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.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

14th Sunday of the Year (C) 2016

 14th Sunday Year (C)
(Isa. 66:10-14; Gal. 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20)

In our first two readings we were given an understanding of the essential character of Mother Church; for we, who are in her and of her, are according to St. Paul:
            A new creation.
Paul had been granted the insight that, -- through the power of Christ’s Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension -- we, who as baptized believers in Him have become members of His Body,  are a new creation.  Jesus, in His Body, rose from the tomb to heavenly glory; and in Him we too -- having died to our sinful selves through faith and baptism -- have, therefore, as a new creation sharing in the glory of His Spirit, risen heavenwards with Him.   Living still on earth, of course, but now endowed with a share in Jesus’ heavenly life; a share meant to enable us to live, henceforth, in a heavenly way for heavenly and eternal prospects.  
Moreover, we could truly expect that for such a new creation there would be appropriate new nourishment, such as the prophet Isaiah had foreshadowed, saying:
Rejoice with (Mother Church) and be glad because of her: Suck fully of the milk of her comfort; carried in her arms … may your hearts rejoice, your bodies flourish.   
Isaiah could imagine nothing more intimate than that; but Jesus -- beyond any and all imagination -- nourishes us with His very own Body and Blood!
In the Gospel reading we then heard of the Lord sending out ‘seventy-two others’; not the twelve apostles but disciples who were learning to delight in Mother Church as they foreshadowed her universal mission by their obedience to and communion with Jesus as they prepared the way for His own subsequent visiting of Israel in the strength, peace, and grateful joy He gave them:
He sent (them) ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place He Himself intended to visit.
Their instructions were both simple and firm: first of all, they were being sent in His name, they were not beggars.   Moreover, having a clear message to proclaim, they were not to become pleaders or cajolers:
Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’   If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.  Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the labourer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another.  Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’
As you can see Jesus wanted His disciples to be single-minded and sincere: they were not to seek money, but neither should they be in any way embarrassed about accepting whatever the house or town could offer by way of food and drink, for "the labourer deserves his payment".  Jesus likewise desired that they should be humble, but not apologetic: in no way lacking confidence in their mission, and being most clearly aware of their own duty to bear personal witness to its imperious character.  Their message was from the Lord, not from their own imagination or fancy; and in His name they were to announce a fact: namely that "The Kingdom of God is at hand for you", and to those willing to listen to their message they were to bestow a gift from the Lord:  'Peace to this household.'
People today often get hung up on the messenger, the priest, whom they decide to like or dislike; and, as a consequence of centring on him, they then tend to downgrade the message into something that can wait for their attention until they have finished more pressing business.  Jesus, however, did not want to have His disciples either projecting themselves in order to win people's approval, or holding back in their proclamation of His Gospel for fear of their disapproval, and therefore He said:
Whoever listens to you listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
And, as it turned out, despite initial apprehension arising from the awareness of their own incapacity, those disciples found that in all their endeavours for the Lord they had indeed been endowed with:
Power to trample on serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy, (so that) nothing would harm (them). 
No wonder then that they "returned rejoicing!”   Why -- and this was most wonderful of all, because it summed up and included everything else in their minds -- even the demons had been subject to them in the name of Jesus! They were amazed and astounded!!
However, notice what Jesus said in response to their enthusiasm:
Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
Now that is what St. Paul had in mind when, as you heard, he wrote:
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 
St. Paul loved to teach his converts that Christian-and-Catholic belief in Jesus, together with baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, makes us members of the Body of Christ.  He believed this so firmly, and understood it so concretely, that he could then go on to say that, having become members of His Body, therefore we too have, in Him, been crucified with Him:
Through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.
Indeed, so deeply did St. Paul contemplate and experience this mysterious yet glorious union of Christians with Christ that he was finally able to say of himself, objectively and visibly:
From now on let no one make troubles for me, for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus on my body. 
Let us just try to understand what this meant for Paul.  In his contemplation of this union between Christ and the believer, Paul had been led to recognize that:
In Christ Jesus neither does circumcision mean anything nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.
No earthly pride, be it Greek, Roman, or Jewish -- nothing whatsoever that depends on us in any way -- could save us from the destructive power of sin; only the totally gratuitous gift of God’s Spirit in response to Jesus’ self-sacrificing love on Calvary could win us salvation.  Circumcision means nothing: that is, personal pride in one’s own holiness gained by legalistic observance of a written Law, and national pride in the exclusiveness of one’s birth; all that means nothing Paul says.  Uncircumcision too means nothing: the Greeks' boasting in their superior wisdom, the Romans' vaunting of their worldly power, all that too, ultimately, means nothing.
