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, 29 September 2017

26th Sunday of the Year A 2017

 26th. Sunday of Year (A)
(Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11; Saint Matthew (21:28-32)

Dear People of God, the Gospel passage you have just heard is closely connected with another saying of Jesus (Matthew 7:21):

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven.

Notice the repetition of the word ‘heaven’.  That indicates to us that it is no arbitrary decision of God which decides whether or not people enter Kingdom of Heaven; but rather, that where the Father is, there is heaven, and to be in heaven is to be with the Father, one with Him; and consequently, to attain to that ultimate union with Him in heaven, we must necessarily prepare ourselves here on earth by doing His will, conforming ourselves to His likeness, that is, to Jesus, perfect God-become-man, as much as we can in all things:

Jesus said, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father.  (John 14:9)

Therefore, to be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven it is not a matter of observing prescribed rules of conduct set before us as a test of our blind obedience and subjection … no, it is a matter of growing in the life and likeness of the Father, as His adoptive children that is, through faith in and loving commitment to Jesus – come from and sent by the Father.  To merely obey rules there is little need for personal involvement; at times, one can do it almost automatically.  There is no need, that is, to be involved with anyone other than oneself; and at this juncture, those who claim to live a good life and say that they are following their conscience, are so mistaken; because to live, to try to live a heavenly life, a life for heaven, it is absolutely necessary to re-orientate our lives and centre them no longer on ourselves (our own conscience) because the new life – offered us by Jesus via His most Holy Spirit – is a share in God’s life, a sheer, and totally gratuitous gift.

The type of change that has to be brought about in us is well characterized by the prophet Ezekiel who writes:

            I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities,   and   from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new  spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you        hearts of flesh.   I will put My Spirit within you and make you live by My statutes,    careful to observe My decrees.      (Ezekiel 36:25–27)

The heart of stone which is excellent for the blind observance of impersonal rules and the meticulous execution of mere ritual, is to be replaced with a heart of human flesh and a new, divine, spirit, because all our initiatives are to be divinely ordained.

That fusion of human divine is to be the supreme, all absorbing task of our lives … as true disciples of Jesus.

In Our Lord’s parable today, a man asked both his sons to work in his vineyard; one answered automatically, ‘Yes’ but did not, in fact, go; the other opened himself up, becoming personally involved as he confronted his own personal preferences -- perhaps plans of some standing -- with the immediate wishes of his father, and, needing to give an immediate reply, he answered, ‘I will not’. Notice his honesty, he did not say ‘I cannot’, but ‘I will not’.  The resultant situation was wrong, he realized that almost immediately afterwards.  However, his process, so to speak, had been right initially: he had confronted his own wishes with those of his father … and although after momentary consideration he had chosen wrongly, nevertheless, the relationship he had with his father had demanded first of all that he spoke truthfully to him and that relationship subsequently showed up the bluntness, the harsh bluntness of his words, and the lack of respect in his attitude to his father; that he could not sustain and immediately, he changed his mind and went.  He had taken both himself and his father, and indeed their long-lived-mutual-relationship seriously, and if a man does that with the Gospel message there is real hope, the parable encourages us to think, that he will be likely to say ‘Yes’.

With the other son, however, his automatic words of obedience did not demand that he look into his own heart, nor that he listen seriously to his father, his words were simply a way of ‘keeping the old man quiet’ while he himself could do what he wanted now and perhaps, later on, say a hypocritical ‘Sorry’.

People of God, too many nominal Catholics do the same as that second son: following certain religious practices but living their professed faith on automatic pilot, so to speak, with no sincere mind or human heart behind whatever appears to make them Catholics, seeking only their immediate natural desires and worldly pleasures, while all the time allowing their Catholic and Christian life-blood to drain away until it exists no longer as a force in their lives.

In all our relations with God we need to open up our human hearts first of all to the questioning light of God’s truth and the encouraging warmth of His love: I doubt very much that the ‘automatically speaking' second son truly realized why, what were the heart-felt motives why, he didn’t want to accede to his father’s request, and he certainly didn’t consider the dismissive manner of his response in the light of the respect he owed his father and the future benefits he still expected to receive from his father.

