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.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Christ the King Year A 2017

Christ the King (A)

(Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; 1st. Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Saint Matthew 25:31-46)

Dear Brothers and Sisters Christ here at the end of the Christian year we have a Gospel passage which is often seized upon with great enthusiasm by unbelievers as ‘the do-gooders’ charter’ which is supposed to do away with all Christian, and most especially Catholic, religious doctrines, moral practices, and even any need for divine worship; for this Gospel reading, it is said, shows that all Christian waffle can be boiled down to one thing, easily acceptable to and understood by, men and women of all conditions and cultures, namely, doing good to others, whatever that word ‘good’ may mean.  And, of course, modern do-good-Governments with their vast resources do that best of all by legally making everybody equal, no distinctions based on sex, race, colour, or religion being allowed; for the world is mankind’s world, and though we did not make it originally -- indeed  it was not made at all, but just came about -- the main fact is that we are certainly making the world and our very selves just as we want them to be, independently of what religious believers like to call ‘nature’ or God’s will.  Indeed, mankind’s specially enlightened scientists are even now lining up other planets for our possible use when this one comes to the end of its suitability or adaptability.   However, the great difficulty for all of us do-gooders is that, at present, we can’t ‘line up’ anything at all for ourselves when we die and this causes deep distress and despair for many of us, especially when we just know our worth-living-life is dead even though our heart still keeps on beating.

Let us now, dear People of God, have a truer, closer, Catholic/Christian look at today’s Gospel where Matthew is presenting the Lord Jesus to and for his own Jewish-Christian congregation, comprising Jewish converts to Christianity, and Jewish Law adherents looking into, or on-the-way-to, Christian belief.

Matthew’s congregation knew all about the value and necessity of good works, for the Pharisees of the synagogue where so many of them were brought up cherished what they called ‘works of love’, and the six examples given by Our Lord were all included in the commonly accepted Jewish lists of meritorious actions: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, showing hospitality to strangers etc.   But the Pharisees, those teachers of Israel sitting on the chair of Moses, were very conscious of those works of love as their works of love, and they built their hopes for a heavenly reward not on God’s mercy and goodness but on a calculated expectation that their ‘credit account’ accruing from such personal ‘works of love’ would surely outweigh any debits due to their transgressions against, or failings in fulfilment of, the Law.

Jesus, however, would have no such outrageous pride, no such lowering of their appreciation of God’s supreme holiness, among His disciples, and in our Gospel reading He presents those on His right hand as being blessed by My Father and inheritors of the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.  Guided by the Spirit of Jesus, those disciples were not calculatingly aware of having personally done anything meriting such blessings – their right hand had not known and they themselves, not having closely observed, consequently could not remember, what their left hand had been doing.  However, Jesus explains to them in His parable:

Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.

Those who, on the other hand, failed to win God’s blessing were told:

Depart from Me you accursed, Amen I say to you, what you did not do to one of these least ones – brothers of Mine – you did not do for Me.

The criterion in both cases was ‘what you did – or did not do – to one of the least of these brothers of Mine’.

Now those ‘brothers of Jesus’ are not any-and-every human being as modern irreligious do-gooders quite hypocritically like to claim, rather are they those concerning whom Matthew had earlier (12:48–50) taught his congregation by quoting Jesus at His most explicit and dramatic:

“Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?”   And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, Jesus said, “Here are My mother and My brothers.  For whoever does the will of My heavenly Father is My brother, and sister, and mother.”   

