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, 31 March 2018

Easter Sunday 2018

Easter Sunday 2018
 (Acts 10:34, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9)


     God raised (Jesus) on the third day and granted that He be visible to us.

Those words of St. Peter are the culmination of an age-long awareness and expectation in Israel, where the third day was of special significance for Jewish piety.  In the book of Genesis we are told that Abraham, in obedience to the voice of God, was taking his only son Isaac to offer him in sacrifice to the Lord on the mount which the Lord would show him.  Sorrowing father and innocent, unknowing son, were journeying on, together with some servants, when:

On the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you."   (Genesis 22:4-5)

On the third day Abraham had observed Mount Moriah where he believed his son had to be sacrificed to the Lord; in the event, however, it turned out to be the mount where the son was not only restored unharmed to his father, but restored as the sign of God’s enduring promise of blessing for Abraham and God’s chosen people (Gen. 22:16-17):

Because you have not withheld your only son – blessing I will bless you and multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.

Again, in the prophecy of Hosea (6:1-3) there is consolation for sinful, suffering, Israel:

Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.   After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.   Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD.  His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.

You can understand, therefore, what Easter comfort and joy the disciples experienced on recalling such texts after having found the empty tomb and seen the Risen Lord!  The ultimate bearer of God’s promise, Jesus Whom they had known and loved, had risen on the third day: death could not hold Him!  Satan had been defeated, and his power over mankind forever broken and shattered!!  That is why Peter could so confidently proclaim to Cornelius and his family whom, under the command of the Holy Spirit, he was about to baptise (Acts 10:39-42):

We are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, Whom they killed by hanging on a tree.  Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.  And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He Who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.

Let us now turn to our reading from St. Paul and allow him to guide our thoughts:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.   For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Paul thus extends this wondrous event of Jesus’ rising from the dead to include us:

You have died (with Christ), and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

How can he say that we died with Christ?  Because Christ died as Lord and Saviour of all mankind; though sinless, He died a sinner’s death for our sake and on our behalf.  Moreover, when He had died to sin, what chance was there that anyone else could ever overcome the power and the horror of death which is the sting in the tail of sin?  When He died on Good Friday all our hopes seemed to die with Him; and on Holy Saturday His disciples experienced only the hopelessness, helplessness, and indeed the emptiness of our native, sinful, condition.

But now, Peter and Paul, together with all the apostles, bear witness that God has raised Jesus from the dead; and, since He is risen, Paul says, you -- you who believe in Him and in the God Who raised Him -- you too are risen with Him since you have the opportunity of sharing in His new, risen, Life: because of your faith in Him you are no longer subject to the frustrations and ultimate horror of earthly death, no longer bound by sin in your native pride and self-solicitude:

“O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?"  The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law.  But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-58)

But Paul also said that we too are seated with Christ at the right hand of God.  Now, we firmly believe that Jesus, the Holy One of God, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and we also believe that He continually intercedes for us; but how are we seated with Him at the right hand of the Father?

The answer is that we are not, of course, physically seated with Him now in heaven; nevertheless, heaven is where the vital powers of our spiritual life originate and whither they are leading us.  Jesus is physically, in His glorious humanity -- our humanity received without sin from Mary and now glorified as Jesus’ Personal humanity in heaven -- at the right hand of the Father.  Moreover, He is also physically with us -- in a sacramental manner -- in the Eucharist, whereby He draws us up, into Himself through the Spirit.  Our heavenly food -- the driving force of supernatural life within us -- is the living Body of the One seated at the right hand of the Father in glory; and the more we live by that food, the more we live by His Gifted Spirit, the more He draws us closer and more intimately into Himself.  For the sake of all mankind He has taken our humanity into glory: none are barred from sharing His glory by reason of their humanity.

However, we have yet surer basis for hope than the mere fact that our human nature is no longer barred from heaven: for each of us has been called, drawn to Jesus -- personally and individually -- by the Father Himself, as Jesus most explicitly said:

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)

And so, having obediently answered the Father’s call, we have allowed ourselves to be drawn by the Father to Jesus, and we have come to believe in Jesus as the Son of God made man; and, having been baptised into Him as our Lord and Saviour, we have now been endowed with, and justified by, His Gift of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul tells us:

Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  (Rom. 8:30-31)

Today Jesus is risen and we are potentially, no more than that, we who have faith in Him are already initially glorified in Him: for we who receive the Body and Blood of the Risen Lord in true faith are now assured that we are being actually guided by the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit of God, towards heaven – as both our destiny and our home -- because our food of life, the Eucharist is, sacramentally, the very same Body which is Jesus’ in heaven; and thus God’s Gift of the Holy Spirit, bestowed on us through the Eucharist, is now at work forming us ever more in Jesus’ likeness, so that we -- as living members, in Spirit and Truth, of His Mystical Body on earth -- might ultimately be able to share in the eternal glory which is His, in the Spirit, before His Father in heaven. 

