If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 27 July 2018

17th Sunday Year B 2018

Seventeenth Sunday, Year B.

(2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 4:1-6; Gospel of St. John 6:1-15

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, notice first of all those words spoken by the people who witnessed and benefitted from this miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish:

            This really is the Prophet Who is to come into the world.

How right were those words!

As you well know, this miracle foreshadowed the Eucharist, the Bread of Eternal Life, which Jesus was to give us at the Last Supper.  You will also remember, I am sure, the story of the two disciples walking together to Emmaus and sorrowing over Our Lord’s recent crucifixion, who were overtaken and joined by the Risen Lord Himself but Whom they did not recognize Personally as they walked and talked together along the way.  It was only at the evening meal -- which they had charitably invited Him to share with them – that they did eventually realize just Who their guest was as they saw Him bless and break the bread.

In both cases, today’s account of the miraculous feeding of the crowds and the Emmaus incident -- one a figure and the other a direct reminder of the Eucharist -- was Jesus recognized for Who He most truly was.  It is the same today, People of God, only through reception of the Holy Eucharist, only through the sacramental reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, can we come to a fuller recognition of the truth about Our Blessed Lord.

St. John assures us that no one knows the depths of a man save the spirit within that man, and here in the Eucharist -- as we receive and consume the Sacred Host -- Christ inundates us to the fullest extent of our individual capacity and longing to receive Him with His own most Holy Spirit, to lead and guide us, as children of Mother Church, into all truth about Him and all love for Him.

This Eucharistic receiving-in-order-to-learn is a pattern that permeates the whole of Christian life:

            Blessed are You, Lord God, for we have received …

especially in our search for truth and our understanding of love.

No man can guarantee a ‘good’, ‘influential’ thought at any time … thoughts come into our minds we know not how … we can use them, develop them, but their origin, though in us, is not under our creative control.  A Christian knows how to thank God for all such blessings, but most especially, however, does he thank God for thoughts which prove fruitful for the spiritual well-being of men and the greater glory of God.  

Today there are many, many people, scholars, and authorities writing about Jesus or about what is good, better, and best for modern society, without any acknowledgement of God, with no faith in Jesus, and who are strongly opposed to the very notion of any humble submission to His most Holy Spirit; consequently all their conclusions concerning Jesus or a better understanding of mankind’s social problems and moral dilemmas, are the work of an overwhelmingly human mental endeavour, and often enough that of an individual ego; they an ‘excogitation’, often enough sparked off by, and developed along lines determined by, scholarly controversy. The result is not something gratefully received, lovingly observed, admired and detailed, but the product of a, so-to-speak, mental vine-press, where the grapes used are the result of their own ‘up to the minute’ studies and endeavours bolstered with fruits having nothing more than some measure of present-day ‘scholarly’ interest and acceptance.

Such scholarly efforts are not timeless fruits originally, initially, received from God’s goodness to us, nor are they precious treasures, lovingly -- by the Spirit’s gift of enlightenment -- glimpsed in nature as indicative of both the unfathomable truth, and the wondrous beauty and inexhaustible variety, of God’s Being.

Authentic Christian knowledge on the other hand is precisely the fruit of a gracious gift of God, fruit matured under the sun of the Spirit’s grace.  Of course, having been gratefully received, such intellectual and spiritual awareness has to be humbly assessed, rigorously developed, and whatever else is needed for its proper and fullest human expression and understanding; but its origin is as a Godly gift, received not excogitated, a gift accepted with gratitude and faith before being lovingly and devotedly shaped to advance human fulfilment and serve the proper expression of Christian faith and devotion.

That sort of knowledge, dear People of God, is the basis  of our Catholic and Christian Tradition, and that distinctive aspect of initial-reception characterises all truly great and profitable human knowledge and awareness, which is impossible without previous listening as well as present thinking, without humble waiting as well as hard work, without aspiring to what is above and beyond self and time as well as trying to appreciate what needs to be done here on earth, in our modern society and the world around us .

Jesus in the Eucharist is the only true source of Life for us, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what the bread and wine used at Holy Mass signify: our earthly life to be gradually transfigured into eternal Life by the Spirit in the sacrament being offered us. 

When Jesus was talking to the crowd after this multiplication of the loaves and fish, He urged them:

Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.

The wondrous nature of this ‘bread enduring to eternal life’, was foreshadowed by the fact of Jesus ordering that all scraps be gathered up: none were to be left for the birds of the air and beasts of the field, let alone to just corrupt as did even the miraculous manna of old left unconsumed overnight in the desert.  Moreover, some 12 hampers’ full were gathered in total, foreshadowing such food – Jesus’ gift – to be ultimately intended for the feeding of the 12 tribes of Israel, God’s People originally Chosen for eternal life through faith and obedience to God’s guidance of Law and Love.  Yes indeed, this bread (for such it still was) of Jesus was most wonderful both in its immediate significance for those who gratefully rejoiced on receiving it, and in its future promise for those who would, subsequently, look with full trust and confidence towards Jesus to lead them through the desert of this man-made world towards the promised land to come.

Whatever promise life may hold for us, who are the People of God, whatever may be the meaning, purpose and goal, of our individual lives, for each one of us the fulfilment of it all and the consummation of all our deepest yearnings or aspirations is to be found in the Eucharist, for here we receive Him Who is Life itself.  In Him alone -- only by receiving Him into our lives -- can we become fully, truly and ultimately, ourselves, the selves we were created and destined to become not only for our personal fulfilment, but for the blessing of our world and the greater manifestation of the glory of God our Father.

The Christ we receive in Holy Communion is the crucified Christ now glorified and seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven.  He comes to us through the sacrifice of the Mass: no sacrifice no sacrament.  The Eucharistic Jesus we receive is the Christ glorified in His Self-oblation to His Father and for us: He still bears the traces of His crucifixion, of the wounds in His hands, feet and side; it is part of His glory, He does not seek to obliterate the memory of His great suffering because that suffering was the supreme expression of His sublime love for His Father and the enduring witness to His love for us.

As with all human beings, suffering will inevitably have a significant, perhaps even vital part, to play in our lives, and as disciples of Jesus we aspire to embrace those sufferings by the power of His most Holy Spirit Who wills to transform them into a Christ-like expression of our love for the Father; and also to transform us through those sufferings for future glory and fulfilment with Jesus before the Father in our heavenly home.

People of God, let us thank God with all our hearts for this supremely holy sacrifice and sacrament of Holy Mass, let us offer ourselves with Jesus and in Him to the Father, and, receiving Him in Holy Communion let us, in the power and love of His most Holy Spirit, beg that He make us like unto Himself in all things for the glory of the Father and the world’s salvation.

Friday, 20 July 2018

16th Sunday year B 2918

16th. Sunday, Year B                           (Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34)

Dear People of God, hopefully you will remember that last week in our readings, Jesus had sent out the Twelve on a mission, and told them that, if any town or village refused to hear them, they should shake the dust of that place from off their feet, in testimony against it.  Well, this week we are told of the Apostles’ return:

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.  He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.   So, they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.  

There we have a lovely example of Jesus’ solicitous care for His Apostles: ‘Come, get away from this endless bustle of activity and involvement; let us go to some “deserted place” where we will be alone and where you will be able to find refreshment for your souls, light and understanding for your minds, peace and joy for your hearts.’ 

The Apostles had put Jesus at the centre of their lives, and it was necessary for them to return to Him, not only to learn more from Him but to be with Him alone at times, in order that they might be able to continue to proclaim Him alone in their preaching and teaching.  Otherwise, they could so easily descend to preaching either themselves or whatever people might want to hear: reacting to, or simply serving the wishes and priorities of the surrounding society, before ultimately adopting the worldly attitudes and aspirations of those to whom they had originally been sent as guides in the ways of Jesus, thereby meriting a share the condemnation of the pastors mentioned in our first reading:

You have scattered My sheep and driven them away.  You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.   I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

This, People of God, is of great importance for our modern society where Church attendance is falling markedly.  The words “scattered My flock and driven them away” refer not so much to the people falling off through indifference as to the pastors driving the flock away from Jesus, by offering them all sorts of substitute food rather than the true nourishment prepared them by Jesus:       

I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven that one may eat of it and not die.  (John 6:48-50)

Jesus alone is the bread of life and He comes to us in two ways. 

First of all, through His Word:

He answered and said, "It is written, ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"   (Matthew 4:4)

Secondly in the Eucharist:

I am the living bread which came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world

That spiritual fulness of bread -- the Word of God and the Eucharist -- is what we pray for to our heavenly Father every day:

            Give us this day our daily bread.

What then if God’s People, coming to Church on a Sunday, are not given the bread God Himself is calling them into His presence to receive?  That is the real meaning of those words:

Thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who shepherd My people: You have scattered My sheep and driven them away.  You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.  

This type of thing is done when, instead of the Gospel message and the Church’s teaching, political correctness is preached; when current fancies are allowed to obscure Catholic teaching; or when the sins of the people are passed over in silence or even excused in order to avoid trouble or court popularity (Mark 7:7-9):   

This people honours Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.  In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.   You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition! 

In this regard we should remember that today such ‘clinging to human tradition’ does  not refer to the traditional teaching of Mother Church over the ages -- received from those who were far closer to Jesus and the authentic spirit of Christianity struggling, suffering, and dying, to proclaim the Gospel in a pagan world,  or from acclaimed saints and doctors who dedicated their whole lives to Mother Church’s proclamation of the truth of Jesus --  but to modern, glib and oh! so smooth popular words and attitudes, and to practices designed to adapt Jesus and His Good News in ways that allow ample tasting of the delights offered by the world.

To continue with our Gospel passage, we are told that the people followed Jesus and His Apostles, with the result that:

When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things.

Do please, People of God, notice the form Jesus’ compassion took:

He began to teach them many things.          

That is what must happen today in our society.  Jesus alone can heal us (Mt. 11:28- 30):

Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 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.

Therefore, Jesus has to be preached, His teaching has to be given, in season and out of season.  However, this is far too often done only partially when, for example, such words as those “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” are repeatedly acknowledged and commented on because they are beautiful words, recognized and admired by all; but Jesus’ subsequent words: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me”, may be heard but not often praised or commented on.  There, 'so-called teachers' stop short because they want to present religion and faith – not to speak of themselves -- in a popular light; likewise, there are many ‘hearers’ who also want to stop short there, because they do not want to hear talk of a yoke of any sort, let alone feel obliged to take one up.  And so, all too often, essential Catholic teaching is omitted, whilst the seeds of consolation such as those words “Come to Me all you who labour” are carelessly thrown on the soil of souls already overgrown with worldly weeds.  The result is that the word of God is choked, and a pseudo-religiosity takes its place :  “God is good, He rejects none (that is still good seed) --- there is no need to go to Church to find Him, to be accepted by Him (that, however, is the rejection of any yoke) --- there is no need for sacraments, especially confession, just say an occasional prayer if you have time and God’s goodness will do the rest for you” (there, indeed, you have worldly, even devilish, weeds that choke Catholic spiritual life).

An example of the choking of God’s word has recently been provided by a Vatican cardinal saying that priests lack credibility when it comes to marriage preparation!!   I heard that ‘opinion’ some forty years ago – not so much as a statement then but as a ‘fear’ from a few, perhaps too humble, fellow priests -- and my answer was then as it is now, that it is a Catholic priest’s most important duty to help any parishioners contemplating marriage to appreciate and understand Mother Church’s teaching on God’s purposes and prescriptions for Christian marriage: both as a privileged co-operation with God Himself in the continued gift of life and blessing to mankind and as a truly blessed and beautiful expression of Christian-inspired human love … based on ‘agape’!   Perhaps some couples might want medical, psychological, or just friendly, advice besides, but all Catholic couples need, and should have, the opportunity to learn and appreciate authentic Catholic teaching about the Christian sacrament of marriage through their theologically trained and Church-sent-and-approved priest, that thus they might the better receive and appropriate God’s grace and find strength and joy for their fulfilment in married life.

St. Paul told us in the second reading that Jesus:

Reconciled us with God through the cross (that is the yoke) and He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near (that is the teaching), (and) through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Through Jesus -- the Jesus Who died on the Cross and Whose yoke we must take upon ourselves, a yoke which He will make light for us -- through that Jesus we have access to the Father, in the Spirit Who brings to our mind all that Jesus taught and Who enables us to keep His commandments.  Through that Jesus alone do we have access to the Father.  Today however, that Jesus is not infrequently sacrificed anew in favour of a figure with the same name but without a cross or any other sort of yoke, a pseudo-Jesus whose teaching – ‘Repent and believe the Gospel’ -- is manipulated so that it appears no longer to proclaim and demand that we need to be reformed and renewed by His Spirit of Holiness.  This pseudo-Jesus is prepared -- so some modern people like to hear and want to believe – to accept us just as we are: after all, are there not apparently kindly people eager to tell them that they do not really intend any evil that might be lurking in the harm they think or do, and therefore, though they may, indeed, have some faults and failings, these are not really sins and, consequently, can easily be overlooked.  With some such self-justifying thoughts there are sinners who – over long years -- find themselves endowed by a now undisturbable, fully-calcified, conscience; sinners who like to further deceive themselves by imagining a comforting prospect of heaven being approached by a broad, well-lit, road that is not only smooth, but which also allows for many places of pleasant refreshment on either hand, to keep those travelling along it happy on their worldly pilgrimage.

People of God, be innocent not foolish; be wisely ignorant of the ways of the world and truly wise in the ways of God; try to do what Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, advises us: 

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. (Matthew 7:13)

We can only do that if we listen to the authentic and traditional teaching of Mother Church, for she alone knows Jesus because He, Jesus Himself, is with her as He promised to be, even to the end of time; she knows Him because He Himself bequeathed her His own Most Holy Spirit to abide with her and guide her into all saving truth.

On their return from proclaiming the Good News Jesus called the apostles aside from the crowd to a desert place where they could be alone with Him.  After a week of Christian witness in the world He still calls His disciples aside – apart from the world -- to be with Him, every Sunday at Holy Mass.  Like the apostles in our Gospel passage, we are meant to be one with Jesus in our Sunday gathering.  ‘One with Him’ can then mean two things: all one in faith before Him as living members of His Mystical Body; and all – individually and personally -- alone with Him in the devout attention of our minds and the pious love of our hearts.

That Church-oneness-of-faith in Jesus realized at Sunday Mass is proclaimed by the beloved disciple John when he says:

Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith.  Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?            (1 John 5:4-5)

And that personal commitment of love to and for Jesus, realized best at Holy Communion during our Sunday Mass, is urged upon us by Jesus Himself:

Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-26)

People of God, Sunday, and Sunday’s Holy Mass, is that unique occasion when our faith calls us to leave all behind and come together to be alone with Jesus; and surely, thinking on these things, we cannot but heartily agree with Mother Church that the Eucharist in which we are now participating is indeed, most felicitously well-named, the Eucharist, our Thanksgiving.

Friday, 13 July 2018

15th. Sunday of Year (B)
 (Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-10; Mark 6:7-13)

This sending out by the Lord of His chosen Twelve had two purposes: salvation was to be proclaimed and offered first of all to the Chosen People; and, at the same time, the Apostles were being prepared for the commission Jesus would give them after His Resurrection, to go out and preach His Good News to all mankind.
Let us look at this preparation of the Apostles.  Above all they needed to gain confidence in the Lord Who was sending them out on their first mission, because this mission to the Jewish people would be much easier than the one to come, which would be directed first of all to the sophisticated pagans of the Roman Empire, and then to the ignorance and violence of the largely uncivilized world beyond.  Jesus, however, apparently made this mission to the People of Israel more difficult for His Apostles by His injunction:
To take nothing for the journey except a staff -- no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts -- but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.
Nevertheless, when they returned, Jesus asked them:
When I sent you out without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?"  They said, "Nothing." (Luke 22:35)
Evidently, their experience on this first mission to the People of Israel had been such as to give them confidence that the Lord would be with them in all their future needs.
Moreover, their being sent out without bread, bag, or money in their belt, with only sandals on their feet, and, according to Matthew and Luke, without even taking a staff with them, would have helped the apostles appreciate that they were on a sacred journey:  for -- according to the Rabbis -- worshippers ought not enter the Temple precincts bearing staff, shoes (notice, sandals were permitted), or with a money belt. The disciples were, therefore, being manifestly sent out with those same dispositions of mind and heart ideally required for entering the Temple to worship and glorify God.  The immediate purpose of their mission was to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins to the people of Israel, a message which only they -- God’s Chosen People -- could at that time rightly understand and respond to; ultimately, however, they would be called to proclaim God’s salvation to the whole world, and, to undertake and serve that sublime calling, they had to learn first of all to put their whole trust, with confidence and joy, in name of the Lord Jesus.
Today the Catholic Church continues the mission of the Apostles, and the work required of her is still the same: a sublimely holy work to be done in the name and for love of the Lord Jesus, trusting in the Gift of God which is His Spirit; a work for the fulfilment of His Father’s plan for the salvation of mankind.
The response of men and women of our times and indeed, of all times, can be set out as Jesus put it before the Twelve.  First of all, we might note that, according to St. Luke (10:3), Jesus warned them that He was sending them out:
As lambs among wolves.
With such a warning the Apostles should not have been surprised at anything.  However, in our Gospel reading today, Jesus deals first of all with the response His disciples should give to those who would apparently welcome them:
He said to them, "In whatever place you enter a house, stay there until you depart from that place.”
Matthew (10:11-13) again adds a few more details:
Now, whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out.   And when you go into a household, greet it.  If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.    
They were to enquire, literally “question carefully”, about who might be “worthy” enough to give them hospitality.  However, the fact of giving hospitality would not, of itself, be sufficient.   On entering that household, they were to give it their greeting and blessing, but if it proved to be unworthy, that blessing of peace would be lost to it and return to the Apostles.   Jesus would Personally guarantee the blessing of His Apostles, and therefore that blessing was not to be pronounced lightly: the gift of hospitality was not enough, the giving had to be done in the right spirit:
If it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
People of God, there is something there which modern people, even modern Catholic people, might find remarkable -- and indeed, somewhat unpalatable -- for it is quite obvious that for Jesus -- and He certainly wanted His disciples to have the same attitude as Himself -- those who received the Apostles sent in His name were the ones receiving a blessing, and they were the ones who should, ultimately be grateful.  Not that the Apostles were not to be feel, or express, gratitude for such hospitality, but they were in no way to feel personally beholden to their hosts: for their hosts would be superabundantly rewarded by the Lord Himself through the blessing given by the Apostles for whatever kindness and assistance might have been provided.
This appreciation is confirmed for us when Jesus goes on to tell His Apostles:
Whoever will not receive you or hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.      
Such a symbolic gesture of shaking off the dust from their feet in testimony against that place and the people living there would serve as an indication that the ban of the Lord was resting upon that place.
In the legislation of the book of Deuteronomy, the people of Israel were instructed (13:17):
Nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand.
The Rabbis’ teaching explained that anything of this sort, clinging to a person, was metaphorically called “the dust”: for example, “the dust of an evil tongue”, “the dust of usury”.  With such a background we can understand the significance and awesome threat implied in the Lord’s command to His Apostles:
            Shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.
Who would, however, be so foolish as to incur the ban of the Lord?
That, of course, our first reading taken from the book of the prophet Amos showed us; for Bethel was the royal sanctuary of the Northern Kingdom of Israel which had separated from Judah, and the Lord had sent Amos to warn the Israelites of the dangers threatening them.  However, when Amos proclaimed there the word of the Lord, Amaziah, the priest at Bethel, told him to pack off back to Judah saying:
Off with you seer! Flee to the land of Judah and there earn your bread by prophesying!  But never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary, and a royal temple."  
Amaziah however, even though he was the chief priest of the royal and national sanctuary, was only one priest.   Was he really typical of the Israelites: what were the people as a whole like?  Listen to Amos speaking (3:15) in the name of the Lord of others in the Northern Kingdom:
I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end.  
Obviously, prominent Israelites of the Northern Kingdom ignored the word of the Lord because they were engrossed with their enjoyment of the ‘dolce vita’: winter and summer houses as splendid as if they were made all of ivory; and just listen how they lived it up!
Woe to you who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.  (Amos 6:4-7)
People of God, you know very well that there are very many such people in our modern and prosperous Western society who, in like manner, are relatively replete with – and wholeheartedly delight in -- possessions and pleasures, power and prestige; and, though being Catholics by reputation, they have no concern for the well-being of Mother Church.  Anxiously seeking the approval of men in all things, they have no confidence or trust in the Word of the Lord.  Will the ban of the Lord be on them?  Was it on the luxurious Israelites in Samaria?   Hear the prophet’s words:
(They) are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph, therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives, and those who recline at banquets shall be removed. (6:6-7)
Listen again to the prophet Amos (7:17) speaking this time directly to Amaziah the priest in charge of the royal sanctuary:
Thus says the LORD: 'Your wife shall be a harlot in the city; your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; your land shall be divided by survey line; you shall die in a defiled land; and Israel shall surely be led away captive from his own land.' 
That, People of God, is the background to Our Lord’s words to His Apostles:
Whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.
Oh! dear People of God, compare Our Lord’s directions for those ministering His grace to the lost sheep of Israel with the prescriptions of those in Mother Church today, both high and low, who almost beg people to come to church, to receive the Eucharist and other sacraments – notably baptism and confession – as it were at bargain prices (!) or even no cost at all (!!), traditional requirements of holiness being watered down or washed away, supposedly to demonstrate modern love!  Love of a sort indeed, but not Jesus’ love; rather is it that human emotionalism which imitates and would destroy true spiritual devotion, seeking neither Gospel fidelity nor Christian charity, but social acceptance and popular approval above all!
But what are the promises of the Lord?  What are the blessings He wants to bestow on us; what are the blessings reserved in heaven for those who embrace His Gospel and, by His Spirit. live through love in and for Him?  Listen to our second reading again:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, to the praise of the glory of His grace.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins; in Him also we have obtained an inheritance.  In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in Whom -- having believed -- you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance to the praise of His glory.  
Elsewhere Paul -- finding himself quite unable to express the wonder of our calling and the blessings that await us -- simply contents himself with quoting the Old Testament prophet Isaiah:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, may those promises be fulfilled, those blessings be bestowed, upon you who are now listening to the Word of the God with faith and who will later go out from this gathering enriched with Jesus’ grace to  seriously try to live your daily lives with authentic Catholic love and devotion.                                

Friday, 6 July 2018

14th Sunday Year B 2018

   14th. Sunday, Year (B)                              (Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2nd. Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6)

Dear People of God, we hear so little about the Church’s God-given teaching role and authority – stemming from Jesus’ first public words, ‘Repent and believe’ -- and so much about encouraging and comforting suffering members of the Church, very many of whom are ‘suffering’ because things are not sufficiently adapted to their liking in Mother Church’s traditional inheritance, that it behoves us to take notice of the following excerpts from our first two readings today before going on to study today’s Gospel:

You shall say to them: ‘Thus says the Lord God!’  And whether they heed or resist – for they are a rebellious house – they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

The Lord said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in (your) weakness.’

In our Gospel reading we heard how Jesus went with His disciples to His home town of Nazareth and was amazed at the lack of faith He discovered there: His fellows in the synagogue – that is, the religious, the devout, citizens of Nazareth -- were unwilling to accept either His teaching -- which they understood well enough to recognize its wisdom -- or His miracles, which they had seen for themselves, or concerning which they had received unimpeachable evidence from others who had been witnesses.  And this unwillingness to seriously accept and appreciate Himself, His teaching and His miracles, before fully developing into a total rejection of Him, His words and works, was originally motivated by the simple fact that they thought they knew Him and His family; for He had not only been brought up in their midst, but had actually been taught in their synagogue.   What would have become of Him if they had not been at hand to help and guide Him?

Why did Jesus find that amazing?  After all, He had been living among these people from childhood and must have experienced many of their personal idiosyncrasies through daily contact with them; moreover, He most certainly was endowed with enough wisdom to have gained a truly profound appreciation of human nature in general.  Nevertheless, we are told that He did, indeed, marvel at their unbelief; and time seems only to have deepened that amazement and sorrow, for you will remember that, later on, the experiences of His public ministry led Him to say:

When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?   (Luke 18:8)

In the Gospels, we are told that Jesus only marvelled on two occasions: one, as you have just heard, at the unbelief of His home-townspeople; and secondly at the faith of the Roman centurion whose servant He cured:

When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.  (Matthew 8:10)

This fact that Jesus is only said to have ‘been amazed’ or ‘marvelled’ on these two occasions involving faith or lack of it, seems to indicate that, of all human activities and attitudes, it is ‘faith’ which is the most personal, and also the most significant and ultimately wonderful act of which a human being is capable.

Why is faith so extraordinary?  Because it is a personal G/gift from God the Father; because it is the G/gift on which God’s plan for the redemption and exaltation of humankind depends. Human eyes might, indeed, have enabled men and women to see the wonders that Jesus did, and by their ears they could have heard the words of wisdom that came from His lips, but the transcendent reality at work in and behind those words and deeds could only be recognized and embraced by the humble and loving acceptance of the gift of faith from God’s Gift which is His own Most Holy Spirit:

I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one, as We are One.  (John 17:22)

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.  Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.  For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. (John 17:6-9)

Jesus’ later questioning whether the Son of Man would find faith on earth when He returns, becomes, therefore, more understandable when we consider that faith is truly a most wonderful quality in a human being because it is totally supernatural – a gift, God-given, to raise a weak and sinful creature to the level of a child of God – and, being so sublime, faith can only be rightly received with a corresponding humility.  Did not Our Blessed Lady herself declare:

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; for He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness?

Now, where faith is weak, and when -- perhaps under extreme pressure -- it might seem non-existent, Jesus, indeed, is disappointed and hurt; but He is never said to have marvelled at that: after all, He knows our human weakness.   We can see this, for example, when the disciples were in a storm on the Sea of Galilee:

Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus.  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"  And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:29-32)

Why, therefore, was Jesus so amazed at the lack of faith of those who seemed religious and even devout in Nazareth; why, indeed, did He marvel their unbelief when He could be so understanding of native human weakness? 

Here we encounter something of the mystery of Jesus, something of the wonder of His Person and the beauty of His character.

He came from the Father and had lived the majority of His life on earth in the home of Mary and Joseph where He had been seen to be daily “growing in favour with God and men”.  You will remember that after having seriously prepared for His long-anticipated reception to manhood-before-God as a young Jew, He had been so fascinated with the subsequent opportunity to talk deeply with the rabbis in the Temple – men learned in the Scriptures and the things of God -- that He forgot all about returning home in the caravan with Mary and Joseph.  And now here, as a fully mature man and an increasingly celebrated ‘rabbi’ back in His home-town synagogue at Nazareth, He likewise rejoiced that He might be able to speak again of the things of His Father with those in whose midst He had grown up, with those He so intimately knew and loved despite their faults and failings, with those who were members of God’s Chosen People to whom He had been sent:

It is written …, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore, everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  (John 6:45)

However, He was, indeed, amazed to discover how little reverence and love they had for His-and-their heavenly Father and how little they understood of the spiritual endowment they had received from Moses and the Prophets.  He had spoken of what He had learned from His Father, their God; He had done the works His Father had given Him to do for their enlightenment; and, to the fact that they had both heard and seen what He had said and done, their very own words testified:

What wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands?

And yet, they did not respond to His Father, they would not recognize Himself!

We must appreciate that those synagogue members were not subject to a storm terrorizing their human weakness as Jesus’ disciples had recently been on the Sea of Galilee.  Having heard His words and having either seen His miracles for themselves or heard of them from the accounts of friends and witnesses, they could not deny that Jesus did indeed speak with great wisdom and had, in fact, performed such works.  Their great difficulty, however, was that they were in no way prepared to accept that one who had grown up apparently like any other child in their midst could be fundamentally any better than themselves.  Failure through fear as experienced by His disciples during the storm on the Sea of Galilee was human; refusal from pride as shown by His townspeople in Nazareth was devilish!  Who, indeed, did He think He was?

Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honour except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." So, He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying His hands on them.  And He marvelled at their lack of faith.

Jesus marvelled because they refused to marvel at God’s goodness shown to one they considered to be their own, like themselves.  The Nazarenes were very proud -- you will remember how they had been willing to throw Jesus down from the hill their town was built on because they thought He had insulted them -- and they could not accept God’s secret choice of one of their own, because He was – to all outward appearances – like them.  They would not accept that He was, in fact, better than themselves before God.   They would, indeed, accept one more learned than themselves ( some acknowledged and scholarly rabbi perhaps), one stronger (some revolutionary leader perhaps), but not one better than themselves before God: better in His knowledge of, response to, and love for the God Whom they had come to consider as theirs.

The fact is that they were no longer God’s People because they had come to consider Him as their god, just as the pagans all around each had their own god who was no true god. The denizens of Nazareth, having come to think that Israel’s ancient Lord was in fact their own Jewish god, found something deeply offensive in this Man before them demanding that Israel’s God be more truly reverenced and more seriously obeyed, demanding, more strongly than Moses and the Prophets had ever done before Him, that they truly REPENT and learn anew to LOVE the God Who had brought their fathers out of Egypt to this Promised Land.  THIS was the stumbling block over which they fell and condemned themselves: Israel’s God was their god, and this ‘fellow’ had been taught at their synagogue, long before He became famous elsewhere.

St. Paul, on the contrary, told us how he had learnt ultimate humility from God and from his experience of human life and society:

Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.    Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  

Faith, dear People of God, is the glory of a human being.  It is a sublime gift of God, as the Gospel tells us, but it is something that can only be be received with humility; for, through faith, the very power of God is at our disposal and we must only use it for His glory, never for our own … most certainly not to make ourselves loved by parishioners, as some aspire to or teach today!    Being born of humility, faith can only be cherished by the constant practice of simplicity and trust in God, for the worries and false solicitudes of the world would choke it, as Jesus lovingly warns us:

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.  (Luke 12:27-33)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you who have all been personally chosen by the Father to be disciples of Jesus and witnesses to the world:  avoid worries and solicitude which sap away the strength of your faith; above all, never indulge doubt which can destroy faith.  Cardinal Newman used to say that a hundred difficulties do not make one doubt.  Do you think, do you fear, that your faith is still weak?  Then humble yourself gladly before God with St. Paul; and never forget what St. John would tell you also, namely, that you can grow in faith by the communion you have, daily, with God.  Would you aspire, finally, to the crown of faith?  Then give yourself in commitment, sincere and total, to God in prayer, to Jesus in the Eucharist, and to the Gospel proclaimed by Mother Church, in all life’s circumstances, big and small; such faith will earn you the eternal reward and crown implied in the words:

            Go in peace, your faith has saved you.  

Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.