Dear People of God, the Gospel puts questions to us at times, questions that can reveal truth about ourselves in so far as we try sincerely to answer them.  For many, however, such questions are too often side-stepped and disregarded.  The Gospel tells us that mankind is weighed down by sin of every sort, but today the majority happily pretend to have no awareness of sin in their lives.  Jesus died for us -- to save us, His brothers and sisters, from the consequences of our sins -- and most people today only see Him as a foolish man, One Who probably meant well but was pathetically misguided.  Again, modern men reject as humanly degrading any idea that God can command their obedience and yet the vast majority are totally subservient to whatever might be the prevailing mantra in their society.  On every hand the Gospel challenges are rejected by mockery and a refusal to see what is true:  minimal dress only shows the beauty of women, foul language only emphasises manliness, while salaciousness serves to promote nothing worse than human conviviality.   Innocence reigns, the Gospel is wrong:

            The Lord’s way/judgement is not fair!

Those Gospel questions need to be humbly considered before being answered; we need to commune with them in our hearts of flesh in order to know what they really mean for us, what response they stir up in us; and we must clothe our considered response with human warmth and sincere devotion, the commitment of our personal and individual act of faith.  It is a matter of recognizing Jesus as Our God and Saviour and embracing His Gospel in the plenitude of its fullness, as presented to us in Mother Church’s proclamation that is, and casting it like some divine fuel on the embers of our warm human hearts.  The resultant flames, divine and human in origin, will blaze for God’s glory and shine -- around and afar -- for the honour of the Name of Jesus.

Our Blessed Lord was, and is, perfect Man.  Being perfect God by nature of His being the only-begotten Son, the Word, of God, He became – sent by the Father, and born on earth of the Virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit – man, true man, perfect Man.  And we now, becoming divine by His grace and the Gift of His most Holy Spirit, are called also to become, in Him, fully, truly, perfectly human with sin totally uprooted from our lives.

Life is a glorious prospect and adventure, because the ultimate discovery, so to speak, is unique in each one of us, being the intimate fusion and balance of God and man in each one of us, as planned by God in creating us.  It is a discovery because it can only be found by being lived with Jesus, by the Holy Spirit living and working in us, for the Father, in the fullness of the Catholic and Christian faith.  As St. Paul said in our second reading:

                        Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

Friday, 22 September 2017

25th Sunday of Year A 2017

25th. Sunday of Year (A)

(Isaiah 55:6-9; Paul to the Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-16)

At the simple hearing of today’s Gospel reading it is hard not to feel a certain sympathy for the man who complained about having worked all day for the same wage as those who had only done one hour’s work.  We might feel sympathy, that is, for one unable to understand aright what has happened to the super-blessing he imagined would be his, but not sympathy with one totally forgetful of the needs of his fellows and grudgingly unwilling to appreciate the goodness of the vine-owner towards anyone other than himself.

The situation of the poor in the Palestine of Our Lord’s days was hard indeed, and the most remarkable aspect of Jesus’ parable was the fact that the vine-owner fully appreciated not only the ‘market’ needs of daily labourers but also their ‘home’ needs: with wives and children, old parents, all depending on this one day’s work (there were no jobs guaranteed, no pensions available): no work for her man, for their son, and no food for all of them!  Who knows, perhaps there had already been one or two such workless, foodless, days in this particular week.

The owner of the vineyard had a deep sympathy with these men for whom all that they loved and valued depended on so slender a thread as one or two day’s work.  He above all felt a deep compassion for those who had – through no fault of their own – been idle (and worrying?) for almost the whole day.  What good would a mere one hour’s pay be for their needs and those of their dependants?  He makes up his mind at once: he will not send these men back home almost empty-handed …. those who run to greet them back home must not be disappointed … their children must be able to run excitedly and tell mummy what daddy has got for them today!  Can you not imagine the blessings that would have been called down upon his head by those poor families?

This is the picture which Our Lord wishes to give us of His heavenly Father Whose decisions in our regard are always motivated by His loving compassion.   That was how the work of our salvation began.  Man was under the bondage of sin and could not help himself, so God took pity on him just as the owner of the vineyard had compassion for the workless labourers and their needy families.

