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 January 2016

4th Sunday of Year C 2016

 4th. Sunday (Year C)      
 (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; 1st. Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13; Luke 4:21-30)

In our first reading it would seem that Jeremiah was somewhat frightened on being given the role of prophet by the Lord:
The word of the Lord came to me, saying: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I dedicated you; a prophet to the nations I appointed you."
And, despite his protestations of youth:
            Ah, Lord GOD!   I do not know how to speak.  I am too young!"
he needed to be most authoritatively told:
Prepare yourself; stand up and tell them all that I command you.  For I am the one Who today makes you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze, against the whole land: against Judah’s kings and princes, its priests and the people of the land.
You can appreciate therefore the traditional Catholic conviction that when God chooses someone for a special work of whatever sort – and despite their own possible misgivings and fears -- He always prepares and enables them to do that for which He is choosing them. 
Let us now turn our attention to Jesus Himself coming to a public awareness and acknowledgement of the task for which He had been sent by His Father:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to bring glad tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free; and to proclaim a year acceptable of the Lord.

But Jesus’ Personal understanding of His calling must surely be judged not simply by noting the words of Scripture which, after having read them, Jesus declared that they were being fulfilled that very moment, but also by the way He then set about to prepare Himself for the work before Him.  
We are told that, on ending the reading from the prophet, Jesus then went on to speak in such a way that:
When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.  They rose up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl Him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
What a contrast with those prophetic words He had just read!
But make no bones about it, People of God, Jesus did not inspire such anger and resentment by a slip of the tongue so to speak, or in an outburst of sudden anger or irritation.  Not at all!  He appears to have been deliberately provocative for a reason befitting Him Who as Lord was coming to His own and finding them manifestly not as He would have them:
Surely you will quote Me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in Your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'"  And He said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
To impugn in such a way the personal pique of those present might have been deemed enough, but no, Jesus went straight on to infuriate them further by attacking their national pride:
Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine spread over the entire land.  It was to none of  these that  Elijah was sent but only to a widow in  Zarephath,  in  the

land of Sidon.  Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed but only Naaman the Syrian.
Once more, I want you to contrast the peace of that gentle mission of comfort and salvation, foretold and expressed in those prophetic words accepted and acknowledged by Jesus, with this deliberate ‘taking on’ of those of His hearers whose personal pique had led them to overtly observe, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”, before then going on to bluntly accuse His hearers as a whole for their excessive national pride as Israelites as distinct from what should have been a humble awareness of their true glory as a People chosen and prepared by God to hear, reverence, and respond to, His most holy Word.
How are such contrasting, indeed apparently contradictory, attitudes in Our Lord to be reconciled?   For reconciled they must be if we are to have a true understanding and appreciation of Our Saviour, His work for us, and our duties in His service. 
Such a reconciliation is not often sought because the problem is too frequently swept under the carpet so to speak -- as for example, in this case -- by ignoring the living activity of Jesus Himself and over-emphasizing the prophetic vision.   Today, it is commonly imagined that people ought to be cajoled by fellowship and sympathy into trying-out some version of Christianity or perhaps even Christian Catholicism to test it -- as it were for comfort and fit -- rather than their being made aware of the privilege of being called and offered the opportunity to give themselves in self-surrender and gratitude to the inspiration of  God’s promises of forgiveness and fulfilment together with the challenge of walking daily with Jesus, along His way of the Cross, in the power of His most Holy Spirit.
Jesus always maintained the comprehensive attitude: His words and actions could be hard as well as gentle: He would help but never cajole, He wanted obedience not popularity; for He had come to redeem not to excuse, to gently raise human beings above their present limitations and

weaknesses – call to mind His dealings with Jeremiah recorded for us in our first reading -- not to smother their aspirations or paralyse their efforts by oodles of very human sympathy.
I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! (Luke 12:49)
Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.  For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's enemies will be those of his household.'  Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.   (Matthew 10:34-39)
Holiness in Jesus was absolutely and sublimely serious: not to be manifested by carefully chosen and publicly appreciable and acceptable tokens such as sympathetic gestures or emotional words; for Him holiness was simply and solely, totally and wholly, Personal:  divine love, burning charity towards His Father, expressed on earth by His absolute dedication to His Father’s glory and the fulfilment of His Father’s will for our salvation.  We, however, so very often, in order to fit Jesus into the weakness of our understanding and the flabbiness of our presentation of holiness restrict the supreme fullness of His work and words to what is easily digestible by all; popular sensitivities must not be offended, worldly comfort and harmony should not in any way be disturbed.
Today, as St. Paul declared:
            We know in part and we prophesy in part;
however, we do this, not as a result of our innocent and truly human inadequacy before the sublimely awesome yet wondrous reality of God, as confessed by Paul, but knowingly and

wilfully because we too often seek for what is ultimately worldly not heavenly, and this procedure is supremely exemplified by the popular use and almost ‘canonization’ of the word ‘love’ originally used to translate that other, more Christian, word: ‘charity’.  Charity is divine, being the life-flow between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We, in baptism and confirmation receive it as a gift from God, a share in His way of loving, a share enabling us live as His children, to form one Family to the glory of His Name, in the likeness of Jesus by the power of the Spirit.  Our understanding of this Gift of Charity, however, has become twisted and demeaned by repeated and increasingly cheap use of the translation, ‘love’, a word that should be supremely honourable indeed as shown in Paul’s description of it – as caritas, charity -- in our second reading, but one which is blatantly open to and available for the blasphemous justification of all kinds of degrading lust and licence which are essentially unchristian.
People of God, the devil once entered into open combat with Jesus in the desert after He had received John’s baptism in the Jordan: that battle the devil lost and he never forgot the experience, which is why he never enters into open conflict with Jesus in the Church.  However, he is still and always the enemy and the deceiver, and so he prefers to have Jesus proclaimed partially, insinuating here and omitting there, always and in every way trying -- as the deceiver and liar that he is – to lead Christians astray first of all, that he might ultimately destroy them.  Today he continues his insinuations and in that way seeks to destroy the image of Jesus in mankind by hiding the fullness of the glory of the Lord or the majesty of the Son of Man in favour of a sugary, plaster-cast, likeness meant to temporarily indulge human weaknesses at the cost of blunting mankind’s divine potentialities. And his most useful supporters are contemporary former Christians and government members seeking to justify – by their use of Christian terminology -- themselves and their policies which promote by means of ‘ersatz’ goodness (there is no right and wrong, no power of evil, everything open and subject to human judgement) their own desire to continue in popularity and power; and also all those of learning

who know so much about things and so little about themselves, who know so much about  the experience of  life and so little about  its ultimate purpose, value, and fulfilment that they think themselves able and justified to meddle in and with it. 
Today, People of God, we need to remember the words of God addressed to Jeremiah:
They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you –oracle of the LORD.
Those are words suited to our situation today.
We are called to live in Mother Church in such a way as to be able to drink deeply of the new wine that is hers in abundance; for our destiny as Catholics and Christians in this world is not of this world, since its ultimate fulfilment will be an eternal sharing in heavenly reality and divine fulfilment … in Jesus, by the Spirit, for the Father.  Our ultimate destiny is the holiness of sharing in Divine Charity for eternity.  Today, it is popularly thought, that holiness is some optional extra for Christians, that needs to be popularized and promoted -- as being, on the whole, easy and rewarding -- when dealing with people who have difficulty understanding how what is intangible and invisible can be both truly real, and worth-their-while making a serious effort to attain it.
We have, therefore, as St. Paul said, to learn adult ways:
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child, when I became a man, I put aside childish things;
and this we can do only by looking once again at the whole Jesus.  We must not allow ourselves to look at Him through the world’s eyes which only see what they are wanted to see.  We must see the fullness of Him and love Him in that fullness: gentle and strong, understanding and demanding, inviting and rejecting; totally devoted to us and totally opposed to the reality of sin.

We must seek Him in the whole of the Scriptures not just in some few selected and popular passages or quotes in the national press; we must understand Him in line with the fullness of Mother Church’s witness to Him, and serve Him according to the Spirit we received in baptism, not yielding to the clamour of undisciplined human nature or the propensities of the sinful world.
Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” So they said to Him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He sent.”  (John 6:27–29)
            Then we shall know fully, as we are fully known.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Third Sunday of the Year (C) 2016

 The Third Sunday of the Year(C)
(Nehemiah 8: 2-4, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27; St. Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21)

Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our Gospel passage today is difficult to interpret because of scholars who tell us that St. Luke has put this Gospel ‘pericope’ in the wrong place; this event didn’t really happen in the course of Jesus’ life and work at this stage where St. Luke has, they say, ‘inserted’ it, and where Mother Church offers it to us today: it is made up of various strands taken from other situations etc. etc.
Nevertheless here we have it on this third Sunday of the Year for our Gospel reading; apparently having occurred shortly after the marriage feast at Cana which itself followed hard on Jesus’ previous Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan.   And though I am in no way able to gainsay the learning of scholars, I must try my best, as a preacher of the Gospel, to make as good purposeful and saving sense as I can of what we have before us.  This, however, is not over difficult because Luke’s sequence of events is very satisfying: Jesus, having been acknowledged by the voice of His heavenly Father at John’s baptism on Jordan’s banks then, in the power of His Father’s heavenly Gift, outwitted and embarrassed the Devil in the desert; and shortly thereafter, on returning to Galilee, received His mother’s blessing and prayer (‘they have no wine’) for the fullness of the inauguration of His Messianic calling.
Here, in words spoken by Our Blessed Lord Himself, Saint Luke does most definitely intend to say, and wants us to understand that, all things having been fittingly prepared:
 TODAY, this (supremely important and Messianic) Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.
Why does the Evangelist insist so emphatically that Isaiah’s prophecy was brought to its fulfilment by Jesus reading the prophetic passage during that Sabbath assembly in the synagogue of Nazareth on this very day?
It seems to me that here St. Luke is doing something similar to what St. John did at the beginning of his Gospel:
A man named John was sent from God.  He came to testify to the lightisH so that all might believe through him; (for) the true light, which enlightens everyone, was in the world and the world came to be through Him but the world did not know Him.  He came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him. (1:6-11)
What John – considerably later in life -- expressed as a mature theologian, Luke earlier presents as an evangelist delighting to draw attention to Jesus’ loving humanity and Personal relationships; and in doing so he gives prominence to Mary’s intercession at the wedding feast in Cana as a divinely arranged and most humanly appropriate mother’s blessing for her Son setting out on His public mission as Christ and Saviour; a blessing which consequently transfigures her prayer at Cana -- ‘Son, they have no wine’ -- in such a way that it addresses not merely the temporary embarrassment of the newly-weds, but also the ancient hopes and expectations of God’s Chosen people, and even the whole of mankind’s historical suffering from original sin and ignorance.
Those words of Jesus:
Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,
are also immensely important for all who read the Scriptures searching for hope in God, and above all for those who turn to the New Testament looking for eternal life with Jesus.  As He Himself once said to the Sadducees:
You are misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God; have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead but of the living (Matthew 22: 29-33);
Jesus thus assures us that Scripture is always capable of present-day fulfilment in the lives of those who are humble enough to patiently wait and prayerfully listen for Him in their constant and faithful attendance on God; and many are the saints of Mother Church whose lives were formed or transformed by such awareness and response to God speaking to them personally in the Scriptures, such a St. Anthony the Great whose memory we have just recently celebrated.
But there is also much else which is eminently appropriate for us today to be noted in our  ‘problematic’ Gospel reading.
Salvation, it tells us, begins ‘at home’, among those fellow citizens of Jesus at Nazareth and co-members of the Chosen People; likewise, any spiritual renewal for Mother Church today should penetrate first and foremost, deepest and most lovingly, into the hearts and minds of all her apparently faithful children standing as Catholics before our modern world.  For too long the awareness of individual responsibility before God and  to God among some commonly accepted as ‘devout’ Catholics has been downplayed in favour of the call for Church popularity in general and a humanistic welcoming of individuals, to the extent that now a closer and more accommodating relationship with others can be regarded as ample justification for a change in or break with God’s law or even the denial of God Himself: witness all the ramifications of gay marriage (I am not speaking in any way against same-sex friendships), sex and gene modification, abortion advice and contraception facilities, and the growing lobby for the comfortable procurement of death ‘on demand’.
Luke, moreover, in our Gospel reading shows Jesus being murderously hated and rejected for reasons such as personal disdain and direct animosity:
                They asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” 

Jesus Himself saw most clearly in their attitude a strong jealousy and hidden antipathy, an unwillingness to accept Him as being worthy of the glowing reports accorded Him by others:
Surely, you will quote to Me this proverb, “Physician, cure yourself,” and say, “Do here in Your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.”
They were all filled with fury.  They rose up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl Him down headlong.
The eventual rejection and even the crucifixion of the Messiah, and very Son of God, were thus revealed as having been most deeply and secretly hidden in the hearts and minds of those apparently devout members of that synagogue in Nazareth who had apparently known Jesus and lived and worked with Him for years.
People of God, in our responsibility before God and to God we must recognize the desperate state of Mother Church in our world today and indeed the desperate state of the world itself, as the celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking recently warned, saying that it was in danger of destroying itself in the next 100 years.  However such responsibility to God for ourselves and before God for our world is most definitely -- for all who will ultimately turn out to be true children of God, in Jesus, by the Holy Spirit -- an immense and most glorious privilege as well.
Nevertheless,  St. Luke’s ‘difficult and displaced pericope’,  tells us that none's sincerity and enduring fidelity can be presumed; humble and persistent personal prayer and sacramental worship, along with ever more sincere selflessness in our response to and promotion of Jesus’ Good News before men can, on the basis of absolute confidence and trust in God’s unfailing salvific presence in Mother Church, serve the blessings He is preparing for all who will ultimately and eternally find themselves sitting at the wedding feast of heaven.