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.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ Year B 2018

(Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26)

It was noticeable that today’s first reading taken from the book of Exodus and also the second one from the letter to the Hebrews mentioned only the blood sprinkled on the Israelites by Moses in the desert, or again the blood poured out by Christ on Calvary to cleanse His people from their sins.  At the Last Supper, however, as St. Mark’s Gospel told us, Jesus blessed and offered bread first of all, and only afterwards did He offer some wine.  Why did Jesus not simply offer wine become His Blood?  Why did He bless bread and offer His Body also?

Our Lord’s divine wisdom is beyond any merely human explanation or scrutiny; and that is why Mother Church offered us several readings at Holy Mass, so that we might gain some understanding and appreciation of Jesus’ actions in the Gospel by viewing them in the light of the other bible texts, both of which in this case, as I said, speak only of blood, thereby provoking and inviting me, and I hope you also, to wonder why Jesus took both bread and wine, and thereby offered both His Body and His Blood.

In our reading from the book of Exodus, Moses had led the people of Israel out of Egypt and they had arrived at their first destination, Sinai, where Moses had encountered God on the mountain top and been given the Law; then we were told:

Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD, they all answered with one voice and said, "We will do everything that the LORD has told us."   Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD.

Our reading from the letter to the Hebrews spoke of Jesus ascending, not simply to the top of a mountain, but to heaven itself with His blood:

Christ came as High Priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Both readings emphasize the blood, used by Moses and given by Jesus, and both tell us what the blood was for:

Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of His."

If the blood of bulls and goats and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God?

The blood was, therefore, for a sacrificial cleansing leading to a commitment to God by observing His laws, following His teaching, keeping His Word.

By those two readings we are encouraged, almost forced, to think, on hearing our Gospel passage: why did Jesus add the bread, His Body?   This question becomes all the more important when we realize that blood alone evokes easily and clearly that required cleansing from sin and commitment to God; but when bread is also used we begin to think of bread and wine as one, carrying an implication of food and drink, with the result that the Body and the Blood offered by Jesus seem likewise to take on a suggestion of nourishment, refreshment.

The People of Israel, the original Chosen People, as you heard, pledged themselves to keep the Law given to them through Moses by the Lord:

All the people answered with one voice and said, "We will do everything that the LORD has told us."  

However, both early on in their desert wanderings, and ultimately and most disastrously, over the span of many centuries leading to the Messianic times, they failed, repeatedly, to keep their part of the covenant they had originally entered into with God at Sinai.

They failed because they tried to do the impossible: not that God had required what was impossible of them, but because they failed to recognize and appreciate the divine aspect of their calling, because the basic sin of devilish pride once again reasserted itself into mankind’s relationship with God.  Instead of invoking God’s help for their weakness and His grace for their ignorance, they tried to keep the Law not so much by aspiring towards, longing for, its spiritual fulfilment, as by reducing its scope to the level of their own natural understanding, and its requirements to their natural capacity for meticulous observance.  In that way their fulfilment of the requirements of the Law became more of a testimonial to their own spurious holiness and undeniable strength of character, rather than a means for their education into a spiritual understanding and appreciation of God’s choice of Israel for the good of all mankind, and an invitation and spur to a whole-hearted and humble personal response to His inconceivable wisdom and love.

The offering of sacrificial blood alone came to remind the Israelites above all of obligations, requirements, to be met -- as promised -- in a vain attempt to legally fulfil their side of a bilateral agreement made at Sinai.   For the old covenant entered into by Moses at Sinai had been one of the type made between a sovereign Lord and his vassals, a type of treaty common in the Near East of those early days, a treaty in which a Great King would offer a binding covenant to His subjects, whereby He would protect them and they, in return, would fulfil material and specific obligations of praise, honour, and service as His servants; such treaties, among the nations around, were not commonly considered as involving -- let alone binding -- the minds and hearts of those obeying.   

Humankind has always striven, since stretching out a grabbing hand for forbidden fruit in the original temptation of Eden, to become like to God without in any way becoming godly:

God knows well that when you eat of it (the apple) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods, who know good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)

Indeed, such is the extent of human pride, that human beings even try to make themselves superior to God, trying to force Him, for example by magical practices and incantations, to do their will.

The Son of God, however, out of His great love for His Father and compassion for our suffering and subjection, came as One among us to offer both His BODY and His BLOOD; and at the Last Supper Jesus offered His Body first of all:

He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it, this is My Body.

