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, 24 February 2017

Eighth Sunday of Year A 2017

8th. SUNDAY (A)
(Isaiah 49:14-15; 1st. Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34)

No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Today’s Gospel reading is of supreme importance for our personal well-being, for the most frequently encountered, truly great, obstacle to our living more fully human and Christian lives is distraction, deliberately cultivated and eagerly sought for in our media- sensitive modern society: leading directly to superficiality and derivatively to ‘cares of the world’ -- worrying over what is past, self-solicitude for the present, and anxiety about what the future might hold – all of which, together, make effective self-commitment to God and His purposes well-nigh impossible, as can be found in the lives of so many nominal Catholics and Christians today.

Our modern world, becoming ever more at variance with the Lord, boasts about its ability to provide endless distractions (literally at the tip of one’s finger!) whilst denying, indeed mocking, the very suggestion that there is any institutionally-accepted cause for the sickness and pain of superficiality, indecisiveness, and anxiety in the lives of so many: what is so popular and generates so much money cannot be wrong!  At least, it must be tolerated!   Jesus, on the contrary, was most clear and decisive in His teaching:

Your heavenly Father knows (all your needs); seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Those words, ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness’ require, however, a degree of commitment and selflessness that life in modern society -- where distractions generate both abundant money and immediate popularity – ‘institutionally’ opposes.

Today, young children, indeed even infants, are – through the media which delights to detail, dramatize, and magnify -- made aware of and excited by what is going on around them long before they are able to recognize, and rightly appreciate, what is going on within themselves.
How much children need to be guided by their mothers – uniquely and naturally endowed and also spiritually empowered by God, to guide their child’s earliest and most tentative response to its experience of human life!    A mother – uniquely – can lead her child to a shared appreciation of the deep and calming influence of what is both ordinary and lovable in the world around; as well as – perhaps with the added help here of a rather special father -- to a humble and grateful experience of admiration and awe before the exuberance of what is wonderful in nature and her seasons!
Again, how much children need a mother who knows herself and is willing and able to open up her heart and mind in order to introduce them – early in life! -- into an awareness of the sublime yet fragile glory of human relationships which form the fabric of daily human living and offer what is life’s greatest experience of natural fulfilment!
Finally, how many children are blessed to find themselves living in and learning with a family where a truly Catholic appreciation of Mother Church and love for Jesus’ Person and teaching is a shared light and joy, guide and support, in all difficulties and trials; evoking in return gratitude and love, loyalty and self-sacrifice?

We find, alas, so many young people are wrapped up, enmeshed and embroiled, in internet activities, secretly or even publicly, acerbic and disturbing; or else fixated on the television which -- frequently and unashamedly -- stirs up, with seductive and violent emphasis, what most young people cannot deal with aright because they have not become able, perhaps never had the opportunity or the necessary guidance, to gradually discover and learn what it is to be in tune, and at home, with their own personal self and individual make-up.  So many are ill-at-ease with themselves, and need endless ‘things to do’, to occupy their thoughts and temporarily distract their imagination, lest the ever-threatening background danger of self-preoccupation with its accompanying kaleidoscope of vague fears, raises its head against them.  As a result they are strongly tempted to taste and  enjoy some of the many passing satisfactions, irresponsible pleasures, and fleeting consolations, being touted and displayed in a continuous stream on the screen before them or in the late night, back-street, or foolishly juvenile society around them; all of which bring nothing more than a multiplicity of shallow satisfactions and passing moments of pseudo-exaltation, before ebbing away and leaving behind, as the wages of sin and worldly inheritance, a numbing sense of frustration, emptiness, and disenchantment.

Today Jesus seeks to protect young people from such situations.   Life is not meant to be lived in a warren with dark corridors leading hither and thither into ever deeper recesses of darkness and threat.  He speaks to us as Lord and Master with words that are both sure and true:

No man can serve two masters; he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.

Jesus lived and died with the words of Israel’s psalms in His heart and on His lips, and often in the Gospels He seeks to pass on to us some of the blessings He Himself had gained from living those words to the full.  Today’s is one such psalm:

Only in God be at rest, my soul, for from Him comes my hope.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold.   I shall not be disturbed. 

Notice those final words: ‘I shall not be disturbed’; they indicate a deliberately willed purpose, not a hardly-noticed automatic or merely hoped-for result.  If we look at Jesus we can see how He Himself followed the psalmist’s lead, and we may, perhaps, even glimpse thereby something of His Personal relationship with His Father in Heaven:

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

He must have often seen and thought upon what He saw when, alone, He watched and heard the birds fluttering above and around Him; and as He observed them His thoughts would  instinctively turn to His Father, their habitual resting place … ‘they do not sow but My heavenly Father feeds them’.

Learn from the wild flowers.  They do not work or spin.  But not even Solomon in all his splendour was clothed … as God has clothed them, the grass of the field.

Again, He must frequently have admired the simple beauty of Israel’s flowers, and always His thoughts would turn in gratitude to, and rest confidently with, His Father …. ‘I shall not be disturbed’.

Jesus’ love for His Father was total and unremitting … He saw what was beautiful or good and immediately His life’s compass swung to His Father in admiration and praise; and when He looked upon what was evil He would compassionate His Father:

                Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.

Ultimately, love is the only guarantee that we will never be subject to the domination and dichotomy of two masters.  It is love alone which can give us the initial strength and courage to choose, to shoulder what we might possibly admire but could never, of ourselves, undertake.
But for such love of God we have to be prepared to give ourselves … ‘I shall not allow myself to be disturbed, I will love God!’

If we now turn to St. Paul we will see, and wonder at, of his oneness with Jesus’ teaching; for we are all surely aware of our human sensitivity to the opinion of others, and even more especially might that have been felt by Paul, since his work did not involve objective skills, tangible powers, but was totally concerned and involved with people, affecting them and indeed changing them through his proclamation of the Good News.  Would not his ability, success, and effectiveness as an Apostle, therefore, be inextricably linked with, and in some measure dependent upon, his own personal charm and popularity?   But in blunt contradiction with any such thoughts or suppositions, Paul tells us:

It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or by any human tribunal.

Paul was in not subject to human opinion!  Indeed, in that respect one can say that he was dead to men.  He served but one Master.  And yet, there was another, more secret and hidden tribunal by which he might have been affected, influenced, and ultimately corrupted, in his discipleship: that of self-justification and self-satisfaction.  But Paul proceeds immediately to totally repel any such thought:

I do not even pass judgement on myself; but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the One who judges me is the Lord.

Paul was sublimely simple: no reflecting on himself, neither his successes or failures nor his personal faults or popularity.  He was indeed, a most wonderful disciple of Jesus His Lord … one dead to the world and even to himself for love of Jesus:

I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ    (Philippians 3:8)

Jesus would say at the height of His torments and dereliction:

            Father, into your hands I commit My spirit;

St. Paul, as a supreme disciple, would likewise say (2 Timothy 1:12):

I know the One in Whom I have put my trust, and I am sure He is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to Him. 

Such examples do most surely inspire us, but the only way for us to respond to such inspiration is to follow their example.

Parents, lead, guide, and encourage your children to recognize, appreciate, respond to, what is beautiful, good, and true in life.  As they grow up and need rules for guidance and strength, offer them your own companionship and show them the truth, love, and the beauty behind and above such God-given and humanly-necessary rules.  Obedience, to be sure, is at times absolutely necessary as our ultimate defence and surest guide, but its authority and power should always be based on love and express love:

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.   (Philippians 4:8)

And so, my dear People of God, may Jesus’ final words in today’s Gospel inspire us to go out from Holy Mass today with loving purpose, firm hope, and most joyful confidence, to advance more surely on our life-long endeavour to:

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and not worry about tomorrow.

Friday, 17 February 2017

7th Sunday of Year A 2017

7th Sunday (Year A)
(Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18; First Corinthians 3:16-23; St. Matthew 5:38-48)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, those opening words recalled by Jesus are somewhat blood-chilling to our ears:
                You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’,
However, they were actually intended, we are told, to keep retribution/revenge -- which the Law, as you heard in our first reading, Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people, condemned – within practically containable limits, so to speak.
The middle-eastern propensity to unbridled and endless revenge – still so bitterly afflicting peoples living in those regions today – was thus opposed by divine revelation from the beginning and that is why Jesus Himself said repeatedly:
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.  (Matthew 6:14-15)

In our Gospel reading … remember, as I mentioned last week, that Matthew’s Gospel was meant for his own congregation of former Jewish believers and synagogue worshippers now converting to Christianity … Jesus is shown as advancing in that divine opposition to revenge, by encouraging His hearers to try to avoid any actions that might give rise even to retaliation, in order that the ever-present danger of revenge might be the more carefully avoided:

When someone strikes you on your right cheek --don’t hit him back! -- turn the other one as well. ….

Jesus went on to declare in the same way:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy; but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Now, there is no O.T. biblical text that commands hatred of one’s enemy; which shows that Jesus was relating to, and quoting, current words and popular attitudes, which He then went on to ameliorate by proposing a preferable attitude for such situations; He was not prescribing detailed procedures to be carried out literally in His name:
Notice also that Jesus’ words are chosen/adapted by Matthew for his own particular congregation when He continues:
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?   Do not the tax-collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans/Gentiles do the same?
Former Pharisees and practicing Jews would feel at ease with such references to very old adversaries!  And even Jesus’ last quoted words are ideally suited for a Jewish/Christian congregation:
                So be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect;
being easily acceptable -- and to a measure more readily understandable -- for those who had previously sought for perfection under the Jewish Law.
So, People of God, we must be aware that Matthew In his Gospel was trying to help former Jews/Pharisees to become fully Christian; and we, for our part, must not in any way allow those of our times who no longer have any Catholic /Christian faith and have acquired, adopted, lots of edge against it and opposition to its propagation, to suggest that Jesus in today’s Gospel passage is wanting to make us into Christian Pharisees!!
Jesus later on, when Himself addressing the Rich Young Man who wanted to be perfect, said, again according to St. Matthew (19:21):
If you wish to be perfect (same word as earlier), go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, FOLLOW ME.
Perfection for Christians is a gift, not an acquisition; and it is given by the Father through the Spirit to those whosoever, humbly and totally loving the Person of Jesus, obey Him whole-heartedly in His Church working for the redemption of mankind and the glory of God.   As St. Paul said:
Everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos or Cephas (that is, the Church), or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.       

Friday, 10 February 2017

6th Sunday Year 1 2017

6th. Sunday of Year (1)
(Sirach 15:15-20; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37)

We should be eternally grateful for the gift of faith which we have received, dear People of God, because it is the very wisdom of God, a wisdom which can lead us to that heavenly glory for which the Father chose us in Jesus (John 17:6):
I have revealed Your Name to those whom You gave Me out of the world. They belonged to You and You gave them to Me and they have kept Your word. 
This God-given wisdom, this keeping of His word revealed to us in and by Jesus, is not something which the self-righteous and worldly-wise appreciate for, as well we know, so little did they appreciate it in Jesus’ time that they crucified Him.  Consequently, we are not surprised that our modern world laughs at us too:
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but you do not belong to the world now that I have chosen you out of the world, and for that reason the world hates you.    (John 15:19 REB)
Such opposition and disregard, however, actually serve to deepen our bond with Jesus:
Remember what I said: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will also keep yours.   And they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they do not know the One who sent Me.  (John 15:20-21)
So, though facing mockery and opposition for our faith, we have the soul-satisfying joy of being close enough to Jesus to be able to suffer something for Him in return, and, what is more, in so doing we are being endowed with the protection and guidance of His most Holy Spirit for which we give whole-hearted thanks to God for His Fatherly love.
Our confidence and joy however must never slide into complacency or pride because we are taught that no one can become truly wise without having a reverential fear of the Lord, as you heard in our first reading:
The eyes of God are on those who fear Him; He understands man’s every deed, to none does He give license to sin.
Fear of, and reverence for, the Lord is the root of wisdom and the beginning and anchor of faith.  Faith however calls, in addition, for obedience -- at times going against our natural desires and inclinations;   and for commitment -- at times calling us to give more, be more prominent that we would prefer; and together, such obedience and commitment gradually guide our faith to a life-warming experience and foretaste of God’s rewarding presence even here on earth, before leading us to its ultimate fulfilment of sharing in Jesus’ heavenly beatitude of eternal life and love.  And yet, because worldly men loathe obedience in the intimate details of their lives above all and are committed to choosing for themselves from the many pleasures immediately available in this world rather than working for true fulfilment, therefore they ridicule faith and deny the existence or relevance of any God.
For our part, however, we who come to worship with full intent and quiet sincerity, come that we might worship and praise the God we want to learn to know and love better, and to follow the way His word traces out for us; aspiring to love with our whole being -- mind and body, heart and soul -- Him Whom we know gave and still gives His only-begotten Son for love of us and Who has, St. Paul assures in our second reading:
Prepared for those who love Him, (blessings) no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived. (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)
We come, as the psalmist says, prepared to sow in tears if need be, so that we might reap a personal share in the Divine love and fellowship which is eternal.
Now, our Gospel reading today is difficult for us to fully understand because it comes to us from St. Matthew’s evangelisation of his own Church congregation of former Jewish believers and synagogue worshippers, and consequently it refers to and embraces issues at the back of their minds which are not part of our make-up.  For that reason, today we can only follow the chief ‘headlines’ so to speak of Jesus’ words in the Gospel.
As if to prepare His disciples for what He was about to say, Jesus began by saying: 
Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish, but to fulfil. 
Therefore His disciples would need to be very careful in their understanding and observance of the Law’s commands, as He went on to say:
Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus, did not want cold, meticulous, literal observance of laws written in letters of carved  stone, but an obedience that was sincere and attentive to both the letter and the spirit of God’s commands, for without the vivifying Spirit, observance of the letter only kills.   He therefore went on to make clear His own deeper appreciation and understanding of the Law of Moses on certain most serious issues.
            You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill’.
A more prevalent, and indeed better translation, involves changing just one word:
            You have heard it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder,
a translation favoured by the NRSTV (Jewish Annotated) and many others; one that presents the text as it has always been understood by the People of Israel for whom the law was established by God and to whom it was originally given by Moses; and one that has indeed been understood and proclaimed by Mother Church herself throughout the ages.
Jesus went on to give them His own fuller appreciation of this understanding of the commandment by explaining that God’s refusal to allow anyone to rob a man of his life by murder, also implied and required that no one should rob him of his reputation either, by mordent, bitter words and lies meant to harm and to hurt. 
Incidentally He spoke against litigation, one of modern people’s wicked self-indulgences and society’s self-righteous failings.
He next spoke expressly and most emphatically against sexual infidelity and divorce:
            You shall not commit adultery.
Here He both deepened and elevated the issue by, on the one hand going on to speak of lust of the eyes supplying for physical adultery; while, on the other hand, speaking of divorce as a procedure incurring the danger and the charge of causing a rejected wife to commit adultery.  Moreover, those who went along with divorce by marrying any such divorcee would be themselves committing adultery.
Against taking oaths, He speaks in our sense of using the Lord’s name in vain, and urged simplicity and humility when speaking:
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’.  Anything more is from the evil one.
Jesus knew Himself as having been most definitely sent to fulfil the Law; and so sure was He of the validity of the Law that He solemnly declared:
Amen I say to you: until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter, will pass from the Law until all things have taken place.
Therefore when, speaking of the Law and current Jewish practices, though several times He went on to add:
            You have heard that it was said to your ancestors …. But I say to you;
He was in no way abolishing the Law, but teaching His Apostles, His Church, you and me, how to live and die with Him for the greater glory of God, for His Kingdom on earth, and for the true fulfilment of our brothers and sisters in the world of time. 
Jesus’ main grief against the Scribes and Pharisees was:
This people honours Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.  Hypocrites!  Your pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin; but you have overlooked the weightier demands of the Law – justice, mercy, and good faith.  (Matthew 15:8; 23:23)
And we have so much of that today, People of God!
Many of those with no faith in, no acknowledgement of, God, love to take up particular social issues along with religious aspects of Christianity -- bits and pieces perhaps of remembered Catholic teaching -- and put themselves forward as the correct interpreters of those bits and pieces of religious teaching ripped out of the context of the fullness of Catholic faith (such as our ‘murder/kill’ today) and understanding them merely as words, seek to show how – without needing any God – they themselves are more successful harbingers of human fulfilment, satisfaction, and plenty than deluded believers in Jesus and spineless followers of Church doctrines and ancient  traditions.  And such people will then, living up to their self-reputation, go on to reject Jesus’ teaching on divorce and Mother Church’s teaching on abortion, to promote free ‘love’ of whatever sort, to play with sexuality and family, and to deny there is any natural law (e.g. man and woman made for each other) to be found in the world around us!!   Thus they attempt to prove themselves (and their own doctrines) as loving and merciful (allowing and sanctioning anything men and women imagine they want or need) as well as holy (truly fulfilling for their humanity, if such a thing exists)! 
Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.   (Matthew 11:28-30)
Dear People of God, do not get embroiled with faithless people arguing about words of faith!
In the beginning:
The Lord God took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.  The Lord God gave man this order, ‘You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  From that tree you shall not eat!
Now notice how Satan started arguing about divine words:
The serpent asked the woman, ‘Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’
God actually said to Adam as you have just heard:
‘You are free to eat from any of the trees except one’
How Satan loves to take words out of their faith context!!  How the worldly-wise hate that manifestation of God’s power and authority -- over man for man’s own true good -- manifested in the one faithful word, except!
Dear fellow disciples of Jesus, how true and how beautiful, how much needed and how gratefully to be received are these following words of Our Blessed Lord:
In this world you will have trouble, (but) I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  Take heart!  I have overcome the world, that in Me you may have peace. (John 15:11; 16:33 NIV)            

Friday, 3 February 2017

5th Sunday of Year A 2017

5th. Sunday (A)
(Isaiah 58:7-10; 1st. Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16.)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if you take your mind back to our first reading from the prophet Isaiah you will recall the words:

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed.  Your vindication/righteousness shall go before you and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

The all-Holy God wants to heal sinners from the sting of sin, the wound of pride, and the fear of death, and the result of His healing is righteousness which is God’s prerogative, His gift; and those thus healed who continue their ongoing recovery will be backed up by the following, ‘backing-up’ protection of the glory of the Lord.  All is God’s gift.

God’s work of healing, however, is not like that of some picture restorer, cleaning away the grime of ages and revealing the original beauty of some painting in all its integrity; on the contrary, by His gift of divine righteousness God is -- for Jesus’ sake -- restoring what we have most seriously blemished indeed, but also bestowing what we have never known:

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed.  Your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

This healing thanks to God’s merciful gift to us in Jesus, and this abiding and sure protection given by His glory which follows us, are the source and the shield of our “righteousness”, that righteousness which makes us, “salt of the earth”, and “light of the world”.  And this our light, must shine in the sight of men, not as a witness to our ‘personal integrity’ but, as Jesus said, should “glorify your Father in heaven”, whereby we become living members of Him Who summed up His whole life in the words:

(Father) I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do (John 17:4).

Living members of Him Who wanted even His final act of dying on the Cross to serve that very same end (John 17:1):

Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.

And so, in order to fulfil our vocation as members of that beloved Son, we have to recognise that we are special, not as a result of our own ‘personal integrity’, but by reason of God’s special gift to us in Jesus; a gift whereby we are entrusted and endowed with a special work to do in today’s world, with Jesus, for the Father:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

Our realising that our righteousness is the gift of God thus becomes tantamount to the awareness of our responsibility before God: we cannot allow our life in Christ to become tasteless by lukewarm Catholic observance, and most certainly not by adopting worldly standards to obtain worldly praise.

If we look closely at Jesus’ choice of words to describe His disciples: ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’ we will understand that both ‘salt’ and ‘light’ are self-less words, so to speak.  Salt in the ancient world was widely used to preserve food items, and today most of us use it to bring out the ‘taste’ of food; of itself salt is little or nothing.  Even more so is this the case with light, for light serves to illuminate whatever is there for us to see; otherwise, apart from the things it illuminates for us in our daily usage, light is seemingly nothing.

That self-less character which Jesus would like to see in His disciples was well exemplified in the first reading, where Isaiah advised:

If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness; if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul; then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.

Paul, likewise, told us that he deliberately centred his converts’ faith on Jesus by making himself and his preaching as unpretentious as possible:

Brethren, when I came to you, I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

As Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul was truly ‘salt of the earth’, ‘light’ par excellence for the Gentiles, and yet he sought to preserve, confirm, and establish his converts in their newly professed Christian faith by proclaiming and glorifying not himself but Jesus, alone and entirely.

One of the characteristics of many modern, self-styled, religious people is that, first and foremost, they are not self-less; they are looking to get something out of religion for themselves, here and now.  They want to hear and experience something new, something that will, hopefully, relieve them of the weariness of a religion they have long been aware of and accustomed to, but without ever having truly known or vitally experienced it.  They want to feel divine presence/power at will (their will), they long to know the excitement of being swept along by supercharged emotions, or to be able to surrender themselves to a surreal, oriental, bliss: lulled by a surrounding, scented, and gently swirling fog of mystery.  Such people are centred on their own earthly feelings and experiences, and they find Christianity which speaks of a transcendent God – One over and above their control -- quite boring, because the Christian message is addressed to those willing to respond to that message with faith, and commit themselves to a personal encounter of love and obedience.    Our modern ‘religious’ and ‘experimenters-in-religions’ on the other hand, aspire to have their emotions directly and agreeably stirred up, with their minds left comfortably disengaged in their ‘status quo’ of no responsibilities being required of them.

The apostle Paul said that he was acutely conscious of his own personal weaknesses which meant that He proclaimed the mystery of God to them ‘in fear and much trembling’; he had deliberately refused to impress them by his outstanding Pharisaic learning and Greek ‘wisdom’, though he was -- as Festus the Roman governor testified before Paul’s adversaries (Acts 26:24) -- a very highly educated man, at least bi-lingual, and privileged as a citizen of Rome.   Nevertheless, he desired above all that his converts’ faith should rest on the power of the pure word of God and of His accompanying Gift of grace, not on the astuteness of self-centred men who can, at will, speak words that are almost salacious in their ability to delight and to sway the hearts of any hearers into praise of and submission to such oratory and specious learning.

But there, you might think, is something that needs further explanation: Paul speaks of the power of God, and displays of power are, surely, just what our worldly religious people want to see and experience?

Yes, that is indeed the case.  But the power of God of which St. Paul speaks is never displayed: it is, indeed, sometimes exercised for the encouragement and benefit of people in particular circumstances, such as hearing the word of God for the first time, or, striving – under exceptional difficulties -- to live according to His teaching.  Nevertheless, God's exercise of power on such occasions and for such people is not a display of spiritual fireworks to make all who witness it gape, but rather an expression of God’s continuous and largely invisible battle in and through Mother Church for the minds and hearts of men and women of all times and all cultures against the abusive and tyrannical rule of Satan over this world.

Today, in our affluent society, we see the awful consequences arising when society as a whole acquiesces under the power of Satan and opts for the wages of sin: ever more and more disgusting and degrading exuberances of evil appear in our midst against which the miserable fig-leaves of human self-righteousness, politically-correct morality, and laws of a totally secular character, are powerless to recognize, let alone control or redress.

People of God, Christians, above all Catholics, should gratefully recognize and confidently embrace their God-given vocation to be salt of the earth and light of the world.  Salt was used, as I said, in the ancient world to preserve food from corruption; and those disciples of Jesus who do not resist the corruption of evil, become like tasteless salt, as Jesus said:

Good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

Likewise, a light is meant to show the way, to lead in the right direction. Catholics who do not, in any way, lead along that way but always follow the popular path, consistently excusing themselves saying that 'what everyone else is doing can't be that bad', are not true Catholics, not authentic disciples of Jesus at all; they follow the pagan majority into fornication, divorce, adultery, and contraception; they steal, they malign, and they lie.  Indeed, there are some who do such things and then parade their vaunted ‘personal integrity’ – and consummate their sin -- by receiving the Eucharist with oodles of hypocritical self-righteousness but no confession, no contrition.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, be simple and sincere before God in all your dealings with men, and be quietly but totally confident in Jesus’ promise that, because you are His disciples, you are indeed the salt of the earth and the light of the world; and the witness that you bear for Jesus will, ultimately, bring forth fruit for God’s greater glory and the refreshment and delight of His People.  Do not be concerned about yourself and your standing among men, but rather, trying to be true to Jesus and His teaching in Mother Church, trust in God and allow Him to care for you and take care of you, for He is the unfailing Shepherd of His flock.  In that way the prophecy of Isaiah will be verified in you:

Your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'