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

Friday, 31 August 2018

22nd Sunday of the Year (B) 2018

22nd. Sunday of Year (B)

(Deut. 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27; Mark: 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

Our readings today are centred upon what one might call the art of living in the Church.  We are shown the good things God gives us and does for us, and also how mankind – even those who are sincerely religious -- can distort and disfigure those blessings.  In the words of Fr. Faber, it can happen that: “We make His love too narrow by false limits of our own, and we magnify His strictness with a zeal He will not own.”

In the first and second readings we were reminded of the great blessings God bestowed, first of all, on Israel, and, subsequently upon the whole of mankind, both Jews and Gentile

Be careful to observe (this Law) for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'

Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. … Therefore, receive with meekness the implanted word (the Faith) which is able to save your souls.  But, be doers of the word and not hearers only.

We should recall that, in the first place, the Law given to the Israelites in the desert had come as a gift from God; the People of Israel had not somehow managed to produce it of themselves.  And likewise, the land they were about to enter would not be won by their own might or valour, but would be yet another gift from God.  That is why Moses told them: 

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. 

For us too, the Faith that we have received is not of human origin; as Jesus made abundantly clear when He said, as we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel reading:

            The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63-64)

It was Peter who – inspired by the Father – gave the only true response to such words, not only on behalf of all the Apostles, but in the name of all true Christians and Catholics:

Lord, You have the words of eternal life.  Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (John 6:68-70)

And it is that same spirit to which you heard St. James give expression in our second reading:
Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls, (and) be doers of that word. 
Therefore, we must cling firmly to the teaching of the Faith: not only by defending it in our words but also by practicing it in our daily living.  And in order to do those things we must, above all else, learn to truly appreciate and love the Faith which God has so graciously bestowed upon us:
            This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 
All this may seem clear and sound simple, but such impressions can prove misleading, because at times our own unruly thoughts, imaginations, and feelings, will tempt us to follow their urging; and their very unruliness will make it difficult for us to appreciate, and consequently more difficult to obey, the Faith we acknowledge to be both God-given and true.
Such difficulties, however, are due simply to the fact that the Faith has been given us in order to change us from what – from who -- we are, into what – who -- God wants us to become. The Faith has been given us to re-form us, not in accordance with the maxims and examples of the world around us, nor for the fulfilment of our own personal preferences and ambitions, but after the pattern, and according to the will, of Him Who is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, preparing a place for us to live there with Him for all eternity. 
However, in addition to such difficulties which arise from our very nature and are therefore the common experience of all disciples of Jesus, there are other difficulties we experience that spring not so much from our common human nature as from our own personal character and that of others with whom we have dealings: especially from the attitudes and teachings of others in positions of prominence and authority.  We saw an example of this in our Gospel passage:
The Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?"
To which words, Jesus answered most vigorously, saying:
Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.   And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.  And He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”             

The traditions of the elders to which the Pharisees and Scribes were so devoted were originally practiced -- and subsequently handed down -- as a means of helping and protecting true devotion among the people of Israel.  And there were undoubtedly some in Israel who had profited and would continue to profit from their observance.  The trouble was, however, that the zeal of the Pharisees and Scribes for such traditions and for the letter of the Law, led them, at times, to disregard or even reject God’s Personal commands and His broader spiritual teaching given through the Prophets of Israel.

Jesus said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” 

Moreover, this excessive and misplaced zeal of the Pharisees and Scribes pushed them further, even, indeed, to assert that everyone in Israel should be bound by their traditions.  This amounted, Jesus said as He quoted the prophet Isaiah, to them:

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

In that condemnation you can recognize how zealous Jesus was for the honour of God: men’s commandments were in no way to be compared with the commandments and doctrines coming from God.

Now, In Mother Church there are those in positions of authority that entitle or at times require them to give advice and guidance to the People of God.  Most frequently that guidance – because the authority behind it stems from learning, experience, and above all, from the acknowledged and invoked guidance of God’s promised grace – requires obedience at times, and always merits respect and thoughtful attention.  No one can totally ignore or disregard such guidance.

