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, 11 December 2015

3rd Sunday of Advent Year C 2015

3rd. Sun. of Advent (C)

(Zephaniah 3:14-18; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18)

A large crowd of people were coming to John for his blessing; they were coming because some thought that he might be the Messiah, while others -- though not regarding him personally as the Messiah -- were rightly convinced that, as a prophet of God, he could show them the true way to God, that he would help them know most surely what was God’s will for each of them personally.
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  (Luke 3:7)
In the countryside when there was a brush fire, vipers could occasionally be seen scurrying as best they could to avoid the flames.  If you remember, St. Paul would be bitten by such a serpent escaping from the fire lit by those who, along with Paul, had just escaped from cold ocean waters after being shipwrecked near Malta.
            Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
This was meant in the sense of “Don’t think you can just come here and be baptised by me and then you will have nothing more to worry about.”
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  (vv. 8-9)
Let us look carefully and with no little wonder at this situation, People of God, because we do not see the like in our Western society today.  Here we have not a non-descript crowd, but members of a people, coming as such to ask John the way to God; here we have a people who, though being aware of themselves as God’s Chosen People, were humble enough to admit that they did not know that way; a people, still holy enough however, to suspect that they had indeed long been walking away from God by their life-style.  They had been brought to that admission by the unknown guidance of God, Who having brought them low in their own self-esteem had thereby been able to set them out on the right path by asking John’s help; here, streaming to John, they were showing themselves as indeed members of the People of God, God’s Chosen and worked-on-for-over-two-thousand-years People.
Today, however, we are surrounded by people, as a whole, alienated or alienating themselves from God by either their ludicrously high self-esteem or their tragically low appreciation of God, His Church, and especially her ministers; too many of them still calling themselves Catholics but never turning to their Church’s teaching for guidance on human issues or in their personal difficulties.  They will talk with their neighbours or their current friends seeking worldly understanding and comfort but would never dream of humbling themselves (so they would put it) to ask a priest concerning the Church’s approach or teaching.  I wonder what words John would have used to describe such people?  They would have been very colourful I suspect, for the image of vipers wriggling in the dust for their very lives before the advancing brush fire is remarkably descriptive!
Anyhow, we can see clearly, my dear people, that John had no time for people who would come to him just for baptism and nothing more … John demanded that anyone seeking his baptism had to produce fruit of repentance and give him  evidence of it.
The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
In our very lukewarm Catholic society of today would John be any less demanding of those seeking Jesus’ sacraments for reasons other than, or even at times alien to, the purpose and nature of the sacrament itself: those, for example, seeking not to dedicate their marriage to God, but just a truly ‘posh’ wedding for themselves, or again, a ‘proper’ baptism in view of a place in a ‘popular’ school for their children … nay even those in Church on Sunday who come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist merely as a tiresome duty expected of them.  In line with today’s Gospel reading, shouldn’t all such people be – in some way or other – made to, brought to, realize their duty to ‘bring forth fruit’ for such privileges; or are they to be ‘charitably’ allowed to continue regarding them as mere occasions to confirm their own personal parish standing or opportunities for their social advancement?  
As Catholics we have to seek the Lord at all times indeed, but even more so now that Mother Church is subject to so much hostile scrutiny, let alone active persecution.  We have to seek His face above all by sincere endeavours to grow in His love and walk in His ways; ways designed by Him indeed to guide us along paths of obedience leading to our eternal fulfilment but framed, so to speak, in such a way that show us such great respect, even reverence: for, whereas those coming to John were driven by fear of what was approaching we, on the other hand, God seeks to draw us by gratitude to Himself for love of Jesus as the prophet Zephania foretold,
The Lord has removed the judgment against you; He has turned away your enemies.  The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you have no further misfortune to fear.  The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty Saviour.  He will rejoice over you with gladness. (3:15-17)
Oh, how great are the blessings we, who are called to the Faith, have received!  We are in the Church, members of that Body of which Christ Jesus Himself is the Head and whose life is the Holy Spirit of love and truth.  St. Paul told us:
            Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  The Lord is near!
For the Risen Lord rejoices over us, as both Prophet and St. Paul have told us, delighting to be in our midst, and graciously offering Himself to be One with us and for us individually, whenever we gather with our brothers and sisters in His Name, as His Church.  The Risen Lord is present in our midst that He might draw us to Himself and to each other, thus offering us a pre-emptive share in the life of His Father’s heavenly family; and He condescends to give Himself to us individually that He might enable us to share in some slight measure the sublime Beatitude of His own Oneness with His Father in their most Holy Spirit of mutual Love: thus we are to become truly living members of His Body, authentic witnesses to Him before the world, and thereby hand down not simply -- as many anxious people want today -- a purer atmosphere to subsequent generations, but the very Gospel of eternal life, the very Gospel of glory to God and goodwill to all mankind.
We must not allow ourselves, therefore, to think that we can come here and present ourselves to Him with the same old dispositions as we have always had; for each of us has to be gradually renewed interiorly, by constantly seeking the face of the Lord day in and day out; ever longing, asking, seeking and praying, to know God’s truth more surely, and to do whatever He wants of us ever more whole-heartedly.  Since so much has been given and is being offered to us, we cannot live the same sort of life as those who seek above all to enjoy life in this world, we cannot bring forth merely worldly acceptable and praiseworthy fruit, for we are called to become children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, humble and committed instruments of the Holy Spirit.
And yet, in all such Catholic and Christian endeavours, take careful note of St. Paul again in his letter to the Philippians:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  (Philippians 4:6)
We hear much from great prophets during Advent, especially prophecies from Isaiah and Jeremiah which foretold the future coming of Israel’s messiah, Whom we know as Jesus, mankind’s Redeemer.  But we do not simply celebrate the memory of a past event at Christmas which, supremely beautiful though it was, included hints both tragic and glorious for its earthly development : rather, drinking deep of heavenly joy at the fulfilment of those promises thus ratified for Israel, we thereby celebrate in anticipation the assured fulfilment of God’s promise made directly to us through the Seer of the Book of Revelation, that -- for the grand fulfilment of God’s original plan -- Jesus will come again as God-made-Man totally glorified in the Spirit, for the final redemption of mankind, and the ultimate glorification of God Himself:
John, to the seven churches in Asia: grace to you and peace from Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him Who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, Who has made us into a kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and power forever. Amen. Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. Yes. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the One Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty.”  (1:4–8)
That is why St. Paul exhorts us to have such confidence in God, and to find thereby for ourselves,
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding, and will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.    (Philippians 4:7)

