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, 30 June 2018

13th Sunday Year B 2018

Thirteenth Sunday (Year B)

(Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2nd Corinthians 8:7-9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43)

We have today, People of God, a picture of Jesus which the early Christians loved, one which comforted and strengthened them in their patient endurance of and ultimate triumph over state persecution by the empire-wide, and yet immediate and local, power of the Roman State and the Emperor himself. 

Those persecutions are still difficult for us modern ‘Westerners’ to appreciate for, even though today we find many swathes of peoples are leaving their traditional faith and allowing themselves to rejoice with the increasingly pagan world around them, even though fellow Christians and Catholics are being persecuted and terrorised in many areas of the world today, nevertheless, we can still rejoice in our hearts to read in the papers or to see on the TV news programmes when some ordinary individual has taken on officialdom, and, against all apparent odds, finally received justice; for, in such and similar situations, there is a sympathetic press and some recourse to the law, while we personally  can still gather openly and speak freely with friends and others of like mind.

But the Roman Empire was a universal power, the Emperor’s personal will was law; there was no free press, and Roman society, early on, disliked and even hated Christians and Catholics who behaved so differently from other members of society, openly shunning as evil so many practices and amusements which the poor thronging the cities, especially the capital, loved for the excitement they provided and for the ‘hand-outs’ they lived on: festival occasions such as the circuses and gladiatorial fights, occasions and events which popularity-seeking political and military figures repeatedly provided for their own devious purposes; and never forgetting the pogroms of emperors such as Nero, who himself had a special addiction for public torches fed by burning Christians.  And -- you might say inevitably of course -- the accompanying and wide-spread sexual licentiousness of all sorts was a reliable and uncensored source of public pleasure and private money.

Consequently, there was nowhere to turn for our fellow Christians of the first three or four centuries when the all-powerful, universal, state turned on them.  They had only their own resources, that is, the strength and hope which the Faith gave them; and one of the supreme sources of calm comfort and deep peace for them was this picture of Jesus as the gentle Lord of life and death in today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying.  Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, "Talitha, cumi," which is translated, "Little girl, I say to you, arise."   Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement.

On a later occasion John tells us about the death of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary:

Jesus said to His disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up."   Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well."  However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.  Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead.   And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless, let us go to him."   (John 11:11-15)

Jesus knew what death was, and He also knew what sort of death He Himself would soon have to face, but, when He was involved with a “dead” person or when He was invoked, called on, to help suffering loved ones, He preferred to speak of “falling asleep”:

Jesus came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly.  When He came in, He said to them, "Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping."

Our friend Lazarus sleeps … I go that I may wake him up.

In all their many trials and tribulations the early Christians loved to think thus of Jesus raising up His own from what the world called death, but which they believed to be only a “sleep”.  For them there was a life to come, a life where sin and death would be no more.  That is why, only some thirty or perhaps sixty years later when Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written, the author could quote this -- by then already traditional -- Christian hymn (5:14):

Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

Let us now turn our attention to the synagogue leader and to the woman with a haemorrhage, both of whom turned to Jesus in their great need.  Notice first of all, People of God, what a great leveller faith is: on the one hand a prominent member of the local synagogue and on the other this very much embarrassed and unknown woman.  One comes to Jesus openly, falls at His feet and tells of his distress and anxiety with which anyone who heard would sympathize; the other comes up to Jesus secretly with a double-trouble she wished to keep secret, since her serious and debilitating ailment was not only an embarrassment for her but also made her legally unclean and therefore something of an outcast from religious society.  Both, the synagogue official publicly proclaiming his grief and praising Jesus, and the woman anxiously striving to keep her troubles secret even from Jesus Himself, were given what they desired because of one thing only: their FAITH IN JESUS. 

Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment; for she said, "If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well."  

Did she perhaps know what the psalmist (45: 8) had written about the Messiah?   

God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellow kings.   Your robes are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia.