But there is something more in the parable.  It gives us the picture of a Lord and God Who is just to all, good and gracious to all; but, to certain ones He is especially merciful.  God offers salvation to all men, His blessings and graces are amply sufficient for all; but for some chosen souls His mercy is boundless and overflowing.  God just and merciful to all, yet also supremely free to make a special choice of whomsoever He will.  Here we are introduced to the mystery of Predestination.

What is it that claims our faith?   First of all, the Person of Jesus Christ: God made man for our salvation.  Then, the sacred Scriptures, the dogmatic teaching of Mother Church: above all, the mysteries of the most Holy Trinity, the Gift of the Holy Spirit; the founding of the one, true, catholic and apostolic Church which is the Body of Christ; her sacraments and the spiritual life, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgement?   Eternal Life and Beatitude….?  Yes, all of these in their degree require our faith.  But along with all these great and wonderful ‘objective’ mysteries of Catholic Faith, there is also the ‘personal’ mystery of predestination which concerns each one of us individually and most intimately: the mystery of what position God has assigned to each one of us in His great plan, the mystery of what He expects of each of us, of you and me, as we try to live out our Catholic faith at any and every stage of our lives?

This mystery of our personal predestination is a very great mystery of love, not subject even to the disposition of Our Lord Himself, as Jesus said to the sons of Zebedee, James and John who asked … or    whose mother asked … for places of privilege in His Kingdom:

My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at My right and at My left is not Mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.      (Matthew 20:23)

What is ahead of each of us?  How are we to respond, to co-operate best, so that His will be fulfilled in me, that thus I might attain to the place He, in His great love, has prepared for me and to which He calls me each and every day long?

Perhaps someone is thinking, ‘Oh, that’s not very hard to answer: believe Mother Church’s dogmatic teaching, follow approved moral teaching, and all will be well.’

But, precisely, the question is, ‘How does God want me to live, respond to, the Church’s universal teaching?  Moral theologians give guidance that is suited to all Catholics.  I, however, want to know what God wants of me in particular.  St. Paul writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:12) says:

            All things are lawful for me but not all things are beneficial.

One only has need to look at the saints to see what immense scope there is for variety in response to the challenge of the one, true, Catholic faith, and in the choice of generally acceptable moral decisions that may be made.  To simply find out what is allowed and then to do it without further thought, however, is not sufficient if I am to fulfil my destiny, become the person God wants of me and attain that personal relationship with Himself that God has planned for me and for me alone: for me, that is, in my relationship with Him as His true, adopted child who, in Jesus, seeks to know his Father, and wants to respond lovingly to Him by His Holy Spirit.  The way to life is narrow, how am I to walk best along that way?? 

In order to help us make our personal response in faith to the destiny that God has set for each one of us, I recommend that we follow the example of the Scriptures.  Israel escaped from Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, received the Law on Mount Sinai, traversed the desert, entered and took possession of the Promised Land … and all these events were taken up by the psalmists and prophets before God, in thanksgiving and prayer that they might more worthily praise His great goodness and more fully understand His saving purposes. Ever blessing God for what He had done for her in the past Israel lived through the subsequent centuries constantly looking forward to God’s promises, learning from her past experience of God to anticipate and prepare for her future with Him.

Dear People of God, such is the path we should follow.  We should thank God for all the wondrous things He has done for Jesus and His Church, above all for the mysteries of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension … and indeed that is precisely what we are doing here at Mass.  But there are other wondrous deeds which God performs for each one of us personally, of which we alone are aware, deeds which, though they are not of world-wide significance, yet precisely, because they are personal to each one of us and for each one of us, can, should, and indeed must, be used to serve as great stimulants and guides in our service of God. This is a liturgy which each one of us alone can celebrate, and if we do not celebrate it, then there will be one harmonic missing, which no-one else save Our Lord can supply, in the great symphony of praise rising from Mother Church to the throne of God.  These are the events, the happenings, in our lives which though they may seem ordinary enough to other people, nevertheless, we – as did Israel of old – see them unmistakeably as the effects of God’s great goodness towards each one of us.

Therefore, let us all, with the Church and in the Church, thank God for all the marvellous things He has done for us in Christ … and that we do best of all here at Mass and through our reception of Holy Communion.  And in that context, let each one of us ever treasure, meditate on, give thanks for, all those blessings which God has lavished upon us as individuals.  For in them we are granted an opportunity to see what God wishes to do for us in the future; there, is already foreshadowed the outlines of that beautiful relationship which God wills to have with each one of us, a relationship unique to each one of us.