For your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory.

The Father has received His Beloved Son back and, living in the Father’s heavenly presence, His Son is the bearer of an eternal promise, that where He is, we -- who through faith and baptism are members of His mystical Body -- may be:

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

Such is, indeed, the Lord Jesus’ prayer today in our regard; and what hope of glory and fulfilment it holds out for us in the future, what joy and peace it can bring us now, if we pray in unison with Jesus, and live in a way that makes such a prayer credibly ours!  Consequently, we who entertain such hopes surely cannot allow ourselves to live a life of worldly obsession, constantly searching and striving for what the world promises, whilst largely forgetting our heavenly vocation and future.  Even Jesus’ prayer that we ‘may be with Him where He is’ can only bear effect in the lives of those who are open to, and in tune with, such a prayer; that is, in the lives of those who seek communication and communion with Him more seriously and lovingly than they search for earthly success, earthly rewards, human sympathy and human companionship.  And so, let us never forget St. Paul’s admonition in today’s readings:

If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

Let us, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, follow such advice in the spirit of today’s wonderful celebration, taking very much to heart the words of the prophet Nehemiah:

Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Maundy Thursday 2018

Maundy Thursday 

This is a most holy and a most joyful night: it is a night of family feasting in grateful remembrance of God’s wondrous blessings.  It is indeed a family night because the Passover feast was, from the times of Moses, not a temple feast celebrated according to minute details of ritual, but a family gathering in the privacy of the home, a celebration with family and friends.
On returning home for this celebration, and after prayer, the head of the family gathering had to consider himself a prince: decorating his table with the best food and the most acceptable wines.  In fact, it was his duty to prepare sumptuously according to the measure of his possibilities.   We are told in the Gospels that Jesus reclined at table with His disciples for the Last Supper as we call it today.  This was prescribed for faithful Jews; they would have been seated for an ordinary meal, but for this special Passover meal they had to eat reclining, stretched out on their left side with head towards the food; it was a symbol of the liberty they were celebrating, the liberty God had won for His Chosen People by the wonders He had worked in Egypt and throughout their desert wanderings, delivering them from slavery and bringing them to the freedom they now enjoyed.  They had much to be grateful for, and this was the night on which they gave whole-hearted expression to that gratitude, in accordance with the Lord’s command.  Each generation of faithful Israelites was taught to consider that they themselves had been brought out of Egypt, saved from slavery, by the Lord; they were not celebrating something that happened in the past to their fathers only; no, they had to realize that they themselves were among those that had been saved by the Lord.  The sages, the wise men, of Israel, when speaking of this night’s celebration, tell us that when it is celebrated with such dispositions, the God of Israel, the Holy One Himself, leaves His normal, familiar, entourage of angels and of the righteous in the Garden of Eden, and comes this night, to watch with delight the children of Israel here on earth rejoicing in the deliverance He won for them, gratefully singing His praises and loyally observing His commandments.
This was an occasion to which Jesus had really been looking forward:
I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Luke 22:15)
We must be quite clear about this: the Last Supper was no sad occasion for saying “Good-by”.  How on earth could Our Lord have “eagerly desired” to eat a sorrowful leave-taking meal with His disciples?  This was, on the contrary, something to be “eagerly desired”, something towards which His whole life’s work had been leading, something that would express the fulfilment of all His efforts and desires for His disciples and for us.  This was no sorrowful leave-taking anticipating the end of a lovely earthly relationship, it was the preparation for a new and heavenly future for believers in Jesus, and our memorial of it should be a festal gathering:
How eagerly I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
Why so eagerly?  Because this meal was the symbol of, the ultimate preparation for, and above all, the decisive inauguration of that heavenly banquet celebrating and conferring the salvation brought by Jesus: freedom from sin, and membership -- as adopted children in Christ -- into the family of God, where all can call Him “Father” and have a share in His eternal blessedness, according to the words,
Blessed are those who are called to His Supper.
That was the blessing the Son had come to bring to a humanity which had long been in darkness, had long been alienated from true happiness and life: a humanity created by God and for God, but deceived by Satan and enchained by sin; a humanity which stirred such compassion in the Father that He sent His only Son to share in and to save the weakness of human flesh by dying sinless and rising again; and in the power of His Resurrection pouring out His Holy Spirit upon those who would believe in His name, the Spirit who would form those disciples in the likeness of their Lord for the glory of the Father.
It was now so near to fulfilment; this was no time for sad reminiscences of the past but for ardent longings for what was to come: Jesus was indeed to suffer and to die but that was for a purpose which would be surely achieved through His suffering and death.
Let us now just look at that suffering and death, which was so close at hand but which, Jesus refused to allow to deter Him:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
It might have seemed that Jesus’ life was to be taken from Him by the superior power of death after having been betrayed by those to whom He had been sent and condemned by official fear and hatred.  Had that been the case, then indeed, Jesus’ death would have been the supreme tragedy and the Last Supper an occasion for agonizing farewells and deep-felt loss.  That was not what Jesus wanted and was not what Jesus was going to allow.  This meal and the morrow's crucifixion were to be occasions of deepest fulfilment, joy and love, because at this Supper Jesus deliberately offered His coming crucifixion and death to His Father, resolving to accept it and embrace it out of obedient love for His Father.  It would not be the power of sin and death which would take away His life from Him, but rather -- just as now He was offering it, to His Father -- so tomorrow He would be giving it in obedience to His Father’s will and purpose for His only-begotten Son made flesh for us.  His suffering and death would not be the tragic betrayal that Judas’ action would seem to signify; because that Passion and Death was being dedicated and offered by Jesus now to wipe away the sins and betrayals of men and women of all times.  The whole tenor of tomorrow’s crucifixion was being pre-determined now, at this meal, by Jesus.  He would die out of obedient and loving zeal for His Father, out of redeeming love for the whole human race.
At the Passover Meal the Jews celebrated God’s wonders in Egypt which saved the nation from physical slavery; how much more should we, the new People of God, celebrate the wonder of God’s love for us manifested in the gift of His Son to us and for us?  How much more should we rejoice in the love which Jesus had and has for us; that love which led Him to endure the Cross and to scorn its shame so that He might enable us to have access, in Him, to our heavenly home:
Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Tonight, Jesus rejoices that by dying He is going to destroy death and turn betrayal into faithful love; He rejoices that soon He will meet up, once again, with His disciples in the great joy of a heavenly banquet shared among friends; friends to whom, in the meantime, He is going to leave this pledge and this food along with the loving request: Do this in memory of Me.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Palm Sunday Year B 2018

