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, 30 December 2017

Mary, Mother of God 2018

Mary, Mother of God.

I will introduce my subject with a story taken from John Moschus, who was born in the middle of the 6th. Century and who, early in his life, became a monk in Palestine where he lived for ten years.  Then he set out on his great voyages, undertaken with the aim of visiting many monasteries in order to gather together the traditions of monasticism and also the memories of the holy monks who had lived there.  Here is one of the stories he tells.

One of the monks told us that the priest Theodore of Aeila told him that a certain monk, a true ascetic, lived as a recluse on the Mount of Olives.  The demon of lust was troubling him.  One day when he was being terribly tormented, the monk’s patience began to wear somewhat thin and he said to the demon, ‘How long will you thus go on destroying my peace?    I have grown old in your company, depart from me.’  The demon then appeared before his very eyes and said to him, ‘Swear to me that you will tell no-one what I am going to say to you, and I will no longer make war against you.’  The monk swore, ‘By Him Who dwells in heaven, I will tell no-one of what you are about to say to me.’  The demon continued, ‘You stop venerating this icon, and I will cease to torment you.’  Now the icon represented Our Lady, the holy Mother of God, carrying our infant Lord, Jesus Christ.  The recluse said to the demon, ‘Let me reflect on the matter.’  Then, the following day, he went to the priest Theodore of Aeila – the same who told us all this – and explained to him all that had transpired.  The priest said to the recluse, ‘In truth, you made a mistake in swearing such an oath; but you have done right in telling me about it.  For it is better for you to visit every singly house of prostitution in the town rather than give up honouring our Lord Jesus Christ with His Mother.’

Do the old priest’s words puzzle you ... scandalize you?  Let me try to explain his meaning so far as I can discern it.

There are many men swept away by their passions, falling time after time, being driven from one excess to another, and yet they honour and reverence the thought of the Mother of God.  They are too weak to resist their clamouring desires, but too good to gainsay the hold which Our Lady has over them; because, in the depths of their hearts, they love that which they think they cannot imitate ... the purity, the humility, the simplicity, the modesty, the boundless goodness ... which they see personified in her.  Hardly knowing why, they reverence her because the central core of their heart is warm and sensitive to what is beautiful and true.

There are other men whose behaviour is much more composed, but they do not honour Our Lady because they do not love the virtues of which she is the personification.  Though they be lowly and lead orderly lives, yet they have no love for the grandeur of humility, cannot gaze in wonder at the beauty of purity, nor be struck with awe at the dignity of Our Lady’s simplicity.  The centre of the heart of these men is cold and hard.

Now you can see what the old priest meant when he advised the recluse never to give up honouring his ikon of Our Lady: far better to have a turbulent yet sensitive, loving heart, than a calm but cold one.  And speaking thus he did but state the same truth as Pope Paul VI in Sardinia, where he said, ‘If we wish to be followers of Christ, we must be followers of Mary’.  For if the spirit of Christ be in a man, that man will not fail to show filial devotion to Our Lady, for Christ is eternally the Lord and Saviour, yet also eternally the Son of Mary.

But what about the many non-Catholic Christians who for so long have had little devotion to Our Lady?

The spirit of Christ cannot develop to full perfection in souls cut off from the plenitude of Christian truth.  So close are the bonds that unite Mary and the Church that our love for one is an integral part of our love for the other.  Without a love for, an appreciation of, the Church and her function, one cannot venerate Mary fully, for she is the perfect manifestation and ultimate realization of the mystery of the Church, which, in the virginal purity of her faith and by the overshadowing power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, ever brings Christ to life in the souls of men, ever builds up the Mystical Body of Christ, nourishing and teaching her offspring with her sacraments and her doctrine, just as Mary cherished and taught her divine Son.  Therefore, we read in the book of Sirach (24:11s.), as used in the liturgy, that Mary is the peculiar possession of the Church, that it is our particular privilege as Catholics to be able to love and honour her fully in the spirit of Christ:


It is life in the Catholic Church that brings forth devotion to Mary, as perhaps converts will most easily recognize, for in and through the Catholic Church, Mary becomes most fully our mother and we her sons and daughters (John 19:26s.):


Thus, devotion to Mary is to be considered as necessary not as if the merits of Christ were not alone the sufficient cause of supernatural life in His disciples, but rather as a spontaneous consequence of that Christ-life in a Catholic soul.  And yet, devotion to Our Lady is not merely a spontaneous manifestation of a life already possessed, it is also a means to the attainment of what is still hoped for and aspired to.  For Mary is the most Christ-like of all the members of the Church, and her example and intercession are meant to lead us all most efficaciously to Our Lord.