Such a constant faithful and trusting relationship with God can become a fount of joyous hope and grateful love bubbling up throughout our lives.  And when we reach our end on earth we will join the family of the blessed in heaven finally freed from our straightened earthly circumstances, possibilities, and powers, and endowed with a previously unknown ability to lose ourselves in a mind-surpassing and soul-absorbing act of gratitude and praise before God, far transcending even that most pure joy and gratitude of the poor families of the last-hour workers in today’s Gospel reading.


Friday, 15 September 2017

24th Sunday (A) 2017

 Twenty-fourth Sunday (A)
(Ecclesiasticus 27:30-28:7; Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35)

Our Gospel reading today is very familiar, but don't let that fact lead you into a semi-dormant, 'we've heard all that before' attitude of mind for, being the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit, even today’s short passage from the Gospel leads us to a fount of ever-flowing, purest, water.  So, let us drink deep now as we direct our particular attention to the first two verses of the Gospel reading:
Peter approached Jesus and asked Him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?"   Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”.
That is the main part of the Gospel reading, as is shown by the fact that the following parable of the Unforgiving Servant was told by Jesus in order to bring out graphically the meaning of the words He had just spoken; although for Jesus there may perhaps also have been a more Personal desire to show His Father as the king and supreme authority deciding such a fundamental issue, all the more especially because that issue formed so prominent a part of the ‘Our Father’ prayer He Himself gave us all at His disciples’ request:
I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.   That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants…
Why did Jesus answer as He did:
I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times?
Let me say first of all that this was no mere use of words, neither was it any expression of emotional religiosity, on the part of Jesus: His words are both relevant in their historical, and supremely important in their theological, significance. They were not spoken just to emphasise the need for us to have a forgiving spirit, that would indeed have corresponded partly, but by no means fully, with Jesus’ intentions.   The words He so emphatically used are part of the Scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit of Wisdom and Truth which have become yet more significantly important and meaningful by their being specially picked out, spoken, and used by the Lord Himself.   We should, therefore, try to recognize as closely as we can, just what attitude Jesus was wanting to instil in, what blessing to bestow on, Peter and Mother Church today and throughout all ages; and to do this, we must follow Jesus by bearing in mind the witness and teaching of the whole of Scripture.
Not seven times, but seventy-seven times, those words are to be found first in the book of Genesis (4:23-24), as one of Israel's millennial traditions:
Lamech said to his wives:  "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; wives of Lamech, listen to my utterance!  For I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for bruising me.   If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times."  
According to the Scriptures, Lamech was the great-great-great-grandson of Cain.  In the verses preceding the words I have just quoted we read of great progress being made in the quality of life for the family of Cain: a city had been built by him, and we heard of livestock being raised, of artisans making tools of all kinds from bronze and iron, and -- for times of public rejoicing and personal pleasure -- there were players of harp and flute.  As we would say today, the economy was flourishing.  But, just as we experience today, with the growth of prosperity and greater opportunities to seek and find what is necessary and good but also what is pleasurable and even addictive, there came also an alarming growth in wickedness and sin.  Cain the original sinner had begged God’s protection lest he himself be killed in revenge for his murdering of his own brother Abel, an action he learned to regret.  However, when we look at his great-great-great grandson Lamech, we find him actually glorying in and boasting about the fact of his having killed a man for merely wounding him, even of killing a young man or boy for simply bruising him.  Obviously Lamech, if and when provoked, would not hesitate to kill; and his characteristic violence, once aroused, was unrestrainable to the extent that he recognised no distinction between young and old: indeed, it was his insanely proud boast that whoever crossed him would pay for it, and that he alone, Lamech, not God, would decide both the price to be paid and the person to pay it.  He vaunted the irrevocability of his decision and the inevitability of its fulfilment by invoking and yet, at the same time, managing to downgrade, the traditional tribal and family reverence for the founding father by those words:
If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.
Such devilish pride, coupled with a vicious and vengeful attitude, characterised Lamech, and that was the way he ruled his family; nor was he alone in that, for the society of which he was part developed along similar lines until, eventually, it called for its own destruction by the God-sent flood.