Palm Sunday (B) 2018

(The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark)

In the responsorial psalm today you repeated words that were horrendous, coming, as they once did, from the mouth of Jesus:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

Such a cry can only have been forced out of Jesus by unimaginably intense suffering, for He was, on earth, the very Son of God made flesh: as a Child He had been loved and taught by Mary, protected by Joseph; He grew up in constant favour with God and man; and  His great delight was to learn from the Scriptures to recognize with His human mind and  respond with His human heart to His heavenly Father more and more, day by day; He had been sent and endowed to save Israel and, indeed, the whole of mankind; and in all that He did He sought only to please and give glory to His Father in Heaven.  How intense, therefore, must those sufferings have been which led Him to cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  Listen to the psalm again (22:7-8):

All who see Me mock at Me; they mock Me with parted lips, they wag their heads: “He relied on the Lord; let Him deliver Him, let Him rescue Him, if He loves Him.”  

It is hard to suffer unjust, ignorant, derision; derision from those of no principles whose life-course bends with every prevailing wind, and whose only courage is to run with the hounds and share in the pleasures of the mob.

But even those who find themselves having to endure such derision -- when they have been finally brought low, and their suffering and agony is visible to all -- will hear, at times, individual voices being raised on their behalf, or perhaps find themselves being accorded some compassionate and sympathetic gestures from one or two onlookers more humane or tender-hearted than the others.  There were, indeed, some such who witnessed Jesus’ agony; but they were only tender-hearted, they had no understanding of Jesus’ P/person and character, no appreciation of His aims and purpose.  And they only lamented, since no one actually spoke up for Jesus personally, with the result that His persecutors were able to laugh at His loneliness.  Even worse, in their laughter they mocked at His very thread of life saying:

          He relied on the Lord, let Him rescue Him, if He loves Him!

Yes, Jesus had trusted in the Lord, His Father!  Throughout His life He had trusted totally in His Father and He knew that His Father was totally trustworthy.  Now, however, it seemed that, as His life was draining away, He was leaving a situation totally at variance with the ideal for which He had lived.  Jesus had wanted to lead His fellow Jews to recognise the Father He proclaimed as the one true God Whom they and their fathers had always worshiped: the one God and Father Whose wisdom and goodness could only be most fittingly learnt and most fully appreciated from the witness and teaching of His only-begotten Son now become man.  And here were those to whom He had been sent, and for whom He had laboured long and suffered much, mocking His Father and their God with their jibe: “let Him save this fellow if this fellow is His friend”.

Compared to this Personal agony the physical torment was as nothing; nevertheless, physical torment it was: He could count every one of His bones and was wracked by agonizing cramps as He hung there; breathing was so horribly difficult for Him, continually having to struggle to raise up His rib cage enough to experience but the slightest relief from the dreadful and continuous threat of being smothered; and then those holes in His hands and feet were pouring out His life-blood and leaving Him with such a terrible thirst!