2nd Sunday od Advent Year C 2015

 2nd. Sunday of Advent (C)
(Baruch 5: 1-9; Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6)     

Why all these names of men and places?  Why all these precise details about time in this section of St. Luke’s Gospel?
Because, People of God, individuals are most important to God.  Our faith is not based on imagination or legendary tales, but on public facts that occurred in history.  Jesus Christ is the best attested fact of the past: we have immeasurably more information about Him than about any other person in ancient history.
But Jesus did not intend to be for all time a fact of past history; He came to bring mankind the offer of salvation leading to eternal life.  He came to offer it not only to men and women of Jewish faith in Palestine come 2,000 years ago, but to us and to our brothers and sisters throughout time, for God shows no favouritism.  And Jesus is Personally with us today in and through His Holy Catholic Church -- of which we are (or should be) most gratefully proud to be members -- thereby fulfilling the promise He made to be with her, to guide and protect her, by His Holy Spirit to the end of time.
Jesus, then, is still with us -- among us and in us individually at this very instant -- in His Church; but how are we personally to become more aware of this?  How are we to enter into personal contact and communion with Him?
John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the Jews to welcome Jesus with understanding and appreciation; and his message, his preaching, of which we have just heard the introduction from St. Luke’s reading for today, still performs that same function today …. it tells us how we are to first enter into contact, and subsequently how to deepen that contact and communion, with Our Lord.  We heard that John:
Went through the whole Jordan district, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 
That, for John sent by God, is the first step for men towards awareness and acceptance of God’s offer of salvation: a recognition of themselves as sinners in need of God’s salvation; and a recognition of God, that He is Lord of all and that He is able and willing to save, renew, and restore for eternal beatitude with Himself, all sinners according to their recognition of and response to the One He is sending them.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:  Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
The original inspiration of Isaiah (underlined) made a great impression on God’s Chosen People because we heard how the prophet Baruch -- long before John the Baptist quoted by St. Luke -- had  made use of them in that beautiful prophecy we heard in our first reading:
Jerusalem, God will show all the earth your splendour: you will be named by God forever the glory of God’s worship.  Look and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One … God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.  For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.
What Isaiah had originally foretold as preparations to be made for the coming of the Messiah, Baruch used to envision the Messiah leading His people on their way back home to Jerusalem; finally, John the Baptist and St. Luke again spoke, as did Isaiah, of the way being prepared for the coming of Jesus the Messiah.
Baruch showed that Isaiah’s original prophecy is powerful enough to bear several interpretations or adaptations, and we today can use it to understand our own calling before God as disciples of Jesus:  called to prepare – by our own conversion and renewal in the power and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of Jesus – the way for Jesus’ final coming.  Jesus Himself originated the Kingdom of God on earth by His life, death, and resurrection, before bequeathing His own most Holy Spirit to His disciples in Mother Church that they might continue His work here on earth until the time appointed for its culmination and fulfilment in Jesus’ final coming in glory.
Until that ultimate manifestation of God and obliteration of sin, however, the devil is still able to worm his way into the hearts and lives of many so-called disciples of Jesus to mar, or even totally disfigure, their lives, work, and aspirations.   In that way those other wonderful words of Baruch’s prophecy have often been falsely seen as fulfilled:
Jerusalem, wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, God will show all the earth your splendour: you will be named by God forever the glory of God’s worship.
How easy to betray words such as ‘splendour’ and ‘glory’ by lascivious pomp and arrogant display; how easy to imitate ‘wrapped in the cloak of justice from God’ with an outward show of humble discipleship cloaking hypocrisy and lustful pride!  So human, to want glory for God along with power for oneself!  So devilish, to pretend devotion and commitment while seeking reputation, pleasure, and profit!
It is easy to recall figures past and present -- popes, bishops, clerics and religious -- who have been prominent in such betrayals and transgressions.   We must never forget, however, the innumerable and unknown nominal Christians like ourselves who, most sadly, lived their lives forgetful of the commandments of God and the teaching of Jesus: abusing Jesus in the sacraments of Mother Church out of human respect, rarely if ever bearing witness to the faith they professed; so-called Christians, but with their hearts and minds fixed exclusively on the things of earth.
All of us, all like us, are weak in one way or another; so weak, that though we may and should regret, even hate, the ignorance, betrayals, cowardice and corruption that have gone before and are still ripe and rampant around us, nevertheless we can never despise or denigrate those persons whose weakness has led them to such faults, for we share their weaknesses if not – thanks to God – their faults and failings,  and we should all be most attentive and grateful to St. Paul for his teaching in our second reading:
This is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in heaven, never forgetful of us, always interceding for us in all our needs; and we, as His disciples, are to continue to proclaim His Gospel for the salvation of mankind, in His Name and by the power of His Spirit.  We cannot do this work unless we allow His Spirit to expand and extend, enlighten and inflame, our minds and hearts, so that Jesus may be presented and offered to all those yet to come in a way that will help them both recognize Him and, embracing His truth, respond to and find joy in His love:
May your love increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
People of God, thanks to the Spirit Jesus has bestowed on her, Mother Church is, according to the prophet Baruch, the glory of God’s worship; and St. Paul, as you heard, declared her to be:
Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Ultimately, the Spirit will make the glory of Mother Church’s worship perfectly manifest to the whole world, as a faithful reflection of the heavenly liturgy celebrating her God and Saviour.  Let us, therefore, pray that our lives may indeed reflect something of the beauty of her inheritance by our knowledge of her teaching and our appreciation and proclamation of her values.
Much good is being done in our irreligious, non-Christian, and increasingly God-denying world of today, People of God, but it is being done in the name of enlightened humanity, freed from the shackles of religious oppression!  And all such self-styled benefactors of humanity will not, in any way, accept what they regard as the odious Christian doctrine of mankind’s native sinfulness and weakness; nor will they consequently entertain any idea of -- let alone obey and worship -- a Personal God Who wills to raise mankind up to an eternal and beatifying personal relationship of love with Himself, in Jesus – God made Man for men -- by the Holy Spirit.  And so, despite human good being intended, the root of all evil, human pride is more deeply embedded than ever in the minds and hearts of many of our contemporaries, while those other curses of humankind, the love of money and lusts of the flesh are, in closest accordance with our modern tastes, flourishing in glaring vulgarity; and though -- thanks to vague memories of Christian attitudes – they may not always be publicly approved, nevertheless they cannot be acknowledged and decried as great evils.
God, the very idea of God, demands reverence, obedience, and supreme love; and therefore there can be no God where human pride and self-love rule. 
Dear People of God, such is our modern dilemma; and since human wit is rarely wisdom and human virtue is rarely dependable, we should preferably throughout this Advent season put all our trust in, and all our prayers behind, those words of Our Blessed Lord Himself when coming into our world:
            Behold, I come to do Your will, O God!   (Hebrews 10:7);
words which He solemnly recommended to us in the one prayer He bequeathed us in response to His disciples’ explicit request:
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.