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, 30 June 2017

13th Sunday Year A 2017

Thirteenth Sunday, Year A
          (2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16; Romans 6: 3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10: 37-42)

Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

Those words of St. Paul, which you heard in the second reading, might have seemed strange to some of you, but, in fact, they are a simple statement of the essential nature of Christian baptism.  Paul is not saying that baptism symbolises the death of Jesus, but rather, that the one who believes in Jesus is, on receiving  baptism, washed by waters initially made holy by Christ’s own baptism, but most  importantly of all, bathed in the water that flowed, for His Church, from His pierced side on the Cross; and that having thus been washed Christ clean by the Spirit of Holiness in anticipation of the Spirit of Life to be given by the Risen Lord, the disciple becomes a new creation, no longer earthly and sinful but cleansed, refreshed,  and renewed, one destined for good works on earth and eternal life in heaven as a child of God, as St. Paul concluded (6:11):

Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin, and living for God in Christ Jesus.

In the new spiritual world brought about by the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit hovers over the waters, just as He did in God’s first creation, but now He is ready and prepared to bring forth life of transcendent promise and beauty in Jesus for the Father. As you think on that, People of God, surely you can glimpse how wrong, hypocritical, and sinful, it is for some (far too many) parents to want their child to be baptised, but have no intention themselves of sincerely bringing up that child to be a practising Catholic, a true child of God. 
This proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour offering us a radically new life -- dead to sin and alive to God the Father through the gift of His Spirit -- was to be preached by the Apostles to all mankind.   This was indeed a daunting task for such ordinary men as Peter, James, and John, fishermen from Galilee, and all the others who, apart from Paul, were mainly quite ordinary citizens of one of the smallest provinces in the mighty, world-wide, empire of Rome.  Jesus, therefore, Who never asks the impossible, had to give them power for the accomplishment of their mission, and in this empowering of His disciples we can see how different Jesus was from the Messiah of Jewish expectations.  He did not send out His apostles with an army behind them as the Roman Emperor would do on sending a general to subdue an enemy; no, Jesus gave them a power based on consent and persuasion, as you heard in the Gospel reading:
Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One Who sent Me.
That might sound to be very little rather than much help to worldly ears, but in that case careful attention should be given to what Jesus went on to say:
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward.
Now, in the first reading we were given the example of a woman from a little place called Shunem who received a prophet, in the manner recommended by Jesus, and who also -- as a consequence -- received a prophet’s reward:
One day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a woman of influence, who urged him to dine with her.  Afterwards, whenever he passed by, he would stop there to eat some food.   And she said to her husband, "I know that Elisha is a holy man of God; since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp; so that whenever he comes to us, he can stay there."   Sometime later Elisha arrived, and stayed in the room overnight.
That woman recognized and received a prophet, ‘a holy man of God’ as she described him, and she was given a child, such as she and her husband had sought for in vain over many long years until that moment when Elisha’s promise in the name of God proved to be true.  Such a wonderful reward for their humble willingness to appreciate and honour the prophet of God apparently hidden in the figure of an unprepossessing man!
Think now: that was a prophet’s reward; what reward, therefore, will those receive who recognize not a prophet but Christ Himself in His messenger?  What reward will those receive who recognize, treasure, and revere Christ in His Church?  Not the slightest response to Christ present in even the most insignificant of His disciples will go unrewarded, Our Lord Himself tells us:
Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple, amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.

But what of those who, today, hear but do not welcome those commissioned by Mother Church in the name of Jesus for the proclamation of Jesus’ gospel of Good News, those who today do indeed hear that Good News but have other priorities, aspirations and hopes, ruling their minds to the exclusion of Jesus’ Gospel, or closing their hearts to His Person?

Jesus spoke very openly in our Gospel reading today about such people, and His words still cause outrage to contemporary hearers but non-listeners.

            Whoever prefers father or mother to Me is not worthy of Me.
            Whoever prefers son or daughter to Me is not worthy of Me.
Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

Jesus does not indulge Himself in cant, nor does He repeat popular clich├ęs; He knows that generally people love themselves excessively; indeed, it is a basic fact of human selfishness despite widespread hypocrisy then and now, and Jesus shows this by the rising scale of preferences He depicts: love for parents, for one’s own children, for one’s own person, one’s own life and life-style.
There is another meaningful sequence in Jesus’ words also, this time one that is   descending: welcome an apostle, welcome a prophet or holy man, or even give a glass of water to a fellow Christian for love of shared faith, and you will not be forgotten or overlooked.   There we are comfortingly reminded that God … the God who notices even one sparrow falling … notices also the little kindnesses that His children show to others for love of Him.  Not all truly holy persons are easily recognized, few of us will ever come across a prophet, and even fewer  encounter an apostle of Christ in their experience of ordinary living, but all can and do -- at one time or another -- come across a fellow disciple of Christ in some sort of need, and all can offer a cup of cold water (something very welcome in a hot dry climate) to assist them in that need.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

People of God, how little we listen to Jesus!  We hear continually today of people who are in difficulties as a result of their life-style or life-experience: they have marital problems such as divorce, abortion(s), co-habiting; they have daughters, who ‘find themselves (!) pregnant’, sons addicted to drugs; they find the society in which they have to live so dreadful: so many and so heavy are the pressures weighing upon them that they are too great even to bear, let alone to deal with.   On the other hand, and in response, we hear so much of popular self-promoters, usually moralists or pseudo-theologians, who probably no longer believe themselves, but who do specialise in ‘shoe-horn’ fitting-in-procedures that would change this or that in our traditional Faith -- so long-loved by saints known and unknown, so long-suffered-and-died-for by martyrs again both known and unknown -- in order to make things easier for those they are championing or whom they are using as weapons against the Faith they themselves no longer embrace.

People of God, such matters as those I have just mentioned are matters calling perhaps for social reform, but most certainly not for religious change!

Jesus is here so clear, so simple, for even the simplest to understand, so long as they are sincere in wanting truth that is both holy and life-giving:

            Whoever prefers father or mother to Me is not worthy of Me.
            Whoever prefers son or daughter to Me is not worthy of Me.
Whoever does not take up his (personal to him) cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

We, dear People of God, are Catholic Christians by vocation, called to live by faith in Jesus and in the power of His Spirit; earthly circumstances cannot determine, and must not be allowed to weaken, our Christian courage, peace, unshakeable hope, and enduring gratitude.  Even slavery itself was not allowed to be such a determining circumstance by Mother Church when she was so very, very near, and so very, very close to Jesus.

Let us, once again listen to Our Lord Who speaks incontrovertible truth with a divine compassion that no human ‘explanations’ or ‘shoe-horn adjustments’ can be allowed to adulterate:

The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed, the Father seeks such people to worship Him.   God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.”   (John 4:23–24)


Friday, 23 June 2017

12th Sunday of the Year (A) 2017

 12th Sunday of Year (A)
(Jeremiah 20:10-13; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33)
Jesus was speaking from His own experience when, in our Gospel reading, He told His disciples not to be afraid.  He Himself had come into this world to speak peace to God’s people and to free them from the darkness and servitude of sin by proclaiming His Gospel of salvation.  He had not been well-received by the ‘religious establishment’, and He knew that worse, including political alarm and popular disenchantment, was to follow.  Therefore, He was sending His Apostles out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel with this commission (Matthew 10:7):
As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand'
He warned them (10:16-18):
I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.   But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.  You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
Jesus' warning cannot have failed to stir them, perhaps prompting them to remember what happened to Jeremiah when God had sent him to preach forthcoming disaster and desolation to the people of Jerusalem become ‘stiff-necked’ in their disobedience; for, as you heard in the first reading, despite his divine commission, it had not made Jeremiah acceptable, on the contrary, it had been a downright dangerous message for him to deliver to God’s People:
I have heard the whispering of many, "Terror on every side! Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him!"  All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine saying: "Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him and take our revenge on him."  
And yet, discounting any possible fears that they themselves might meet such opposition, Jesus insisted that His Apostles should proclaim His message not only without fear, but to the very utmost of their powers:
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
Jesus had already spoken -- and would still continue to speak -- many things to them in the calm solitude of their evenings together, and what He had, in that way, told them privately ‘in the dark’, they were to speak publicly in full light of day.  And perhaps those words what you hear whispered is a reference to the Holy Spirit Who – according to Jesus’ promise -- would recall to their minds and hearts whatever aspects of His teaching they might otherwise have forgotten or even, perhaps, like to have forgotten.  Whatever, whether it was words Jesus' own voice had spoken in their hearing, or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit whispering to their minds and in their hearts, all had to be proclaimed without fear.
How can we today learn from Jesus’ sending His Apostles then?
The Twelve were being sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to a people that is who had been prepared over thousands of years to hopefully hear, understand, and embrace their message:
Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave.  As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.  Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.      (Matthew 10: 11-15)
That is obviously not the situation for Mother Church’s proclamation of Jesus today, but Jesus’ words and intentions still offer wise guidance for us who want to be His true disciples in our modern world where rejection of God is rampant and the exaltation of human values and expectations is blatant and verging on the ludicrous at times.  For example, learned academics of Oxford and Coventry are now giving us the results of their recent studies telling us that more sex -- for 50 to 83 year olds! – is healthy, indeed promotes health; and ‘all caveats apart, the national birth rate must be maintained’, says ‘The Times’ article.   What has happened to wisdom that used to be so lovingly sought and taught in universities?  Surely such elderly (!) parental health-witnessing or health-promoting pleasures should not be inflicted upon their children … or perhaps the prospect of any progeny is to be discounted, or any resultant ‘mistake’ got-rid-of?   I think that St. Paul has better advice than our scholars:
The one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit.   (Galatians 6:8)
People of God, there are many disciples of Jesus today, in our own society and in our Western world, who are afraid of the consequences that might result for them if they were to publicly support/proclaim the teaching of Jesus, for such teaching is not popular today just as Jesus Himself is not popular.  Of course, almost everyone today will say that Jesus was a good man, indeed, a great man; but what they do not like about Him is His claim to have a personal calling and authority, and above all, a divine dignity, which obliges all who know Him and His word to decide either for Him or against Him; and   deciding for Him would oblige them to keep His word and risk public derision or opprobrium while, on the other hand, deciding against Him might secretly threaten their eternal destiny:
Whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.  (Mark 8:38)
Therefore, despite His many kind actions and wonderful words, this Jesus of authority is unacceptable to modern society, as is the authoritative teaching of His Church; and many who want to think of themselves as disciples of Jesus actually find themselves hesitant or even afraid to proclaim the fulness of His message by their words under the misapprehension that proclaiming the Good News of Jesus means ‘taking on’ the unbelieving world around by arguing in public or hectoring individuals in private.  We have to recognize, People of God, in our post-Christian, post-religion world, that proclamation does not necessarily involve, and most certainly does not mean, arguing with enemies, it also does not necessarily mean trying to persuade people (such persuasion usually involves ‘watering down’ as an essential component).  What proclamation does mean, however, is calm and, if necessary, courageous witness to what is true and beautiful (not the latest hot-spot of public contention), something that can only be done by patient and persevering testimony.  For priests and leaders of the people, there can be, at times, an almost overwhelming temptation to seek success by flirting with popularity.  Of course, on such occasions they might even persuade themselves it is Jesus they are trying to make popular … but who could ever make popular One who never courted popularity Himself in the slightest!   Jesus wanted love that leads to personal commitment, not enthusiasm that cries out to be surrounded by others similarly excited.  Jesus’ message was neither intended nor phrased to provoke or promote His own popularity, rather He deliberately sought to challenge, inspire, and then convert, individual consciences before and for His Father.
Jesus therefore sought to comfort and strengthen the Twelve by explaining:
Fear no one.  Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.
There will be a final denouement, a day of judgment when all false colours will be lowered in shame, all injustices corrected, and when all who have suffered for God will be both acknowledged and rewarded, and that is something that we who want to be true disciples of Jesus in this modern world, as with the Twelve starting out on their first mission, must never forget.
St. Paul followed the mind and took up the purpose of Jesus when he told his converts in Corinth who were seeking to overcome the notorious corruption and depravity of that great sea-port:
The natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. 
And, because the Christian message is ultimately about redemption through the Cross of Jesus, St. Paul said quite clearly: 
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:14; 1:18)
Therefore, for the Church and for all God's good people, there will inevitably be much obloquy, suffering, and disadvantage to be experienced and indeed embraced in our time on earth, in the course of which we are neither to fear nor rebel; for both fear and rebellion come from looking at ourselves, our situation and our possibilities, whereas our hopes and expectations as Christians should all be centred on God.  St. Paul learned to wait on the Lord in this way through his many sufferings for Christ and he tells us what Jesus told the Twelve:
(Do not fear men) for the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.   (1 Corinthians 1:25)
Jesus Himself offered His disciples three motives for rejecting fear.  First of all, if you are going to fear, He said, at least fear Him Who is supremely powerful:
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 
That is basic reality and all true spirituality has to be built on reality.
However, Jesus did not limit Himself to correcting earthly fears with the greater danger and threat of supernatural loss.  Such a corrective measure can indeed hold a man back from sin, but it will hardly ever lead one to virtue, let alone love.  Therefore, He gave the apostles, and us, further advice:
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will.  (Why) the very hairs of your head are all numbered.   Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 
People of God, when our world seeks at all levels and on all occasions to justify itself, when people generally are filled with ideas of their own righteousness and totally opposed to seeing themselves as responsible before God for any sins, it is of the utmost importance for us Catholics and Christians to entertain right thoughts and develop attitudes which are spiritually healthy and productive.  First of all, we must, with the Apostles, cast out of our hearts all fear of men.  Then we must remember and realize that our natural fear is meant to relate us above all to the God Who made us, for fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and at times only a healthy fear of the Lord can save us from the solicitations of sin and the morally corrosive fear of men.  Then, however, since love is the truest motive power of any human being’s life, we must learn to love aright.  We all learn to love by being loved ourselves, and that is why Jesus went on to make clear to His apostles the love that the heavenly Father had for them:
            Why, the very hairs of your head are all numbered by the heavenly Father;
And His own appreciation of their courageous efforts:
Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.
Therefore, let us not look with fear at men, nor with anxious solicitude at our own selves, but rather let us confidently commit ourselves to the Spirit of the Lord working in our lives, and allow Him to lead us along the way of the Lord and Saviour we know and love, into the presence of Him Who is above all, in all, and through all, the One eternal Father, waiting to embrace us, in Jesus, as His own true and beloved children for eternity.