The psalm which Jesus was reciting went on:

But You, O Lord, be not far from Me; O My help, hasten to aid Me;

witnessing to the fact that He trusted His Father to the end; indeed, the psalm closes with words of triumph:

I will proclaim Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.  You who fear the LORD, praise Him!  All you descendants of Jacob, give glory to Him, revere Him, all you descendants of Israel!

However, granting such a final outcome, the question becomes all the more pressing: why did Jesus have to suffer so dreadfully in order to complete the work of our salvation?

It was not only to save us from our sins, His holiness and majesty were infinitely more than sufficient for that; but to restore and renew us individually so that each of us might be able to recognize and respond to the love of His Father, from Whose  loving approval we had all originally turned at the behest of the serpent … all that required and still requires our individual humble and loving co-operation!

And so, Jesus did not suffer horribly simply because it needed such suffering to free all of us from the weight of our sins; no, He suffered so much to show and hopefully convince us, His brethren, to just what extent He Himself would, and we, each and every one of us, could and should, trust the Father.  He willingly emptied Himself entirely of any Personal dignity, physical and emotional reserves of strength, of any hope of possible escape or deliverance other than His Father’s love and faithfulness which, however, He could no longer feel or imagine.   He suffered thus because He wanted to proclaim to suffering humankind that no matter what their situation – for no human suffering could possibly measure up to this – the Father was the One to trust.  He might have said this again in words, but words could in no way give the weight of conviction offered by the living example of this Man who, so totally forgetful of Himself, was relinquishing all that He had and was, and committing Himself into His Father’s loving arms while agonizing on the Cross, in order to make manifest to sinful men just how good, how totally admirable and absolutely trustworthy, the Father is.  Only by thus enduring and triumphing over the worst the devil might inflict would Jesus be able free us from fear of the devil by giving us an unquenchable hope in the Father’s goodness, and thereby empower us to follow wherever His Spirit might lead us for God’s glory and the salvation of the world. 
Hear now the words of St. Peter giving encouragement to a tiny flock of bewildered and persecuted Christians in Asia Minor, and recognize how your faith today, dear People of God, is indeed being offered the same nourishment as that which enabled those Christians of old to triumph over their sufferings and transform their world:

You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot.   He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, Who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

Glory and praise to you Lord Jesus Christ!  You are the Saviour of the world! 

Friday, 16 March 2018

5th Sunday of Lent Year B 2018

5th. Sunday of Lent (B)

(Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:7-9; Saint John 12:20-33)

The whole purpose of Our Blessed Lord’s life and death upon earth can be summed up in the words of His prayer:

            Father, glorify Your name!

In today’s Gospel account He was near the end of His life, He had performed many striking miracles, provoked much attention throughout the whole country, and healed countless sick and possessed persons (John 15: 24):

If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have so sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. 

Nevertheless, because of the refusal of official Judaism and most of the people to repent He thirsted to do still more:

            Father, glorify Your name!

And now, He realized that the opportunity for Him to finally slake His thirst was at hand, for the climax of His life as God-made-man for God’s glory and man’s salvation was imminent; moreover, He had come to appreciate that it’s fulfilment would not be attained by His doing, so much as by His suffering – allowing – His Father to bring to fulfilment in Him and through Him that for which He had originally sent Him.  And to that end the devil himself would be permitted, in his overweening pride, to bring about his own downfall by doing to Jesus -- Who now appeared to be at His weakest -- what he had long desired to do since having being humiliated in their desert contest at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  The renewal of that contest would be the decisive moment when the ignorance and hatred of sin would be cast out, and the beauty and truth of the Kingdom of God ushered in as the ruling power for the future formation, development, and fulfilment of a new People of God throughout the whole world; a people called to embrace a transformation of life, from that well-known earthly life inexorably enmeshed in sin, into the freedom of the children of God, a heavenly and eternal life to be bestowed upon all believers in Jesus as Son of God and only Saviour of mankind:

Now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.  And when I am lifted up from this earth, I shall draw all men to Myself.

When those around Jesus heard the voice from heaven proclaiming that the Father in heaven was about to be supremely glorified through the death of Jesus they were divided in their opinions, some were humbled by the mystery and said, ‘It was an angel speaking to Him’, while others -- probably the majority -- shrugged off what they could not immediately understand and said, ‘It was a clap of thunder!’  A like division still arises today, when Christian, even Catholic, people, are faced with personal suffering.

For there are certain truths in life, People of God, which can only be realized by living them.   The intellect alone does not, in the case of such truths, give us a satisfactory understanding and most certainly cannot give us an adequate appreciation of them.  For example, authorities in free societies try to carefully avoid making martyrs of opposing factions or individuals; somehow an ordinary course of punishment seems to strengthen, focus, such opposition, not destroy it.  Now such truths are especially prominent in matters of religion.   Our Blessed Lord Himself said earlier in St. John’s Gospel (7:17):

If any man’s will is to do God’s will, he shall know whether My teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on My own authority.