Nevertheless, we must always realize that we have been set free by Jesus Christ to serve God in Spirit and in Truth, as living members of the Body of Christ in response to the guidance of His Holy Spirit living and working within us; and that no human guides can ever be allowed to cut us off from that personal response to God so long as we remain in Jesus by keeping His known commands, and following His general teaching mediated to our conscience through the Gospel proclamation of Mother Church.  St. Paul makes this absolutely clear in his first letter to the Corinthians (3:21-23):

Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come -- all are yours.  And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. 
As we go through life, striving to listen ever more carefully to God and follow Him ever more closely, we are always advancing to what is -- for us – new and unknown territory so to speak.  Therefore, it is indeed good and necessary that we should have the help of guidance from Mother Church, for on her alone did Jesus bestow the fullness of His Spirit, and to her alone does He recall all that Jesus taught and did.  Nevertheless, after personal prayer to God, after listening to His Spirit whispering in our conscience and abiding in Mother Church, after acknowledging our own inclination to sin and God’s wonderful goodness to us,  it is up to each of us, personally, to decide finally which way to go, because such responsible commitment is the hall-mark of a personal relationship with God intimately known and loved in our heart and life, it is the glory of a Christian which we should not yield, and certainly never abandon, to another.
Jesus once declared to His disciples:
When they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak, for it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father Who speaks in you. (Matthew 10:19-21)
Jesus might have said, ‘the Spirit of My Father will guide you’, but no, He actually said, ‘the Spirit of your Father Who speaks in you’ will help you.   As it were obliterating Himself, Jesus shows us how closely He wants His disciples to be united to, one with, His Father, and it is for that end He gives us His Spirit at baptism and renews His Spirit within us every time we rightly receive Holy Communion. Oneness with the Father, in Jesus, by the Spirit, that is the culmination, crowning and fulfilment, of all Christian life and holiness.

Nevertheless, never at any stage in our life can we presume that we have heard, understood, and responded aright, without regularly checking -- as we proceed further -- that we are, indeed, not only within the parameters of the Faith, but also walking in the direction of, and in a comforting conformity with, the life-thrust of her who is both the unique Bride of Christ and also our own Mother.  And this constant longing for, and looking to, God; this unceasing watchfulness for the motions of His Spirit within us; this abiding awareness of personal weakness and ignorance together with an ever growing awareness of and reliance upon God’s goodness to us, … all these endeavours and experiences gradually build up in us an ever deeper confidence and abiding joy in Mother Church, together with an ever more humbling and grateful experience and awareness of the presence, power, and goodness of God in our individual lives.

The Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God: the things which God has prepared for those who love Him; things which God has revealed to us through His Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)


Friday, 24 August 2018

21st Sunday of the year (2) 2018

21st. Sunday of Year (2)  

(Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69)

Our Gospel passage today, People of God, refers to the Eucharist, and Jesus is there addressing certain Jews who, quite understandably with their background, found the thought of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus as repulsive and unacceptable.  Jesus said to them:

Does this offend you?   What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

In today’s Mass, however, the Gospel has been joined with a passage from St.  Paul who has become a “bête noir” for modern feminists who regard his teaching as being degrading for women.  But then, those feminists themselves, what sort of women are they:  women of the world or Christian, Catholic, women?  The devil’s sin is pride, and the easiest and most acceptable way of leading human beings astray for him is to give them a shot or two of pride into the arm, so to speak, and consequently we Catholics need, at times, to beware of those who make themselves prominent, and be careful whom we follow.  

Let us, therefore, considering today’s reading from St. Paul who, as St. Luke tells us about the Apostles in general (Acts 5:42):
            Never stopped (both) teaching and proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus.

notice first of all that here, we have his proclamation, his advice, not a command in the name of Jesus:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord: as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands. (Ephesians 5:22, 24)

Today’s feminists say, of course: what woman could accept that?

Paul had never been put off, dismayed, or disheartened by the pride of pagans disputing with him or setting themselves up against him:

I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a constraint on you; I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by God’s mercy is trustworthy. (1 Corinthians 7:35, 25).

And Paul’s advice was not like that of any other person however learned and/or experienced, for Paul could most truly say of himself:

We have the mind of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 2:16)

St. Paul then continued his proclamation of Christ, the Messiah, and went on to say:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her, nourish and cherish (them), just as the Lord does the Church.

This time, it is the lads around us, the boys, who respond immediately with: what man would want that?

The feminists hate what they see as the humiliation of woman in Christian marriage, while the boys hate the bondage and responsibility that Christian family life would thrust upon them.

In all this where does Our Lady stand?

Feminists, as a whole, pay her little attention; if they refer to her at all, they certainly have little admiration for her lowliness:

My spirit rejoices in God my saviour, Who looks on the lowliness of His handmaid.

