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.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

22nd Sunday Year B 2015

22nd. Sunday (Year B)

(Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

Moses knew the mind and heart, so to speak, of Him Who said:

I, the LORD, am their God Who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so that I, the LORD, their God, might dwell among them. (Exodus 29:46)

Do not defile the land in which you live and in the midst of which I dwell; for I am the LORD Who dwells in the midst of the Israelites.” (Numbers 35:34)

Therefore he took great care to make clear to the People of Israel the true nature of the sublime privilege that was theirs:

What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord our God is to us!

He will deliver this land to you because He wills, He chooses, He wants, to dwell among you, and to be known as the LORD Who dwells in the midst of the Israelites.

Faced with such an unheard of (then, as now) privilege Moses encouraged them to always call upon Him in their needs for they were as yet still unsure and relatively untried as one people and, seeking to encourage them, Moses used language they could more easily understand: ‘in all your needs, at all times, you can call upon Him for help’:

What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD our God is to us whenever we call upon Him?

Moreover, being a rude and simple people only recently formed after being rescued from debasing slavery, they were unable to truly appreciate what God was intending to do for them and with them; and therefore, that they might sooner rather than later be able to hold up their heads with confidence among the surrounding peoples, Moses went on to emphasize what, again, they could readily understand:

What great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?  Observe it carefully for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations who will hear of these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’

Notice the priority given by Moses in recognition of Israel’s supreme blessing and privilege:
What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD our God is to us! From that blessing and on the basis of that privilege alone would flow Israel’s right to confidence before God and among the nations.   The relationship between God and His Chosen People would be largely determined by His People learning to delight in and humbly respond to His Presence among them.  However, as history shows, Israel remembered most of all, not Moses’ first words: What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord our God is to us; but those more temporarily advantageous and humanly understandable words concerning God’s help in their times of need and the superiority of their laws and customs.  Broadly speaking, their repeated abuse of God’s help throughout the periods when first their Judges were trying to establish a homeland for them and subsequently when their kings were trying to establish an independent realm, led to their being exiled by the Assyrians and then by the Babylonians; while their pride in their laws and customs became less an expression of worship and love for their God than a protective shield against the nations around and a source of disdain and even contempt for the cultures and practices of both the Greeks and -- ultimately and most decisively – of the Romans, which led to their total destruction as a unified and relatively independent nation and culture.

Let us now turn our attention to Jesus in His confrontations with the Pharisees of which we heard in the Gospel reading.  At that time the politically powerful Sadducees were, by the grace of Rome, the authorities in charge of the internationally renowned Temple worship in Jerusalem; but it was the Pharisees who were the popular spiritual leaders in Israel and most proud to be recognized as zealous in their observance of the Law.  However, the Law came down to them along with a multitude of oral traditions from their chosen and recognized elders, with the result that their concern for the Law did not lead them to God so much as it gradually made them ever more and more mindful of what their elders had said about the Law. They communed more with their elders in pride of spirit than with the God of their fathers in humility of heart:

Jesus responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honours Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me; In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’  You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.

Jesus then went on to show the absolute importance of that inner turning to and communing with God; for only God, thus welcomed and worshipped in men’s hearts, can purify them and cleanse them:

From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile.

The Law might regulate external behaviour, but only communion with God in the heart can purify from inner defilement.  Indeed, even for Our Blessed Lady who, as St. Luke (2:19) tells us:

Kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart,

such heart-felt loving communion with God had to be perfected before she could follow her Son’s Ascension into heavenly glory: she received the Gift of the Holy Spirit, to glorify her within and without in preparation for her Assumption into heaven to be with her beloved Son.
For us Catholics, likewise, obedience to the Church, regular reception of the sacraments, rosaries and novenas, will produce little where the heart is not open to cherish and respond to God’s Holy Spirit in one’s daily living.  The Holy Spirit of Love is God’s invisible Gift to each of His children in Jesus; and only a personal response to His love -- the spiritual response of a watchful and attentive mind and a longing and loving heart -- can provide a fitting gift in return.