How beautiful Jesus was, People of God!  And how beautiful Jesus IS!!  That woman only touched His dusty cloak, whereas we receive the full humanity of the heavenly glorified Jesus, in the Eucharist.  Many of you will receive Him at this Mass; let her be your model!  Look at the woman’s faith and hope as she single-mindedly moved through the crowd of people in order to get into a position where she could just touch the cloak of Jesus: now look at yourself, what sort of faith and hope are in your mind and heart as you prepare to receive His very Self in the Eucharist?  Surely, you are not so mistaken as to think you do not have any special needs, even though perhaps, you may have none so immediately pressing as those experienced by the woman in our Gospel story?

Finally, notice that both the synagogue official and the unknown woman came to find Jesus together with His disciples.  They did not try to catch up with, waylay, Jesus in some side alley in the town or find Him walking alone in the countryside: both went looking for Him where they expected to find Him: together with His disciples. That has to be our attitude too, People of God.  Those who would wilfully and knowingly ignore His disciples gathered together in His Name cannot hope to find Jesus.  We come to find Jesus – first of all and above all -- in the Church where He has promised to be until the end of time, for Mother Church was established to lead and help us to Jesus. 

However, although Jesus and His Church are one, they are not the same.  Because we are members of the one, true, Church of Christ, we should never allow ourselves to forget that Jesus alone should be our total aim and aspiration here on earth.  We must never turn aside from Jesus and satisfy ourselves with membership of the Church; rather should we constantly relate to, and aspire to love, Jesus in Mother Church.  When, for example, we are told we should come to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, that we must receive the Eucharist at least once a year, and that about Easter, we cannot therefore think that, having done those things, we do not need to bother any more about Jesus, that we do not need to constantly pray to Him, perseveringly seek to know and love Him, and humbly try serve Him as best we can at all times and under all circumstances.  All that is summed up in what should be our deliberate attitude at Mass: we come to Mass to make a sincerely personal encounter, and establish an enduring personal relationship, with Jesus, whereby, with Him and in Him, we may fittingly -- on behalf of all mankind -- offer worship and praise to the glory of the Father.

And Mother Church assures us that Jesus, for His part, is not only concerned about our spiritual, other-worldly, well-being, our eternal salvation; He is concerned also about our present joy and well-being, as the following words of Jesus make abundantly clear:

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full; (John 15:11)

Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:24)

Dear People of God, we can bring our thoughts today to a fitting close by recalling what Jesus said after He had raised the young girl from the sleep of death:

He commanded them strictly that no one should know it and said that SOMETHING SHOULD BE GIVEN HER TO EAT. (Mark 5:43)

Jesus, our Lord and Saviour is indeed solicitous for our whole human well-being not only for those of our brethren who, like the early Christians, suffer persecution and death today for His Name, but also, for ordinary disciples such as ourselves in the excitement and doldrums, the needs, sorrows, and anxieties, that come our way as we strive to serve Him in all things.

As St. Paul put it, “He is rich” for all who turn to Him:

Jesus Christ, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor that you, through His poverty, might become rich.

Friday, 22 June 2018

The Birth of John the Baptist 2018

 The Birth of John the Baptist

(Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66, 80)


The fact that God gave Zechariah and Elizabeth's child the name "John" is most significant.  It was considered to be the father's privilege to name his child, and the fact that God Himself chose a name for this child shows that John was indeed to be, as we would say, "God's man".  As you heard in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah:

Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth He has made mention of my name.

The name ‘John’ means ‘The Lord has been gracious’ and it leads us to anticipate that, in His Providence, God would subsequently be gracious to His Chosen People through John.

John’s background fostered the development of his distinctive character: he was born into a provincial priestly family and, as he came to know more and more of what went on in the side-wings, so to speak, of the priestly society in Jerusalem -- above all concerning the wealth, luxury, pride and venality of leading families -- the more indignant and alienated he felt:

The child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived (by preference) in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.