As for the boys … few of them would be ashamed to say they admire, perhaps even love the Virgin Mary, above all as Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Church (if they are still ‘practicing’), and as their Mother …  but, they might add with genuine humility, that she is too good for them, somewhat in the style of St. John of the Cross who, as a little boy, dirtied by playing outside and, if I remember correctly, struggling in some water, did not want that lovely lady (Mary) who appeared to him, to grasp hold of his dirty hand.

Mary has always been seen in the Church as a litmus test for adventitious doctrines in their relationship with the Person of Jesus and His teaching.  Now the modern ‘boys’ have no doctrines, whereas the feminists do most certainly have doctrinal practices (e.g. contesting and doctoring the Scriptures) and life-changing attitudes very closely aligned with those of abortionists; as a result of such divergent attitudes ‘the boys’ are known as poor Catholics, but our modern feminists – on the whole – are not easily recognizable as Christian or Catholic at all.

If those views – of the feminists and the ‘boys’ -- were the only possible interpretations of St. Paul’s teaching it would be very difficult indeed to understand how it has come about that Christianity has raised the status and dignity of women immeasurably more than any other religious faith.  How could a religion preaching the so-called humiliation of woman in marriage have lifted up the status and confirmed the dignity of women, above all in the love, ‘worship’, and subjection she willingly and gratefully gives to the Virgin Mary as the mother of her Lord and Saviour?  On the other hand, if the bondage of responsibilities and chastity were so objectionable and unsatisfying for men -- as the boys say -- how could it be that Christian family life has shown itself to be the bed-rock of Western, indeed world-wide, democratic society?

As you can see, so much depends on how you look at things.  That is why we heard in the first reading that Joshua, the leader of the Israelites after Moses, said to the assembled people, “Make up your minds”:

Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt.  And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."  So, the people answered and said: "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods.

Our troubles today are largely the fault of people who publicly say they don’t want to forsake the Lord, but who, in their hearts, neither hold Him in fear, nor are they willing to discipline their bodies so as to serve Him in sincerity and truth.

Jesus, in the Gospel reading, knew some such people who found His teaching hard because they were unwilling to commit themselves entirely to Him:

When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?   It is the Spirit Who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  

What if you see the Son of Man ascending to heaven?  Can’t you understand where I am leading you?  You will see Me ascend as your leader to the place where I am to prepare a place for all who will follow Me.  I am not preparing My disciples for a mere seventy or eighty years’ life in this sinful set-up; I have been sent to help you become children of God, able to live for ever in an eternal home prepared for you in My Father’s Kingdom; but for that, you have to be willing to trust Me.

Just as there are many rooms in the Father’s Kingdom where Jesus is preparing to receive His faithful disciples, so too, here on earth, there are many ways of learning discipleship and some, indeed, are better than others, as both Mary and Martha learnt; but all acceptable ways involve loving God and one’s neighbour, serving and following Jesus by obeying His Spirit in the Church. 

Whatever way we choose, the whole of our life as Christians is a time of preparation for our heavenly home, a preparation whereby we are gradually purged and cleansed of our sins and formed in the likeness of Jesus by His Holy Spirit.  It is not a time for the pre-eminent pursuit of worldly pride or pleasure, nor is it a process we can monitor and appraise for our own satisfaction.  The progress of life on earth for a disciple of Jesus is a spiritual work, a work carried out by the Holy Spirit; and it is a faith work, a work that can only be done for those who live by faith in Jesus Christ and in that way open themselves up to His Holy Spirit and allow Him to work in them.

And so, marriage -- the Christian life-sharing and potentially child-bearing relationship between man and woman -- is a most important relationship for the training of God’s heavenly children.  It is not, and cannot be, a relationship which is private to the two concerned, for that would be a mere a free-love association, whereas Christian marriage is the union of man and woman offered to Jesus, to be lived in accordance with His teaching and guidance handed down to us by His Apostles and Mother Church: it is a preparation ground, a human relationship offered to God for His glory and for Him to guide so that it serves the salvation of the spouses, helping form them for His heavenly family.  Every blessing comes to us through the Cross; consequently, in all Christian living, including marriage, there is experience of the Cross of Jesus; but as we see in Jesus, the Cross is ultimately something which a Catholic disciple can learn to embrace with his Lord for love of the Father, something which can lift us up from this earth to heaven.