And being thus inspired by her example we are impelled to invoke her intercession ... and how rightly, as we see from the Old Testament.

As you know, the Kings of Israel were meant to be in some measure figures of the Messiah, and amongst the chiefs of these kings was Solomon, endowed with God-given wisdom, and whose rule brought peace.  The mother of the king also held a very special place in Israel’s thought; indeed, she appears to have had a regular official status, which in part accounts for the frequency with which the name of the mother of the king is recorded, and the importance attached to some of her actions, cf. 1 Kings 15:13 (2 Chron. 15:16); Jer. 13:18, 29:2; 2 Kings 11:3 (2 Chron. 22:12).  The semi-royal state of Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, is shown in 1 Kings 2:19 where we are told that Solomon sat on is throne and set a throne for ‘the king’s mother’ at his right hand.

Now,  Adonijah -- Solomon’s elder brother -- had naturally expected that the kingdom would be his on the death of his father David.   Indeed, he even had his followers proclaim him king before David was yet dead.  You will all remember how it was only through the intercession of Bathsheba on her son’s behalf with the aged David, and that of Nathan the prophet, that the throne actually came to Solomon.  But Adonijah knew the authority and influence of the Queen Mother, and so he ... who had almost seized the throne before her son, came to Bathsheba to ask her to obtain a favour for him from Solomon: a costly favour, the hand of Abishag the Shunamite, David’s concubine.  What a generous, understanding, person was Bathsheba, she was certainly no listener to courtly gossip or watcher of events taking place there!  She saw nothing wrong with the request of Adonijah (!!) and so in all simplicity -- you might say, purity of heart and mind -- she approached the King, her son, on behalf of his elder, thwarted, half-brother.  The King rose to meet, and bowed down, to his mother and said:

Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you. (1 Kings 2:19)

But on hearing the request, refuse her he did ... either because his hold on the throne was too insecure, or else because he had not the forgiving heart of his mother.  But the point of the story for us is the confidence that Adonijah, of all people, the son of another wife of David and the supreme rival to Solomon for the kingship, had in the intercession of the mother of the King.  His estimation of her generous character was not misplaced.
Now, all these things were, as St. Paul says, but a figure of the things to come in this Christian era.  We can, indeed we most certainly should, approach Mary the Queen of Heaven with absolute confidence, for she is incomparably good;  moreover, she is not only mother of the King but also our mother at the King’s behest.  We need never fear that she will suffer such a refusal as Bathsheba at the hands of Our Lord and King; for the sceptre of His rule is eternally secure, none may rise against Him, and His heart is not less generous than that of His mother.

Therefore, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us rejoice in our Catholic privilege of being brought up to honour Our Lady fully; for to be Christian we must also be Marian, as Pope Paul VI said.   Let us advance in our vocation by the light of her sublime example, and ever invoke her aid till the likeness of Christ her Son be fully formed in us, for His glory, her honour, and our salvation.   Amen.

Friday, 29 December 2017

The Holy Family Year B 2017

The Holy Family (B)   
(Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:22-40)

Today’s feast and the readings chosen for it by Mother Church invite us to think on the characteristics of family life from the Christian point of view: the family life of a man and woman who have dedicated their union to Christ: for His glory, and also for their own fulfilment and salvation together with that of any children the Lord may give them.  It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; a domestic church.

Notice, first of all, the absolute importance of family for us Christians: the very Son of God would not enter into this world other than by being born into a family.  One parent homes are not of God’s choosing, and, apart from special circumstances which cry to God for special grace, they are not able to provide the human background, sympathy, and support that God wants for each and every child. Joseph and Mary were never to have sex our faith teaches, but Joseph was essential for the birth of Jesus: the family for God’s only-begotten-Son-made-flesh had to be made up of a man and a woman.  ‘Families’ of the same sex are not Christian families, they can neither pretend to be, or ever hope to become, such. Notice here that God the Father, when requiring that His Son be born as man into a family made up of one man and one woman, was not just following an arbitrary rule or law of His own making, He was doing it out of His over-flowing love of the Child to be born.   Moreover, this Child-birth was not to be just a traditional blessing for the Jewish people, for God wanted His Son to be born into the family of Mary and Joseph for the greater good and the guidance of the whole world.