Thus, Jesus gives His Body first to make His disciples one with and in Himself, indeed, as closely one with Him as conceivably possible, before associating them with Himself in the sacrificial offering of Himself by His Blood:

Which will be shed for many.

Under the Old, Mosaic covenant the victims blood … the blood of goats and bulls … was sprinkled upon the people of the covenant; it was their sacrificial offering of their animals, it was a pledge that: 

            We will do everything that the Lord has told us.

In the New Covenant the sacrifice is Jesu’s, His blood is shed for us and we are invited to be one with Him in that sacrifice by the fact of His previously making us one with Himself by the gift of His Body.  Our partaking of His Body, whereby He assimilates us into Himself and thus invites us to sacrifice with Him, is a union far more intimately loving and efficacious than any superficial sprinkling, even with blood:

Jesus said to them (James and John), “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  They said to Him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized. (Mark 10:38–39)

In order to convince His People of their constant need for both cleansing and strength: Jesus’ divinely wise gift of Himself takes on the symbolism of bread and wine, our essential food; It becomes our Eucharistic Food, our essential Bread and Wine, meant to enable to us become a humble and grateful People, constantly aware of our need for heavenly nourishment, whereby we can – in the power of the Spirit -- walk safely and successfully through the desert of this world towards our promised heavenly fulfilment in and with Jesus: our Lord so intimately one with us, God’s eternal  Word, the heavenly Father’s only begotten Son, our Saviour.

But there is yet more, for by bringing in the aspect of food and nourishment whereby we constantly look to God for help and strength to do His will, we are also made aware of our calling to an eternal banquet with God in heaven, where we will find ourselves being given a place at the divine table that we could never have stolen for ourselves, a position of honour and – in Jesus, by the Spirit -- of a certain equality with God, as adopted children in the Kingdom and Family of their eternal Father.  The New Covenant is no longer a mighty-Lord-and-vassal covenant but a bond of mutual love, by the Spirit, in Jesus, wherein we share in the very relationship that exists between Jesus and His Father: we are to become children of the Father, adopted indeed, but most truly His children, because the Spirit uniting Jesus and the Father is our very life: the blood coursing through our veins and in our heart, the breath of life that fills our lungs.

Today therefore, dear People of God, thanks to the readings Mother Church chose to give us along with the Mark’s Gospel account of the institution of the Eucharist, we have seen something of what Jesus’ offering of bread and wine can mean for us: it both humbles and exalts us.  By humbling us it can save us from the folly of human pride, while our exaltation is above anything we could ever have imagined.  Let us therefore, dear friends, give truly heartfelt thanks to our Saviour God and loving Father for such undreamt-of blessings.                         

Friday, 25 May 2018

Trinity Sunday Year B 2018

Trinity Sunday (Year B)

(Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20)

Dear People of God, our readings today open up for us a wonderful panoply of Trinitarian glory and goodness, for our deep peace, supreme hope, and undying gratitude.  It all began with Israel as recorded in our first reading:

Ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?   Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation … with strong hand and outstretched arm which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

There are biblical scholars today who want to deny the fact, and Israel the glory, of God originally choosing one people to be His own Chosen People.   Uniqueness, for such scholars, necessarily leads to exclusivity, superiority, nationalism and racism, and is therefore -- as the supposed cause of too much of mankind’s struggles and strife throughout history -- to be condemned in the moral estimation of a world denying God’s existence … a modern, social, moral order that condones abortion but criminalizes mere words.

Those biblical scholars, or university professorial writers, concerned with their standing in the semi-closed world of biblical scholarship and, IN ORDER TO MAKE THEMSELVES KNOWN AND NOTED, are always reading, commenting on, and replying to, fellow scholars’ works with ideas of their own, sparked off in the maelstrom of their scholarly activities where they read, read, and read (they must keep up-to-date with what is being said!), skip over, abstract, and absorb as quickly as possible, and reply with their own distinctive (creativity is essential!) and hopefully to-be-noticed (that is of the supreme importance!!) observations.  They have no time to spare, cannot miss the golden opportunities available to them, in order to be more humble and faithful before God awaiting His guidance, they must relate with and respond to men (and women) on what is currently topical, they are too often members of a band-wagon, trying to imitate one outstanding leader (still with us, Deo Gratias!) they cannot match in scholarship or fidelity to the Gospel.