Lamech had been a ‘puss-laden’ boil of pride and violence in the old, pre-flood, world; and we ourselves -- or at least some of us -- have ‘in our days’ seen, heard of, similar things in, for example, Sicilian society and the Balkans, Palestine and Northern Ireland, and with the Tutsis in Africa. And going via Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe, and Idi Amin, we can soon touch back to Stalin's horrendously vengeful cruelty towards his own people and Hitler's totally consuming hatred for all things Jewish.  And yet, most sadly, there are not a few regions in our world even today where like cancerous growths of pride and violence can still be found proudly proclaiming and promenading themselves.
With such things in mind we can begin, perhaps, to appreciate something of the importance and the significance of Jesus' reply to Peter’s question:
Peter approached Jesus and asked Him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?",  
and we may also learn to admire and rejoice in the wisdom of Jesus who knew both the full beauty and power of the teaching of the Scriptures, and also the full extent of human frailty and sinfulness as it would develop over the succeeding ages. 
Peter and the disciples had been cleansed by the word Jesus had spoken to them and they were to receive new and heavenly life by the Holy Spirit Who would be poured out upon the Church after their Lord's Death and Resurrection; in the meantime, they were being trained to proclaim and proffer His redemption to the whole of mankind, which, despite its own native frailty, was soon be re-destined and endowed anew for heavenly fulfilment in Him. The flood-waters of destruction and death which destroyed the gross evil and wickedness of Lamech and his world, were never to be repeated; men might continue to destroy themselves by their steadfast pursuit of pride and pleasure, but the Flood would be replaced by a far greater outpouring of waters, this time the healing waters of grace from the Holy Spirit of life, Gift of God and most sublime fruit of the tree of Jesus’ Cross.  Jesus wanted Peter and the Apostles -- as He also wants us -- to realize that on taking up their saving mission in the Church for the whole world, they must have total, absolute, confidence in the presence and power in their lives and in the Church of Him Who can overcome the power of any and every future upsurge of evil; as for the persuasion of such evil, there is the beauty and wisdom of divine life and love in Jesus to lead to salvation all those of good will.
We are all sinners redeemed by Jesus, and even the best of us are only earthenware vessels, as St. Paul says:
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.   (2 Corinthians 4:7)
But, being thus aware of our own inherent weakness and repeated failings, we can all recognise and -- in our measure and at any given time -- perhaps even feel traces of the passions and fears ruling, and gradually destroying, some of our brethren. Therefore, we are supremely well-placed, and should be well disposed, to show in our lives that forgiveness which is at the root of all God’s dealings with us: we recognise the evil afflicting some of our fellows and we thank God with all our heart for the fact that His grace alone protects and preserves us.   In other words, forgiveness should be our characteristic Christian virtue, whereas unforgiving vengefulness would constitute for us a most outrageous sin and comprehensive defeat at the hands of Satan, as we heard in our first reading:
Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath (resentment); who will forgive him his sins?
That is why, when Peter questioned Jesus mentioning the number seven which, for the Jews, was a number of completion and perfection since God had created the old world in seven days:
"Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?"  
Jesus replied so firmly:
            I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
This sort of thing goes back to the very beginning and reaches to the very heart of man, Jesus is hinting.  Recognize the signs of your adversary, Satan, whose deceits of old brought about the destruction of those he led astray into pride and viciousness, Lamech above all.  For you are called to be – in Me -- a new creation, and the perfection of that new creation will so great that seven is no longer suitable, only seventy-seven can suggest something of the supreme wonder of heavenly life beginning here on earth for you and in you.  The devil is still at work, still trying to undermine and disfigure God's new creation and your souls too but, having seen in Lamech whither Satan would lead you, be firm against him and strong in Me and, by My Spirit in you, be prepared to forgive whoever may have, wherever and whenever, wronged you,
            not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  
To help and enable us to do this work -- which alone is befitting the new creation He has made of us, and the new perfection He to which He calls us -- He the One Who loves us is always Personally present to us in Mother Church, seeking to encourage and sustain us in our daily endeavours in love of God and service of men through the gift of His own Most Holy Spirit: the Spirit of both the Father and the Son, the Spirit of our adoption as crowned heirs of the heavenly Kingdom and children of our heavenly Father.