In other words, we can only truly recognize God’s will for us by our acting in conformity with His known and generally proclaimed will.  That is, we can only understand, appreciate, Divine Truth by humbly accepting It and trying to live It; such Truth cannot be sectioned off from our daily living and then, so to speak, digested on a pick-and-choose basis by some pseudo-specialist course of intellectual studies.  Divine truth, spiritual truth, can only be gradually assimilated into the whole of our self by being humbly received, deeply loved, and sincerely obeyed as an integral and indeed decisive aspect of our ongoing life.

Of all the Christian truths which can only be understood by living them, this is perhaps the supreme example:  that the Father’s name is glorified, that Jesus Himself is glorified, by Jesus’ death on the Cross.

As a result of that truth, Jesus’ subsequent words:

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life,  (John 12:25)

which seem apparently contradictory and meaningless, in reality, are spiritually logical and redolent with divine wisdom, because:

            Whoever serves (Jesus) must follow (Him). (12:26)

Of course, the word ‘hate’ is not to be understood literally, we can’t hate our life in this world literally, any more than we can hate our father and mother, brother and sister as we read in one of Our Lord’s sayings; it is a figure of speech, a way of speaking current in Our Lord’s time in Palestine, meaning that, under certain conditions, we must be prepared to regard our life in this world, our love for father, mother, brothers and sisters, children and possessions, reputation and respect, as of secondary importance.  When, that is, their consideration would conflict with the absolute demands of the Supreme Good: God and eternal life.

This doctrine that suffering, relatively understood, humbly accepted, and fully embraced in faith, can be the gateway to a higher and better life, is one of the great lights and blessings of Christianity, and I can well remember the sense of purpose and worthwhileness which it gave to much of my life when I myself became a convert to the Catholic faith as a young man of 22.

It is, however, a light and a blessing we must cherish by putting it into practice, making it rule our attitude to the ever-recurring difficulties, sorrows and problems we come across in our experience of daily living.

People of God, do not think you have done anything for God if you have not suffered for Him, with Jesus Who, having spent his whole lifer in continuous prayer and praise, obedience and preaching, general healings and striking miracles, nevertheless, still felt a most urgent need to glorify His Father yet more; and that, He now realized, could only come about by His suffering.  For He had always used His earthly body to the full for His Father’s glory, and now He could only sate His burning thirst to glorify His Father still more by embracing bodily suffering, that is, by offering His Body as Israel’s ultimate sacrifice to God for the fulfilment of her covenant with God and for the salvation of all mankind, as was intended by God when He originally ‘covenanted’ Israel.

We Catholics need to be convinced of this, that God’s offer of suffering on earth to His servants can, in fact, be His loving offer of life, deeper, richer, yes, happier and more fulfilling life, if that suffering is embraced in faith.

Dear People of God, when grief, anxiety, pain, come your way, try to recall what our Faith teaches us: that in God alone is our fulness of life and being.  Because He made us out of nothing He alone knows us entirely through and through, and because He made us for Himself, He alone loves us for what we most truly are.  With such an awareness, in times of trial, short prayers – deeply intended -- are most fitting: ‘My God, You are my joy; You are my peace, my love, my hope, my strength, my trust.’

And when finished, don’t look for results from Him, but put your own words into practice, put yourself at peace and trust Him; and then, above all, THANK HIM.

That attitude well befits a true disciple of Jesus Who, when His own agony was beginning, took His suffering to His Father in prayer; and, indeed, it was by His persevering in such loving obedience and total trust, that what had long been lost by the old Adam in the Garden of Eden, was redeemed – as a treasure soon to be yet more gloriously embellished -- by the New Adam in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As we heard in our second reading:

Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.

Therefore, surely, we His disciples should endeavour to follow in His steps.  The greatest opportunity that can come our way is the moment when suffering comes -- unasked for, unsought, unprovoked – into our lives; the moment when it is no longer we ourselves who are acting, devising, seeking, to directly promote God’s glory (as we see it), but rather when God Himself is, as it were, knocking at the door of our will for permission to Himself glorify His own name in us and through us by means of the suffering He offers to share with us.

Jesus did not ask to understand His Cross, but He prayed most earnestly that He might have strength to embrace it.  We, for our part, cannot understand our crosses, but let us gratefully follow Our Blessed Lord’s example in His prayer, and in His YES to His Father and death to Himself.