As for the Gospels accounts of Jesus’ life activities, it is suggested, that they are not so much visual reports (at first, second, or third hand), as literary devices, stratagems, devised to back-up some chosen Christian teaching of importance.  Those original Gospel authors were not humble disciples inspired to hand down, transmit, God’s saving truth and the truths concerning the life and death of Jesus, but human geniuses it would seem, ‘scholars’ in fact, centuries ahead of their times, somehow able and determined to write a cleverly devised, non-historical, code-cum-story: not written for believers to believe in, live by, and die for, over the intervening two-thousand years but for fellow ‘scholars’ of the 21 st. century to triumphantly discover, decipher, and unlock for faith-deprived people of today.

However, dear People of God and faithful children of Mother Church, we know that God does choose special minsters destined by Him to be servants of His own good plans and purposes for mankind’s better-being and ultimate salvation.  Israel was indeed chosen by God and remained uniquely honoured as His Chosen People for thousands of years until finally bringing forth the glorious fruit, Mary of Nazareth, and, indeed ultimately, the very Son of God Himself made Flesh, for the establishment of a new and ultimate People of God by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost: the Christian, Catholic Church of today.  Yes, God does make choices – sometimes, indeed, with an outstretched arm as with Israel of old -- and that means for us, as believers and disciples of Jesus Our Lord and Saviour, that we too, each of us individually, have been deliberately chosen by God for His glory, our salvation, and the salvation of mankind:

No one can come to Me unless My Father draws him.

Moreover, our world, our universe, is not -- as so many gratuitously opine -- the result of chances, infinitesimal and untraceable, coalescing out of the chaos of unimaginable powers and countless conflicting processes over many millions of years before ultimately heading for inevitable self-destruction into the void of oblivion … No! Our world has been deliberately willed and created by the God Who shows His hand by choosing and then by speaking with love – originally from the midst of the fire on Sinai, then by His continuing words of the Law, the teachings of the Prophets given to Israel for her formation and guidance; until now, ultimately and definitively, in and through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His Word-made-Flesh, proclaimed in and through His Church – because He still loves His creation, and still wills to share His love with those He originally made in His own image and likeness.

Such is the beginning of a series of blessings ever more wonderful and unimaginably beautiful.   Let us move on to our second reading from St. Paul:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

With those words St. Paul refers to a transcendent blessing won for us by Our Lord Jesus: for, by dying in our flesh He destroyed our death, and by rising -- glorified in the Spirit -- He restored our Life.  That is, by His transformation of His human horror of dying on the Cross rejected by those to whom He had been sent, into an act of sublime obedience and supreme love for His Father and His Fathers plans for us, He shattered the tyrannical hold of death over human beings and their experience of life.  Having risen from the dead glorified in His human flesh, He bestows, in fulfilment of the Father’s promise, His Spirit upon His Church: to wipe away human guilt, correct our personal sins and sinfulness, indeed, to set us free for Himself and His Father’s Kingdom.  Thereby He gives us the hope of sharing in Him, as living members of His Body and adopted children of God, in the divine life of eternal Trinitarian beatitude which is His, with the Spirit, before the face of His heavenly Father.

Such forgiveness of sins is a most wonderful blessing indeed.  After all:

What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For, the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.  (Matthew 16:26f.)

Of course, there are some who like to think that they can distract themselves from the awareness of right and wrong characteristic of Christian humanity and learn to forget God and all traces of any sensitivity to sin or awareness of personal responsibility.  Of them the psalmist says:

Sin lurks deep in the hearts of the wicked, forever urging them on to evil deeds. They have no fear of God to hold them back.  Instead, in their conceit, they think they can hide their evil deeds and not get caught.  Everything they say is crooked and deceitful; they are no longer wise and good.  They lie awake at night to hatch their evil plots instead of planning how to keep away from wrong. (TLB.  Psalm 36:1-4)

However, though they may, to some extent, hide their sins from themselves, and though their eyes may refuse to recognize or their minds to admit the truth about themselves, nevertheless, God is the One Who sees all and knows all, and He hates wickedness; above all, He hates the wickedness of those who claim to be innocent of wrong-doing, holy without Him:

With You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.  Oh, continue Your loving-kindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart.     The workers of iniquity have fallen; they have been cast down and are not able to rise. (Psalm 36:9-10,12)

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

For all who, on the other hand, live humbly in Jesus by the Spirit for the Father, the gift of forgiveness of sins and freedom from their enslavement brings into our lives a truly sublime experience of peace and hope.

The next blessing Jesus offers us is inconceivable because St. Paul tells us that:

We are children of God and, if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may be glorified with Him.