All three synoptic Gospels report that particular incident, but Matthew makes it most intimate and Personal to Jesus by quoting Jesus as speaking not simply about ‘God’, but about His heavenly Father; while the gentle St. John’s accepted parallel is the most incisive and exclusive of all:

            You are My friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:14)

The ever-faithful St. Paul, for his part, takes that teaching of Jesus for granted when, writing to his converts in Corinth about their doing good most effectively and most fruitfully, he says:

As a result of your ministry, (the saints in Jerusalem) will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.     (2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT)

People of God have confidence in the Gospel and Mother Church’s Spirit-guided traditional understanding of it, and do not let modern unbelievers try to high-jack it and turn it into their own hogwash: the Gospel, Christianity, our Catholic faith, is not concerned with making mankind apparently equal but with making all believers one in Jesus, sharing in His glory before His heavenly Father as complimentary members of the one eternal Body of which He alone is the supreme Head.  We are not rationalists idolizing manageable abstractions such as ‘equality for all’; we are Catholics and Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, aspiring to oneness with, and unity in, Him Whom alone we worship.

Dear People of God, St. Matthew gives us here Jesus as Universal King by offering us a ‘personally tailored’ share in His own Resurrection life of eternal beatitude in His Father’s heavenly Kingdom (we must use such earthly regal terms because they are the best ones we know able to open our hearts and minds to what is glorious and beautiful awaiting us), and we should now set aside all earthly distractions by concentrating our minds and stirring up our hearts by contemplating the wisdom and beauty, the goodness and holiness, the most sublime majesty and supreme power of Jesus, Our Lord and Judge, the King of the Universe.

Before that final and universal judgement, however, how do we experience, how can we proclaim, Jesus as King of the Universe?

We can do that first of all by recognizing the wonder of Mother Church spread throughout the world over nigh 2000 years; we can look upon the mighty empires that arose and fell in the course of those centuries, more especially those that tried to destroy her by, crush her under, their physical tortures and psychological terrors.   We can look at her unique endeavours to bring the various and distinct races, nations and cultures – in their very uniqueness and difference – into one worldwide body united in their love and worship of Christ their Lord and Teacher by the power of His most Holy Spirit enabling and empowering them all.   No doubt Mother Church has a long record of mistakes, failures, and even human wrong-doing; but precisely, she is made up of human beings not all of whom responded or are responding whole-heartedly to the teaching of Jesus and His Church or to the grace of His most Holy Spirit.   However, no body or organization is to be judged by its failures, by those who do not express truly their being as practicing members, such judgement can only be made on the basis of the quality of her healthy fruit, and by such criteria Mother Church on earth has no rival.

So therefore, dear People of God, read the history of Mother Church and her glorious martyrs from all peoples, read the lives of her innumerable saints in all their amazing beauty and glorious variety, look at the wondrous Cathedrals and Churches built out of devotion and in despite of poverty, temples whose glory all our modern money can hardly maintain let alone imitate!  Above all, however, dear People of God, to experience and proclaim Jesus as King, look into your own lives and try if you can to number all your blessings as a disciple of Jesus, one by one.

The Old Testament gave to Israel immediately a moral human law blessed with insights of divine truth which enabled Israel to produce that supremely beautiful example of humanity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, a woman of such wisdom, humility, unshakeable faith, decisiveness, amazing courage and totally self-less commitment (all those attributes fill my mind from her first meeting with the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation) that I am amazed.   She was and is indeed the glory of Israel and of the whole of humanity, a woman to be backed up – as was necessary -- by an Israelite, Joseph, a man of true humility, with a moral strength and deep piety that helped to provide safety and engender peace for those entrusted to his care.  

Israel of old produced and formed those two highlights of humanity but is was Mary’s unique privilege to receive, embrace, and indeed clothe Divinity Itself with her personal humanity.  And that dear People of God is our greatest treasure: Jesus, the Son of Mary, Who brings to us and opens up for us the most sacred beauty and totally unfathomable glory of Divine Life at its most intimate, a life of mutually sublime knowing and loving, giving and sharing, resting and ‘soaring’, resting and ‘soaring’.

I am sorry, People of God, that I must finish here; time is short and the subject is now overwhelming me, but, with St. Augustine, I hope that, where most opportune, God will inspire you by His Spirit to better appreciate and proclaim the treasures of our Faith in Jesus Christ the Universal King, our beloved Lord and Saviour.