Friday, 9 March 2018

4th Sunday of Lent Year B 2018

4th. Sunday of Lent (B)
       (2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-21; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21)

It must have seemed very mysterious to the People of Israel when, later on, scrutinizing the Scriptures in order to better understand and serve the Lord their God, they were faced with that bizarre incident taken from the history of their forebears journeying across the desert from slavery to the land the Lord would give them, that there they might serve Him in freedom.  It was, indeed, mysterious for them -- and unavoidably so -- because the whole episode has been found to be rich with meaning and significance not only for subsequent Israelites over more than 1000 years, but even more particularly for the whole future Christian people.  In the desert, several hundreds, perhaps a few thousands, of the children of Israel were saved by looking up at the bronze likeness of a deadly serpent; and that saving incident, interpreted for us by Jesus’ words in the Gospel, has carried and still bears with it salutary teaching for Christian people of all times.  For God, having sent the punishing serpents to do their work among a sinful and rebellious people, was subsequently able to turn that deadly instrument of His wrath into a saving grace: ‘look faithfully at the bronze serpent in sincere acknowledgment of your sin, and you will be healed of your wounds’.

For us now, Jesus says that God the Father has allowed His only begotten Son, His Beloved, to be rejected by the religious authorities of His own people and cruelly tortured, before being lifted up on the Cross by the powers and principalities of imperial Rome, and finally being left as an exhibit to suffer a slow and agonising death.  Can God turn that most brutal, degrading, and horrendous event to serve any good purpose?  Most assuredly He can, for love -- divine love -- was involved: for He Who suffered chose to call Himself the ‘Son of Man’.  As Son of His Father Jesus was consumed with divine love for us, while, as Man -- and indeed as our Head -- He loved His Father and our Father with the total fullness of His divinely perfect humanity. 

The complete answer to our question was made manifest when Jesus, three days later, rose from the dead; for then His rejection and suffering on the Cross was shown to have been but a prelude to, and preparation for, His sublime exaltation to heavenly glory in our humanity!

Father, the hour has come.  Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify You.  (John 17:1)

Look on the bronze serpent, raised up on high that all might be able to see it, and find healing!  The bronze serpent showed the cause of Israel’s suffering, for it recalled and represented the original serpent in Eden who injected the poison of sin into human life, for indeed it was Israel’s sin that brought on the punishment of those serpent bites in the desert of Sinai.  Jesus-crucified-on-high likewise represented the horror of human suffering from sin (not His own but His people’s); but Jesus’ Pasch did not end with suffering for it was entered upon and embraced as but the initial stage of His way back to His Father; and so it is Jesus, having returned to His Father and been lifted up in the glory of God by the Spirit of God, Who now manifests the healing power being offered to all mankind against the primordial and still enduring ‘bite’ of sin and eternal death.

The LORD said to Moses, "Make a serpent and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover."

People of God, it is not enough for us -- the new Chosen People of Spirit and Truth -- to look on Jesus crucified with nothing more than sincere sorrow decrying such barbarity, for many humanists pride themselves on such sentiments.  It is necessary for us Catholics and all who aspire to salvation, to look at Jesus on that pole of suffering not only humbly confessing Him to have been raised up there for our sins, but also gratefully acknowledging that that same Jesus – still in His human flesh -- has now been raised up on high in glory.  The Risen and Glorious Lord Jesus is the One to Whom we must commit our sinful selves with absolute faith in His promises of Divine Goodness for our salvation, and with unshakeable confidence in the dying manifestation of His now-eternal human compassion:

            Father, forgive them for they know not what they do
            Amen I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise. (Lk. 23:34, 43)

Only thus will we come to that living hope of which St. Peter speaks with such gratitude and confidence in his first letter:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who in His great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  (1 Peter 1:3)

People of God, the message of Christianity is perennial, and it has been proclaimed implicitly from the beginning of man’s relations with God, and explicitly in the life and teaching of Christ and His Church: in order to reach the fullness of our human capacity for life, the fullness for which we were originally created by God and subsequently redeemed by Christ, we must leave our sin and sinfulness behind by faith in, obedience to, and companionship with, Jesus our Saviour, present to us and for us in and through His Church.

The alternatives are stark and irreducible: as shown, on the one hand, in the horror of the Son of Man suffering as Jesus of Nazareth on the Cross on Calvary, and on the other hand, in the divine majesty of the same Son of Man raised up to, and sharing in, the eternal glory of His Father by the Spirit of them Both.

Why must there be this utterly un-crossable divide?   Because of the divine beauty and unimaginable goodness of God’s love for us.  Our scientists search ever more frantically for other life-supporting planets such as our Earth.  There are none in our solar system and so they go ever further and deeper into mind-numbingly distant galaxies and stars looking for possible planetary systems to be found there … but nothing can be found like our dear Earth … for we are uniquely loved and divinely created in the image and likeness of God.  Profligacy in creation or indifference in our moral response to it are unthinkable because they are both absolutely alien to the beauty, holiness, and sheer majesty of Divine Love willing to express and to expose Itself in our fleshly being for our eternal calling.

St. Paul in today’s second reading guides us to the ultimate root of our faith:

God, Who is rich in mercy, BECAUSE OF THE GREAT LOVE HE HAD FOR US, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.