This fact of the supreme importance of the family for the good of children is not disputed among the great religions of the world, nor do governments of the free world dispute the Christian family’s role and function for the good of society in general.  Governments, however, yield easily to popular pressures and they seek to promote not only what is good for the people but also, and at times, primarily, what is likely to be for their own good at the next election, as we see today when they pretend that same-sex unions can be accepted as a family alongside the Christian family of man and woman.  Consequently we, as Catholic Christians, base our appreciation of the nature and role of the family not on any politically correct view but on the inspired teaching of the Scriptures and the infallible teaching of Mother Church.

As in every body made up of several parts, the over-riding requirement is that of unity, for without unity such a body cannot function aright, and it will fragment.  That is why, St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians, when telling them how to give glory to God and how, in modern terms, to give good press to the Faith, spoke of that one basic and supremely important need for unity in family life.  There was, of course, much else that he could have said about family life, but at this point in his letter there was no opportunity for anything more than what was absolutely necessary, and so he wrote:

Wives, be subordinate to (submit to) your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.   Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.   Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.

I think that everyone will agree that for men in general, their weakness, their ‘Achilles’ heel’ in relations with women and in family life, is a tendency towards violence, together with an excessive love of, and absorption in, work at the expense of a personal relationship of love.  However, when considering more particularly the question of violence between spouses, and having just acknowledged a man’s tendency towards violence, we must recognize the fact that a woman’s violence WITH HER TONGUE can often be most BITTER, and that bitterness can provoke a man to resort to slap-violence.  Violence of whatever sort is wrong before God, and feminine violence with her tongue can be equally as wrong as man’s violence.  Legally; however, woman’s violence with her tongue – her natural weapon -- is rarely considered as criminal, though the harm done can be both deep and enduringly hurtful, whereas a man’s violence with his hand (I am not in any way countenancing a man using his hand for a PUNCH which is totally unacceptable in social life), that is, a man’s SLAP with his hand – his natural weapon under provocation -- seems to be regularly, even instinctively, condemned as criminal.

Wouldn’t it be strange then, if Saint Paul, writing in order to preserve and build up unity in the family, gave guidance to married men that is so pertinent and precise -- love your wives and do not be harsh with them -- and then was to be very far out in his prescription for women?  His words to them are, in fact, just as clear and incisive as those words of advice he gave for men, and he, in the name of Jesus, told women then, and the Scriptures still proclaim his teaching to women of today: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”  Submit, that is, to your husband’s decision --- not to a plethora of daily commands and/or demands – as being necessary for the family, so long as it is “in the Lord” and for the Lord.  Endless arguing should be anathema!

Again, our everyday experience confirms Paul’s teaching in this respect.  Modern day feminists see themselves as rivals to men not as complimentary to them; and even were the man to be their husband, their love for him as a person might well be insufficient to ameliorate their confrontational attitude towards men in general.  Moreover, because they set themselves up as rivals to, and independent of, men, they feel bound, frequently, to try to prove that they can do manly work every bit as well as men, claiming the right to be boxers, miners, front-line soldiers, etc.  There is no doubt that they can, indeed, do many manly things, but, at times, only at the cost of a certain loss of their own femininity.  A woman can drive heavy, long-distance lorries, slug it out in a boxing ring, dig coal, fight in battles; but what sort of woman will be the result?  The assertion of women’s rights is all to the good, it is the teaching both of Mother Church and the Scriptures that man and woman are of equal dignity and worth in God’s eyes; but the demand for equal rights carried to that excess which would claim equality in every respect, will only result in a society where there are fewer and fewer men and women, and more and more human beings of no particular character: men  without spirit, responsibility, and strength of character; and women of no particular grace or personal beauty (as distinct from physical beauty), and much less able to sympathetically understand and positively develop the volatile humanity of young children, nurture and delight family life, and promote social harmony and peace.

Paul’s last bit of teaching on family life concerns the young:

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.

Christian parents should never be embarrassed by this their right to obedience from their children.  Children who obey their parents gain a blessing from the Lord, because, Paul tells us, such obedience is pleasing to the Lord, and that is because it is for the good of the children.  You cannot be a good parent if you abdicate your God-given right to obedience from your children.  Children -- young people especially -- should note that they have to show obedience to their parents out of love for the Lord, “It is pleasing to the Lord”; and so there can never be any question of children obeying in what is sinful.