There are, however, some of God’s children and Jesus’ disciple who, in the practice of their faith, are afflicted by an ever-present and guardedly-secret feeling of being burdened, even suffocated, by recommendations, regulations, prescriptions, that seem to accuse and threaten them with failings here, faults there; everywhere sins and failings which -- even when small -- are said to be significant and important because they could lead to others more threatening and serious.   It is a sickness that robs their continued and courageous religious observance of any spontaneous joy.  Where, for such sufferers, is the freedom of which St. Paul spoke so ardently:

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery?  (Galatians 5:1)

How can it be that, when the Christian experience for some ‘want-to-be-devout Catholics can seem to be both unfree and oppressive, St. John also can write:  

No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he is begotten by God. (1 John 3:9)

Such an anomaly is due to that against which Moses advised the People of Israel, that about which Jesus accused the Pharisees: that which for today’s more humble and sincere Catholic sufferers, might be described as ‘taking one’s eye off the ball’.  For we are not meant to struggle alone along a way that Jesus is said to have walked; we are called rather to allow the Spirit of Jesus to guide us along that ‘Jesus Way’ which He alone most sublimely knows and most lovingly chooses personally for us, even indeed -- at times of special difficulty -- carrying us along part of that way.  We are not meant to be ever looking out for sins and occasions of sin: rather we need to keep our minds on the God Who is, really and truly, our Father and wants to show Himself to us as such; we should fix our hearts on Jesus Who died for love of us before rising for us, and Who desires above all now as the true vine to have His branches bring forth their fruit of love for His and our Father ; we must try to set our hopes on the Holy Spirit; given as God’s divine Gift to us Who will – if we begin, trustfully to recognize and respond to His urgings and inspirations -- form us secretly but sublimely in the likeness of Jesus.

People of God, we are not called to be rich in worldly consolations and satisfactions: we are believers whose faith has to become strong enough to fill us with a supreme desire for that of which Jesus has spoken and for which He has given us His promise.  We are not individuals confident in our own ability and strength: we are disciples who find our comfort and strength in the Spirit Jesus has given us and the hope which He inspires within us.   We are not mature and experienced denizens of this world; we are, above all, children who know most surely that there is a Father Who has already spoken to and called us, and Who is ever drawing us to Jesus; a Father Whom Jesus has assured us we can, in Him, call ‘Our Father’, a Father Whose heavenly kingdom will ultimately be our eternal home.

We are a people called to gratitude for God’s innumerable blessings and gifts, not to complaisance in our own achievements, called to confidence in His goodness not to pride in our self-sufficiency, called to aspire to and hope for the supreme joy of His loving presence, not to selfish anxiety and fear for our present freedom from trouble and eternal safety.

Dear People of God learn in prayer to look for and praise God’s wondrous beauty; re-discover and constantly remember His many blessings to you personally over the years; and never be surprised at His enduring and ever-erupting goodness in your lives.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

21st Sunday (Year B) 2015

 21st. Sunday (Year B)
(Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69)