Dear People of God, the great tragedy and the ultimate wrong afflicting and threatening our world today is ingratitude to, wilful ignorance and defiance of, God’s love for us and all mankind; above all, however, such ingratitude, ignorance, and defiance shown by nominally Catholic Christians!  The very first petition in the only prayer taught us by Jesus goes immediately, as did His whole life, to this most radical evil afflicting our world today: Father, HALLOWED be Thy name.

We all have to treasure our God-given faith most carefully as was explained in our second reading:

For by grace you have been saved through FAITH, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.

And I think it is essential in today’s climate in lands formerly Catholic and Christian (now delighting in a pseudo-freedom to sin and do whatever they want to proclaim themselves) to emphasize, in the words of Jesus Himself, what Faith really means for us, it is Life and Love:

I am doing this because our second reading ended, somewhat unfortunately, with these words:

For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

Dear fellow Catholics, how ‘do-gooders’ who reject our faith, reject Jesus, reject the existence of any supreme God and any idea of everlasting, eternal, Life before God in heaven, must love that translation ‘that we should LIVE IN them’.  Those words are far too close to being what do-gooders would ideally want them to be, which is ‘that we should LIVE BY them’.

People of God, we Catholics do not live by good works, we walk in them as our Vulgate official bible, and the majority of the best modern translations also, translates the Greek original.   We live by the Faith explained to us by Jesus Himself and still proposed to us by His Catholic Church today:

Now this is eternal life, that they should know You, the only true God, and the One Whom You sent, Jesus Christ.   (John 17:3)

We walk in good works (of whatever sort God has prepared us for and called us to), ‘For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for (such) good works’.

Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ, may our lives, refreshed and renewed by today’s fellowship in and with Jesus our Lord, help Mother Church bring to fulfilment His work and our glorious legacy:

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.


Friday, 2 March 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent Year B 2018

 3rd. Sunday of Lent (B) 
   (Exodus 20:1-17; 1st. Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25)

Notice the confidence of Paul and the early Christians: they were small in number, poor, persecuted by the Roman authorities, and outcasts from what was, for some, their native Jewish society; but for all that, Paul could say, as you heard in the second reading:

The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Paul and the early Church were full of confidence in their vocation to proclaim and bear witness to Jesus the Christ, not only in despite of, but even because of, all the forces arraigned against them.  The power of those forces opposing them showed, as Paul tells us, the hidden might of the Gospel proclamation, so peacefully, so humbly, and yet so irresistibly drawing more and more followers to Jesus while continuing to solidly confirm and ever more surely establish disciples already experiencing suffering for the Name of Jesus openly before men, but finding themselves being secretly buoyed-up and born-along by a Spiritual conviction and peaceful strength in Jesus and before God:

We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

What pride and confidence they had in the Faith!  Those forebears of ours were totally convinced of, and boundlessly grateful for, the Faith they had been privileged to hear and embrace, and for the amazing fact that they had been personally called to witness before the world to the truth of the apostles’ proclamation of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit received from the risen Lord of Glory through the ministry of His Church on earth.

Now, if we are to bear witness to Jesus today, in our modern society which is largely secularised and unsympathetic to religious attitudes and values, we also must have confidence in our Catholic faith.

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  (John 17:14)

Our confidence, however, cannot be a worldly confidence which sometimes manifests itself as the brashness found in certain Jehovah’s Witnesses who come knocking and stand arguing at peoples’ doors; nor can it be, what is much, much worse, a devilish confidence based on a presumed personal holiness.  Our confidence must be a confidence in God, Personalized and shot through and through with gratitude to the God the Father who has deigned to choose and call us as disciples of His beloved Son Jesus Whom He sent among us, and Who now wills to bestow on us  His most Holy Spirit for the fulfilment of His saving purposes in our world of today.   People of God, without such deep and humble gratitude our confidence would not be Christian confidence.

Today, part of the failure of Christians to bear witness to the truth about Jesus is due to the fact that they are embarrassed by and afraid of the total simplicity and sheer confidence of St. Paul’s words:

We proclaim Christ crucified, to those who are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

They feel it is somehow proud and sinful to think like that; because -- fearing men more than God -- they don’t want to appear to non-believers as being disrespectful of other peoples’ religious or irreligious opinions.  What faith they have, therefore, must be couched in words that both irreligious people proud of their ‘logical’ thinking and self-satisfied do-gooders can find understandable and acceptable.   These are people who, at times, come out with plans and policies that are ‘logical developments’ of certain shreds of Christian teaching they might have retained or absorbed (e.g. Christian marriage is good; therefore, we should allow anyone and encourage everyone – be they heterosexual, homosexual, or trans-sexual -- to marry), while nevertheless totally rejecting any idea of there being a transcendent spiritual God relating to a human being’s personal conscience.  And being totally ignorant of, or unwilling to accept, the very possibility of any human spiritual life, understanding, or development, they have no comprehension at all of what Jesus wanted to say with such words as:

It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.