Friday, 17 November 2017

33rd Sunday year A. 2017

 33rd. Sunday of Year (A)
         (Proverbs 31:10-13, 19s, 30s; 1st. Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30)

Today’s parable was relatively long and detailed with special emphasis being given to the lot of the servant who received one talent and did nothing with it.  Some people tend to think that what he did with the one talent is irrelevant because he was unfairly, if not unjustly, treated from the beginning by being given only one talent while others had more given them; and so, feeling sorry for this servant who “received only one talent”, they harbour a kind of grudge against the master of those servants and don’t really seek to learn anything from the parable.  
However, we should take care not to project our own psychological make-up and/or complications onto the parable but rather just try, first of all, to appreciate how much a talent was worth in those times long-ago.  One talent was equivalent to 6000 denarii, and a man and his family could live adequately for one day at the cost of 2 denarii.  So you see that the man who received “only one talent” was actually entrusted with a sum sufficient to provide a suitable living for himself and his family for over 8 years!
People of God, let us have nothing to do with prevalent greed and self-love which leads many to cry foul where some seem to have more than others!  All of us have, indeed, been most generously endowed by God for the task of bringing forth fruit for eternal life in the course of our earthly pilgrimage.
Let us now, therefore, ask our heavenly Father for wisdom – personified as ‘the worthy wife’ in our first reading – and then calmly turn our attention to the two faithful servants so as to learn from their experiences. 
Their master said to each of them on bringing their profit to him:
Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.
Such words make us feel glad, happy for and happy with those servants.  If we concentrate more directly on the nature of that happiness, we can recognize three aspects mentioned or implied in those words:
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ 
“You were faithful” implies the joy, the peace, the happiness of a good conscience.  “I will give you great responsibilities” foresees one being able to use one’s talents and abilities to the full, which is what we call the fulfilment of our being.  However, even so great a natural happiness is not able to dominate our attention in this parable because of those last words:
Come, share your master’s joy!
Ultimately the joy of a good conscience will lead not only to our natural fulfilment but even, thanks to Jesus, to joys that are beyond our natural capacity, a personal share in the eternal joys of our divine Lord and Master in heaven:
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.
Next, let us, for just a few moments, compare those three sorts of happiness, and you will realise how wonderful is that invitation to enter into the master’s joy.   Surely, we have all experienced at times some of the many and varied innocent joys and deep happiness that can result from human endeavour and life in human society: sometimes we have the joys of success and achievement; we treasure the happiness of love and family; we can appreciate too the joys of beauty recognized or of truth known and appreciated.   Many of these earthly types of joy and happiness do indeed delight us and give us a sense of deep fulfilment; and yet, they are also indirectly connected with sorrow and sadness.  There is a famous song, “Plaisirs d’Amour” which tells of the joys of love which swiftly pass and of its pains and sorrows which endure.  That might be a somewhat mawkish and poetic appreciation, but, nevertheless, we all aware, that, in this world, human love is inevitably accompanied by its own particular sorrows.  That is why so many modern people opt only for pleasure and try to avoid love: they want just loose relationships for pleasure without any binding commitment, so that if and when too much sorrow looms ahead, they can break the relationship and take up another source of comfort and pleasure that promises less trouble or greater satisfaction.  Yes, earthly love and family life, though they are such deep and indeed necessary joys for most, nevertheless, they also bring with them -- due to our sinfulness -- their own particular and inescapable sorrows.  Moreover, our work, at best, only offers us limited successes, and, of course, those short periods of apparent fulfilment can be quickly obscured by the shadow of competition and/or soured by occasional threats such as short time or redundancy.