In the desert we are told that:

John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)

When he did, at last, appear publicly to Israel he seems to have preached strongly against the lives of luxury, trappings of wealth, and quest for money and power which characterized the upper echelons of priestly society in Jerusalem; and equally the pride which motivated so many Scribes and Pharisees in their search for influence and public esteem. These things so disgusted John that, on noticing certain figures coming to witness or avail themselves of the baptism he was giving by the Jordan, he burst out:

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.

In this respect, John was indeed the culmination of the prophets of old who had so often, over the centuries, castigated the sins of Israel; and how often would Jesus Himself have to hear His opponents claim, ‘We have Abraham as our father’!

All that, however, was what John himself, as it were ‘picked up’ in the course of life, he was not directly taught such attitudes of disgust and anger.  For his ‘formation’ given by his priestly father we must look at the Benedictus where St. Luke pictures for us an elderly father and priest, who has -- ever so recently – come, through suffering, to a very real and personal awareness of and reverence for the God of Israel.  Moreover, this is an Israelite and a priest who has heard from his wife all about Mary and the Child she was carrying, and we can well imagine him musing in the presence of his son about the great goodness and majesty of Israel’s God, in His dealings with and purpose for His People:

       The oath he swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that, freed from the hand of our enemies, we might worship Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days  (Luke 1: 73-75),

and about his own son’s part to play in God’s plan because he, John, had been the first to experience the grace of God’s gifted Saviour when, even though being still in his mother’s womb, he had leapt for joy at his Saviour’s presence as his mother joyfully greeted Mary’s arrival.

And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.  (Luke 1:76-77)

However, even that was not the whole of John, for though his family background and personal gifts conspired to make him both significant and remarkable, it was his subsequent vocation from God that rendered him quite unique.  God did not only "make his mouth a sharp sword" against the Lord's enemies, but he was also "honoured in the eyes of the Lord" to the extent that he was called to begin to "bring back Jacob to the Lord", which is why, as we all heard in the first reading, John went about the region of the Jordan:

             Preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

And here we must take most careful notice of John.  He offered a baptism, an immersion, for the forgiveness of sins, but only to those coming forward for that baptism with the sincerity of their repentance backed up by evidence of good works done:

            Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

Such was John’s insistence: they had to stop standing on their dignity by thinking "we have Abraham as our father" or "we are Levitical priests”, or again, “we are learned scribes or holy Pharisees"; instead they had to show the truth of their sorrow for past sins by their present efforts at righteousness.  John would also give advice to those who asked him for guidance on what sort of fruit for repentance they should bring with them:

“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"  "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely, be content with your pay." (Luke 3:11-14)

Only if and when they had produced fruit worthy of repentance, would John baptize them with, immerse them in, water; whereupon, they then could they go to the Temple and perform there the many cleansing ceremonies with right dispositions and so hope to receive the grace of God attached to those ritual ablutions. 

John however, was fully aware of the limitations of the baptism he himself was offering, and therefore, as a true forerunner of Jesus, he used to speak to those who were truly repentant about the One Who was to come:

I baptize you with water. But One more powerful than I will come, the thongs of Whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

In this way, St. Luke tells us:

With many other words, John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

In his personal life style John differed greatly from Jesus.  Jesus did not live in the desert, although it was in the desert where He first conquered the Devil.  Jesus did not wear a garment of camel's hair, nor was His food locusts and wild honey although there were times when He had nowhere to lay His head, times when He was exhausted by lack of food and water. Jesus once referred to the obvious contrast between Himself and John saying:

John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.'  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' (Luke 7:33-35)

In his teaching, however, John was indeed a man after Jesus' own heart.  Just as we heard God say of David in the second reading, so too it could be said of John that he was, for Jesus:

            A man after My own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'

It would appear that John did not mention the One who was to come to the unrepentant ‘brood of vipers’; and, in that respect, we call to mind the later words of Jesus to His disciples (Matthew 7:6):

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

We also recall the way Jesus used to speak only in parables to those who were not sufficiently well-disposed or well-prepared:

This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'              (Matthew 13:10-15)

People of God, for many in the Church today John the Baptist is unknown and unappreciated and it is a mystery to them why he has such prominence in Mother Church's liturgy for only he -- together with Peter and Paul -- of all the prophets and apostles, has both a vigil and a solemn celebratory Mass and Office.  Mother Church cannot forget what God has given her to preserve for His children, given her for their future nurture, enlightenment and fulfilment.

John, therefore, has a most important lesson for us children of Mother Church, a lesson and a teaching which makes him little regarded today by many who like to follow trends rather than seek truth.  John was not overawed by religious authority and power because he feared God first – having learnt that from his earliest years listening to his father’s vibrant and heart-felt words  -- and, as one sent on his mission by God, he demanded signs of authentic repentance, otherwise, without such signs he would not baptize the proud and prestigious, the luxurious and sinful ones, who might come to him:

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

As Mark's Gospel (1:14-15) tells us, Jesus picks up from where John left off:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," He said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Today it is popularly considered that the approach to Jesus should be made as easy as possible, with the result that His call to repentance can easily be watered down and His teaching not so much adapted as adulterated, while the Blood of Christ is splashed around like water in the ‘Asperges’ when the sacraments are given to those who gladly proffer a show of words or tears but withhold substantial obedience. 

This is all to Mother Church's great loss: not because harshness, rigidity, are good in themselves, but because reverence and ‘fear of the Lord’ are absolutely essential if anyone is to draw close to God.  John the Baptist was providentially sent by the Father to prepare the way for His Son because God alone can show His love for and bestow His mercy on His People, not any ‘man of God’ making emotional play with human words; and God will only show His mercy and love, in and through His beloved Son, to those whom reverence prevents from abusing that love and mercy, from mocking His most-beloved, and only begotten, Son.  When reverence and fear of the Lord inspire in us the discipline of good works, when -- eschewing any quick fix -- they lead us to watch and wait dutifully and humbly for the Lord, and, above all, when such dispositions gradually constrain us to seek God first and self last in all our longings and aspirations, all our endeavours and commitment, then can we hope to become true disciples of Jesus, and by His Spirit further the coming of God’s Kingdom.



Friday, 15 June 2018

11th Sunday of the Year (B) 2018

11th. Sunday of Year (B)

(Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2nd. Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34)

St. Paul, speaking in our second reading today:

reminds me very much of our Blessed Lord Jesus’ words recorded by St. John in his Gospel (16:33)

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but BE OF GOOD CHEER, I have overcome the world.

Actually, the two Greek words translated in the one case by ‘We are always courageous’ and in the other by ‘be of good cheer’ are almost identical and very closely related, so we do well to understand the dictum of St. Paul in accordance with those words of Jesus, because Paul was a truly sublime disciple of his Lord, and no man of his personal discipline and life-commitment to the proclamation of, and witness to, Jesus as Lord and Saviour, could have been so bumptious as to say of himself that he – as a mere man -- was ‘always courageous’.  However, St. Paul most certainly did on many occasions –  more  indeed than any of the other apostles -- suffer for Jesus with very great courage, because of his faith and trust in the Lord Who had urged him to ‘be of good cheer’ in whatever adverse situation he might find himself, and that faith and trust, that being of good cheer, is most certainly what Paul wanted to teach and encourage in his converts who were called to daily face up to the pagan power of Rome and give witness to the Lord Jesus as true and faithful disciples: In the world you will have tribulation.

What tribulation there is to be found in our world today!  I will not speak of wars and rumours of wars; rather I want to highlight the tribulation in the hearts of so many people, all of them potentially good, but far too many of whom are sadly being turned aside from ‘being of good cheer in Jesus’ by the turmoil and despair of evil all around them.   Today, change is continual and seems to have ever greater momentum, sweeping aside what had previously seemed established and inviolable, and as a result many find it extremely difficult to hold on to a constant, firm, and abiding faith.  Moreover, in our affluent Western society there is so much the world considers desirable and worthwhile presently on offer to us; and yet, there is no telling how long it will be available, because change approaches almost unnoticeably before suddenly manifesting itself as well-nigh irresistible.   In such circumstances the temptation is great -- especially for the young and the needy -- to grasp, seize, what is on offer here and now before it disappears, before it is lost, without their having tasted of it.  And how alien such a worldly set-up finds, portrays, and decries, our Christian religion and Catholic faith which advise and encourage us to aspire to, and learn to be supremely content with, what seem -- for those unable to recognise or appreciate spiritual blessings – to be only promised nothings here on earth!

Dear People of God, when power and influence can be, and frequently are, bought by money; when multitudes are swept along by popular tides of mindless enthusiasm stirred up by preachers of vengeance, purveyors of pleasure, and the debilitating influence of an increasingly prurient media; when rights are proclaimed and responsibilities ignored; when might is right and popularity cannot be challenged; when people are cajoled and led astray by preachers of holiness-without-commitment and emboldened by addicts of faith-without-fear-of-God; WHEN, to sum it up, we are surrounded by so many claims, counter-claims, blatant lies and hidden contradictions, that disciples find it difficult to recognize the soul-calming supreme authority of the unseen, but all-seeing and all-powerful, God Who created us, and hard to accept the teaching proclaimed by our historic Lord and Saviour claiming both ultimate veracity and an unfailing power to transform all who embrace it into disciples reborn and chosen out of this world, for what is eternal and beatifying; THEN, in such situations, how immensely important it is for us to hear and take heart from the concordant voices of our Lord Jesus and His most faithful disciple St. Paul:

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace; be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.

The believer, Paul went on to say, is confident by reason of his faith; he trusts in the Lord and is well-pleased, content, with the hope to which he looks forward; in all circumstances, the disciple seeks to please the Lord he serves and loves:

We walk by faith not by sight, and we aspire to please Him before (Whose) judgement seat we must all appear.

Now, that Christian trust and contentment is pictured in Our Lord’s first parable today:

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.   For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.  But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

The sower does not know how the planting he has made develops to fruition: it takes place whether he himself is waking or sleeping.  He continues to play his part, however, by waiting for the Lord and trusting in Him, before ultimately reaping the resultant harvest.

Dear People of God, too few supposed sowers-of-God’ seed, too few preachers of Jesus’ Gospel, seem to know how to wait for the Lord and trust in His word!  Too many, high and lowly, want to adapt Catholic traditional, centuries-long and original, teaching to ‘modern’ people who apparently find themselves in situations never experienced before and both unknown to, and unforeseen by, Our Lord.

Jesus gives special emphasis to trust in and contentment before God in His second parable: there, He no longer speaks of many handfuls of seeds being scattered, but of just one single mustard seed, the smallest seed of all.  The apparent insignificance of the beginning is no hindrance to the final realization of God’s plan: that tiny seed can grow into the biggest shrub of all.

Ezekiel told us of the Lord’s historic dealings with faithless Israel.   She had broken the covenant made with God and had received her punishment: banishment from the Promised Land.  Only a remnant was left behind in the land and they swore to obey their conquerors.  What a fall from the proud kingdom of David and Solomon!

And yet, with trust in the Lord Who, as the Psalmist (145:14) says:

            Upholds all who fall and raises up all who are bowed down,

there could still be a future!

But there was no longer any trust in the Lord; the remnant broke their oath of obedience to their conquerors, just as the whole nation had broken its covenant with the Lord Himself, and they turned to Egypt for human help.  They were not content with the Lord’s promised future provision, they wanted to win for themselves – with the help of Egypt – something immediate, here and now, something hopefully bigger and better.  It did not turn out as they had planned, and the Lord spoke through Ezekiel the oracle we heard in the first reading:

Thus says the Lord GOD: "I too will pluck from the crest of the cedar the highest branch.  From the top a tender shoot I will break off and transplant on a high, lofty mountain.   On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it.  It shall put forth branches and bear fruit and become a majestic cedar.  Every small bird will nest under it and all kinds of winged birds will dwell in the shade of its branches; every tree of the field shall know that I am the LORD.  I bring low the high tree, lift high the low tree, wither up the green tree, and make the dry tree bloom.  As I, the LORD, have spoken so will I do."

This was reflected once again in today’s Responsorial Psalm where we heard:

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon He shall grow.

Who then are those just and righteous’ ones?   The Psalmist foresaw the disciples of Jesus who would be confident through faith: trusting in their Lord and well-pleased with the hope set before them in the promises He had made to them, promises already being fulfilled in them through the Spirit bestowed upon them ‘as a first instalment’; and from a great distance he greeted them with these words:

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.  Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.   Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.   He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him.        (Psalm 37:3-7)

The world may hate you; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!

How strange that one should be of good cheer though the world hates us!  It is a fact that our sophisticated, affluent, proud and self-sufficient, Western world has long –secretly at first but now quite openly and indeed blatantly -- hated the teachings we proclaim.  For the present, it is content to mock and deride us personally, but such mockery and derision quickly turned to hatred for our Lord Jesus Himself, hatred so intense that only His crucifixion would satisfy them or sate it.

And yet, it is because of the modern-day hatred we experience that we should indeed be of good cheer as St. Paul exhorts us, because such hatred proves both the truth of the words of Jesus, and the fact that He has indeed overcome the world Whose Spirit is still at work in us today drawing us along the Gospel way of Truth and Life:

For this reason, we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.  (1 Thess. 2:13)

That nascent belief, being fostered and nurtured by the Holy Spirit at work within us in the name of Jesus, opens up for us a prospect immeasurably preferable to that which the world offers us: first of all, moral confusion where there is no divine right or wrong, no natural or unnatural, only human legal prescriptions and personal options; then, satiety for some and despairing hunger for many; and ultimately for all, a wordless – unintelligible – void instead of spiritual fulfilment: a void, a spiritual black hole, which growing numbers of both rich and poor, celebrated and unknown, cannot face up to, cannot live with, and therefore they make their own final and most personal option, suicide.  

People of God, let us today pray with renewed insistence and solicitude for our world where so many are suffering because they do not hear the truth, because they are being fed with lies and given poison to drink for such, indeed, is the teaching of this worlds leaders and authorities, such indeed are many of the examples portrayed and extolled on every hand!   And let us thank God that He has brought us into the company of those called and empowered to trust in Our Lord at all times, and under all circumstances to be well-pleased, supremely confident and content with the hope His Spirit stirs up within us.

St. John tells us that Jesus -- before He left this world to go back to His Father -- was most desirous of protecting His disciples, and so He solemnly forewarned them:

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.  These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.    (15:19-20 & 16:33)

Saturday, 9 June 2018

10th Sunday of the Year (B) 2018

Tenth Sunday of Year B
(Genesis 3:9-15; 2nd. Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1; Saint Mark’s Gospel 3:20-35)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Jesus said in today’s Gospel reading words both puzzling and encouraging:

            Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

To speak of one ‘doing the will of Godseems such an impersonal criterion, whereas ‘my brother and sister and mother’ are words so personal and bespeaking spontaneity. 

Of course, as you surely well know, we become brothers and sisters of Christ when He – by baptism and the Gift of His most Holy Spirit in and through Mother Church – assimilates us to Himself and so nourishes us that we become His brothers and sisters and adopted sons and daughters of His heavenly Father.  And we can even become His mother in the sense that Christ lives in us and grows gradually to maturity in us through our fidelity to His Gospel, Mother Church’s faith, and our responsiveness to His guiding Spirit.

And yet, for Jesus, the ultimate and supremely decisive criterion for a true and acceptable disciple is, ‘Whoever does the will of God’.

You will have noticed that Jesus’ words to describe a disciple of His speak of a brother, a sister, and mother.  There is no mention of ‘a father’.

Dear People of God, the relationship of Jesus on earth with His Father in heaven was so mysterious, so intimate and imperious, that even Our Blessed Lady was, so to speak, ‘at a loss’, at times or even ‘at sea’, with it, as we learn from the occasion when, in yesterday’s Gospel reading, she thought it right to reprove her Son Who had remained behind in the Temple at Jerusalem unknown to herself and Saint Joseph.  At that time Jesus’ answer totally puzzled her:

            Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?

words which can also mean, about my Father’s business, and which thus offered to one so contemplative as Mary something she would remember and ultimately treasure when her Son left her and went with His disciples to preach His Good News to the people; ultimately walking alone yet wholeheartedly -- because He was ‘about His father’s business’ -- to Calvary, before returning to His heavenly Father’s home.

So, brothers and sisters, dear fellow disciples in Christ, Jesus words:

            Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,

are both heavenly and earthly words, perfectly befitting Him Who is God become Man for men; they are heavenly words of devotion, ‘Whoever does the will of My Father’, and of God-pleasing emotion, where ‘My brother and sister and mother’ are mentioned as true expressions of spontaneous human love.

The observance of God’s will has an indispensable role in leading us to the full development of our earthly role of ‘mother of Christ’.

‘Doing the will of God’ was the aim of the Law under the Old covenant.  St. Paul discussed that question of the role of the old Law, and his teaching is admirably summed up by the late C.H. Dodd in one of his early works:

‘Every individual of the human race is so entangled in the general “wrongness” that he has no power left to himself to avoid committing acts which, whether he knows it or not, add to the sum of wrong.  To know (thanks to the Law’s teaching) these acts are wrong does not prevent him from doing them, but it does imprint upon his conscience, in the indelible characters of shame and guilt, the contrast of good and evil.  It brings “sin” home, from being a general state of the human race, to be a conscious burden upon the mind of the individual.  And Paul sees that it is a great advance to have discovered sin in one’s own heart as guilt.  Only the man who is conscious of his guilt can be saved from the sin of which he is guilty.’

That saving from sin comes to us through Christ’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, via the sacrament of Baptism; and today, our efforts to conform our behaviour in all circumstances to God’s will as revealed to us most sublimely by the teaching and example of our blessed Lord Jesus has a similar role to that of the Jewish Law in Old Testament times which is, to quote Saint Paul to the Ephesians 4:12–13:  

To equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ;

or in simpler words, to become sons and daughters of God to the utmost of Christ’s gift (by His Spirit) to us.

Our effort to do God’s will (we have indeed to be willing to make an effort to achieve salvation!) is not meant so much to disclose sin as guilt in our hearts, because the grace of Christ is given us to overcome sin and thus wipe out guilt, so much as to enable us to learn by experience that we are weak of ourselves and that God is faithful, true, and mysteriously powerful as He works in us by His grace in response to our prayer: doing, bringing about, for us the good we could not do of ourselves.

In sum, the effort to do God’s will is meant to make us profoundly humble as regards ourselves, and totally confident and trusting in God.  It is intended to promote and cement a truly intimate and adult relationship with God, one leading to spontaneity, for when we fully abandon ourselves, when we cast aside self-solicitude, we are then free to love Him and serve Him … in Jesus and by His Spirit … as members of His family with that spontaneous love acknowledged by Jesus in our Gospel reading, and now divinized to its ultimate beauty and worth, with emotion having become devotion and ultimately life in Christ, by the Spirit, for our heavenly Father.

Just a final word, however, and one of warning, because spontaneity before God is such a precious fruit of grace that attempts made to counterfeit it can be truly harmful, hypocrisy at a most dangerous level, and that is because spontaneity can only exist with most sincere humility as its bosom companion.  When true spontaneity comes it is impelling: not the following of a personal whim or thought-out measure, but an obligation of conscience and an expression of love for God … an expression which will be unique, corresponding to the subject’s unique relationship with God … and the joy that accompanies it is unique also, a milestone in life.

Let us, therefore, ask Our Blessed Lord in this Mass, at Holy Communion, to grant us that we may faithfully endeavour --- in all the manifold details of daily living --- to do the will of God our Father in heaven, again with and in Jesus and by His Spirit guiding and empowering us in all things, that we might thereby be brought to the fulness of our personal calling by, and relationship with, Christ as His brother, sister and mother.