Friday, 8 September 2017

23rd Sunday of Year (1) 2017

23rd. Sunday of Year (1)

(Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  The readings today offer us both guidance and warning: guidance that we may recognize and appreciate that which is truly important in our Catholic and Christian lives, and warning that we should then know how to protect what we treasure.

Fraternal charity is of such great importance for us in Mother Church because Mother Church is Jesus’ gift to His disciples world-wide and through all ages: a gift enabling all those whose faith in Jesus would lead them to lovingly obey Him in their lives on earth to attain to eternal salvation.  It is also a gift intended to bestow on them an initial experience here on earth of that heavenly life to which they aspire as children of God, members of God’s family; for, in Jesus’ Church -- as in the heavenly family -- just as each one is meant to receive help from being a member of the whole Body, in like manner each one is meant to share in promoting the good of the whole.  St. Paul puts it this way:

 There should be no schism in the body, members should have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it.   Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.   (1 Corinthians 12:25-27)

Now notice, People of God, the words the Lord spoke to Ezekiel in our first reading:

Son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore, you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.  When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die!' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.

There, the fact that Ezekiel had been chosen as prophet of God for the salvation of God’s People meant that he was also to act as ‘watchman for the house of Israel’; watchman, that is, for the good of Israel, obliged to warn anyone wandering into seriously wicked ways to turn from his or her follies at God’s command.  Notice, that the wickedness of a foolish individual was known to harm not only that individual but also -- subtly perhaps yet most seriously -- to detrimentally affect others of God’s People; others, that is, with potential weaknesses, perhaps also with headstrong tendencies, but as yet, not indulging in deliberate personal wickedness.  That is why Ezekiel -- chosen as prophet for God’s People -- had to speak out against the actions of those sinning people.  So too, parents, who are called to teach –  as prophets – their own children in the ways of God and of the Church, are also seriously obliged to warn their children when their failure to live up to the teachings of Jesus is harmful to themselves, and to others in His Church.

If you do not speak to warn them from their wicked way, they may die in their iniquity; but their blood I will require at your hand.

But what about Mother Church today, isn’t she -- above all – intended by God to serve as the Catholic and Apostolic watchman for the children of God here on earth?   Isn’t she, not only endowed but also obliged -- under pain of dire punishment – to speak out and dissuade the wicked from his way?

Is that warning voice being heard today, People of God, or is it not rather being drowned by the babble of ‘do-gooders’ or the high tones of specialists in ethics calling for sympathy, welcome, understanding and encouragement for all ‘wanderers’ – often enough on the basis of a hidden ‘who are you to condemn others?’ attitude -- and proffering their ‘solution’ as the only true ‘love’ fit for an enlightened modern morality as distinct from the rigidity of outdated religion.  But, take great care here dear Catholic Christians, for such ‘ethical’ love, though its proponents use Christian words, they very frequently abuse those words, and the enlightened ‘love’ of which they so proudly speak is not the Holy Spirit of Love, of Whom Jesus speaks and Whom Jesus alone bestows on His faithful ones!

‘Who are you to condemn?’, that is the unbelieving ‘do-gooders’ constant taunt against simple but true believers in Jesus and His Church.   Now, Ezekiel was called to speak against the wicked in God’s name:

If you tell, warn, the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die”, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt but you shall save yourself.

Notice that Ezekiel, speaking in the name of God does warn of punishment, even of death, he does not, however, condemn: he tells the wicked of their wickedness, he warns them of God’s punishment promised for such wickedness, but God alone condemns those He knows to be worthy of such condemnation.

Our Blessed Lord Himself in our Gospel reading went on to say:

If he (the sinner) refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a gentile or a tax collector,

which meant his being shunned by the whole Church community.

Why was our Lord so serious about rooting-out sin -- which He hated -- in the sinner He sought to save?  He hated sin because it spreads the contagion of evil for men’s ultimate destruction.   He hated sin because it would deprive sinners of the blessedness of eternal life as children of God – life in Himself, as living members of His Body, by the Holy Spirit of truth and love -- in the Kingdom of His heavenly Father.  He hated sin also because it actually deprives men, here and now, of some of that ‘foretaste of heaven’ which should characterise their life of learning to know and love aright in His Church on earth, concerning which He had promised His disciples:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.   And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him. But you know Him, because He remains with you, and will be in you.  (John 14:15–18)

See, dear People of God, why the world cannot appreciate Christian life in Mother Church:

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you always; you know Him because He REMAINS with you (that is, He abides infallibly in and with Mother Church), and WILL BE in you (that is, in each and every individual who is a living member of Mother Church).
The world cannot accept the Spirit of truth, because it neither sees nor knows Him.

That is how, for all seriously faithful disciples of Jesus and living members of His Body the Church, our life as members of that Body -- where grace abounds (her sacraments), where saving and infallible truth is proclaimed (her doctrine), and where blessed fellowship is nurtured by exalted saints and living exemplars (good friends) – is indeed a divinely planned and lovingly prepared foretaste of heaven, for all who want to love what Jesus loves and hate what Jesus hates (which ‘do-gooders’ are not prepared to do, thinking themselves too good for that!)

Dear People of God, fraternal charity can only be found where sin is hated as Jesus hates it; and the devil’s ruse is to try to mix-up the contours of sin, so that no one is clear where or what sin is, thus enabling his faithless minions to claim to have nothing but ‘love’ in their minds and hearts for all men and for all life-styles, provided, of course, that such life- styles are backed by a suitable measure of popular support.  That, dear People of God is the resultant work of all those who speak for what they call ‘good’  while they themselves know no God good enough to deserve their love, no God holy enough to evoke their worship, no God majestic enough to demand their obedience.   All such faithless ‘ethicists’ have lovely, neat, ideas and visions of how modern irreligious people should live in a society they proclaim to be better than any Christian society, one where anything and everything sufficiently popular is allowed, and nothing, other than self, is loved.

Jesus, however, shows us very clearly where the first line of defence for the supreme good of fraternal charity lies:

If your brother sins, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. 

This was Jesus' consistent attitude in such matters; indeed, we are told earlier in St Matthew's Gospel that Jesus said on another occasion (5:25-26):

Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him. 

Here Jesus speaks clearly and authoritatively to whoever of His people may have been wronged in any way: DO NOT HOLD GRUDGES.    And that one command would solve so many modern problems all over the world!!

Later, Jesus went on to envisage what we might call an ultimate situation:

If he refuses to listen even to the Church, treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax-collector.

That is, he was to be shunned by the whole community. 

Now, the fact that Jesus countenances such a drastic, final, recommendation shows us in all clarity that fraternal charity is of the utmost importance in Mother Church: it is the cement of the Church and the most immediate fruit of the presence in the Church of Jesus’ Most Holy Spirit of Love and Truth, and it shows most clearly that Jesus was no ‘do-gooder’ … He was, and is, the only true Saviour from sin and eternal death, and, as such a Saviour, He wills to condemn all those who choose to refuse His saving grace for themselves and obstruct it for others.

Next in our Gospel reading we have those words:

Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

St. Caesarius of Arles writing (6th. Century AD) to individual churches says: “From the moment you begin to regard your brother as a publican, you have bound him, so to speak, here on earth.  However, take care to bind him with justice.  Then, when you have become reconciled with your brother, having brought him back to the right path, you have in fact “loosed” him on earth and he will be likewise “loosed” in heaven.”  We are all members of the one Church; we all, in our degree, live the one Christian life in the power of the one Holy Spirit.  We all, in our degree, bind and loose as does Peter in his degree.”

We are all, indeed, called to be living members of a prophetic, priestly, and royal People of God making up the one Body of Christ.

Because the Holy Spirit of Jesus is the life blood of the Church which lives because He has been poured out upon her; and since fraternal charity is the fruit of the Spirit's presence among us, cementing us together as members of the one Body of Christ; we must all recognize that harm done to Mother Church is a wrong done to Jesus Personally, and to all those who seek to love Him individually.  Now Jesus has such love for the Church that He has promised to remain present with her to the end of time, He gives His Holy Spirit to her in fullness and indefectibly, and He calls her His Body: and it is because of that supreme love of Jesus for Mother Church that St. Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 3:17):

If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

The root of Jesus’ love for the Church is His love for each and every one of us, and the root of His love for us is His love and zeal for the honour and glory of His Father Who created us.  In Mother Church we are all, in various ways, responsible for promoting the well-being of the whole, but that responsibility is not to be regarded as an obligation in the sense of a burden that weighs down heavily upon us, so much as an abiding and inspiring proof of Jesus’ love and respect for each and every one of us in our personal identity and ability.

So, my dear People of God, through all the years of our earthly pilgrimage, let us understand aright and then never forget the words of St. Paul urging us to keep our eyes on that which is so supremely important for the well-being of all, and for the good of each and every one of us:

Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.

Friday, 1 September 2017

22nd Sunday of Year A 2017

22nd. Sunday of Year (A)
(Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27)

Perhaps it will be clearer if I were to re-position the two sections of that paragraph from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in this morning’s readings:

I urge you brothers, by the mercies of God, do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect; (thus, may you be able) to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.

In that way, there is no danger of any modern fanatics -- who abound on every hand -- thinking they can present themselves as Christians whilst committing suicide and the slaughter of innocents for political ends, and for a diabolically- misunderstood idea of the ‘glory of God’.  Moreover, we can thus see more clearly the nature of our worship and love of God:  that it is truly Christian – human and divine –  first, by our trying to discern and do the will of God in our physical pilgrimage through life, that we might then – having been perfected by God through that loving obedience to His will in our life –  be able to offer the living and dying sacrifice of ourselves in the truly spiritual worship of sincere love of, and total trust in, God.

Oh! dear People of God, how utterly important it is for us to:

Be transformed by the renewal of our mind, that we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Our good life is not to be a mere living-out of generally accepted and, of course, popularly approved, ethical propositions and standards … so many non-believers today pride themselves on doing that!!   No, we Catholic Christians are called to know (as best we can) and to love (whole-heartedly) the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and in Him, by His Gift of the Holy Spirit, to learn how to love God the Father Who sent Jesus, as our own Father now calling us to Himself as His adopted children in Jesus.   Our faith is, indeed, a calling to personal love of God, and how ironical it is that the unbelieving world of today likes to understand its acknowledged faithlessness as a gateway to acceptably promiscuous (in both form and content!) human adventures in physical ‘loving’, as distinct from the Christian vocation of love which, being divine, is able to embrace and ultimately totally transfigure what is human and ephemeral, into what is divine and eternally fulfilling, in one word, into something CHRIST-LIKE.

Just recall Our Blessed Lord in last Sunday’s Gospel.  Having previously heard Bartholomew (Nathanael) call Him ‘Son of God’ and ‘King of Israel’, He had gently ‘smiled that off’ as being too much based on too little; on the other hand, however, when He heard Peter declare ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ He immediately, without the slightest hesitation, recognized His Father speaking in and through Peter, and totally committed His own life-and-future- death’s work in obedient response to His Father’s recognized involvement.

That, dear People of God, is the most sublime example and model inspiring St. Paul’s exhortation today, ‘Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God’; and oh, that we might attain to some sharing in such love and discernment!   As Jesus said:

Father, the world has not known You; but I -- man Myself -- have known You!

And Jesus’ whole desire and prayer is that we, though weak and ignorant human beings of ourselves, may, as His true disciples, come, in His Church, to that humble ‘discernment’ of which St. Paul speaks:

Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God.

How we are to be thus transformed, and how our mind is to be thus renewed, however, can only be learnt by humble discipleship from the font of traditional wisdom contained in the teachings of Catholic spirituality.  It is not something we can do of ourselves, for it is a precious gift of God; but it is something for which we can dispose ourselves to receive from the goodness of God, by entering upon the ways of traditional spirituality distilled for us over two thousand years.

The essential beginnings for such spiritual renewal are given us in today’s psalm:

            My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God!     ASPIRE TO GOD.
            Your kindness is greater than life; my lips shall glorify You.   THANK GOD.
            You are my help, and in the shadow of Your wings   INVOKE GOD’S HELP,
               I shout for joy.                                                           AND REJOICE IN HIM.
            My soul clings fast to You;                                BE FAITHFUL, PERSEVERE,
            Your right hand upholds me.                                  CALMLY CONFIDENT.   
Time is now, as in so many ways throughout life, pressing upon us, but for all who sincerely begin to search for their spiritual renewal on the basis of today’s teaching, there is no doubt that God will notice their efforts and will not be found slow in coming to meet them as did the father embracing his prodigal son in Jesus’ unforgettable parable.