The joy of a good conscience, however, is not in any way connected with sorrow and is therefore joy of a superior kind; moreover, it leads to another unsuspected joy which can be ours; that is, a share in God’s eternal happiness which totally transcends all earth’s joys.  But how can it come about that we, who know ourselves to be so sinfully weak and fragile, are capable of receiving and appreciating, infinite, eternal, happiness?  Despite all the outstanding advances of modern scientific thinking and technological ingenuity and expertise, we cannot even imagine, let alone conceive, the immensity, variety, and beauty of the universe God has created and sustains: how then can our poor hearts be expanded so as to be able to accept a fullness corresponding to His infinite beatitude in which are promised a share?
The Psalmist (Psalm 81:10) gives the answer to our question:
I am the LORD your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide.
How are we to open wide our mouth?  Listen to the Psalmist (Psalm 119:32) once again:
I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart. 
So that is the way we can prepare ourselves to receive the divine happiness that can be ours: we open wide our mouth by walking, indeed by running, in the way of God’s commandments; and He then enlarges our hearts so that He might subsequently fill them with the riches of His blessings:
I am the LORD your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (Psalm 81:10)
It is often objected against the very thought of eternal happiness, that it must be extremely boring.  ‘Not that happiness itself is boring’, such people would add, ‘but surely eternal -- that is everlasting, unchanging -- happiness must become boring’.  Let me counter such a remark with a question.  Could eternal pain be boring?  Of course not, the pain would not allow us sufficient respite ever to think we were bored!  The thought of being bored in heaven is a foolish thought; and yet, though not logical, it does, nonetheless, lead many to put aside any positive thoughts of heaven, it does explain why the promise of heaven means so little to so many unthinking souls.  Therefore, I would just like to help you think a little about heaven now: not so much intellectual thinking as considering an experience that probably most of you have known several times in life.
I want you to just try to recall the happiest moments of your life.  Do you remember how short the time seemed?  You were so happy it seemed only a moment, even though it might have been hours, days, even years.  Now that gives us the key to heavenly happiness, for even though time is earthly, part and parcel of creation where things are always changing, nevertheless, there are occasions -- yes, even here on earth -- when time seems to stop or disappear, melt, in the presence of happiness.   How much more then is the question of time utterly irrelevant in eternity where there can be no time!  Eternity is not endless time, eternity is timeless; time has no meaning, there is nothing to be measured by time, in heaven before God’s Presence.  St. Peter tells us something of this in a pictorial way in his second letter (2 Peter 3:8):
Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Therefore, for those who are called to share, with Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, in God’s blessedness in heaven, time will be totally obliterated by transcendent joy flooding their being.  Think again, People of God!  You have had plenty of experience even here on earth, which is, so to speak, a time-zone: if you are bored or weary, anxious or worried, time drags ever so slowly; and yet, when you are happy it flies!  Therefore, even here on earth time is relative.  Now, heaven is a time-free zone: that is, in heaven time is totally irrelevant, not only because we won’t notice it, but because it has no being, no function, in the bliss of God to which we are invited in Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
People of God: each one of you has been given much by God.  Each and every one of us is called, offered the chance, to share in God’s eternal blessedness, but for that we need the whole Gospel, not a Gospel shortened by the exclusion or omission of what some people may think is ‘not nice’ to hear.  Pieces are being ‘ear marked’ for omission these days because they might cause hurt, offence, even harm (would you believe it, the Gospel causing harm!! Harm for what sort of Catholics?). Today’s Gospel is one where verses 24-30 are ‘ear-marked’ as mentioned.   We have heard the Gospel in full today, let us give a little particular attention to what might have been legitimately (!) or perhaps even preferably (?) for some people, omitted:
Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant, and gathering where you did not scatter, so (I was afraid).