St. Paul is therefore able to speak of the “glory of the children of God”.  For the present time, the fullness of that consuming glory is, as I said, something we cannot possibly conceive, for it is heavenly and transcends all earthly categories or human imagining.  However, we can begin to experience of something of that heavenly glory here on earth, because it is given us – even here and now -- to enter into communion with the Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the explicit prayer of Jesus (John 17:5, 24):

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. 

That means that we are able to have, even now, some share in the Son’s loving relationship with His Father by the Holy Spirit: in Jesus, we too can commune with the Father, speak personally with Him as His children and experience His Fatherly love and care for us, as the Spirit of Jesus -- gently working in our spirit and guiding us along His ways – forms us ever more and more in Jesus’ likeness.  In that way, in Jesus and with Him, we can come to know that we are not left to ourselves and that, despite our weakness, whatever our need, we will never be left alone:

Indeed, the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered each to his own, and will leave Me alone.  And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. (John 16:32)

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:23)

(Father) I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)

And so, dear People of God, there is every right reason for our whole-hearted celebration of the Most Holy Trinity today: for, thanks to Jesus, we know by faith, and can appreciate in our spiritual experience, something of the love of the Father: that love from all ages, which upholds our world and embraces us; that intimate and abiding love which is ever at hand to comfort, guide, and protect us; that inviting love, to which we can give whole-hearted response following the wisdom of Jesus’ words and example in the power of His most Holy Spirit.

For such incomparable blessings we are undyingly grateful to Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, because it is He alone Who both reveals the Father and bequeaths to us His Most Holy Spirit:

Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through Me.” (John 14:6)

The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)

And Jesus does all this for us through His faithful Spouse, Mother Church, which continues to do as He originally commanded her:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Therefore, dear People of God, our gratitude to the Father, to His Son -- our Lord and Saviour -- and to the Most Holy Spirit, necessarily holds also Mother Church in its embrace.  And although Mother Church is not yet become the ‘spotless Bride of Christ’ of which we hear in the letter to the Ephesians (5:25-27):

A glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, holy and without blemish;

nevertheless, ever gleaming through the stains of our collective weakness and willfulness, her love for Her Lord and Spouse is unfailing; and, being blessed by His Father as the chosen instrument of mankind’s salvation and channel of His grace, we recognize her as our Mother and see in her the likeness of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to whose tender care and prayers Jesus committed us by His dying wish and command.

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”  Then, to His disciple, “Behold, your mother!”  (John 19:26-27)

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Whit-Sunday (B) Pentecost 2018


 (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11; Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:26-27; 16:12-15)

Jesus promised His Apostles:

When the Advocate comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, He will testify to Me.

How was the Spirit to bear witness to Jesus with regard to the Apostles?

He, the Spirit of truth, will guide you to all truth; He will declare to you the things that are coming.  He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.

Notice, People of God, how careful Jesus is to confirm the oneness of divine witness: the Spirit of Truth will not speak of Himself but, taking from what the Father has, He will glorify Jesus:

He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears; He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.  Everything that the Father has is Mine.

Thus, there will be no opportunity for individuals in later years and subsequent ages to claim personal and private revelations from the Spirit in imitation of pagan oracles and practices in Greek and Roman times; the Spirit leading Mother Church would inspire the Apostles to recall and proclaim all and only what Jesus had taught them in word and deed, and whatever the Father would reveal.  In the Church of Christ, since the Holy Spirit of Truth Himself does not speak on His own authority, most certainly, private individuals cannot do so.  The authentic teaching of Mother Church on faith and morals is divine, both in its authority and, ultimately, in its origin, being the mysterious truth about God’s intimate nature, and His divine will for the progress and fulfilment of human life on earth and for mankind’s eternal destiny:  it is something to be received most gratefully as an incomparable pearl of great price; to be admired beyond all ordinary human measure, and indeed, to be adored and  treasured more than life itself, never in any way to be polluted for human pride or earthly satisfactions of whatever sort.