The last admonition is addressed by Paul to fathers because of their tendency towards violence in general, but today we know that it applies equally to possessive and domineering mothers:

Do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Every aspect of Christian family life is ordained towards the good of the children: parents in their attitude towards their children are neither to spoil them by releasing them from their duty of obedience nor are they to embitter them by harshness.  And their own personal, mutual, relationship as husband and wife is, likewise, most necessary for the good of the children, and needs to be regulated with that end in view: therefore, the husband must love his wife and renounce all forms of violence, and the wife must respect her husband and submit to him “in the Lord”, for the family unity, peace, and cohesion, requires it.  Their personal fulfilment and sanctification as disciples of Christ and children of God go hand in hand, and are to be attained through that mutual fulfilment of, and submission to, God’s will; the nostrums of modern psychological or social theoreticians can in no way sound the depths of human nature or the splendour of mankind’s destiny.  It is strange that whereas modern society in the West recognizes, with St. Paul, man’s tendency to downgrade love, it is unable, unwilling, or even afraid (?), to publicly accept the equally noticeable tendency for women to downgrade respect.

Finally, let us have a look at the behaviour of Mary and Joseph in the Gospel.
I will just bring out one or two points for you to note.  First of all, Mary and Joseph both teach the Child obedience by themselves being obedient to the Lord and the Law:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 

Simeon the Temple priest blessed both Joseph and Mary, but in the matter of the Child’s Personal destiny it was Mary alone he addressed: Mary’s personal dignity was not in any way lessened or compromised by her submission to Joseph in the family, for the family. 

Finally, try to imagine the joy of both Mary and Joseph when they began to see the fruit of their personal sacrifices:

The Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon Him.

The development of the Child Jesus is meant to serve as a model for the nurturing of all Christian children: they are to be gradually filled with wisdom and endowed with grace as their spiritual development goes hand in hand with physical growth.
People of God, make every effort to bring up your children in a Christian family atmosphere in accordance with the teaching of Jesus.  A true home, both earthly and heavenly, can only be attained by walking in the power and holiness of the Spirit, along the path prescribed for our well-being by the Father Who made us, and trodden, for our example, by His Son Who loved, died, and rose again, for us.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Christmas Day Mass 2017

 Christmas Mass of Day 

(Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18)

War was never far removed from the experience of Israel of old; few indeed would have lived their lives without having experienced several war campaigns: not only those on foreign soil, but also those necessary to repulse attacks on Israel and Judah, or perhaps even to endure a siege where an enemy had been camped outside their city within which were crowds of refugees suffering from shortages of food and drink, and ever- deteriorating public health.

Therefore, many people in Isaiah’s time might have been able to recall an occasion when they themselves had been anxiously waiting in their city -- on its walls -- for news of an approaching threat: they would remember the dreadful occasion when they had first seen, from a distance, a long, slow-moving, motley string of people, obviously  fleeing exhausted, in terror and under a cloud of defeat; and they might still find themselves unable to repress a shudder as they recalled how that sight had first filled their hearts with fear and foreboding.

They might also have been able to recall those other, happy occasions, when a single figure had been perceived in the distance, running with vigour in his stride and joy in his bearing; a runner who, when within hailing distance, had shouted out glad tidings of proud victory along with joyful assurances of security and hope.   Then there was overflowing relief, gratitude, and a treasured scent of peace, perhaps only to be short-lived, but oh so, so precious!

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things.

Such a messenger is evoked by Isaiah in our first reading.  What is the message he brings?  Isaiah has him report the supreme message of good tidings and joy for all Israelites:

          (He) says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

Then he pictures for us those who had been watching on the walls running to the sector from which the messenger was said to be visible so that they might glimpse him for themselves; whereupon they would break out into shouting and singing, for it was no illusion, they could indeed clearly see the runner, perhaps they could even imagine themselves already able to hear him:

Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye.

Finally, having both seen and heard the watchmen’s jubilant excitement, the whole heaving population -- crushed and crowded inside the city walls – bursts out, in one great sigh of relief and thunderous explosion of joy, into a paean of praise:

Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem!  For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.  The LORD has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations.

The ultimate reason for such extreme jubilation, is that a victory has been won, and an enemy conquered; not, however, an ordinary victory over an earthly enemy, a victory that might be reversed when armies go out to war again next season, but a victory of universal and eternal significance and validity:

For the LORD has redeemed Jerusalem, He has (indeed) comforted His people;

and He has done this by means of a bloody victory, for:

          The LORD has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations.