Just to put it briefly in answer to the feminists and to the lads: Christian marriage is meant to help a Christian man and woman grow in humility on the one hand, and in true love on the other hand, both of which demand total, responsible, self-commitment and willing self-sacrifice.  To enable them both to achieve this, the Christian bond of marriage bestows a share in divine love, a gift of grace which gives those who want to receive it strength to live in a way which is more than human; and that is precisely why the feminists and the lads cannot understand Catholic marriage and Christian love, because it is for those destined for heaven, not for those satisfied, or hoping to be satisfied, with whatever renown, success, satisfaction, or pleasure, they can win or grab for themselves in this largely pagan world.

In all this, however, argument is of limited value, for as Jesus said:

Therefore, I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.

That does not mean that the Father denies anyone the opportunity or the ability to come to Jesus, but simply that He will not force it upon anyone; while those who do come to discipleship, must realize that it is a gift of God, not their own work.

In His days in Palestine, Jesus’ message displeased many:

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

Contrary to the impression given in these our times by some of His disciples both high and low, Jesus does not depend on human backing, He does not find it necessary to count “bums on seats” -- as the saying goes -- before He can trust His Father; for, just as of old:

He said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?",

even so today, He looks and listens for those true disciples who can wholeheartedly repeat and confirm those words of Peter:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 


Friday, 17 August 2018

20th Sunday Year B 2018

                 20th. Sunday of the Year (B)                               
 (Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58)

Today we learn to what lengths Jesus went to in order to make people think about, pay attention to, what He was saying.  Jesus avoided popularity with the majority of people, but He did, most passionately, want those initially drawn to Him by His Father to hear with a measure of understanding the simple words with which He addressed them, that thus they might begin to gradually appreciate His teaching, and hopefully even to modify their lives and purify their aspirations in accordance with it.  

In the gospel reading He declared:

I am the living bread which came down from 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.

As you heard, and as you may well understand, the Jews were outraged at such words, and murmured among themselves:

            How can this man give us His flesh to eat?

What did Jesus do?  He went on to say something yet more difficult for those ‘pious’ Jews even to hear let alone accept:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.

For a Jew, that last statement was absolutely outrageous because it seemed quite contrary to the command God had given Noah and his sons in the beginning:

God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.  But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Genesis 9:1-4)

This same command, moreover, was most emphatically confirmed in the Law itself given to Moses on Mount Sinai (Leviticus 7:26-27):

You shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast.  Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.

What then is the significance of the blood?  Let us learn more from the Old Testament books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy:

The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)

Be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life; you may not eat the life with the meat.  The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, and you shall eat the meat. (Deuteronomy 12:23, 27)

Why, therefore, did Jesus speak so provocatively to the Jews by first of all saying, “eat My Flesh” and then following it up by the even more provocative and objectionable words, “drink My Blood”?   What was He trying to express that was so important, so sublimely important, that He felt the need to go to such lengths in order to make His hearers give close attention to, and think deeply about, what He was saying?

The reason is that here we are given a startlingly clear picture of the uniquely Christian awareness of the extent and the nature of God’s love for us, as also of the divine humility of Jesus.  For, although Jesus’ blood -- the Blood of the God’s only begotten Son -- was most sinfully poured out by us, yet, St. Paul (Ephesians 2:4) assures us:

God, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us

turned that supreme evil into a supreme blessing.  Since Jesus poured out His blood so willingly for us God allowed us to use that blood for our spiritual benefit!  In the light of the Christian revelation and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we learn that, being allowed to drink the Blood of Jesus we are thereby enabled to imbibe life -- eternal life -- and ultimately a share in the sonship of Christ Himself!   As Paul (Ephesians 2:5) continues:

Even when we were dead in trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ.

How great is the Father’s love for us, People of God!   The blood of all creatures pertains to Him alone; how dear beyond all measure, therefore, is the blood of His only-begotten Son-made-flesh?  How unimaginable is the humiliation which Jesus so willingly and so lovingly undertook out of obedience to His Father and compassion for us: pouring out His own, His Most Precious, Blood willingly for our sins, and so for our use, our benefit, our profit, and our salvation.

How sublimely, then, is that text of Leviticus thereby fulfilled:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it (the Blood of the Immaculate Lamb of God) to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul (because it is the Precious Blood of the Risen and eternally living Son-of-God-made-Man). 

People of God, we live in evil times, we live in a society which condones, and indeed admires, all sorts of excesses and contradictions (death penalty/abortion!!): a society which, too often, teaches its children to get, not give; to experience pleasure rather than practice discipline; to use others, not to serve them; to seek advantage and success rather than to strive for honour and integrity.