How does the Spirit move the faithful in the Church?  Since He guides the Apostles into all truth, correspondingly, He guides those who are faithful in Mother Church to appreciate all truth, by both learning to recognize it and lovingly respond to it.  This He does by informing our obedient lives in such a way that we gradually develop an affinity with divine truth, able to rejoice ever more and more in its beauty and draw ever greater strength from its truth.   It was of such guidance of the Church by the Spirit that St. Paul spoke in the second reading:

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.   If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Those words might indeed make ‘walking in the Spirit’ sound most attractive for modern men and women who do not want to be obliged to live under any law.  But yet, on the other hand, another part of our second reading from St. Paul tells us:

            Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Now, that ‘crucifying the flesh’ does not sound quite so attractive for modern ears!  What therefore are half-hearted inquirers and faltering Catholics to think about ‘walking in the Spirit’ if it seems both to promise freedom from oppressive and constraining law while yet involving them in a crucifying of the flesh?  I suppose many, perhaps most, nominal Catholics and Christians in our modern society have already shown, by the fact of declining church attendances and the lowering of public morals, that they have, in fact, decided to ignore what they consider a somewhat vague and uncertain promise of freedom …  If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law … in order to avoid a definite and uncompromising prospect of moral discipline and religious observance … Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Such a decision, however, is not made easier or less regretful when these words of Jesus Himself are called to mind (Matthew 11:29-12:1):

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light;  

or again when St. John tells us in the name of Jesus:

            This is the love of God: that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.   (1 John 5:3)

It would seem then, that either there is some confusion in the Gospel or else many people today are wrong in their understanding of St. Paul, personally chosen and sent by the Risen Lord  Jesus to suffer and serve as Doctor of the Nations and Apostle of the Gentiles, yet commonly regarded as being harsh, unfeeling, and indeed, even exclusive, as exemplified by what they consider to be his teaching in our second reading today: no one can belong to Christ Jesus unless he crucifies all self-indulgent passions and desires … a teaching which many say leads them to reject Christianity.

However, in most cases, that pseudo-reason is more truly to be regarded as an excuse attempting to justify their rejection, not of what is impossible, but of whatever they fear they would find too restrictive and less pleasurable.  For St. Paul does not use those exclusive words ‘you cannot belong to Christ Jesus’, and no modern bible attributes such words to Him; in fact, he actually says:

            Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

And he follows that immediately with the words:

            If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We should, therefore, understand Paul in this way:

Those who are Christ’s, who live by the Spirit and walk in the Spirit, have crucified the flesh.

There all of us are afforded hope, since it is by our living and walking in the Spirit, Paul says, that the Spirit will crucify for us ‘the flesh with its passions and desires’.  Of course, we have to co-operate with the Spirit by following His lead, but that is a far different prospect from having to set about, off one’s own bat so to speak, crucifying our human flesh.  For the fact is that, of ourselves, we cannot crucify our flesh in any saving way, as St. Paul himself tells us:

Things done according to the commandments and doctrines of men indeed have (at times) an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but (such practices) are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:22-23)

The great fault of lapsing, faint-hearted, Catholics and Christians today, the great mistake of the voluble critics of Mother Church’s moral teaching today, is the fact that they neglect, indeed they know nothing about, the presence, the active presence and power, of the Holy Spirit of Truth and Love in the lives of Jesus’ true disciples and faithful children of Mother Church today.

We, of ourselves, can do nothing that leads to salvation, and God does not in any way command that we should presume -- of ourselves -- to try to do anything of that nature.  Jesus, the Risen and Ascended Lord, sends the Spirit from the Father precisely to enable us to do what He commands in order that we might be raised up, in Him, to ultimately take our place, in Him and with Him, at the right hand of the Father. 

This is exemplified for us by the Apostles who had received a commission and a command from the risen Jesus to proclaim His Good News to the whole world, but they first went back to their fishing, awaiting Jesus’ promised Power from on High, only beginning their task of evangelisation after they had received that Gift of God, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of holiness and power, on His very first outpouring upon the Church, as we heard in the first reading.  The Apostles themselves could do nothing until He, the Gift of God, came into their lives, enabling them to live in the power and holiness of the Risen Lord Jesus for the glorification of His name: He will glorify Me.

People of God, we should -- on this wonderful day of celebration and hope -- beg the Holy Spirit to come down upon us; we should whole-heartedly beseech Jesus to send His most Holy Spirit from heaven into our lives ever more and more, for He alone is our sure strength and our true joy in this shallow world of promises cum lies and disillusionment, of beauty cum emptiness and dismay.