It has been a victory of such magnitude that:

          All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

And so, this ‘comforting’ of the God’s Chosen People is not to be understood in the exclusive context of childlike innocence restored and maternal tenderness; both are there, of course, in some measure, but this comforting of Israel is above all to be recognized as arising out of a titanic battle of momentous earthly consequence and eternal significance.

This means that only those can fittingly appreciate the Incarnation and receive the consolation of God in the tenderness of Mother Church who have been made aware, have become aware in themselves, of the prodigious contest implied behind such peace and joy.
All the pain and suffering, all the anxieties and torments of the world, all the hatred and greed, envy and jealousy of society, all the selfishness and indifference of individual human beings, is the result of sin .... sin is the most terrible enemy of mankind and indeed of the whole of creation, and only those who have come to appreciate something the evil that has been ruling in them, over them, and through them, that is those who have appreciated and whole-heartedly accepted the truth of repentance preached by Jesus and His forerunner, John the Baptist, only those repentant ones can fittingly and fully embrace this Christmas feast where our Redeemer comes into our midst, and the dawn of our redemption begins to appear on the horizon of history.

With such an understanding in our minds we can now allow the second reading to make clear for us the wonder of this occasion of which Isaiah the prophet spoke, and in which Mother Church now invites us to share:

God, Who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, Whom He has appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the worlds; Who, being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person, upholds all things by the word of His power.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Mother Church today announces this glorious news of salvation to us and invites, indeed urges and exhorts, us all to respond with heart-felt joy and acclamation to her news and her gift.  For she not only proclaims God’s Good News, she also bestows God’s gracious Gift: the Lord Jesus, our Saviour, Himself; and with Him, through Him, the Holy Spirit, ever to remain with us in Mother Church, and abiding in His faithful ones.  For, as the Gospel reading proclaimed:

(God’s co-eternal) Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld (and are called to share in) His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 

How blessed are we who are privileged to perceive and to receive this salvation!  For, as John said:

          No one (absolutely no one) has (ever) seen God at any time.

It is true, John admits, that God’s Law had been given through Moses to prepare God’s people.  However, God Himself was only clearly revealed and truly known when:

The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, declared Him, (for) grace and truth came (in and) through Jesus Christ.

As you heard, dear People of God:

To which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, today I have begotten You"? 

But, precisely, that is what God is saying to each one of us today, and this is the second and confirming reason for our great rejoicing.  To each and every one of us here with good will and in sincerity of mind and heart, God the Father is saying, that thanks to His only begotten Son Whose birth we are celebrating:


Isaiah had said:

Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem!  For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.

And so it is today.  For all those whom the Father is now comforting and calling, all those He has chosen in His Son, cannot fail to recognize that we, like those shut up in the threatened cities of old, are indeed today in “waste places”: this world, even this our own society, is evil to the extent that it disgusts us, even though it also touches our heart, because it is our society, our world, besmirched indeed with something of our own failures and filth.  And, in this condition, lest we fear this coming of the Holy One of God to do battle with the evil and filth around us and within us, He comes as a Child, for He is well aware of, and full of compassion for, our weakness.  And surrounding Himself at His Birth with shepherds from the midnight fields He assures us that He Himself comes as our Shepherd, for He comes into our darkness in order to search out those of His sheep who have strayed and, disregarding the mud that may cover their feet and flanks, the thorns that may entangle their wool, He wills to take them up in His arms and carry them back to the flock which He is leading to a fold where His heavenly Father awaits Him, Himself looking into the distance, as it were to see the runner returning with good news, to see Jesus that is, His own dear Son, at the head of a flock He is leading with joy towards  the eternal pastures of salvation.

4th Sunday of Advent Year B 2017

4th. Sunday of Advent B)

(2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-12, 14a, 16; Romans 16:25-7; Luke 1:26-38)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all our readings this week-end speak about what God is going to do.  David, you heard, planned to build a temple for the Lord:

When the LORD had given King David rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.”

However, it was God Who would build the temple He wanted when – in accordance with His Providence -- the time was right.  Therefore, He sent Nathan back to David with this message:

Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build Me a house to dwell in?  When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm.  I will be a Father to him, and he shall be a son to Me.  Your kingdom and your house shall endure forever before Me.’

