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, 28 July 2017

17th Sunday of the Year (A) 2017

 17th. Sunday of Year (A)
(1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52)

Our readings this week, my dear People of God, give us great cause for gratitude and hope.  Just think of those words of St. Paul that you heard in the second reading:

Those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers; and those He predestined He also called; and those He called He also justified; and those He justified He also glorified.

God foreknew each one of you baptized Catholics here present and predestined you to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.  How do we know that?  Because God the Father called you to faith in Jesus and -- through the waters of baptism -- to become a member of His Body the Church, where you have been endowed by the Gift of God’s Holy Spirit and were washed clean of all your sins.  Thus justified, you have also been glorified, for that outpouring of the Spirit of Christ into your soul is the beginning of a life-long process of glorification whereby the Spirit of Jesus will lead you ever further along the way of Jesus to the Father.  Every time you receive Jesus in Holy Communion and open yourself up to Him in loving gratitude and prayer, that glory, which is the presence of His Spirit in you, will shine ever more brightly for the glory of the Father.  You and I, each and every one of us, known and loved by God the Father before time in Jesus, are thus destined for eternal glory if, by the Spirit, we persevere faithfully in Jesus and His Church!

What degree of glory will be ours?  That we do not know.  But we do know that Mary, a girl from Nazareth, is now Queen of Heaven and of all the Angels, Principalities, and Powers.  Our own degree of eternal glory will depend on God’s plan for us: notice that, dear People of God, egalitarianism is not on God’s agenda for us, His universal goodness is essential to it!  It will also depend, of course, on our commitment to His Person and His will during our time on earth.  Our glorification has already begun; that we know because we love Jesus Who is in heaven and we hope for, look forward to, His heavenly promises, with the result that although subject to temptation here on earth, we are not ruled by the earthly lusts of our flesh, nor do we allow ourselves to be dominated by that earthly pride which would drive us to seek earthly success, power, and prestige above all else.  As yet, we cannot see the final result of our struggles, or the fullness of our on-going glorification, but St. John assures us that, when Christ is revealed in all His glory at the end of time, we too, who now are members of His Body and being led by His Spirit, shall be like Him and share with Him in His glory:

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.    (1 John 3:2)

What we have to do, therefore, throughout our life on earth, is to remain faithful to Jesus.  That will most certainly demand effort at times, because we have to be tested, formed, and found worthy of God’s gifts and promises; but St. Paul reassures us, as you heard in that second reading:

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

That means, that in all the events of our life, no matter how unexpected, painful, and puzzling they may be, God our Father is at work: seeking to form us by His Spirit -- through those experiences -- in the likeness of His Son, our Saviour, so that we might ultimately be able to share His glory.

Surely, therefore, dear friends in Christ, we should, indeed, regard ourselves as having found a treasure, a pearl of great price, and we should carefully listen to and try to gratefully appreciate, Jesus’ parables in today’s Gospel reading:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.   Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

There, Jesus puts before us two individuals: one, an ordinary man and chance-finder, the other, a business man and professional-searcher; two very different people yet with the same characteristic attitude, for, when they find or track down something of supreme value they both want to make it their own at whatever cost, both of them willing and glad to give all they have to acquire that treasure, such a pearl! Now, all of us here are in a similar position, for Jesus is the treasure, the pearl beyond compare, revealed to us by the Father:

No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  (John 6:44)

Why has the Father drawn us to Jesus?

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.   (John 3:16)

The Father has called us to Jesus, since, without His saving grace we would be lost in, overpowered by, the initial attractions or the ultimate horror and desolation of sin:

Whoever does not abide in Me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.   (John 15:6 NRSV)

Yes, Jesus is indeed the treasure, the pearl of great price, and each of us knows where He is to be found for our ever-greater delight and sustenance: in the life and sacraments of Mother Church, above all the Eucharist, and in her Scriptures.  Only the Spirit of Jesus, given in fullness to Mother Church, can reveal to us -- in and through her worship and teaching -- the wonder of Jesus' saving  life and love; only the Spirit of Jesus can enable us to share in the life of Jesus through the sacraments given us in Mother Church as sources of divine life and conduits of saving grace; only the Spirit can gradually fill and transfigure the thoughts of our minds and the aspirations of our hearts through the Scriptures which enshrine Mother Church’s most treasured remembrances of Him Who lived and died among men for their salvation.

One can indeed find treasures of wisdom and pearls of beauty in the various religions and traditions whereby men and women have sought and served God throughout human history.  However, the one supreme treasure, the one pearl precious beyond all compare  is Jesus of Nazareth -- God's supreme revelation of His very own Being of Love, in His only begotten Son-made-man, by His Gift of the Spirit of them both – Who is to be found uniquely in the Catholic and Christian Eucharist and in the Scriptures of the Universal Church which is His Body, and which is unfailingly sustained and infallibly guided by God’s Holy Spirit to lead mankind into all truth about eternal life and salvation.

The question now is: what are you doing about that treasure, what efforts are you willing to make to ensure that that pearl offered you may indeed become yours for all eternity?

Pope St. Gregory the Great tells a story which goes something like this: imagine someone going on, let us say, a journey on the Orient Express, travelling in luxury towards some wonderful destination, let us imagine, Venice.  It is a long journey; deliberately so, because the trip is meant to embrace many places of great interest along the way: places of beauty such as mountain villages and places of curious attraction, such as ancient bazaars.  Let us further imagine that the train stops at some of these places and, on one particular day, allows passengers to alight in order to visit a bazaar, a most famous one, during a two-hour stop by the Orient Express.  One of the passengers goes from stall to stall, into one bar or boutique after another; he haggles here and there for bargains to take back, and in this delightful process forgets all about the ultimate destination for which he had set out on this long, expensive, journey!  He forgets about Venice, the uniquely situated and wonderfully adorned city of history, culture and beauty, he forgets all about the friends awaiting him there, and loses himself in that smelly bazaar, distracted by little trinkets peddled by the hawkers there, and he misses, indeed forgets all about, the train.  What a fool! 

People of God, so many Christians, so many Church members, are like that foolish traveller, allowing themselves to be distracted from seeking the Lord by the pleasures and cares of life.  Others there are, who once were true servants of the Lord, but who -- over time – disastrously allowed themselves to lose their early fervour.  We saw this in the life of King Solomon -- beloved of God -- as we heard in the first reading:

In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of Me and I will give it to you.”  Solomon answered: “O LORD, my God, You have made me, Your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.   Give Your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge Your people and to distinguish right from wrong.   For who is able to govern this vast people of Yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.

So, God said to him: “Because you have asked for understanding so that you may know what is right— I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.

Again, the Lord advised him:

If you live in My presence as your father David lived, sincerely and uprightly, doing just as I have commanded you, keeping My statutes and decrees,  I will establish your throne of sovereignty over Israel forever.

However, King Solomon did not persevere in following the Lord’s statutes and commandments, becoming distracted from God’s ways by his successes, by the loves of his life, and by the praises lavished on him:

When Solomon was old his wives turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the LORD his God, as the heart of his father David had been.   The LORD, therefore, became angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, Who had appeared to him twice.

People of God, the gospel-treasure hidden in the Scriptures, the pearl at the centre of Church life, is Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, now become our glory and our Saviour, and Who will be our sublimely rich reward:

I rejoice in Your Word like one who discovers a great treasure. (Ps. 119:162 NLT)

The Father has called us to Jesus, to His Word, giving us His Holy Spirit to guide, support, and sustain us in our search for Him Who is our Light and our Salvation, Whose Truth and gift of Self is indeed our very Life.  Let us not, therefore, be led astray by earthly pleasures or worldly worries; let us not be deceived by the earthly security promised by money or by popularity; neither let us be put off by the earthly anxieties or trials which are an unavoidable part of our Christian life and calling today.  We are on a journey and our destination is eternal glory as children of God in Jesus; we must press on to the end, we must persevere in seeking Jesus, because that is the hall-mark of a true Catholic and Christian.  Otherwise, if the Spirit is no longer able to move us in Jesus towards the Father, then we might become like those nominal Catholics mentioned in our third parable today, caught and become bad fish in the Church’s net:

The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, (and) which, when it was full, they drew to shore; (there) they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.

People of God, such is not the destiny before us who sincerely love Jesus; it is for us to persevere, seeking for and walking with Jesus, as the prophet Micah (6:8) advises:

You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Finally, dear Catholic and Christian people, notice something that is in every one of our Sunday readings and which it is absolutely essential for us to know and advert to today, for it totally distinguishes us as believers in Jesus from all those non-believers who proclaim so loudly and preach so fervently their pseudo-philosophical and politically-popular ethics, namely the existence,  the importance, and indeed the ultimately decisive reality of divinely distinguished GOOD as distinct from BAD, of RIGHT from WRONG:

O Lord my God, give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people and to distinguish right from wrong.

We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them(NLT)

The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea.  When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets, what is bad they throw away.  Thus it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Friday, 21 July 2017

16th Sunday Year A 2017

16th Sunday Year (A)

 (Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43) 

Today, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the parable of the tares, the darnel, or, as we would call them, the weeds, sown in a field of good corn, we have Jesus’ answer to those who complain about, or accuse, Mother Church in order to justify their own lack of faith.  Their complaint, their accusation, frequently ends like this: “You don't need to go to Church in order to live a good life.”

Strangely enough, the supremely devout Pharisees of Jesus’ time were somewhat akin to some of our faithless Catholics today in the sense that both like to imagine an exclusive religious community into which only those considered holy are to be admitted. One great grief the Pharisees had against Jesus was that He did not accept their oral traditions as true criteria for holiness, for He demanded from His disciples a holiness greater than that of the Pharisees.  On the other hand, He did not despise some individuals commonly regarded as sinners nor did He refuse contact with them; indeed, He was, at times, to be found eating and drinking with them, and even went so far as to call one of them to become His disciple!

Minutely observing Jesus’ behaviour, the Scribes and Pharisees were constantly repeating to themselves thoughts like to those of Simon, their fellow Pharisee who, once having invited Jesus to a meal in his home, found himself mentally criticising Jesus’ patient indulgence towards a reputedly sinful woman who had ‘thrust’ herself, uninvited, among their company:

This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner. (Luke 7:39)

Even John the Baptist, sent to prepare the way for Jesus, may have had a certain natural sympathy with Simon and the Pharisees, for didn't he say of Jesus (Lk. 3:16-17):
I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, and He will gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire?

John, however, actually proclaimed that the One coming after him, the Messiah -- baptizing indeed with the Holy Spirit and fire and thoroughly winnowing and cleansing His threshing floor -- would definitively, and in the name of God, separate the wheat from the chaff, whereas the Pharisees considered they themselves, here and now, to be sufficiently learned, manifestly holy, and legally authorized, to separate the good from the bad as they might see best.

John was right, Jesus, the Messiah will gather the wheat into his barn and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire; but He will do that in His Father’s own good time; and until that judgement time, all who are called, both good and bad, devout and neglectful, will remain together in the field of Jesus’ planting, which is His Church.

Of course, we are not considering here those who openly and seriously contemn the teaching of Mother Church or those who would openly lead astray her faithful by their bad example, for St. Paul -- whom we so often today fear to follow -- clearly instructed his converts to get rid of such people: here we are thinking of those who, like weeds, hide themselves among the corn; those who outwardly seem to be part of the living, growing, fruit-promising crop, but inwardly are not.  Bearing that in mind, let us listen again to Jesus’ answer to His own ancient adversaries and to His Church’s modern critics:
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.  The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?'  But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.   Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”'

That pseudo-wheat mentioned in Jesus’ parable was well known in those days and was considered a great nuisance.  It resembled wheat in appearance but had no marketable value, nor was it of any use for eating.  The rabbis described it as “prostituted wheat”.  Sowing this stuff in someone’s field was a well-known crime: the Romans had a law against such actions, which said that “If you have sown tares into another’s field so that you might damage its productivity, not only can the master (of that field) act with force or covertly, but … also he can sue for damages.”   Jesus was telling a parable about events that were part and parcel of the lives of those listening to Him.

Notice, first of all, that this parable shows us that Jesus knows full that there are weeds as well as wheat to be found in mother Church.  Indeed, in His parable, the problem is so urgent that the master’s workers say: “Should we root out these weeds at once?”  The master, however, knows more about the agricultural issues involved: for the roots of the tares are mixed together with those of the wheat, pull one up and you draw both. Therefore, he decides to delay the removal of the weeds: while the crop is growing let both weeds and wheat remain together; however, when it is harvest time, the wheat is to be separated and put into the barn, while the tares are to be bound into bundles for burning for, though they are useless for food, they can be used as fuel for the fire.

What, therefore, is the teaching of Jesus for us today, People of God? 

To answer that question, we must look carefully at today’s readings since they could, at first glance, seem to be concerned that no impressions be gathered nor thoughts admitted about who are good Catholics and who are not good Catholics.  Indeed, the Gospel could be easily misunderstood to imply that since it is only for the Lord to judge, therefore, until His judgement time, all disciples are to live and worship together in mutual acceptance, appreciation, and affirmation …. a nice family where no one rocks the boat by disapproving of what others might be doing or by seeking standards higher than those popularly acceptable.  Such an attitude has, of course, already penetrated and permeated some parishes with the result that both the dignity of divine worship and the integrity of catholic moral teaching are being disregarded or called into question, and such behaviour is being tolerated, falsely, in the name of fraternal charity.  True fraternal charity, however, is intended to support and indeed gently raise the level and increase the beauty of Christian life in the Church of Christ, not to accommodate, let alone facilitate, a gradual downward slide in the integrity of Catholic worship and moral aspirations.

However, that is certainly not the concern of today’s Gospel reading which is totally centred on the kingdom of heaven in its earthly constitution and development.   There are, indeed, individual members in that kingdom, both good and bad, but it is the good of the kingdom itself which is the supreme consideration; and this is put before us that we might, in all things, both have present concern for and ultimate confidence in Mother Church, the beginning for us here on earth of the kingdom of heaven.

People of God, we should not to allow ourselves to be over-scandalized, and most certainly not put-off Mother Church, because of the behaviour of individuals, be they every so highly placed, ever so many, ever so arrogant or despicable.  We must never forget those words of St. Peter in answer to Our Lord (John 6:67–68):

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”   Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Nor should we ever become despondent over Mother Church in her trials, no matter how powerful or popular her enemies may become; because in every parable of today’s Gospel reading God’s wheat is finally and successfully gathered in, the minute mustard seed becomes a tree offering shelter and refuge, and the yeast ultimately permeates and leavens the chosen measure.

The corn sown by Jesus can grow only in the field which He, the Lord and Saviour, has chosen; any seed that falls by the wayside, among thorns or on the stony path, surely perishes in one way or another.  The seed of Jesus’ planting is His Word proclaimed authoritatively by the Apostles chosen by Jesus and subsequently sent out by Him to bring His Good News to the whole world, and such seed can only grow in Jesus' Church, watered by life-giving showers of His Most Holy Spirit.  Moreover, in that field there will always be true and faithful workers to be found, called and appointed by the Master to look after the seed He has sown; and through them, by His Spirit, He will always provide His People with the guidance and spiritual nourishment they need, nor He will ever fail to endow them with the grace and spiritual inspiration necessary for their supernatural fulfilment.  

There is an aspect of life in the Church for the Kingdom, however, that is not always sufficiently appreciated by Church members today but which is perfectly obvious to any present-day large-scale farmer just as it was to our Gospel’s little field-owner watching his crop grow; namely, the fact that, just as weeds hinder the growth, the vitality, and the quality of a good crop, so also those of sinful life in the Church harm all who are in the Church.  This is what we must bear in mind today when we see Mother Church disfigured in so many ways, short of vocations, and bereft of children.  The disfigurement we may be tempted to complain about is brought upon her by her own children’s sins: and indeed, to some extent, by the wrong we ourselves may have done or the good we may have failed to promote or protect.  Rather, therefore, than allowing ourselves to give way to so-called righteous indignation (which should really be recognized as self-righteous indignation) about this or that aspect  of the Church, we should pity her, love her all the more, because she is suffering for the sins of those she believed were her true children; and I doubt whether there has ever been anything done or perpetrated by others throughout the history of Mother Church which does not find some trace or echo in our own personal weaknesses and failings as Catholics in Mother Church today.

Sometimes in films and fiction, and even in the liberal talk of those wanting to show themselves in a popular light, we are presented with the picture of a jolly sinner, a loveable rogue, an attractive scoundrel; or again, with a Christian who understands all, sympathizes with and embraces all, condemning no sin for such great love of the sinner, and apparently having no convictions other than a desire to accommodate with whatever is with men.   In actual fact though, such sinners, rogues, and paragons, are the very wolves in sheep's clothing of which the Gospel elsewhere speaks and assures us that they only tend to kill and destroy, for there is nothing lovable in condoned sin and indulged weakness.

People of God, we should always have a loving, personal, concern for and commitment to, Mother Church, and therefore we must always confidently hope and trust in Jesus, as we were encouraged in the first reading:

Your might is the source of justice; Your mastery over all things makes You lenient to all; (and) You show Your might when the perfection of Your power is disbelieved.   But though You are master of might, You judge with clemency, and with much lenience You govern us; for power, whenever You will, attends You.

And it is to His Spirit that we should always turn in our prayers and needs, for the Holy Spirit has been given both to protect Mother Church and to form each and every one of us, uniquely, in Jesus, for the Father.  Remember and treasure the words of St. Paul in our second reading:

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.   And the One who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because It intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

Friday, 14 July 2017

15th Sunday of the Year (A) 2017

 15th Sunday, Year (A)     
(Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23)

Jesus had just told the crowd gathered round Him the parable of the sower; His disciples were puzzled by what appeared to be story-telling and so they asked Him, in private:

Why do You speak to them in parables?

He answered and said to them:

Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

As a man on earth Jesus was truly humble before His Father in Heaven, He knew full well that, as He said on another occasion (John 6:44):

No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him.

He always noticed and appreciated what His Father was doing at any given time and in any set of circumstances, and it was for that very reason that He had just addressed the crowds in parables because, as He said:

To know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has not been given to them.

Notice that Jesus never felt any need to justify His Father before men … some so-called disciples in today’s Church, and most pagans in today’s politically correct society, not knowing the Father, will cry ‘injustice’ at such apparently preferential discrimination in God’s treatment of Jesus’ disciples as distinct from the throng of followers.  Jesus, however, was both too humble to have anything but the utmost reverence for His Father’s actions and decisions, and also too truthful to have any ‘politically correct’, emotionally self-centered, appreciation of the people He had come to save.

He would certainly have been aware that the majority of those crowding round Him were not there because they  wanted to learn from His teaching, but rather out of curiosity … for Jesus was the most renowned and controversial figure they would come across not only that day, week, month or year, or indeed throughout their whole lives  … and their attention could only be held by the simple and interesting human story put before them in the parable, not by any consuming desire on their part for heavenly teaching or spiritual guidance. 

Therefore, because they were doing just what Isaiah had foretold:

Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive,

Jesus spoke to them in parables so that, for the time being at least, they might retain something of the tale that had interested them and the words Jesus had used; later on perhaps, in His Father’s Providence, those words might still be able to bear fruit when and if the minds and hearts of those now listening had grown both more humble and mature in their human appreciation and more responsive to the working of the Spirit of God in their lives.

But there was more than that.  Today people are so involved in communication of all sorts: not just TV. and radio, but above all, the mobile-phone networks offering seemingly endless personal outlets for whatever details of their lives people may be moved to open up to public awareness and discussion.   Thus consulted at every hand, the opinion of the crowd is today accorded a fearful ‘respect’ it should not have in rational thought.  The crowd can be fiercely partisan though only partially informed or even ill-informed; and yet, few in power or authority dare gainsay or resist it since it has something of the ‘infallibility’ of weeping women or of beautiful and innocent children obediently shouting out words put on their smiling lips by adults incapable of so beautiful a presentation.

It was not like that with Jesus: speaking with His disciples about the throng following Him. He quoted, and whole-heartedly approved of, the prophet Isaiah’s words:

Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’

In Jesus’ appreciation of and response to the people He knew so well, we can glimpse something of the sublimely patient humility of God Who, though being infinitely wise, true, and ‘unfoolable’, nevertheless in His true love He here accommodates Himself to men’s needs by using simple parables to attract – even, perhaps, at times to lightly amuse – as well as to instruct them.  In like manner, His Holy Spirit, given to us and working in and with us, constantly adapts His divine holiness and power to our wilfulness, weakness, self-satisfaction, and worldliness.

However, when and where Jesus was able to speak more directly and sublimely, it gave Him such great joy, as on this occasion, to say to His apostles:

Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Many prophets and righteous men had not been allowed to see the Word of God made flesh; they had never heard words conveying divine truth spoken by God such as today Jesus had addressed to the crowd.  Oh! most blessed Apostles what joy you are giving to your Lord surrounded by a throng of those:

So gross of heart, they will hardly hear with their ears; and have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes.

The expression ‘Word of God’ brings to our mind, first of all, the second Person of the most Holy Trinity, begotten of the Father from all eternity, before all time.  Then it denotes, Jesus, the Word of God made flesh for us  in time, Jesus the divine yet human Person Whom we have touched and seen, the Saviour Who will introduce us into the presence of His Father at the end of time.  Finally, it speaks to us of God’s saving message, spoken originally through the prophets and culminating ultimately in the Good News of Jesus Himself, which -- enshrined in the Scriptures -- resounds through all time and in all the earth thanks to the proclamation of holy Mother Church.   It is of this latter ‘word of God’ that Isaiah spoke in our first reading:

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
Ultimately that word of proclamation is one and the same word, whether heard softly in parables or sublimely in teaching; the only difference is due, not indeed to divine partiality, but simply to human preparedness to receive and willingness to bear fruit:

Behold, a sower went out to sow.  As he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; some fell on stony places, and some fell among thorns; but others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.   He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

However, there is yet another way -- more pervasive and simple -- whereby the Word of God can reach and speak both secretly and most piercingly to men, and it comes from the world that sustains and embraces us, from the universe that challenges and inspires us, one and all created out of nothingness by the word of God:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  And God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so.  And God saw that it was good. …. God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness.  And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1: 1, 11, 16-18)

Still today the silent voice of creation sounds around us and it can, at any moment, strike up a deep resonance within us:

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.  Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)

The Spirit Who has been bequeathed to us in Mother Church as the Holy Spirit of both Jesus and the Father, the Spirit Who seeks to guide us along the way of Jesus back to the Father, is that same Spirit Who was present in the beginning:

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.       (Genesis 1:2-4)

He still hovers over what He has made – be it inanimate or just voiceless -- and, with supreme artistry, He is able to touch the strings of creation in such a way as to bring forth music of heavenly beauty for us whom He is seeking to lead along the way of Jesus, so that our lives too might resound with and reflect something of that soul-pervading harmony, and thus come to proclaim in faith and truth the glory of God our Father.

That music of what is voiceless, become sublimely beautiful thanks to the artistry of the Spirit, can thus express not only creation’s being but our own deepest selves as St. Paul well knew:

All creation is groaning in labour pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Here again, in this context, we can apply those words of Jesus in the Gospel:

It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
Therefore, creation looks to and waits for us, as St. Paul said:

Creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the One Who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.

People of God, our readings and our celebration today are meant to renew our awareness of and delight in the mystery and the majesty of our calling which is, indeed, hardly able to be outlined even in the Scriptures, witness St. Paul, who himself once experienced heavenly things he was unable to describe or speak of in human words.  Nevertheless, we do find in the book of Revelation (21:1-5) – what is, perhaps, Scriptures final attempt to do what is not really possible with human words -- to reveal something of the goodness and glory of the Father in heaven:

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, and I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."  Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."

That glorious new heaven and new earth will be centred on Christ for He will be its light and splendour; and because He is both Lord and Saviour of mankind His true disciples will dwell there, being held in high honour and knowing eternal peace and joy:
The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.  There shall be no night there, and its gates shall not be shut at all by day, and the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light.  They shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it, but there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. (21:23-27)

Into that glorious city of God the waters of life flow from the very throne of God and of the Lamb; and of those waters we are able to have a foretaste here on earth if we can but hear something of the beautiful song of creation around us, and if we will but allow the Spirit to open our hearts and minds to learn from the word of God preached, and the Word of God present, in Mother Church (1 Corinthians 3:21-4:1):

For all things are yours: whether the world or life or death, or things present or things to come--all are yours.  And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.          

t from Mail for Windows 10

Friday, 7 July 2017

14th Sunday of the Year (A) 2017

        14th. Sunday of Year (A)
                    (Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30)

My dear People of God, in the Gospel reading you have just heard Jesus was addressing His Father in the first two verses:

I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.   Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.

In the next verse Jesus was speaking about His Father:

All things have been delivered (entrusted) to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

And finally, He was speaking directly to us when He said:

Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, 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.

In those final words Jesus promises rest to the weary and burdened; but notice, He speaks not of the physical rest commonly experienced, He speaks of a “rest for your souls”, a rest transcending all the terror and turmoil of this world, all the secret anxieties and anguish of our minds and hearts.

How are the weary and burdened to find this unique and definitive rest?

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

Jesus’ teaching, People of God, can be summarized as follows: all who are wearied and overwhelmed by troubles -- deserved or underserved -- should turn to Jesus for true rest.  The rest He promises is neither bodily nor even mental, no, He promises rest for the soul: a rest that cannot be overwhelmed by physical burdens or mental stress, nor can it be compromised or embittered by them.  This most wonderful rest -- even in the midst of trials and tribulations of all sorts -- is a rest from the assaults and depredations of sin, a rest before, and with confidence in, God; a rest only for those who will take Jesus’ yoke upon themselves, it is for those who, by putting their faith and trust in Him and striving to live according to His word, allow themselves to be gradually formed in the likeness of their Lord by His most holy Spirit.

There are many people today who, far from wanting that gift of peace from Jesus, desire, above all, to feel thrills of pleasure and excitement – hence they resort to drugs, to glorying in whatever moments of pride, power and prominence, satisfaction and sensuality may come their way; and, as a result, they never cease to weary and burden themselves with further troubles;  with sins, new and old, constantly being stirred  up and exacerbated by such striving for earthly, sensible, and passing satisfactions.  For, as those sought-after moments of excitement, pleasure, and exultation inevitably become less frequent and less satisfying, they find themselves more and more aware of a gnawing fear of that inevitable time when -- either through old age or suffering, or even through the dreadful curse of boredom -- weariness will cloud over their search for worldly fulfilment and they will find themselves empty, embittered, and alone, being forced to recognize that what they once had considered best and most desirable has finally shown itself to be both empty and unfulfilling.

And yet, my dear people, rest is not the greatest gift Jesus offers, nor is it the supreme secret He has to teach us.  You will remember that for the greater part of our Gospel reading Jesus was speaking to or about His Father.  To the weary and overburdened He offers rest first of all, indeed; but for those who, having become His disciples and, through faithful perseverance, have also begun to experience something of His rest, He puts before them the prospect of a far greater blessing yet to come.  For it is His desire, not simply to give them a foretaste of heavenly rest here on earth, but to lead them to experience something of the glory and splendour of their heavenly and eternal fulfilment in His Father’s presence:

All things have been delivered (entrusted) to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father.  Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

People of God, “no one knows the Father except the Son”, that we can understand; but what follows is the supreme manifestation of the infinite love of God, namely, the fact that the Son chooses to reveal the Father to His faithful and persevering disciples.  In fact, He makes knowledge of the Father -- that is, a personal appreciation of, relationship with, and responsiveness to, His Father -- a sign or token of authentic discipleship: true disciples of Jesus should know their heavenly Father in such a P/personal way because Jesus has taught us that, in order to pray as His disciples, we must learn to use and to mean the  word ‘Father’ as he would have us, in the prayer He gave us as the norm and model for all our prayers.

We can glimpse further along this road of true discipleship if we consider the words of the apostle Philip who once said to Jesus:

Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us. (John 14:8)

Philip was indeed orientated in the right direction, because he did long to see the Father; but Jesus was truly disappointed at the little progress Philip seemed to be making, and His disappointment was such that He suggested that Philip hardly knew Him at all:

Have I been with you so long, and yet you still do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?   (John 14:9-10)

Jesus obviously considered that His whole life’s mission was to make the Father Personally known and loved; and, consequently, He found it both disappointing and frustrating that Philip who -- as a chosen apostle -- had both shared His presence and experienced His teaching so intimately and for so long still seemed unable to recognize the Father in Jesus Himself.

People of God, this awareness of and love for the Father is what Jesus longs to see in us above all else; but it is a shared knowledge, shared by Jesus with us: it can never be our own possession, it is ours only in, with, and through Jesus.  Therefore, if we have no longing for the Father, no desire to see Him, no awareness of His beauty, wisdom, goodness and power, then we have not yet come to know Jesus.  Jesus’ gift of rest for the weary and the burdened is as nothing compared to that which His very being cries out to bestow: that is, knowledge of and love for His and our, your and my, Father.

Jesus knew full well that it was His Father Who sent His disciples to Him (John 6:44):

No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him.

and Jesus the Son longed to reciprocate.  He desired above all else to bring those the Father had entrusted to His care to recognize the One Whose call had led them unknowingly thus far; and in coming to recognize Him as Father, to love, praise and serve Him as true sons and daughters of His, with and in Jesus, by His Holy Spirit:

Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Philip, Jesus feared, apparently knowing so little of the Father, could not, as yet, have come to know Jesus Himself truly, despite such close proximity and intimate communion with Him.

People of God, how long have you been receiving the Eucharist?  Have you really come to know Jesus: not with mere book knowledge, not with a knowledge of ritual and prescriptions, but with a living, loving, personal knowledge?  If you want to know the answer, it is not hard to find.  Do you love, long to know more of, the Father?  If not, then no matter what facts or opinions you may know about Jesus, no matter how long you may have been attending Mass and receiving Communion or practicing devotions and doing good works, you still have not come to know Him anywhere near well enough.

Dear people, ask Jesus to help you come to know the Father.  There can be nothing more fulfilling and glorious than such knowledge of the all holy, all wise, totally beautiful and infinitely good God, because such knowledge, appreciation, and love, is, actually, the unshackled presence of the Spirit, the bond of love between Father and Son, dwelling and active within each of us.  That is the beginning, even here on earth, of heavenly life and beatitude, and here St. Paul’s advice (1 Corinthians 12:31), is sublimely pertinent and helpful:

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.  But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

What is that way?  You will well remember how Paul went on (13:13) to describe it:

Faith, hope, love (caritas), remain, these three; but the greatest of these is caritas.  

Caritas, charity, is the word for that heavenly love for the Father of which Jesus has been speaking to us in the Gospel today.  Follow Paul’s advice: seek the Father in Jesus and seek Jesus in the Father; for, for those who find, that is not just rest in present toils, People of God, that is a foretaste of Life itself, eternal, and glorious.