First of all, we need to learn from the Spirit how to love Jesus aright; for, only by truly loving Him and not ourselves will we be enabled -- in the Spirit -- both to obey His commands with a measure of sweetness, and to walk in His ways with due perseverance.   In that way, we will gradually find Jesus more and more truly lovable, because of our growing conformity, likeness, to Him; and thus, appreciating Him more, we will be able to hear more clearly His Spirit speaking intimately in our hearts and guiding us along ways that are increasingly personal to our relationship with Jesus.  We will, of course never be led to desert the common way of His commandments for all, but we will also have the great delight of finding ourselves growing in personal intimacy with the Lord and heart-felt responsiveness to His Spirit.  Indeed, we will gradually become aware of the presence of the Father Himself in our lives, for Jesus did indeed promise that supreme delight and joy as St. John (14:23) tells us:

Jesus said, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

People of God, this day is the birthday of the Church, it is the day which commemorates and renews the birth of hope in our hearts and of power in our lives: for the Spirit offers us a common goal and an eternal destiny of glory and joy as children of God in the Body of Christ our very own Lord and Saviour, and such a destiny also promises us an unutterably beautiful personal fulfilment in Jesus by the Spirit, for ultimate glory of Him Who is the Father, Lord of heaven and earth (Luke 10:21).


Friday, 11 May 2018

7th Sunday of Eastertide Year B 2018

7th. Sunday of Eastertide (B)

(Acts of the Apostles 1:15-17, 20-26; 1st. John 4:11-16; John 17:11-19)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I want to help you – as best I can – to appreciate the essential role of the Word of God in our lives and show you why we should not only reverence it but treasure it and come to delight whole-heartedly in it. 

In His priestly prayer to the Father, Jesus said, as you have heard:

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.   I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.   Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.   As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.   And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

And straightway we have there a hard-saying for many in the Church today who are afraid of those words of Jesus:

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.

Dear People of God, so many in Mother Church today are ever trying to cosy-up to the world, so to speak, by trying to adapt, to soften, or even to obliterate by publicly forgetting or omitting, what it is feared might cause offence to human sensitivities, that we have come perilously close to losing the dignity and majesty of Jesus in our presentation of the Gospel of salvation, for Jesus Himself always looked for faith and obedience before bestowing His gifts or offering His promises.

The whole aim of Jesus’ life was to “give them Your word” as He Himself said, that word which made His Apostles hated by the world, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Now, that word is not only in the Holy Scriptures, but it is to be found supremely in Jesus Himself, for He is, Personally, the Word of God made flesh for us, the Word Who, in order to “give them Your word” in the absolute fulness of divine charity also and therefore gave Himself up to death on the Cross for us:

For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.        

From this we can realise that the Word of God, which we are celebrating now in this the first part of our Mass, is inseparably one with the second part of Mass when we offer Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself to the Father.  The Word of God in the Scriptures is one with the Word of God Whose life we share in the Eucharist and through the Sacraments.  They cannot be separated, because: 

What God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew, 19:6)

In His priestly prayer – that is, in His own most intimately Personal prayer to His heavenly Father for us – Jesus expressed His sentiments and desires in supremely holy words, saying:

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth.

Therefore, our shield against the world’s hatred, our protection against its deceptive and destructive sin, is to be found in the Word of God which, in its fullness, is TRUTH.   For those who love the truth -- which is Jesus Himself and His Good News about God and the Father’s will for mankind -- Jesus “sanctifies Himself” so that they may be sanctified in and by that truth.

Jesus “sanctified Himself” for us by dying to self on the Cross, before rising -- glorified by the Spirit of holiness -- and ascending to the Father; and that is why He is able to sanctify us who are willing to die to ourselves through faith in Him, by communicating to us a share in His own fullness of the Spirit of Holiness.

All this Jesus says so that -- experiencing the Spirit at work in our lives -- we may know true joy, the joy and peace of Jesus Himself:

Now, Father, I come to You; and these things I speak in the world that they (whom You have given to Me) may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)

People of God, we should never be embarrassed, and we must certainly never be ashamed, to say that Mother Church, and she alone, is able to appreciate and communicate the fullness of Jesus’ saving truth, experience and bestow the power of His redeeming grace.  And it is for our great joy and comfort in this awareness that Jesus assures us that, thanks to the Spirit Who has been given her, Mother Church is constantly, and to the end of time, being sanctified in the truth of God given her and by the grace of the Sacraments bequeathed to her.