What does it mean in Jesus’ parable that the one who originally received 5 talents made another 5 and the one who received 2 made another 2?  In accordance with recent Gospel readings we can interpret that of the two commands: love of God and love of neighbour.  Each of us receives according to the measure of God’s gift, faith, that is love of God; and we have to put that gift to profitable work, by progressing in and learning to live out, love of our neighbour as the fruit of our co-operation with God’s grace.  We do not have to seek out extraordinary forms of behaviour in order to do this, we simply need to follow St. Paul’s teaching (1 Thessalonians 4:9–12 NLT):

We don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God Himself has taught you to love one another.  Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.  

Such a life of charity and simple edification is not beyond anyone’s capacity, so richly have all of us been endowed.  Those endowed with the one talent -- love of God in the faith of Jesus -- are called, as living members of Mother Church, to thereby progress to love of neighbour as St. Paul indicates.  Called that is, by Jesus Himself, Who -- though He Personally only sowed the seed of His Gospel in Palestine for the Jews -- does indeedlike the master returned from a long journey, expect His Church, through her members, including you and I, to proclaim His Gospel throughout the whole world and to all mankind by our growth in love of neighbour, and thereby bring forth copious fruit for God’s glory and the salvation of all those of good will who will respond to Mother Church’s proclamation of Jesus’ Gospel.  Those who will not thus progress in love of God to love of neighbour will have no excuse, and Jesus’ final words will ultimately be found to be infallibly true despite perhaps having being considered ‘not nice’ and ‘better-to-be-omitted’ by certain modern-day disciples of Jesus, and not-so-humble servants of Mother Church.
Don’t think little of your gifts, People of God, be they 5, 2, or 1 talents’ worth, they are more than ample for all your needs.  Don’t be foolish enough now -- and ultimately wicked enough -- to ignore a happiness which can transfigure your whole being and help transform our world, making you eternally fulfilled and happy beyond all imagining!  It can be yours in Jesus: let Him lead you, in His Church, by His Holy Spirit, to live and work for the glory of the Father, in Whose presence Jesus promises, you will be greeted by those most memorable words:
Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord! 

Friday, 10 November 2017

32nd Sunday Year A 2017

 32nd. Sunday of Year (A)
(Wisdom 6:12-16; 1st. Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13)

