart, understand Him in her Scriptures to the utmost of our mind, embrace Him in her Eucharist with heart-felt warmth and sincerity, and then both humbly and prayerfully entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit, beseeching Him to form us into a likeness of Jesus in Mother Church, as He most wonderfully formed Jesus Himself in the womb of Mary.

For we are all, throughout our lives, meant to be formed as other, mutually complementary, Christs in the womb of Mother Church, by the Spirit.  And after such a life-time gestation, our ultimate birth into heavenly life should be characterized first and foremost by a sublimely childlike cry of ‘THANK YOU my Father, my God, and my All’, a cry most befitting those worshippers in Spirit and in Truth who, as Jesus Himself revealed and John alone reports, the Father desires above all:
 The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship Him.   God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.  (4:23s.)
Thus with the Holy Spirit of love having formed us in Mother Church, the Body of the Christ Who is the Truth, we will find ourselves most lovingly adopted, and ‘fully at home’, members of the family of God the Father.