            I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance;

Judas said, ‘Why was this oil not sold and the money given to the poor?’   Jesus answered, ‘Let her alone.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.

Get behind Me Satan: You are thinking not as God does but as men do.  Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but who ever loses his life for My sake will find it.  What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

How sad and foolish for Catholics and Christians to be afraid to witness to and clearly express their faith because of such ‘logically-good’ people!   For, as I said, the confidence we must have is a confidence in God’s power and God’s wisdom, together with a humble awareness of our responsibility to live up to the calling He has given us.  The modern refusal to embrace such confidence is a sign of lack of faith in God, lack of gratitude to God, and also a most serious overdose of self- love which makes its’ sufferers afraid of stirring up opposition or receiving criticism from others held in public favour or holding popular opinions.

The glorious apostle Paul had no doubt concerning his own obligation and calling to bear witness to Jesus by his ministry:

I became a minister (of the Gospel) according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. (Ephesians 3:7)

His fitness for the work of apostle was a gift; and that gift of the grace of God was not in any way exclusive to Paul himself since he proclaimed a like gift of power and fruitfulness for all true believers when (Ephesians 1:19-21) he spoke of:

The exceeding greatness of (God’s) power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.

Moreover, the Word of God we are called to bear witness to, the Word we celebrate and meditate here at Mass every Sunday, does not, of its very nature, return to God fruitless, as the prophet Isaiah (55:11) tells us:

My word that goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

However, God’s working in and through us might well appear to critical viewers as the foolishness and weakness of Catholics and Christians before it is revealed as the wisdom and power of God; and such a thought might incline some to tremulously consider whether, in our proclamation of Christ, in our work for Him, we should not seek, first of all, to ingratiate ourselves, to tone down, soften, our proclamation of the faith we hold in our dealings with others who either do not believe at all or who have a different faith to ours.  That is not the true Christian attitude.  Look at Jesus in our Gospel today:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the moneychangers seated there.  He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves He said, "Take these out of here, and stop making My Father's house a marketplace!"

Jesus, quite clearly, could be firm, even -- as on this occasion -- forceful, whilst at other times He might be kindly, gentle, humble, or persuasive in proclaiming His Good News of salvation.  Never, however, will you find Him trying to ingratiate Himself or tone down the implications His Good News.  Likewise, only if our witness to Jesus is made authentic and strong by our forgetfulness of self and simple trust and confidence in Him – that is, in His truth unadulterated by any scheming of our own -- will it bear the fruit He wants from His true disciples.

The world we are seeking to serve in Christ is beyond our acceptance or understanding:

While He was in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, many began to believe in His name when they saw the signs He was doing.  But Jesus would not trust Himself to them, because He knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify (to Him) about men.  He Himself understood them (too) well.

Only God fully knows the mind and heart of man.  Jesus, the Son of Man, did not trust Himself to those in Jerusalem who proclaimed primarily their own authentic religiosity or who appeared to only reluctantly believe in Him because of some miracles He had performed.  Likewise, we must not rely on human words, posturizing, schemes or stratagems, for only God’s wisdom can guide us in our endeavours to promote the Gospel in our world today.  Our witness to the Faith has to be a proclamation of Jesus’ truth made in love and sincerity; we most certainly have no need to seek to ingratiate the Gospel, or ourselves, by trying to conform it to modern preferences or practices. The Faith we profess and proclaim is God’s gift to mankind; through faith in Jesus His Son, it is the supreme expression, and only authentic channel, of God’s uniquely saving love for men and women of all times.

Therefore, I encourage you today, People of God, to have confidence in God and your own calling: confidence in the wisdom enshrined in the Faith, confidence in the power of His Word to which you bear witness, confidence in His goodness and care that will, if you keep looking trustfully to Him, be with you all the way in all your Christian endeavours.  We must seek to please one only, God; and we can only please Him if we, first of all, have sufficient trust and confidence in Him as to be able to forget ourselves.  Then, under the inspiration of the Spirit of Jesus, we have to go forward in trust and confidence, and work according to the words of Jesus, seeking only the Father‘s glory and the good of souls.  And if, at times, because of our sinfulness and failings, we may need to try to curb or correct our personal character and attitudes in order to help our neighbours hear and recognise the Gospel of Christ, we must never think that the Gospel message itself, the Good News of Christ which is ours in the Faith, needs to be ingratiatingly adapted to what others may want. 

We should therefore hold close to our hearts the following words of St. Paul:

Bring to light (for all) what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God Who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.  This was according to the eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in Whom we have boldness of speech and confidence of access through faith in Him. (Ephesians (3:10-13)