For a Christian there can be only one cause for boasting: what Christ has done for us and for all who -- whatever their race, culture, or natural abilities -- are willing to believe in Him as Lord and to obey His Spirit: a boasting centred not on self, but on God's goodness to us in “our Lord Jesus Christ” through the uplifting power of His most Holy Spirit.  Paul tells us that if as a Christian believer one must boast, one should boast about what the Lord Jesus has done for us all on the Cross, in His Resurrection, and by the gift of His Spirit; reflected and realized also in these our days of Catholic discipleship by the truly sublime blessings bestowed on both you and me and countless others during the course of our short lives of witness!  Blessings known only to us individually, blessings we alone can and above all must, give thinks for.
And, People of God, that spirit of personal confession of Jesus for gifts received from Him in our individual and personal lives is so lacking today!   People are so self-conscious: so prone to lie-low and willing to  apologise for what past Saints may have done with a mind-set far purer in faith-intent than our modern torrent of passing worldly considerations, whims and fancies.
Just think of people today -- indeed, just think of our own unspiritual selves -- how much boasting there is, in us and around us; just like that of the Jews, Greeks, and Romans of old: boasting in holiness of birth and racial advantage, intellectual and cultural superiority, worldly power and privilege!!   Indeed, today people can even hypocritically try to justify their murderous crimes: totally callous and ruthless as they prepare, prime, and place their bombs; quite lawless and unbridled as they peddle their drugs for power, plenty, and pleasure; blind and totally indifferent to the sufferings of others around them as they search for personal vengeance to satisfy their devilish pride.  These are some of the obscenities many boast about today, and pursuing such purposes they rely on lying tongues, deceptive looks, animal viciousness and cunning; and all the while they seem to enjoy an apparently total freedom from any restraining power, be it conscience, fear of God, reverence or respect.  This, however, should not surprise us, dear People of God, for being so much alive to themselves and so committed to their worldly prospects, they become well-nigh dead to God from the beginning and ultimately to their neighbour!
We who are believers cannot allow ourselves to be deceived by any such lying self-confidence.  It is a danger about which Jesus had to warn even His apostles.  The only One about whom we can rightly boast is our Lord Jesus Christ Who so loved us that He died for us on the Cross; and, having ascended into heaven, has bequeathed to us in Mother Church the only saving power on which we can rely, that is, His own Most Holy Spirit:
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit who works all in all; (for) one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12: 6, 11)
He is indeed, the Spirit of Glory, Who alone can ensure our names ‘are written in heaven’, and those are His gifts -- in the name of and for the glory of Jesus -- for which He should be praised and glorified by us who are their recipients. 
Therefore, People of God, we are encouraged today, by the prophet Isaiah, to rejoice in Mother Church: the Church Our Lord Jesus continually sustains, promotes, and protects through the working of His Spirit, so that, as He originally and enduringly intends, we may ever be able to drink deeply of, and find delight in, the abundance He gives her for us.
We are encouraged to rejoice in such a way over Mother Church because, as Isaiah foretold, it is in her and through her that:
The Lord’s power shall be known to His servants.
People of God, Mother Church -- though scarred and disfigured by the sins of some of both her priests and people, hated and abused by a desperately lustful and wilful world around -- is nevertheless ever mankind’s only authentic meeting-place with God, thanks to His enduring faithfulness to us in Jesus.  In her, however, Jesus always meets us on His terms, not on ours:  He lovingly condescends, comes down, to meet with us; we do not in any way compel or require Him.  He comes thus freely and lovingly to give us strong and supernatural food; sure teaching, which we must embrace and acclaim, and never in any way to satisfy men presume to apologize for; and above all draw us closer to Himself by the Gift of His  Spirit as He leads us ever on towards His and our heavenly Father.  When, at Holy Mass, we do what He requires of us ‘in memory of Him’ we open ourselves up to receive all the blessings and powers He comes from heaven to bestow on His Church and His/her children, for our saving fulfilment not for His enslavement.
This most sublime fulfilment comes our way today when, in response to His command, we have come together on His Sabbath Day -- in memory of Him and in the name of all creation -- to offer worship, praise and honour, glory and thanks to God our Father for His great goodness to us.  On this sublime occasion we are drawn by the Spirit to share in the heavenly and eternal liturgy being celebrated by our High Priest and Saviour before the Father: a celebration where the whole of obedient creation is united by the Holy Spirit of God under the leadership of the God-man Jesus Christ: here He does indeed come to us in Communion, but above all, He draws us, by His Gift of the Spirit, ever more and more closely with Himself towards the Father; He fills us, inspires and enflames us, ever more and more, with that Love which makes Him one with the Father, that Triune Fire of eternal Love which is the glory and very Being of God the Almighty and which can – O wonder of wonders!! -- be shared by us in Jesus as life everlasting; communion, both total and fulfilling; joy, ever fresh and at peace.