You have heard today’s parable of the 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins many times, People of God, and you might therefore be inclined to prefer a homily which deals with other matters such as important contemporary issues in society, or good causes that cry out for our attention; it is, after all, much more interesting to hear something new, even if you do not fully agree with it, than to hear and go over once again something you think you already know quite well.
However, Dr. Samuel Johnson, one of the wisest men and greatest literary figures this country has ever produced, once famously remarked that Christians have much greater need to be reminded of things already heard than they have to hear of new things.  Following his advice, therefore, let us look at the parable once again.
Who is the bridegroom mentioned in the beginning?
The kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
We know for sure that it is Jesus from the answer Jesus gave when He was once questioned about the behaviour of His disciples:
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Jesus, "Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?"  And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.  But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. (Mark 2:18-20)
And John the Baptist gave a beautiful testimony to Jesus as the Bridegroom, when he declared:
A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.'  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:27-30)
Jesus, therefore, is indeed the Bridegroom at the wedding feast in the Kingdom of Heaven, and that, I think most of you already knew.  However, there is, strangely enough, no suggestion of who the Bride might be.  Let us now, therefore, think a little more closely about her.
One of the most momentous and uncompromising statements ever made by Jesus concerned the relationship between a man and his wife:
Have you not read that He Who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6)
Man and wife, Bridegroom and Bride, become one flesh.  The Bride for Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom, is Mother Church, that is, saved humanity, all those men and women who will be one with Jesus and with each other as members of that glorified, heavenly Body of which He is the Head.   As we read in the letter to the Ephesians:
May (we) grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ -- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (4:15-16)
And at the heavenly wedding-feast, all those true children of Mother Church, all those living members of the Body of Christ, will be recognised as children of God the Father, because they share in the flesh of Him who is both the heavenly Lord of Mother Church and the only-begotten Son of the eternal Father.
Therefore, the ten virgins waiting for the Bridegroom represent the whole of mankind called to become the Bride, called to enter with Christ as members of His Body into the wedding-feast of Heaven.  Five, half of them, however, carried out their duties on behalf of the community so negligently and foolishly that they were found to be definitively unfit to enter into the feast.
Due to the delayed appearance of the bridegroom, all ten of the virgins had grown tired, just as we ourselves, indeed, would grow tired under such circumstances, for very few of us like the exhausting tension of delayed expectation.   There was no fault in such weariness.
However, when the cry had gone up that the Bridegroom’s arrival was imminent, and all ten virgins had dutifully set about trimming their lamps since those lamps were quite small -- not being meant light up the way so much as to show that someone was attentively waiting, ready and willing to welcome the Bridegroom -- when, after such a long delay, they had tried to trim their flames to burn brighter, they found that there was too little oil in their lamps to support a bigger flame.  Once again, that of itself was natural enough and without blame.  
However, it had always been a strong possibility, nay even a probability, that the Bridegroom would be delayed in his arrival due to friends and neighbours congratulating him on his way to the wedding-feast, and those foolish virgins were consequently shown to be most seriously at fault in that they had not taken precautions against any such contingency by bringing an extra supply of oil with them.  And now, at the very moment of the Bridegroom’s arrival those five had been obliged to go off in search of more oil for their lamps and consequently were not able to welcome the Bridegroom, which was an insult to the Bridegroom, a betrayal of the splendid preparations planned by the whole community, and a disgrace for themselves.