In those words there is a most important point for us to recognize and appreciate:  whatever good work we do for God is essentially dependent upon the intention we have in mind when doing it; but even when our work and our intention are both good, the attitude in which we do it can be of essential importance.  David was adopting a somewhat condescending attitude to God, therefore the Lord answered him:

          Should you build Me a house to dwell in?

A comparatively faint trace, you may think, of the original pride that led to Adam and Eve’s disregarding of God’s authority and providence; but any trace whatsoever of that original catastrophic evil left uncorrected would quickly sour David’s present zeal for the glory of Israel’s God and gratitude for His goodness; therefore, the prophet was instructed to make it clear to David just Who was leading and guiding, just Who was protecting and saving.

David subsequently lived long enough before God to gladly look forward, in his restored humility and hope, to the beginning of the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise through his son Solomon who did indeed build an earthly Temple for the Lord in Jerusalem.  However, that first Temple would be destroyed by the Babylonians after some 350 years  and was not replaced until a second and truly splendid Temple was later built by the wicked King Herod, who did produce a wonderful structure which amazed the world in its time but was in no way pleasing to God in so far as it had been built with the wrong intention, not indeed for God’s glory -- as with David and Solomon before -- but for the personal glory of Herod and the renown of his kingdom under the watchful eyes of his imperial overlords in Rome.  It was, however, the Romans who -- as Jesus foretold -- not only destroyed, but indeed totally obliterated, that symbol of Herod’s glory before one hundred years had passed. 

And so, God’s word by the prophet was looking over and beyond Solomon, for it envisaged Jesus Himself Whose risen, glorious, Body would become the ultimate Temple of God among men: a temple not built by human hands, a Temple wherein Jews and Gentiles without distinction would have access to the Father by the one most Holy Spirit:

The Jews said to Him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.’   The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’  But He was speaking about the Temple of His body.   (John 2:18-21)

Consequently, our Gospel was all about God choosing when -- in the fullness of time -- by Whom (His own Son), and through whom (the virgin Mary of Nazareth), salvation would ultimately be offered to the human race:

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But she was greatly troubled at what was said, and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall name Him JESUS.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ 

It is God alone Who gives salvation and works wonders.  However, we are not excluded from His purposes for we are called – in Jesus -- to share in and contribute to His work.   Although the Lord did not allow David himself to build the Temple in Jerusalem, his desire to do so was most pleasing to Him, and therefore He rewarded David with great blessings, the greatest of which being that He, the Lord, would build David a house, and from that house the Messiah Himself, Israel’s supreme King, would eventually come. 

Now Mary had always wanted to give her utmost for the God of Israel, and therefore she had longed to devote herself completely by offering her virginity to Him.  However, such a gesture was almost inconceivable among the Jewish people who held marriage and childbirth in such great honour, but it was the only way Mary could think of that would give expression to her burning desire to belong entirely to, and totally glorify, Israel’s God.  Therefore, she said in response to the angel Gabriel’s good news:

How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?

Here, as in the case of David, her desire itself was most pleasing to God and so would be neither disregarded nor frustrated; on the contrary, it would be most sublimely fulfilled in the way God wanted: Mary could, indeed, remain a virgin; notwithstanding, she would bear a child, God’s Child, the very Son of God.

We find this pattern so often among the great saints, People of God:  Francis of Assisi longed to be a martyr for Christ, he even went to preach Christ among the Muslims.  Though God had His own plans for Francis, He did make him great and He even gave him the signs of Jesus’ own martyrdom: the stigmata!  Again, St. Therese of Lisieux most ardently desired to become a martyr, or else a missionary; indeed, she did not know how to satisfy her manifold and ardent desires for God’s glory.  God, however, wanted her in the solitude of an enclosed convent where she was to serve Him with whole-hearted love in each and every one of the minutely regulated, and very ordinary, details of her life as a nun.   For all that, He did love and respect her ardent desires, as is shown by the fact that He had her proclaimed as the heavenly patroness of all those living, working, and dying in the mission fields of Mother Church today.

My dear people, it is a fact that God alone does the work of salvation, for to Him alone is the glory and power.  Nonetheless, He wills to associate us in the work His own dear Son accomplished in human flesh and blood, to the extent that even the bread and wine we offer Him at daily Mass must be, and must be declared to be, made by human hands.  Moreover, God does not use human beings like tools; for, in Jesus, we are called to co-operate with Him as true children trying to glorify their Father, and that is the attitude we should always have as we work to do His will for His glory; for it is through such work that we are enabled to receive, by the Holy Spirit, a personal share -- in Jesus -- of God’s infinite holiness and eternal blessedness.