Jesus Himself rejoiced that He knew the Father

O righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.   (John 17:25-26):

Jesus rejoiced because His knowledge of the Father was the mark, the sign, of the Father’s love

for Him; and He wanted His joy to be in us through our awareness of the fact that our love for God’s saving truth is a sign that the love of the Father is upon us:

I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.  (John 17:26)

In fulfilment of that promise of Jesus, Mother Church has been given the deposit of faith and the treasury of grace, and Jesus is still making the Father known to us in Mother Church because she is constantly under the guidance and protection of the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Truth and Love, Who is the only Sanctifier:

I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.   And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.   I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now; however, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. (Jn. 16:7-13)

So now, People of God, think about your reverence for God’s Truth; think about the love you have personally for the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures; think now of the appreciation and gratitude you have for the sure help Mother Church offers in our fight against life’s insidious sinfulness and for our personal understanding of the Scriptures, help which she alone can give because she alone is being guided and empowered by the Spirit of Jesus.  Think about these things, my dear People of God, because love for the word of truth is a great God-given shield, to protect and save us from the world’s hatred and our own frailty.  Only on the basis of love of and obedience to the spoken word of God faithfully handed down to us in its integrity can we approach the Word of God made flesh, Jesus the glorified Lord in the Sacraments, and be sanctified and saved by Him:

For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

We have to keep in our minds these aspects of Mother Church, and of our lives as living stones in her, because human affairs in the Church, as in society and the world, can easily cause us misgiving and sorrow.  From the very beginning it was so, Paul, for example found that there were some preaching the Gospel not out of love for Jesus but out of spite against Paul:

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.  (Philippians 1:15-18)

The Lord Jesus Himself had one such enemy -- one He had chosen and loved, one He had taught and counselled -- one who, however, was free and who freely chose to go his own way as you heard Peter proclaim in the first reading:

“Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.   For it is written in the book of Psalms: 'Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it'; and, 'Let another take his office.'  Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us … one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place." And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles

If we are not to become discouraged or depressed by human deceit and treachery, pride and malice, indeed by our own weakness and ignorance, greed and selfishness, we have to keep before our minds the essential beauty of the Gospel of grace given to Mother Church; we have to constantly stir up our faith and confirm our hope that, in the end, truth and beauty will triumph, even in us, and falsehood and sin will be rooted out of our world.  And this will be done by the Spirit of Holiness, the Spirit of Truth and Love, Who guides and sustains us in and through all the situations of life, be they happy or harrowing; and Who, if we truly allow Him to rule in us through the love and reverence we have for the word of God which we celebrate this day, will ultimately lead us to our predestined share in the coming Kingdom of God.

Rejoice, People of God, for as faithful Catholics you know where God’s truth and grace meant for you is to be found by you.    Above all, however, give grateful thanks for the fact that the love of God’s truth with which you have been endowed is a sign that the Father’s love is upon you, for therein lies all the joy wherewith Jesus wants to fulfil your present life and future destiny.


Friday, 4 May 2018

   6th. Sunday of Easter(B)             

(Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1st. John 4:7-10; John 15:

In the Gospel reading we heard an expansion of what is possibly the most famous, the most appreciated, and surely the least controversial, of all the fundamental statements made in the Bible about God:

            God is love  

However, many rejoice in those words not because they want to delight in, learn more about, their meaning and significance for their spiritual life in the service of Jesus before the Father, but to use them as a springboard that would enable them to assert that all love is divine, and that all earthly forms of loving, including even the most blatantly sensual and at times disgusting, are acceptable, and indeed authentic, expressions of God’s true love – which, most certainly, is not true.

Such opponents of Christianity, such searchers for ‘freedom to sin’, latch onto a popular difficulty for the correct doctrinal understanding of those words I have highlighted:

God is love.

The original Greek text in the New Testament says that God is agape; the Latin Vulgate, old and new, always translates that with ’God is caritas’; and, for their part, our older English bibles translated that into ’God is charity’.  However, when the clarity of the word, ’charity’ was clouded by the saying, ’there is nothing so cold as charity’ – the charity, that is, of certain Christians who were said not to really care about the persons they were dealing with but were mainly intent on showing off their own supposed virtue -- then our more modern English bibles began to translate ’God is agape, charity’, with ‘God is love’.  As a result, we now have the situation where another worldly expression ’making (!) love’ -- being used almost universally for sex between consenting adult men and women, not excluding of course these days’ sex between gays, lesbians, and others -- unavoidably resonates in the English translation of ‘love’ for divine ’agape’ and ’caritas’.  Whereas formerly, though the word ‘charity’ -- for some critics of Christianity – was characterised as cold and unfeeling, nevertheless, it always carried with it an aura of divine involvement; now, ‘love’ in the modern translation, inevitably brings with it implications that are both sordid and unchristian; and even though, at its very best, it can occasionally evoke what is noble and beautiful, hardly ever does it suggest what is divine.

There is however, another, not dissimilar, difficulty connected with the popular understanding of our Gospel reading today.  Jesus, as you heard said:

I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.

In modern parlance, ‘joy’ is frequently, indeed normally, mixed up with, understood as, ‘pleasure’ or even ‘excitement’.  Now, there is no true comparison between those three words.  In the Christian understanding ’joy’ is spiritual, whereas ’pleasure’ is sensual, and excitement can be anything leading to frenetic emotion: one feels pleasure, one is carried-away by excitement, one can only peacefully experience joy.  Pleasure can be bought or procured, whereas joy is only to be received as a gift, as a privilege, given – in its most sublime form -- freely from above and evoking such words as, ‘Thanks be to God’.

Jesus loved the Father; and before leaving the Upper Room to face His enemies and impending death His final words were:

That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do; arise, let us go from here.   (John 14:31)

He desired above all to lead His disciples to a relationship with the Father like to His own.   Jesus’ love for the Father was and is ‘agape’.  ‘Agape’ is the Father, ‘God is agape, caritas’ and the Father’s agape caused Him to send His Son on earth to free mankind from the deadly burden of their sins; and that agape-inspired gift of self-sacrificing love on the Father’s part leads His Son to embrace the Cross and become ‘agape’ Himself in His humanity and thus able to pour out that divine love into our lives by the Gift of His Spirit:

The love of God (‘agape’) has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who was given to us.   (Romans 5:5)

In that way the love which originates with the Father comes down to earth:

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us (with agape) and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

However, though come down to earth in and through Jesus, agape is never earthly, it remains divine; and, by the unique inevitability characteristic of divine power, it ultimately recalls, brings back, restores, the Son to oneness with His Father:

            (Father) all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine. (John 17:10)

Thus, the whole aim of our Christian life, the whole purpose of Catholic spirituality, is to allow that full tide of agape -- brought and given to us by Jesus through His Holy Spirit -- to rule in our lives, as St. Paul testifies:

If we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you, for the love (agape) of Christ compels us.  (2 Corinthians 5:13-14)

If agape is allowed to move us likewise, it will draw all who are one with and in Jesus back to the Father; and that will be for our most sublime joy, for Jesus’ relations with His Father were characterized, as He said, by joy, and He wanted that joy to be shared by His disciples also:

As the Father loves Me, so I also love you.  Remain in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy might be complete.

Notice there, dear People of God, when so much emotional waffle is swilling around in presentations of Catholic faith and true Christian discipleship in a vain search for easy religion and a popular Jesus, that Jesus Himself, in the words quoted from today’s Gospel, associates LOVE – COMMANDMENTS – JOY; where the link-word holding true love, divine love, ‘agape’, and humanly experienced Jesu-joy (My joy), is the word ‘commandments’ and the obedience it calls for.

Jesus’ essential significance for the world’s salvation is summed up in His revelation of the Father and His gift of the Holy Spirit Whom He bequeathed to His Church; from these, spring the joy and fulfilment of Christian life and the irresistible power of Christian agape so definitely witnessed to in the most essential aspects of the Gospel message:

            Rejoice Mary, the Lord is with you.

The angel said, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.   (Luke 2:10-12)

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.    (John 14:27)

Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33)

Dear People of God, in order to experience the beautiful truth, the unutterable joy, and the supreme power of the Christian way of life, that is, in order to benefit from the fullness of revelation and grace in Mother Church, we must learn to swim in and along with the tide of divine agape which determines her whole being: sustaining her unwavering hope and preparing her for eternal glory.  We must come to know and love the Father; and, as you are well aware, no one can draw near to the Father except through Jesus, because Jesus alone gives us the Spirit, Who is the bond of agape between Father and Son:

There are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these Three are One. (1 John 5:7)

Embrace therefore, People of God, the Gospel proclaimed by Mother Church, that, knowing the Truth and delighting in Jesus, you may receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit Who can fill you with that unique love which is divine Agape.  Allow the Holy Spirit of Agape to thus rule your life in Jesus, and He will guide you along the way to the Father, bearing fruit for the Father and experiencing something of Jesus’ own peace and joy here on earth, before ultimately, in heaven, sharing in the eternal blessedness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to Whom belong all glory, praise, and honour, now and for ever.

Peter said, ‘God has no partiality: in every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.’

Jesus says, ‘If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.’