Friday, 24 June 2016

13th Sunday Year C 2016

 13th. Sunday, Year (C)
(1 Kings 19:16, 19-21; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62)

It would be difficult to find a subject more suited to Christians living in our Western democratic societies today than that which is put before us by Mother Church in the readings we have just heard:
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.  
Whilst society around us relates freedom exclusively to politics, we Catholics consider freedom even more importantly with regard to Jesus; and so, for Christians, authentic political freedom must allow us to relate to Jesus and worship God in His Name without hindrance or let.  However, authentic, political, and religious freedom is but the background, the setting, for the supremely important personal freedom of mind and heart that enables us to recognize and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as He seeks to guide us ever further along the ways of Jesus.
History teaches us that, even over many centuries, people change little in their fundamental attitudes, and in the second reading we heard St. Paul warning his people about a mistaken attitude to freedom which is just as common today as it was then:
You were called for freedom, brothers and sisters; do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.
How many mistaken young people, and how many foolish older people, think that they are asserting their freedom when they indulge their animal impulses of all sorts against religious law, against propriety, and against the many civilities which have been found, by long experience of life in society, to be necessary if human beings are to be able to live peaceably and profitably together?  This cult of false freedom starts early in life and grows rapidly: little boys swearing, smoking etc., bigger boys getting drunk and being rowdy; girls trying to draw attention to themselves by either exaggerating their physical femininity or by showing a contempt for their own sex as they try to imitate men in their swearing, drinking, sexual licence and general vulgarity.  It goes on much further however, and then we get into the horrors of infidelity and adultery, drugs and prostitution, violence and murder, abortion and child abuse.  These are some of the stages in a gradual and growing madness: the abuse of freedom wherein the freedom that God meant to be the glorious badge of human kind becomes a scourge to torment and destroy true humanity.
However, such a false idea of freedom is, on the whole, not likely to deceive true disciples of Jesus, so let us turn our attention to the Gospel and learn to recognize more hidden enemies of true freedom.
When the days for His being taken up were fulfilled, He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and He sent messengers ahead of Him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome Him because the destination of His journey was Jerusalem.
There we see some Samaritans who were prevented by racial, political, religious, and perhaps personal, prejudices from allowing themselves to be approached by Jesus.  They were not free: they were bound captive by prejudice.  What is prejudice?  Any attitude of mind and heart that makes us unprepared to listen to, unable to appreciate and acknowledge, and unwilling to accept and respond to, truth.
People of God, prejudices can be very deep and also very subtle.  There are gross prejudices, such as the racial hatred we have in Palestine, or religious hatred as shown by the Muslim fundamentalists, and social taboos such as those which abound in India.  The subtle prejudices, however, can be almost imperceivable in our lives because they are connected with what we love, admire, or aspire to.  None of us can afford to think ourselves free from such prejudices, and there is only one way we can try to combat what we cannot see: we should always try to acknowledge truth wherever we glimpse it or whenever it is shown to us, and we should never reject off-hand what we suspect might be true, otherwise we, like the Samaritans, could prevent the Spirit of Jesus even approaching us.
Our Gospel reading offers us another example of fettered human freedom, featuring another, much indulged, human attitude which is, most deceptively, destructive of authentic freedom, namely emotionalism:
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to Him “I will follow You wherever You go."
Now notice that I am not here speaking against emotions, for they are an essential component of human character: for without emotions we could neither love nor commit ourselves.  Emotions only become emotionalism when they are allowed to run riot, when they try to take over rather than follow our mind, our intelligence.   Emotions are given us so that we might be able to love what the mind recognizes as beautiful and knows to be good; emotionalism, on the other hand, does not allow itself to be guided by the mind at all: blind and gushing, it is quite ungovernable and unstable.
The man mentioned in our Gospel reading, seeing Jesus as He was walking with His disciples along the road and perhaps having heard Jesus speak some words, called out most dramatically:
      I will follow You wherever You go.
Jesus tried to help the man appreciate the meaning of his unthinking words, He answered:
Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.
Emotion is no guide to truth, that is the work of the mind; emotion is meant, as I said, to help us respond positively to truth, goodness, and beauty, which the mind has recognized.  Emotions, following the judgement of the mind, can then bring about what the mind could only conceive.  With emotionalism, however, the great sin is that it tries to pass itself of as a form of inspiration: it is of human origin, a ‘personal production’ pretending to be the work of the Spirit of Jesus within us, a shoddy imitation of what is truly a holy calling and calm conviction.
The man here put before us in the Gospel reading was allowing his feelings to pressurize his mind in such a way that he was neither able to recognise the truth about himself nor appreciate the working of the Spirit, and consequently was in no sense free to commit himself to Jesus.  That is why Jesus brought him back to his senses, as we would say, by helping him to realize what discipleship involved.
Perhaps, later on, the man might have been able to follow Jesus more closely, for emotionalism is but an abuse of what can be good.  However, to be able to do that, he would need to grow both in human maturity and personal discipline, while also developing in spiritual humility so that he could use his God-given emotions aright, seeking to promote God’s glory rather than his own exaltation/gratification.  If he could do that it would rescue him from self-deceit and self-display and might earn him, instead, the divine gift of true personal enlightenment and fulfilment.
The Gospel then paints another picture for us:
To another (Jesus) said, "Follow Me."  But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." Jesus answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead.  But you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
On this occasion Jesus takes the initiative: He calls the man to follow Him.  What was it that would have prevented him from following Jesus?  What was it that was holding him captive even though with bonds of softest silk?  It was human love competing with divine love in this man’s heart: and, how many there are of those who, loving in this excessive and merely human way, effectively restrain God’s authority in their lives!  Jesus, recognizing the trial this man was experiencing, made it absolutely clear for him by saying:
Let the dead bury their dead.  But you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
Love of God takes precedence over all else; and it can, and at times does, demand exclusive commitment.  We do not know how the (young?) man responded to Jesus’ words, but, in our first reading, we did see Elisha’s response to a similar ultimatum. Elijah, the great prophet of the Lord, having initially called Elisha in the name of the Lord, was on the point of leaving him behind – ‘Who is stopping you?’ -- would appear to be the meaning of his enigmatic reply to Elisha’s plea to be allowed to go home first.   Elisha, however, was not going to lose his calling … he cut off all possibility of that by immediately slaughtering his yoke of oxen, then burning his ploughing equipment in order to cook the oxen’s flesh, before giving it to those around and then definitively following Elijah.  Elisha would indeed follow worthily in the footsteps of Elijah!  I think ‘our man’ would likewise have followed Jesus’ guidance.
Finally, today, People of God, we are told of another passing encounter; and notice that here Jesus does not the initiative:
Another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”  (To him) Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plough and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
This is not a case of real love, here we have someone held captive by his own superficiality.  As distinct from the others mentioned before, here we are shown one subject to a general superficiality that would lead him to begin but never complete, to have some initial appreciation but never know true love, as when we heard Jesus telling his disciples of a sower sowing in his field:
Some (seed) fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  (Matthew 13:5-6)
Shallowness of character, superficiality, these again are recognizable human traits which are, more or less, true for every human being, since we are all weak and inclined to leisure and ease.  And yet, despite this, we are also endowed with a God-given ability to recognize and respond to what is of God.  Here, this man himself takes the initiative, offers what was not requested, and then, in the same breath, shows how little he is attached to what he promises.  He wants to give all to Jesus, "I will follow you, Lord, but ..".  His will included an essential ‘but’.  He wants to enjoy, he would say for the last time, all the old associations to which he had become attached over the years,       first let me say farewell to my family at home’, nothing so demanding as in the case before where the man asked if he might go to bury his father; notice, there was no ‘but’ in his reply to Jesus, (the ‘but’ there is due to the evangelist’s writing), just a humble, and quite possibly, hesitant, request.
Such a two-minded attitude -- wanting to be with Jesus and yet wanting to keep alive all the old attachments of life apart from Jesus -- could lead nowhere:
Jesus said to him, "No one who sets a hand to the plough and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."
People of God, entrance into the kingdom of God is an immense privilege that quite literally has to be earned in accordance with God’s goodness, it is not something we have a personal right or claim to.
Let me recall Paul’s words again to mind for your final consideration:
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. 
How free are you?   Can you, will you, "stand firm" in the freedom Christ has won for us, despite all the allurements and threats of a dominant and hostile secular society, for there is yet another essential ‘freedom’ to be won and exercised: freedom from popular ideas of Christianity and of Christian behaviour and character. 
Notice James and John ‘Sons of Thunder’ specially chosen – along with that most ‘forceful’ character Peter – as disciples particularly intimate with and important to Jesus.  After His death and Resurrection Jesus specially chose one other Apostle, Paul to proclaim His Gospel to the Gentiles … another such strong character!!  Milk and Water Christianity, ‘do-gooders’ Christianity, is evidently not Jesus’ desired medium for evangelization but a deep-seated hankering for public, or ‘others’, approval, and it does oppress many Catholics in the development and expression of their personal love for Jesus and their own – Spirit-trusting -- initiative and zeal in His service.
Ultimately, such endurance and patience is only to be attained by following, as best you can, that other piece of advice given us by St. Paul:
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  Do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
Dear People of God, pray humbly and confidently for the Holy Spirit offered you in Holy Communion to guide, indeed, rule your life in Jesus for love of the Father.