Since, in the work of God, there is absolutely nothing any of us can do of ourselves, therefore, none of us can excuse ourselves by complaining that we are less talented than others.  Whereas our natural physical powers and mental abilities are individual and strictly limited, our spirit, on the other hand, is capable of being tuned into the infinity of God Himself, but this can only come about, if each and every one of us, diligently and perseveringly, exercises our freedom -- won for us by Jesus -- to love good and reject evil.

The true criterion for a faithful servant of God is, therefore, the nature and the depth of that person’s desires and intentions. What do you desire most sincerely and, ultimately, above all else?   Do you, in all truth, want to make something of your life with and for God, to serve Him faithfully and supremely?  Do you want with most sincere desire to become a true Child of God in Jesus?  If you can say “Yes” to such questions, and if you can keep on aspiring to serve Him even though you see little of worth in your life … if you will keep on telling God of your desire even though He never seems to hear you, then you will indeed be used by Him for His purposes -- be they secret or manifest -- and you will become a disciple after Jesus’ own most sacred heart, and in Him, a true child of the heavenly Father.

Of course, that is not easily done nor is it done in the short term, it is a life’s work.  Today people expect to see results come quickly: that is part of the character of modern Western society; and when, in the spiritual life, things do not seem, are not seen, to come quickly, the temptation for many is to give up the attempt to live life religiously.  The advantages resulting from sin in the world are more easily, quickly, and intensely, experienced than the blessings accruing to us through devotion to God and constancy in the Faith; and consequently, though the wages of sin are ultimately pernicious, their passing pleasures can cloud over God’s eternal and sublime blessings for those who prefer the present delights of earthly solicitation to God’s promise of eternal fulfilment in Jesus, as beloved children of His in heaven.

There are other ways of succumbing to sin and the world, however, than by openly falling away from the practise of the Faith.  Some, yielding to pride, try, by subtle or by blatant means, to make themselves appear holy, to put on for themselves what they cannot wait to receive from God, seeking to establish a reputation in the sight of men rather than humbly persevering before God Who might seem to be ignoring them. Those, however, whose mind is centred on God, though they may, at times, be made painfully aware of their own nothingness, do not become thereby downcast or disheartened, precisely because their mind is always occupied with desires, intentions, for His good-pleasure and glory, and they are, consequently, always looking forward and hoping in Him rather than despairing of themselves. 

People of God, our readings today reveal to us something of the secret of Christmas joy and peace.  Let us welcome Jesus anew into our lives this Christmas; let us seek to serve Him humbly as King David learned to do, allowing Him to guide and rule our lives, for St. Paul told us that God is able to strengthen us by the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Mary, our Mother, urges and encourages us to follow the example she herself gave in our Gospel reading, when, abandoning worries about herself and her standing before men, she explained her attitude before God to the angel He had sent to her:

Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord! May it be done to me according to your word.

Than that, there is no surer way to experience the unique quality of Christian, Christmas, joy, which comes from the divine fulfilment -- by His most Holy Spirit -- of the sum total of our human potential; a joy that bathes us in peace while it heals our wounds of sin and separation by our human fellowship in and for Jesus our Brother, and by forming us as  faith-committed disciples of the heavenly Father’s only-begotten Son, sent to us and given for us who were destined and have been called, to become, in Him, members of God’s family in heaven.

Friday, 15 December 2017

3rd Sunday of Advent Year B 2017

 3rd. Sunday of Advent (B)

                (Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1: 6-8, 19-28)

 I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for He has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.

Who can speak like that?  Only the Christ, speaking of His humanity,

Like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,

and the blessed Virgin Mother referring to her Immaculate Conception:

like a bride bedecked with her jewels.

The book of Revelation (19:7) gives us another viewpoint:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him (God) glory, for the wedding day of the Lamb has come, His bride (humankind) has made herself ready.

And the reason for all this our Advent rejoicing is because, as the prophet Isaiah tells us:

          The Lord God will make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

However, the greatest of all the prophets who was uniquely close to our Blessed Lord Jesus on the very cusp of Israel’s fulfilment, found himself confirming Isaiah’s prophecy by making use of more sober language in order to reveal with all clarity a truly disconcerting reality:

I am not the Christ; I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord; for there is One among you Whom you do not recognize, the One Who is coming after me, Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.