Sadly, many Christians likewise grow tired of waiting for the Lord to manifest His presence and His power in their lives; and -- like the foolish virgins of our parable --not having grown sufficiently in virtue as a result of having paid little attention to their understanding and practice of the Faith, they are often found to be too proud in mind, too impatient in temperament, and too weak in faith, to be able to wait for the Lord with faithful devotion and humble expectancy.   As Jesus once said:
Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures (that is, those individuals who endure) to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 24:11-13)
Many hearts, Jesus said, indeed -- near the end – most, will grow cold through waiting.  That can already be seen in these our days when lawlessness of the most primal and degrading, and also most outrageously proud and exuberant sort, proclaims itself so loudly and openly that some, though having been brought up as Catholics, on seeing that the flow of life around them is becoming a torrent both wild and dangerous, begin think that they too, perhaps, should be experiencing something exciting or doing something different or special in and with their lives, not apparently wasting them by continuing with what seems to be futile, namely, devoutly loving the Lord and patiently waiting for and trusting in Him.  If He does not quickly show His hand, so to speak, by bestowing tangible blessings, these stop looking for Him and, at the best, turn to proving their own worth by winning the world’s approval for publicly good works, or else – less good but much more likely -- to proving their own worth by winning the acknowledgement of others by working in the world’s way for what the world prizes.
Here we should try to get things clearly into focus.  Good works are always, as the words say, good of themselves.   However, the spiritual value of good works can easily be diverted from God’s account, so to speak, to bolster the public credit of the one doing those works; or they can be personally treasured and dwelt upon in such a way as to provide the doer with a warm feeling of self-approval and self-esteem, a more secret and perhaps more secure way of escape from the emptiness of the apparently unnoticed and wearisome devotion of waiting for and attending to Jesus.   This warm glow of self-satisfaction and/or the welcome praise of others can very easily become death-dealing substitutes for Jesus Who alone, as the only-begotten Son of the eternal Father, is totally life-giving both in His death on Calvary for us and in His most holy Eucharist with us and for us.
Jesus, however, does want, above all, our personal love; He wants us to make personal love for Him and obedience to and trust in Him the very centre of our lives. As you will well remember, He once said (John 15:13):
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for one's friends.
Now, love for Jesus has grown cold when a Catholic is unwilling to die to self for His sake: when waiting patiently for Him, obeying Him, is too like dying and therefore unacceptable.  In that way too many, even some of the better Catholics and Christians, shy away from attending on, waiting for, Jesus with deep personal love and patient, humble, service and praise, in order to give expression to themselves in welcome activities which show to others their personal abilities while giving themselves a most welcome psychological boost.   In such cases, the works remain good works but they no longer bear witness to a true and total personal love for Jesus, just as the foolish virgins, though they were waiting together with the wise virgins, could not trim their lamps when the Bridegroom arrived and were not there to welcome Him.  Those foolish virgins could not light a true flame of personal love for Jesus because He, Personally, did not occupy, fill, their minds and hearts so much as the things they were doing, ostensibly for Him but really for themselves.
This type of thing, carried to the worst extreme, once led Jesus to say to the Pharisees:
You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15)
People of God, seek, above all, to personally love the Person of Jesus at all times and in all circumstances.   When you are in Church, keep your eyes on Him, so to speak, by listening to His Word, admiring His goodness and wisdom, and by trying to understand and appreciate His teaching; receive Him in the Eucharist out of a desire to sincerely open up your whole life to the purifying flame of His most Holy Spirit, indeed, pray that the Holy Spirit might inspire and enable you to love Jesus more and serve Him ever better.  Only work that is motivated by such personal love and longing for Jesus can bear fruit for eternal life.
The love of most will grow cold:  the five foolish virgins, having waited long, were not able to turn up the flame of their witness -- personal love for Jesus – when the Bridegroom ultimately arrived.  What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.  Think on these things, and may God’s blessing be with you.               

Saturday, 4 November 2017

31st Sunday of the Year (A) 2017

31st. Sunday of Year (A)

(Malachi 1:14 - 2:2, 8-10; 1st. Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13; Matthew 23:1-12)

Jesus had just been targeted by the Herodians, then the Sadducees, and finally by the Pharisees:

This happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hated Me without a cause.'                  (John 15:25)

And after having confounded His opponents by the beauty of His truth, He then turned and:
spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.  Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do.”
To understand our Lord’s words, we must turn to another saying of His, speaking, this time, not about the scribes and Pharisees as teachers in Israel, but of His very own Self the supreme Teacher:
Jesus said, ‘My teaching is not My own but is from the One Who sent Me.  Whoever chooses to do His will shall know whether My teaching is from God or whether I speak on My own.  Whoever speaks on his own seeks his own glory, but whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful and there is no wrong in him.
There you have the root meaning of those other words of Jesus:
                You have but one teacher, you have but one Father in heaven;
for those who sincerely choose, want to know and seek to do, God’s will, and who, to that end seek the best teaching available, your Father in heaven will guide you into the truth you so sincerely and perseveringly seek. 
One such ‘seat of Moses’ -- carved in stone -- has been found in an ancient synagogue: it was a seat of honour where he sat who was expounding the teaching of Moses to the people gathered in the synagogue for the Sabbath, and here, in this passage of the Gospel, Jesus acknowledges that the Pharisees were the teachers and guides for the synagogue at that time.   This is shown us again in St. John’s Gospel (3:1-10):
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"  Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things?” 
That was the trouble with the Pharisees and their scribes: they knew too much about their own traditions and understood too little about the teaching and ways of God.  Moreover, they added so much to the teaching of Moses, as Jesus remarked:
                they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders;
in fact, there were 613 such prescriptions from the Scribes and Pharisees that could encumber and stifle the lives of people wanting to find God.  These were the subject of much synagogue teaching where too little of God’s basic revelation through Moses and the Prophets was taught, while too much attention was given to the embellishments of particular Pharisaic traditions and the personal opinions of individual scribes and rabbis; which is why the people so much appreciated Jesus when He spoke in the synagogue for, we are told (Luke 4:32):
They were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.
Nevertheless, People of God, since Jesus, on this occasion, was speaking not directly to the Twelve who lived in His personal proximity, but to the multitudes of interested people and  crowds of disciples who were following Him from places He had passed by on His way to Jerusalem, that is, to more or less ordinary men and women who were devout enough to be seeking God but whose life-pattern was necessarily centred on making a living for themselves and their families, to such disciples and hearers Jesus had no hesitation in telling them to follow the teaching of the Pharisees and Scribes given in the name of Moses when, that is, on the seat of Moses they were authoritatively expounding Moses’ traditional teaching from the Scriptures in the synagogue.   In that we can recognize that Jesus in no way encouraged individual, self-established and self-promoting, teachers in the synagogue; for the essence of God’s teaching is that it is authoritative teaching and, as such, is necessarily handed down authoritatively, that is, in the name of God and, in these our days, on the authority of God’s Church.
Throughout the history of Mother Church great harm has been done to her by clerics and religious of scandalous lives on the one hand, and, on the other hand, by self-commissioned lay-people assuming and asserting a right to publicly promote their own personal understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ against the Gospel proclamation of Mother Church through her appointed, authoritative, ministers: a two-thonged scourge with clerics and religious living a distortion of the Christian life, and self-appointed lay preachers proclaiming a distortion of the Gospel.   And, of course, I am not now speaking simply of the past, for our modern times are still being ravaged by these perennial scourges. 
However, I prefer to continue now with the glories intended and established by God for His People as indicated to us in today’s readings.
The lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
How little is that known and acknowledged today!  Many, many, possibly even a majority of present- day Catholics are most concerned about what people around them think and say, not about God’s will or His greater pleasure.  They want know what concerns them most, here and now; that is, how to be acceptable to others around them.
There the prophet Malachi shows forth the true function and purpose of those called to lead and serve God’s People: they are to be messengers of God’s saving truth and purpose for all who are seeking to know His will and to live their lives under the shelter of His wings.  Such priests (then and now) should seek God’s glory not their own renown; and -- always intending to serve the salvation of God’s People -- they must never adulterate His Word in order to pander to popular clamour.   St. Paul best expressed the spirit that should animate and characterize the priest of God:
We thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe; (and), affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
Let us now regard the People of God as Jesus outlines them to us:
Therefore, whatever they (who legitimately occupy the chairs of leadership among God’s People) tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.
There, ‘observe’ is used with the meaning that it has in ‘observe the Sabbath’, ‘observe, keep the word, the words, of Jesus.  It is a word expressing not blind obedience but rather loving acceptance of what is of religious importance, a teaching to be embraced because it is the Lord’s.  Notice that it is only the truth and the will of God that can hold and determine His People, not the person of the minister:
                Do not do according to their works, for they say and do not do.
Since only the truth of God is good enough for God’s People it is not enough for anyone to claim in self-justification that such and such a person did, or that plenty of people were doing, the same as they themselves had done …. As the Psalmist said prophetically, ‘the Lord is my light and my salvation’, we should fear no other, neither should we trust in any other.  People of God, each and every one of you who is a living member of the Body of Christ is of a divine lineage, don’t ever fear or rely on what is merely flesh and blood.  That is, once again, what lies behind the words of Jesus to His disciples:
Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.   And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.
We all have, Malachi the prophet declared, one God who created us, and we all have one Father, Who, as Jesus revealed, calls us.  In order to fulfil our being and answer our calling here on earth each of us has been allocated a position in, and a function for, the Body of Christ our Saviour and Teacher. 
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. (1 Corinthians 7:27)
That is, whether you are married, bereaved, or single, God has a positive function, purpose, and position for you in His plan of salvation.  And confidently bearing in mind God’s careful planning and solicitousness for your presence and place at His inaugural and eternal feast of heaven, listen once again to Jesus (Luke 14:8-11):
When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, but when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
At the end of our earthly service no one but the Father knows what will be our position in heaven.  Some, perhaps all, of the Apostles were, early on, childish enough to argue about or scheme for their position; surely now we can, like a child at peace on its mother’s breast, leave all that to the Father’s eternal wisdom and Son-giving goodness; and, humbly acknowledging our many sins and failings find ourselves totally content to confidently pray for His merciful forgiveness and hope for His blessing on us in the name of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Father’s eternal, only-begotten and well-beloved Son.