In our readings today we are reminded of the fact that in the course of our lives decisions -- both difficult and definitive – may sometimes have to be made:
If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose country you are now dwelling.    As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
Many of (Jesus’) disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.  Then Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"
This is because God the Father made such a decision when He willed that His only-begotten Son should take human flesh to free us from the tyranny of sin and death, thereby obliging us who will to be Christians to make a reciprocal decision in acceptance of His offer of salvation.  With God, His decision is sublime and final; we, however, are weak human beings hindered by our native ignorance and personal sinfulness, with the result that any seriously binding decision of ours has to be repeatedly renewed and personally re-affirmed if we are to live it out to fulfilment.  Any such decision can be sincerely made only on the basis of right-love motivating the choice, and persevering-commitment enabling us ultimately fulfil our original decision.
Now, such love and commitment are the two qualities St. Paul had in mind when giving his converts guidance with regard to the Christian institution of marriage:
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Words which he then develops for his immediate purposes by emphasising the predominant failing each of them needs to face:
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, He Himself the saviour of the body.   As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her.
Jesus seriously requires such subordination, such commitment, on the part of His disciples, as you heard in the Gospel reading:
It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.   As a result of this, many (of) His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Jesus would have none of those disciples who claim the right to re-negotiate, so to speak, their allegiance to Him if any unforeseen difficulty should arise to trouble them as a result of His teaching or in the course of His leading.  Their commitment had to be total:
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.   We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy One of God.”  
For His part, as St. John tells us:
Jesus knew, before the feast of Passover, that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end. (John 13:1)
Such was the commitment and love St. Paul also expressly recommended to his converts entering marriage by those words:
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. 
How sad is it not that these days an alternative, shortened, second reading is offered, needs to be offered, today for some who want to give only a limited, personally approved, hearing to Gospel teaching? Yes, St. Paul was a truly selfless and totally committed -- mind and heart, body and soul -- disciple of Christ; and his writings are a loving presentation of His Lord’s Gospel to the proud and pagan world whose descendants are still with us and, in a certain measure, still among us!
Of course, those who choose to flee all binding commitments, be they religious or personal, say that we do not know what the future will bring; and how therefore, can we, at any given time, reasonably commit ourselves to some way of life or mode of conduct by accepting now responsibilities that later on may bring unwanted pressures.  They argue that no one can reasonably be expected to pledge themselves to some present relationship that will not allow them to take advantage of future opportunities that may arise.  We need to be able to avoid, or at least free ourselves from, future difficulties, and take full advantage of future possibilities.
To all that worldly selfishness and revolutionary rationality, the Catholic proclaims: I live by Faith in Jesus Christ the only-begotten Son of God become, for us men and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Son of Man; in His one and holy Body, which is Mother Church on earth, I live and love by His Gift of her teaching and sacraments.
The future is not, for us Christians, something totally dark, hidden, and unknowable.  We believe in God, a God Who is good, and has created us -- personally and individually -- for a purpose and with a future.  We believe that human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, are called to guide their lives towards a goal being offered them by God; a goal promised most surely, and revealed -- though darkly as yet, and as in a mirror -- to all believers in Jesus; for whom, indeed, it is a goal even now being gradually effected and brought to fulfilment in us, with us, and for us, by the Holy Spirit.  In other  words, we Christians and Catholics believe that the future is more than sufficiently knowable, it is supremely desirable, and ultimately attainable for all who believe in Jesus and are willing to commit themselves in faith and trust to His promises and to the guidance of the Spirit He has bequeathed us in the Church He has given us.  And this attitude of self-commitment is so essential to Christianity that we believers have been given, as our mother, she of who it was said:
Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfilment of those things which were told her from the Lord.  (Luke 1:45)
In our Gospel reading we heard that when the Jews rejected Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist, He then, as if to confirm His teaching, went on to say:
What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?
There we can see how sure is the foundation on which our faith, our love and our commitment, is based.  Jesus is able to speak of the future, of the heavenly future prepared for and awaiting us, because He himself originally came from there, and has, as His words foreshadowed, ascended back again to receive as Son of Man that glory which already belonged to Him as Son of God living for all eternity in the presence of His heavenly Father.  His words, therefore, are not to be assessed as are the words of ordinary men who do not, indeed cannot, know what the future holds: they speak of a future which is ahead of them in time …. a future of as yet some unknown number of days, months, or years ahead of them but which will find them, and perhaps surprise them, still firmly rooted in this earthly state … they speak of an earthly future only.
We Catholics and Christian disciples of Jesus, however, believe that such an earthly and temporary future is but a preparation for the real future which is on offer to mankind and is promised to the believers in Jesus’ Good News, a future not without earthly consequences, but one that will ultimately bear full fruit in an eternity of Heavenly fulfilment or a Hell of loss and punishment according  to our preferences and choices made on earth.
Since Jesus has ascended to heaven in the glory of the Spirit, His words, which are still living and life-giving among us, are, consequently, no ordinary words but spiritual words:
It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
People of God, in the first reading Joshua put clearly before the Israelites a choice they had to make; and we are in a like situation today.  For, in our society, Christianity can easily be subjected to public derision, while the Catholic Church is, not infrequently, hated.  We are urged to choose a life more commonly acceptable, one which, because of some retained Christian aspects, is regarded as a good and praiseworthy life: for example, a life lived for personal family and friends, for children and the poor, even for the world’s underprivileged.    However, such a sort of life can remain deeply selfish, answering to no higher authority than ‘sincere self’, envisaging no eternal future or hopes for eternal blessedness with One greater than self.  Consequently, it can be a life weakened and disfigured by lack of commitment to any values that might obstruct its steady course towards present success, accompanied by public approbation and, perhaps above all, self-approval; a life which, more frequently these days, may be sealed by nothing better than a personally chosen  ‘shuffling off this mortal coil’ in suicide.
Our Christian faith and Mother Church, on the other hand, call us to a life of  greater personal commitment: a life of willing subjection of self initially to one other than self, in view of One infinitely greater than self; a subjection, a commitment, a devotion, recognizing and answering to the God Who is present and to be found in all and yet transcends all; and ultimately a commitment of self to God Himself in and through His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ Who now lives eternally with His  Father in heaven and -- by His Spirit -- with us and for us in His Church to the end of time.   Our Christian faith and Mother Church urge us to a life of commitment, to a selflessness before our God and Saviour, which, by a process of spiritual osmosis, will inevitably show itself in the ordinary things of our everyday lives: in marital love and commitment, sincere and lasting friendship, unfeigned neighbourliness, and penetrating down even to our most mundane social obligations, such as doing an honest day’s work and living as good and responsible citizens.
In making life’s choices, we must never forget the truth expressed in the words of Joshua:
If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose country you are now dwelling.    As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
Whatever we choose, we will always be servants, because that is our nature.  If, however, we make the right choice, we can serve the Lord Who is so good that He intends, after our faithful service here on earth, to give us a share with Him in His heavenly lordship and glory.   His word is true, His promise is sure, and His Way is straight; in all our needs His Spirit will be with us, and for all our endeavours the Father Who now awaits us will embrace and reward us as His adopted children in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Friday, 14 August 2015

The Assumption of Our Lady

The Assumption of Our Lady                     

(Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; 1st. Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56)

The Assumption of Our Lady, which has been celebrated in the Eastern Liturgy since the 6th. Century, and in Rome since the 7th., was defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950 as a dogma of our faith.  It states that, at the end of her life on earth, Mary did not know corruption, but was taken up to heaven, assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
The first point I want to stress today is that Mary was taken up to heaven as a human being, in her human flesh, albeit glorified in that humanity.  This means that heaven and the joys of heaven are not alien to us in our humanity.  Whereas it could have been feared that although the human flesh of Jesus was glorified in His Resurrection and Ascension, that was because it was the flesh of Jesus, a divine Person, the very Son of God, and so did not set any precedent, did not necessarily offer any hope, for us ordinary human beings.  The same, however, cannot be said of Mary’s flesh, since it was the flesh of our sister, the flesh of a merely human person and creation of God.
And so, thanks to Jesus’ victory over sin and death, thanks to the coming and abiding with us and in us of the Holy Spirit, the body and soul of Mary -- a sublime woman and yet an ordinary, human personal being -- is now supremely happy in heavenly glory; which means that the joys of heaven can indeed be for our total human fulfilment and glorification, for in heaven we will see and experience depths of divine beauty, goodness, and truth beyond all our imaginings indeed, but, for all that, a beauty, goodness and truth, we will gratefully acknowledge ourselves to have already partially -- though fleetingly -- experienced in our life of devotion on earth, whilst also, in humble confusion, confessing that we never really appreciated them aright.
Imagine a farming couple who started out with a small holding, who had to struggle through years of natural adversity, drought, floods, blights of various kinds, and through periods when capital was short and anxiety was oppressive.  Imagine such a couple, years later, when their farm has grown beyond anything they might have anticipated; when they can look out on acres upon acres of fine crops growing and feel secure in the knowledge that they have built up something which will last because it is established on firm foundations of hard work and sound finance.  Their joy on looking out over their smiling fields will be all the greater because they are now seeing the fruitful outcome of all the efforts they had made over the years before.
Our experience of heaven will be somewhat similar to that, in so far as its joys will not be entirely new or totally unconnected with our earthly experiences. We will recognise the sublime goodness of the divine Wisdom and Providence which guided us throughout our lives, together with the beautiful gifts of human friendship and love we experienced in our dearest and deepest relationships.  We will be both thrilled and amazed at the glorious truths of our faith which we understood so little and scarcely appreciated before.  In other words, heavenly joy will be the transcendent flowering and glorious fulfilment of all that had been truly beautiful and worth-while in our lives as disciples of Jesus pilgrimaging successfully through this world.  St. Paul in his letter to the Romans (8:29-30) writes:
Whom (the Father) foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Mary is indeed the only one who has shared in the glory of Jesus so far, it is His supreme gift to His most faithful and loving mother; but since she is, by His gift, also our mother, therefore all His true disciples can receive and one day will receive, with her, their share in His glory when He comes in the fullness of time to judge the world.  Mary has already been glorified in her humanity: she is the pledge that what Jesus won in His humanity, has been won for us, for all His true disciples. 
Now let us turn our minds back to the first reading where we heard:
            A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun
Pope Paul VI strongly suggested that Our Lady of Fatima’s appearance was the fulfilment of that prophecy, and Pope John Paul II not only suggested but even affirmed that this “great sign in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun” has been fulfilled, after 1900 years, in the events that took place at Fatima on the 15th. October 1917, when 70,000 people saw the “sun dance”.  Let me read the account in the Masonic and anti-clerical newspaper “O Seculo” reporting those events:
We saw the huge crowd turn toward the sun which appeared at its zenith, clear of the clouds.  It resembled a flat plate of silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It did not burn the eyes.  It did not blind.  Before the dazed eyes of the people the sun trembled, it made strange and abrupt movements, outside of all cosmic laws, the “sun danced” according to the expression of the people.
According to other eyewitnesses “it seemed the sun was being detached from the sky and was falling on us.  It was a terrible moment.”  The miracle lasted about 8 minutes, after which the sun returned to its place in the sky, while the ground, which before the miracle had been saturated due to an all-night driving rain, was seen to be dry.  Likewise, the clothes of those who had been standing all day in the rain before the miracle were completely dry.
Pope John Paul said:
According to divine plan, “a Woman clothed with the sun” came down from heaven to this earth to visit the privileged children of the Father.  She speaks to them with a mother’s voice and heart: she asks them to offer themselves as victims of reparation, saying that she was ready to lead them safely to God. The message of Fatima is a call to conversion, alerting humanity to have nothing to do with the “dragon” whose “tail swept down a; third of the star of heaven, and cast them to the earth.
In those appearances, Mary affirmed clearly the reality of hell saying to the children: “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go”.  She likewise affirmed the reality of Purgatory: when Lucia, one of the three children to whom Our Lady appeared, asked about a friend of hers who had died at about the age of 18 or 20, Our Lady answered, “she will be in Purgatory until the end of the world”.  Another friend of Lucia’s, however, who had died at the age of 16, was in heaven Our Lady said.
The important thing for me to do today, People of God, is to remind you of our commitment to Mary our Mother.  Her prayers are totally dedicated to ‘making-up’, so to speak, for all the many failings in our response to God’s grace; grace so abundantly won for us by her Son, and so freely offered to us by His Spirit.  She is totally committed to us her children, and what she asks of us in return is: daily recitation of the Rosary; the offering of our daily duty to God as an act of sacrifice in reparation for sins; and the dedication of Five First Saturdays of reparation to her Immaculate Heart.
However, there is a final point concerning those words from the book of Revelation which state, as you heard:
Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.  And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.
What are the stars?  Catholic commentators have commonly said that the stars of Heaven represent the Catholic clergy.  Sister Lucy says the most effective way the devil can do harm to souls is by taking away their leaders, the priests; and we have indeed seen manifest evidence of the devil’s campaign against priests.  Fr. Nicholas Gruner, perhaps the priest most closely associated with efforts to spread abroad the message of Fatima said:
If one third of the stars of Heaven are dragged down, then people will find it harder to save their souls.  The faithful must be careful to follow those Catholic clergy who preserve the faith.  It is important for people to pray for priests, for bishops, for the Cardinals, for the Pope. 
People of God, Our Lady’s Assumption is the pledge of our future blessedness and fulfilment in God; for, just as sinful Eve misled Adam and thus helped close the gates of Paradise to her children, so Mary was Immaculate in following her Son -- the second Adam -- Who has opened those blessed gates once more for His disciples and her children.  And now, Our Lady of Fatima, the Woman clothed with the Sun, has come to warn us her children of the dangers which threaten us in our affluent western world where irresponsible dedication to the pursuit of personal pleasure, worldly plenty, and moral self-determination, so frequently takes hold of and ruins human lives.  These are dangers, Mary tells us, which would rob us of our divine and eternal inheritance.
Let us therefore look once again at Our Blessed Lady on this celebration of her Assumption into heaven to learn more of the supreme glory of that divine inheritance that can, and will be ours, if we but heed her warning and follow Our Lord’s way.
Mary received the Gift of God, that is, the most Holy Spirit, when, St. Luke tells us:
The angel (Gabriel) said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you … (1:35ss.)
The Spirit was given her then to enable her to become the worthy Mother of God.  It was like that with Jesus Himself when the Spirit came upon Him at His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist: for then the Spirit came upon Jesus for a particular purpose, namely, to prepare Him in His humanity to undertake His public ministry to the People of Israel; and when Jesus rose from the dead He did so, once again, in the power of the Spirit Who glorified His human nature for His ascension to heavenly and eternal life.  Mary did indeed meet her risen and glorious Son on earth, but her joy as such a mother was short-lived for He was soon to ascend into heaven, necessarily leaving her behind gazing after Him because her human relationship with Him, even that of immaculate motherhood, could not sustain the intimacy, depth, and intensity of a heavenly and eternal relationship.  Mary did receive the Holy Spirit once again while yet on earth, this time at Pentecost, for her role as Mother of the Church.  Ultimately however, the Spirit needed to totally glorify and transfigure her in her Assumption that she might be able to enter upon her ultimate and eternal calling as Queen of heaven and Mother of Jesus, mankind’s Saviour, and the eternal Word and only-begotten Son of Him Who is the heavenly Father of all.  
People of God, our union with Jesus in heaven will be closer and more intimate than we can begin to imagine, because it well be based upon the Holy Spirit Himself.  Today, therefore, we have double cause for rejoicing: let us rejoice with Mary for her heavenly beatitude in and with her Son before the Father; let us also rejoice in her motherly solicitude for us her children on our earthly pilgrimage.  However, let us make sure we also give her cause to rejoice by embracing her requests and acknowledging her warnings.                                        

Friday, 7 August 2015

19th Sunday of the Year (B) 2015

 Nineteenth Sunday, Year (B)
(1st. Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2; John 6:41-51)

Obviously it wasn’t easy to hear a man say:
            I am the bread that came down from heaven;
we would think him mad or laugh him out of court!  And so the first thing to notice about today’s Gospel reading is that the Jews did not do any such thing.  No!  They had had some experience of Jesus: they had frequently heard Him speak, closely observed His Personal bearing, and at least heard of certain miraculous ‘works of His hands’.  Consequently, they were not drawn to laughter when such a man made a claim even so extraordinary as:
            I am the Bread that came down from Heaven.
In fact, they felt a certain anxiety before Him and were even irritated with themselves and each other for no apparently good reason; and so they started complaining and grumbling among themselves, saying among other things ‘Come down from heaven, indeed’!:
Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’
Why did they not just laugh?   What a testimony it was to Jesus that they didn’t!
It seems that only immediately involved professionals, that is, the pagan and brutalised soldiers, along with the hypocritically self-righteous chief priests, scribes and elders would ever be able to laugh at Him.  As regards the ordinary people, indifference to anything that was not directly pertinent to their own worldly concerns was their greatest fault because it would eventually make them so very malleable, even ‘mob-able’, for their leaders’ abuse.
There were others along with today’s murmuring Jews however, who could better explain why they considered Jesus as One not to be laughed at, as One Whom they -- as experienced and/or influential people -- found to be far different from any other man they had ever come across by reason of a certain 'righteousness’ which made Him both mysteriously unique and yet, somehow, dangerous; such, indeed, were the feelings of the wife of Pilate who warned her husband:
            Have nothing to do with that righteous Man;
and of the centurion who, having watched His suffering and death,  spontaneously glorified God saying:
            This Man was innocent beyond doubt!
It was this Personal ‘something’ about Jesus – not just the fact that He had only recently miraculously fed a very large crowd from a boy’s picnic lunch of a few loves and fish – that was troubling the Jews speaking with Him at the present moment; it was a disquietude that somehow something was being asked of them that they were not able or ready -- each of them for personal reasons -- to give, and so they complained in their own hearts, murmured and argued with their companions, until Jesus found it necessary to say:
Stop murmuring among yourselves, no one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draw him.
That was not the way to find the truth about, and understand the Person of, Our Lord.  Instead of complaints to bolster a prejudiced opinion there had be a desire for the truth and a recognition that the truth about Jesus could transcend the limits and the power of merely human appreciation and reasoning.  The truth about Jesus could only be received, ultimately, as a gift – the Gift -- from the Father.
And because people must have a motive to impel them to make the necessary efforts to seek such truth, Jesus added the words:
            And I will raise him up on the last day.
The prophet Jeremiah had foretold that, in the days of the coming Messiah, all men would be taught by God; and here Jesus -- quoting the prophet -- added what were His very own mysterious and provocative words:
            Everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me.
And this is the precise point for our own entry into the drama of today’s Gospel reading!
The Jews seeking Jesus were ‘murmuring’ among themselves about His words, (others translate ‘murmuring’, as ‘complaining’, ‘grumbling’), and Jesus says quite bluntly, ‘Stop that.  Try to listen to My Father (and your Father) and learn from Him.’
Notice that very carefully, People of God; for life’s ultimate decision, Jesus advised that we listen to God and learn; not that we discuss among ourselves in order to arrive at an agreed conclusion, which would be both meaningless and ludicrous!!  Salvation is absolutely personal and relational; involving sincere personal love for, and deep personal commitment to, God.   Note that Jesus did not even say, ‘Discuss it with the Father’, or, ‘Pray to the Father’, because such prayer can with many people so easily become a matter of  ‘discussing  with’ or ‘talking to’ where they themselves are in the driving seat.  Therefore Jesus concentrated attention on one word, listen to His (and their) Father: that is, that they calm their heart in humble acceptance of its emptiness before Him, and still their fevered imaginations and thoughts by unconditional trust in Him.  He advised them, and advises us, to patiently wait upon the Father’s mercy and hope for His blessing; having only our gratitude and praise to offer for His goodness.
And now we come to a great truth about the world we live in, People of God: the Father teaches all and always has taught all. 
I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died.   I am the living bread that came down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.
See, the Father was already teaching and preparing the Jews as they were being led from their slavery in Egypt.  He was preparing them for Jesus’ coming, by teaching them to look for life in food from heaven.  They accepted that all food came ‘from heaven’ in so far as it was ultimately given them by God.  But all such food originated from, and ended up on, earth.  They had to become able to understand the need for living bread originating from heaven, which alone could give them heavenly, eternal life.
There we have the clearest possible example of God’s Providence with Israel and with us today.  From the beginning of Israel’s history there was a vital question of, and need for, ‘bread from heaven’; and for over more than a thousand years God was guiding Israel towards the possibility of their being able to understand and appreciate something of truly living Bread coming from Heaven in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.
That is the function and purpose of all earthly realities and experiences!   They are all, under God’s Providence, able to help us to an initial appreciation of the ultimate realities of heaven.   That is what can make life, living, such a wonderful experience:  how can we, with St. Paul, manage to take away the veil so lightly covering the beauty of God?
            Everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me.
Listening to God means not just listening with our ears, it involves the desire of our heart, it concerns the ‘background’ attention of our mind ever hovering around God, and our willingness and ability to drop earthly concerns when Jesus passes nearby:
They came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.   On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, He is calling you.”  He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.  Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man replied to Him, “Master, I want to see.”  Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way.   (Mark 10:46-52)
Bartimaeus there gave a most beautiful master-class in the Christian art of listening, for and to God!
Such listening can make life and our daily living it out a truly wonderful experience, offering personal pointers to heavenly realities; and when we learn to so look at, question and taste, the joys and sorrows, bitter and sweet things of life, then everything becomes able to beckon us ever on and ever more engagingly.
Jesus has yet one more piece of life-enhancing advice for us though:
Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the Bread that I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world.
Whoever eats this bread which is My Flesh … once again we have one supremely important word which is, this time, ‘eats’.
And notice, once again, that He does not say ‘receives’, but ‘eats’.  We have not only to open our mouths or put forward our hands to receive such food, but we have to ‘eat’ it: some might say we have to ‘chew’ it.  Be that as it may, the essential point for our ‘eating’ is that we each of us recognize the food as essential to, necessary for, my very life.   It is not to be anonymously received, but personally eaten with joy and gratitude.  And according to the book of Proverbs, having been generously given such food, we should give a thought to our returning like for like, in other words we should be stirred to want to give ourselves in return to the Lord Who gives us all.
My dear People of God, living such a life, full of intriguing invitations and loving calls, receiving such daily Personal Food, we are most certainly not alone on our journey through life, but are developing, as the years pass by, an ever greater companionship and intimacy with One Who is of Himself and wills to become for us personally the Love, Truth, and Life of our life.  May we participate in this Holy Mass and hopefully receive Holy Communion with such faith and love as to experience that intimacy and companionship as never before.   Amen.