That, dear People of God, is the setting for our Advent preparations to welcome the Lord coming to His spouse, Mother Church, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem:

            There is One among you Whom you do not recognize.

Dear People of God, look all around you this Advent time at the great majority of Christmas celebrations and you will have no doubt about the truth of the Baptist’s words:

            There is One among you Whom you do not recognize.

Why is Jesus not recognized today by those, so many of them, who were formerly professing Catholics or Christians?  It is, to a certain extent, because many have succumbed to the lure and enticements of popular sin, or have fainted or despaired under the burden of personal and worldly cares.

There is, however, another cause for Jesus being unrecognizable to too many modern self-styled believers, and that is because they are out of touch, unaware of and insensitive to the authentic Traditions of Mother Church … they are ‘undoctrinal’ believers, being entirely given over to and satisfied by the emotional feelings and convictions welling up from their just-me-and-Jesus-here-and-now drive, enthusiastically accompanied by others who much prefer to feel rather than to think about Jesus; who prefer to demonstrate publicly rather than to privately pray to God in the solitude of their hearts, or to consider calmly with other good Catholic friends, or (most unacceptable of all) to humbly seek enlightenment.   They make use of the Bible of course but interpret it popularly for themselves, as they will, as they want, here and now.

Dear Catholic People of God, we Catholics are the original Christians, members of the original body established by Jesus as His Church on the foundations of His Personally chosen and endowed Apostles, to whom He uniquely said:

I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I  have  told  YOU  everything        I have heard from My Father.    (John 15:15)

Moreover, He promised those original Twelve:

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in My name — He will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.    (John 14:26)

Those original Apostles are thus the source of Mother Church’s essential doctrines and traditions, and it is absolutely necessary that those Apostolic memories of Jesus’ words, addressed Personally and directly to them as His personal friends for the good of further friends to come through their ministry, that those Apostolic traditions known from Jesus’ very actions and attitudes witnessed by their own eyes and heard by their own ears, remain intact in Mother Church today.  No one -- not even Pope, and certainly not Prince -- can sever us from Jesus’ love and guidance handed down through the ages in those Apostolic traditions and teaching.

There are difficulties today for a faithless generation wanting to justify itself and confirm its worldly popularity: it tries to confuse issues by subtly ‘updating’ texts, by teaching in accordance with modern preferences while, on the other hand, simply trying to consign to oblivion what cannot be thus ‘updated’.

This is due to the fact that (as Jesus Himself said, John 14:17):

This is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you.  

The world cannot receive the Spirit of Truth because it does not, will not, believe in Jesus: 

And when He (the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth) comes, He will convict the world in regard to sin, because they do not believe in Me.   (John 16:8–9)

The Apostles, on the other hand, know the Spirit of Truth, because He now abides with them as the future Catholic (universal) Church of Jesus, and will be in them, individually, as faithful disciples of and witnesses to Jesus their Lord, their Master and their Saviour.

The season of Advent is a time of great expectancy, because we are looking forward to the coming of the Lord; and, being certain that His coming anew this Christmas will be for our blessing, we beseech His most Holy Spirit to prepare us to welcome Him with hearts and minds authentically attuned to Him in the Apostolic purity of Mother Church’s teaching and traditions.

We are also aware that at the appointed time -- we do not know when -- He will come in glory to judge the world, to triumph over all His enemies and cast out Satan; and then, after having ultimately established the Kingdom of God, He will lead all His faithful ones to worship, and rejoice in, the supreme Lordship of His Father. This is what St. Paul explained when writing his first letter to his converts in the great Greek seaport of Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:22-26):

As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.   But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.  Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.  For, He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet; the last enemy that will be destroyed is death, for, "He has put all things under His feet." 

This season of Advent is, consequently, a time of joyful expectancy, because the true disciple of Jesus, although being fully aware of his human weakness and personal sinfulness, nevertheless, most assuredly hopes and trusts that, ultimately, he will be called to share in His Lord’s heavenly glory and experience eternal blessedness in His Kingdom, for Isaiah (40:10) rightly spoke of the Lord God coming to His People with an abundance of blessings:

Here comes with power the Lord GOD, Who rules by His strong arm; here is His reward with Him, His recompense before Him;

and therefore, even now, all true disciples of Jesus can take up in all simplicity, humility, and sincerity the blessing, the  reward and recompense, of rejoicing enshrined in Isaiah’s great prophecy: 

I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul.