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Friday, 26 May 2017

Ascension of Our Lord 2017



ASCENSION OF OUR LORD                
 Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-2

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

All power and authority has been given to Jesus; but He is going away, He is not going to use it Personally in the sight of the world.  The glorious work of making disciples of all nations is to be accomplished by His disciples, His glory is to be theirs, that of His Church, not His own so far as the world will be able to judge.

This is in accordance with a consistent practice of Jesus:  after having taken our sins upon Himself, He gives us His Own Spirit to help us confirm and extend His conquest of and dominion over sin; He makes us adopted children of the Father Who sent Him; yes, He consistently seeks to glorify us and, apparently, let Himself disappear somewhat into the background:

On that day you will ask in My name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you.  For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have come to believe that I came from God.

He does seem to be living-out the words He spoke to His Father (John 17:10):

          All Mine are Yours and Yours are Mine and I am glorified in them.  

Indeed, Jesus even went so far on one occasion to speak of the Spirit and of the Father with respect to us, omitting Himself altogether (Matthew 10:19-20):

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

However, ironically enough, His Personal humility and love for us is the reason why the world hated Jesus and, indeed, still hates Him and His; it is not because of Jesus Himself -- His human personality and character are universally admired by unbiased students of His life --  no, the world’s great trouble with Jesus, so to speak,  is that He loves us too much: having Himself shared in our humanity, He wills to share His divinity with us, to make us divine in Himself, that we might thus know and experience something of the transcendental, all-embracing and totally self-giving, love which is Divine LIFE.

Having made mankind in His own likeness, that is, having endowed him with spiritual freedom, God wills – and therefore the Father sent His Son among us – to free us from that which would destroy our likeness with Himself, namely sin.   He sent His Son, that He might offer us a choice, that He might help and enable us to use our spiritual freedom to reject the Devil’s ‘toffy-apple of sin’ and deliberately choose to acknowledge the goodness, and give thanks for the great beauty, of our original creation.  And then, more wondrously still, to embrace whole-heartedly the eternal promise and sublime fulfilment of our being which is in Jesus, perfect Man and perfect God; Who, having shared our humanity even to tasting the deepest dregs of its sinful condition, nevertheless, still willed to draw us to Himself as members of His Body able to share in His divine glory and, by His Spirit, become true children of the heavenly Father.

Now, the gracious and glorious climax of this drama takes place in the Ascension of Our Blessed Lord today … Alleluia!  Deo Gratias!! Thanks be to God!!!

The supreme question now, as we celebrate His Ascension, is of course, what sort of relationship do we have – you and I personally -- with Jesus?    Are we able to trust Him totally with our future, are we willing to love Him in and above our present experience of life on earth -- so visibly beautiful and tangibly satisfying -- amidst men and women of all sorts ostensibly searching for, and some already proclaiming themselves to have found, happiness and well-being?

Here, Saint Paul’s prayer in our second reading is so beautifully appropriate:

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a (S)spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him … that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe in accordance with the exercise of His great might which He worked in Christ.

Dear People of God, there Paul is telling us that the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus is the model and power-centre for our own rising with Him to the Father Who originally called us.    How,  though, is that power to be activated in our lives for us?

We cannot, like Magdalen -- clinging to the Jesus of her earthly memories -- be ever seeking and asking of Him earthly blessings and comfort in our passage through life; we have now to learn, with her, how to love Jesus aright as our Ascended Lord, for did not Jesus say to her:

Stop holding on to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

Stop holding Me, go to My Brothers!!

The key to activating the power of Jesus’ ascension in our own lives is, dear People of God, perfectly simple -- as unquestioning Mary Magdalen found –  namely obedience to Jesus the Risen Lord, and to His Spirit in Mother Church and in our Catholic and Christian conscience!! And that requirement of obedience to Jesus is the ultimate reason for the world’s hatred of Him: for despite the fact of His sovereign love for us, and the eternal salvation He offers us, it all -- of its very nature -- involves and demands our obedience; and human pride is at the root of all our sinfulness.

Behold I am sending the promise of My Father upon you, stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.   (Luke 24:49)

Let us therefore trust not in ourselves, nor allow ourselves to be satisfied by the joy of our present celebration, for the work of salvation is ever on-going and it calls on us who try to attend, observe, and live Mother Church’s Liturgy, to accede to the words of Our Lord and pray most sincerely for the proximate coming of God’s Gift of His Most Holy Spirit, that He might be poured out in much-needed fulness upon Mother Church to invest her with heavenly power in her struggles for the Truth of Jesus against the darkness threatening the world.  Let us also invoke the Holy Spirit of Jesus into our own hearts, to help each of us learn to better say ‘no’ to ourselves and to all sin; and – in the measure of His unstinting goodness and in accordance with His own good and immeasurable time -- to guide us, lead us, form us for closeness, yes, even intimacy, with Jesus, our own Flesh-and-Blood Lord and Saviour, and in Him, for love of the heavenly Father.



Friday, 19 May 2017

6th. Sunday of Easter (A)





 6th. Sunday of Easter (A)
(Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8, 14-17; 1st Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21)
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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, notice that Philip worked miracles – which means that the Lord backed up Philip’s proclamation by signs to attract men’s attention – but the Apostles, Peter and John, having come down from Jerusalem:
Prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them, they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Philip was one of the seven men of repute in last week’s readings specially designated by popular choice and the Apostles’ blessing to serve at table and take special care of the widows … he was not one of the Apostles breathed upon by the Risen Lord that they might personally receive and be able to personally bestow God’s Gift of the Spirit.
How clearly that shows what is truly, supremely, Christian!  Not miracles, blessings though they be, to ‘get things going’, to confirm and consolidate in times of need, but the GIFT OF THE SPIRIT OF JESUS!!
That is why – in Mother Church’s wisdom – our second reading today began:
            Beloved, sanctify Christ in your hearts!
That is, use the Spirit with which you have been gifted to glorify Christ as the Holy One, your confidence and joy, your Redeemer and Saviour; but in all and above all, as your LORD and GOD!  Moreover, sanctify Him in your heart, that is, in all sincerity and with full hope, confidence, and longing.
Oh, Lord Jesus, come, rule me: in the longings of my heart and all the searchings and aspirations of my mind, come Lord Jesus, RULE IN ME!!
For the Spirit gifted us is ours at the Personal request of Jesus as we heard in the Gospel reading:
If you love Me, if you keep My commandments, I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you always.
He is indeed a most special Gift and a most sublime pledge of love -- given us by the Father at Jesus’ request!   The world, however,
Cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.
 
 Oh, you so privileged Catholic and Christian People of God! 
 
            You know Him because He remains with you and will be in you!
You know Him because He, the Holy Spirit, remains -- always and forever – among you and for you In Mother Church, and will be in you personally, who continue faithful-and-true to Him Who first called you --  the Father Who now gives His Gift of the Spirit -- and to Him Who died and rose from the dead for you, and at Whose request the Father now gives the Spirit of His Son!
Peter, in our second reading, was so confidently urging us to sanctify Christ in our hearts that he was in no way embarrassed to allow himself to be carried further and declare that our sufferings as Christians for what is good, are themselves a truly, indeed supremely, authentic ‘sanctifying’ of Christ, since: 
 
Christ also suffered for sins once, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God … brought to life by the Spirit.  
 
As to His death, He (Christ) died to sin once and for all; as to His life, He lives for God.  (Romans 6:10)
Let me put the words of Peter and Paul side by side and bit by bit for you:
Christ suffered for sins once/ As to His death, He died to sin once.
The Righteous for the unrighteous/He (the Righteous One) died to sin once, and for all (the unrighteous).
That He might lead you to God/He (now) lives; consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
There is yet one more essential doctrinal concordance between Peter and Paul in their teaching about Christ and the salvation He offers us – something absolute necessary for a right understanding of the world’s and our society’s current turmoil and trials -- and it concerns sin, its deadliness and universality:
HE SUFFERED FOR SINS ONCE; HE DIED TO SIN ONCE, AND FOR ALL; THAT HE MIGHT LEAD YOU AS DEAD TO SIN AND LIVING FOR GOD.
What is SIN?   What is the sin for which Jesus’ first public words demanded that we repent??
It is the sin condemned by the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament given by God  to His Chosen People through Moses; those Ten Commandments which were affirmed and exemplified by Jesus in His life and teaching, death and resurrection.  That teaching of Jesus is confirmed and appropriated for us today by His Most Holy Spirit ever at work inspiring, guiding, and protecting Mother Church in her Gospel mission; and that sin, for which and from which He came to offer us salvation, cannot be overcome in any way at all by the political correctness and social maneuverings of our modern Western world, which is, in fact, now being re-paganized to an unprecedented degree and depth in these our times!
However, without Christianity, life is not truly acceptable for those who have once known the Faith, and so they must continually dress up in different ways selections and adaptations of that way of life they formerly recognized, lived by, and perhaps appreciated and provisionally loved.   The ‘world’ cannot receive the Spirit of Jesus because it does not recognize the reality of that sin which rules -- even by acclaim! -- in human lives and society today:
If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children…  (Matthew 7:11)
The ‘world’ only wants to establish its own laws of criminality in order to keep acceptable order in society, to win human approbation, and to provide comforting self-justification; it does not want to recognize and reject the real sin present, for some so secretly and for others so satisfyingly, in human, and above all their own -- hearts!!
In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.  On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.   (John 14:19–2)
 
People of God, looking at the world around us, at the ever more modern versions of what used to be Christian society, we can surely say that that day foretold by our Blessed Lord has in some measure arrived for us His present-day disciples, and that we would do well, therefore, to give more special heed than we have perhaps done before to His recommendations:
Whoever has My commandments and observes them is the one who loves Me.  And whoever loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him. 
 
Let us, as it were, calmly set sail under such an aegis, allowing ourselves to be guided by the breathing of His Spirit filling the sails of all our hopes and aspirations and, looking to neither right nor left, trust totally in Him our Brother Who died and rose again for us, and in Him Who originally called us and still invites us to find eternal joy and peace in our true home with Him Who is our only, and eternally loving, Father.    







Friday, 12 May 2017

5th Sunday of Eastertide Year A 2017




5th. Sunday of Eastertide, Year (A)
(Acts 6:1-7; 1st. Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12)


People of God, let me draw your attention to the first reading, in the course of which you heard the Apostles speaking to the early Christians in Jerusalem:

The Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.   Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

You will, I trust, appreciate from that passage the importance the Apostles attached to their 'ministry of the word', which included what we would call today the duty of preaching.  In this they were being totally faithful to the Lord's command, for we are told (Mark 16:14-16) that, after His Resurrection:

Jesus appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He said to them, "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." 

With that in mind perhaps someone might think: ‘But what about the Mass?’ 

The Apostles regarded the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice to be of supreme importance, indeed absolutely necessary, for the Church, as St. Paul writes in his letter to his Christian community at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:23-24):

I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is (broken) for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

For the Apostles, therefore, there could be no conflict of precedence between ministry of the Word and celebration of the Eucharist, since prayer and proclamation are two co-related aspects of one reality: as St. Peter said in our first reading:

We shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

The Eucharist is supreme prayer, the prayer of the Church -- the Body of Christ -- with that of her Head, Christ Himself.  Likewise, proclamation of the Word is the commission given by Jesus to His faithful Apostles, for the fulfilment of which He endowed them with the gift of His own most Holy Spirit, that by their preaching they might proclaim His Good News far and wide and thus continue His work of redemption for men and women of all times.

Consequently, a priest’s calling, as a sharer in the Bishops' Apostolic mission in Mother Church today, is to follow the Apostles' example by his ministry of the Word and offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, both of which he does pre-eminently in his celebration and proclamation of Christ at Holy Mass on Sunday.

Nothing is more necessary and beneficial for our world today than the offering of Jesus' Eucharistic sacrifice, as Mother Church teaches us when she says: 'As often as the sacrifice of the Cross is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out' (Lumen Gentium 3); nor is there any other place or time better suited for the proclamation of God's Word than when the Church community is assembled together in the house of God for her Sunday memorial of the Lord’s Resurrection.

Here, People of God, we should notice that the ministry of the Word is not, primarily, a matter of being able to talk well, for true preaching is the result of the Holy Spirit working in and through disciples – specially adapted as His instruments by their ordination -- obediently opening themselves up to His grace and making themselves useful for His purposes; and the supreme purpose for such Spirit-guided preaching is not to try to make Jesus popular (and most certainly not the preacher himself!) but to proclaim His truth, His Gospel, and Mother Church’s presentation of it, that God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit --  might be worshipped, loved, and served aright.

Mother Church alone has been given the fullness of the Spirit and no individual member of the Church has such fullness: all receive the Spirit entrusted to them, through her, for a particular purpose and function.  We were shown this clearly in the first reading where Peter, speaking on behalf of all the Apostles, said:

Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task.

Subsequently we were told that:

They set (the seven men) before the apostles, and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

Why did the Apostles need to lay their hands on them since, as we heard, these seven men were chosen because they were of good reputation and full of the Spirit and wisdom? 

Their fullness of the Spirit and of wisdom at that time was such as to have enabled them to live as disciples of Jesus meriting a good reputation in and for the Christian community:

          Select from among you seven reputable men.

However, in order to fulfil in the name of the infant Church the special function of looking after those who were most needy -- the widows -- they had to be given the Spirit afresh:

          They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.

No special God-willed work in and for the Church can be done without a special gift of the Spirit for that purpose.  The Spirit guides, preserves, strengthens and inspires for the good of the Church and He will never allow the gates of Hell to prevail against the Church; and so, He does most specially protect the whole People of God by blessing and prospering the sincere efforts of all individuals called to serve either in the ordained ministry, or as living members of what St. Peter recognized as:

A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own, so that you may announce the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

The Holy Spirit is available and freely given to all those called who, at whatever level and in whatever degree, work for the furtherance of Gospel truth and the growth of divine charity in the Church, the family, and in society as a whole.

That is why Jesus said to His Apostles (John 16:13-14) and says also to His Church today:
When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

And that is why the apostle John could write in his first letter (4:6):

We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Many of the present difficulties and trials of Mother Church stem, most certainly, from a wilful ignorance of the working of the Holy Spirit and an overdose of human pride.  The Holy Spirit is always and only given to build up Mother Church for the glory of God, never to back up human pride or indulge human passions.  Unfortunately, there are still too many Catholics who think their learning or intelligence enables them, while others imagine that the vehemence of their personal feelings compels them, or even that their own social importance allows them, to push themselves into even the most sacred matters of Church’s teaching and practice. These wrong attitudes have bedevilled Mother Church from the beginning, as St. John shows when speaking in the book of Revelation (3:1-3) to those with a false opinion of themselves or a false reputation with others:

I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.  Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.   (NLT)

People of God, St. Peter tells us that Jesus,

          The stone which the builders rejected, has become the chief cornerstone;

and that we, His disciples:

As living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 

That spiritual house is Mother Church where the Holy Spirit dwells and is ever at work to form each and every one of us in the likeness of Jesus as a holy priesthood called to 'offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God'.  However, our individual and personal spiritual sacrifices can only be acceptable to God first of all because of the real sacrifice of Jesus which alone gives worthy praise and glory to the God the Father; and secondly, because some members of the Church have been called and ordained to be instruments of the Spirit of Jesus in the continued offering, even today, of Jesus’ one, real, and perennial sacrifice to the Father.   Because of, and along with, that ever-abiding and ever-contemporary offering of Jesus' sacrifice, all our individual spiritual sacrifices can become acceptable to the God and Father Who is All in all.

As a priest, I am a sharer in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus, but I am also, as an individual, along with you, a sharer in that other priesthood, the priesthood of the whole Body of Christ, called to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God:

A royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, proclaim(ing) the praises of Him who called (us) out of darkness into His marvellous light.

People of God, our hope and our future is bound up with Jesus and in Him we have a sublime vocation.  Each and every one of us should try to build up our relationship with Him more and more: for though we have a calling, we still have to work at it, and we cannot fulfil our calling without the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit.  God is All in all for us, and He wants us to give Him our all in return.  In Mother Church we are called and are enabled to do just that by the abiding presence of Jesus in the Church and the constant working of His Holy Spirit in the Church and in our lives.

Jesus Himself required His disciples to look beyond the physicality of His own presence and Person:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own.  Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me.

I go to My Father.  And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  (John 14:10-13)

In like manner, He wants us to look beyond mere flesh and blood, beyond personalities we may naturally like or dislike, and, as St. Paul puts it (Galatians 5:13):

          Through love serve one another.

that is, through authentic love of God, work together as a team, as co-operating members of the Body of Christ, either by shared personal endeavour or by sincere personal prayer:

          That the Father may be glorified in the Son.

And if we would wish to understand something of the Son’s glorification of His Father we must recall Jesus’ words of explanation to His Apostles:

Jesus said to Thomas,  ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.

Notice Jesus does not say, ‘No one goes to the Father except through Me’ … He doesn’t even say, ‘No one can get to the Father except through Me; no, the Father is in no way to be separated from Jesus, He is mysteriously essential to Jesus and only to be found in Jesus by a through-going which is also a coming-to:

          No one comes to the FATHER except through ME!!


Dear People of God, the astounding beauty of our Faith is a wondrous configuration of earth and heaven: earthly discipline and order in the Church so beautifully pictured for us in today’s short readings, and more completely manifested in the early Church’s comprehensive embrace of life in Christ, and the transcendental mystery of heavenly charity revealed to us in our Blessed Lord’s Gospel words:

                    No one comes to the FATHER except through ME!!

Let us therefore go out into the world after today’s Eucharist inspired to proclaim our Blessed Lord Jesus, Whose Truth is the only Way, and by Whose Holy Spirit of Life alone we can give fitting praise and honour to the Father of sublime Mystery and Majesty, Whose eternal Presence, Glory, and Power, in Mother Church and in our individual and most personal lives, can only be understood as LOVE: heavenly, sacrificial, and eternal.  Amen.