We however -- as disciples of Jesus and in response to God’s wondrous love -- must, as our first reading said:

Forsake foolishness that you may live and advance in the way of understanding.

And it is here that we can appreciate another, essential, aspect of Jesus’ insistence that we eat His flesh and drink His blood.

In our world money is supreme, and most of it -- and consequently most of the world’s advantages and benefits -- go to those who are top-dogs or already rich, the important ones, the famous and the popular; while the underdogs, the poor, the insignificant and the unpopular, have to be satisfied with what remains over.  Jesus saw it all and warned His disciples:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. (Matthew 20:25)

Jesus knew that such a situation was the expression of sin’s presence in the world, and having become man in order to conquer sin and bring redemption for mankind, He therefore went on to say:

It shall not be so among you.

To that end, therefore, Jesus insisted repeatedly that no one could be saved by his or her own native genius or power of whatever sort.  Personal salvation cannot be won by personal endeavour using natural talents, it can only be received as a gift subsequent on a personal encounter with, and spiritual response to, Jesus:

            If you do not eat My flesh and drink My blood you do not have life in you.

In Jesus’ Church, and in preparation for the coming Kingdom of God, everyone thus starts once again on an equal footing (1 Corinthians 10:16-17):

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.   

That one bread and the one cup are the source of all grace and blessing for us, and on receiving them we encounter Christ, the Risen Lord, Himself; and, in that encounter we are in the presence of, and alone with, Him: there is no one else listening to our conversation; we are free to say, ask for, what we want, totally free to be ourselves with Him Who knows, and what is much more, appreciates, not only what we are but also what we want to be.  St. Paul puts it this way:

Now you have known God, or rather are known by God. (Galatians 4:9)

My dear People, the natural gifts each of us may have were not given to directly further our personal salvation, rather they have been bestowed upon us for our earthly benefit and the benefit of the society in which we live, and indeed, in exceptional cases, of the whole world.  Eternal salvation, however, comes to us as the result of our correspondence with the – perhaps unnoticed, unthought of -- guidance and calling of His own Most Holy Spirit over the years; with our personal faith-awareness of, and loving response to, Christ in our daily lives as witnessing Catholics and Christians; above all, however, as a result of our personal encounter with Our Saviour Himself in our reception of the Holy Eucharist.  

As we heard in the second reading we should:

Be careful how (we) walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of (our) time, because the days are evil.  So then (let us) not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is, always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Indeed, giving thanks, above all, for the wondrous beauty and goodness, the infinite mercy and compassion, of God our Father, made manifest to us in and through the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus His Son and our Redeemer.

We must realize, therefore, that although we are obliged to struggle at times in order to resist and overcome earthly inclinations which would lead us, through sin and self-indulgence, to death beyond the grave; nevertheless, as disciples of Jesus, our life, as a whole, should rather be experienced as, and characterized by, an ever deepening and developing awareness of the love and beauty both surrounding and awaiting us, as we learn, in Jesus, so to love our heavenly Father, that we ultimately receive -- as adopted children of God --a share in the heavenly inheritance of His beloved Son, thanks to the saving grace won for us by Jesus and bestowed upon us throughout our earthly pilgrimage by His Most Holy Spirit.

To the One God, therefore, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be all glory, praise, and honour, for ever and ever. Amen.    

Friday, 10 August 2018

19th Sunday Year B 2018

        19th. Sunday (Year B)                      
(1st. Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30 - 5:2; John 6:41-51)

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.   It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.   Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Those words indicate to us why, today, our Christian faith is unacceptable to many who are liberal-minded, because they speak of our having to listen humbly to One above and beyond us, One Who is totally outside of our supervision or control; and what is yet more objectionable, they even speak of our responsibility before that mysterious One, to hear Him and respond appropriately:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him; everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me.

Let us therefore -- who as disciples of Jesus are fully aware of and responsive to the sublime mystery of divine holiness and love – now reverently and gratefully consider the great blessing all of us gathered here for worship have already received.

For today you and I have come to Jesus, and Jesus tells us that we have come because the Father Himself has drawn us; which means that, in the depths of our being, each of us has heard the Father, heard Him speaking to us personally; and, having learnt from what He said to us in those secret depths, have come, at His behest, to Jesus.

            Everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me.

Of course, someone could -- especially in the old days -- come to Church because of social pressures of one sort or another.  Even then, it could be said that the Father was behind it all, and that such was the one way He, in His wisdom, saw to be the best for us at that time and in the situation we then found ourselves.  In such a case, however, we would not have fully learned from the Father, nor would we truly have come to Jesus, until we had progressed further and attained to personal faith, as Jesus says:

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

That is the first lesson for us today: coming to Church is only fully meaningful and true in so far as we come with personal faith in, and commitment to, Jesus as our Lord and Saviour; but, if we have come to Mother Church and to Jesus in that way, then Jesus Himself assures us that we do have eternal life:

            Whoever believes has eternal life.

Nevertheless, that is not everything; because eternal life, just like natural life, needs nourishment.  No normal mother and father, having given life to their child, would leave it without nourishment, because the life they have given has to develop, must grow.  Similarly, the eternal life given to us through faith in Jesus needs to grow, must develop, for such is the very nature of life: it has an innate drive towards fulfilment and perfection, and the only nourishment for such further development of eternal life within us is indicated by the following words of Our Lord:

I am the bread of life.  

What does He really mean with those words?  Can we not get nourishment from Him whenever we pray to Him, study the Scriptures or, perhaps, share in silent meditation like certain modern Christian groups do who do not have the Eucharist?

Of course, when we do such things there is no doubt that we do get a blessing from Him.  Nevertheless, Jesus meant something much more than that: for He spoke of eating the bread that He would give; eating in the way the Israelites ate manna in the desert when they had to go out to collect the manna before putting it on their plates, so to speak:

Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.

Praying, reading and studying God’s word, are all most important aspects of a living faith, and yet, Jesus quite deliberately said that even those who come to Him with faith must also, eat His bread:

I am the bread of life.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven that one may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.

So, we live by faith, and to help our faith grow and produce its fruit we need to eat this living bread which Jesus gives.  What, then, does “eating” mean here?  It means chewing, consuming, because the word He uses is the normal word for those actions; and, of course, the Israelites in the desert did actually eat the manna:

Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert; whoever eats this bread, will live forever.

Now, we all know that there is a difference between true eating and just receiving food into our mouth: indeed, even taking food into our stomach is not really eating if we do not digest it and find nourishment from it.  So it is with this Bread of Jesus: we need to prepare before eating, so as to eat It with dispositions that will enable us to receive nourishment from It.  What then are those dispositions?

This Jesus makes clear when He tells us that His gift of Bread will actually be His Flesh, given up, offered, to His Father, for a most particular purpose:

            The bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.

The Eucharistic Flesh of Jesus we receive in Holy Communion is given, He tells us, “for the life of the world”, which means, given in sacrifice to His Father for the life of the world, to save mankind from sin.  Surely, therefore, we can now begin to understand more clearly what should be our attitude of mind and heart as we approach the Lord in Holy Communion.

First of all, we must approach in all humility, knowing that we are not bestowing any favour upon Him when we draw near to receive Him, for we need to be freed, cleansed, by Him, from our past sins and enduring ignorance and frailty.  Moreover, loving Him as yet imperfectly, we also want and indeed need to love Him more, and so our second attitude of mind and heart should be one of longing: longing to give ourselves, with Him to the Father, in a spirit of loving self-sacrifice: being resolved to walk in His ways, to carry our cross with Him to our Calvary, seeking to carry and indeed love whatever ‘load’ the Father may choose to put on our shoulders as true disciples of Jesus, while carefully avoiding and firmly rejecting whatever is sinful.  Only with such dispositions can we approach and receive fruitfully Him Who said:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.

Those lessons, learnt from today’s Gospel, are confirmed by St. Paul who told us in the second reading that we are called to:

Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (NRSV)

That we might thus walk humbly along Christ’s way, offering ourselves with Him in His sacrifice to the Father -- loving Him, in and together with Jesus, in what is Jesus’ supreme expression of total love for His Father -- is precisely why the Eucharistic Food is given us: for this Bread is given not simply to enhance our native powers such as were required for the journey of Elijah to Mount Horeb: 

The angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him and said, "Arise, and eat, because the journey is too great for you." So, he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God;

for the bread that Jesus bestows is given to enable us to make a journey leading to the very portals of heaven: for loving Jesus, and with Him the Father, is the closest we can possibly get to the Father on this earth, it is the most intimate foretaste of our promised share in eternal beatitude.

Our spiritual journey, our journey of ever deeper faith in Jesus, was indeed faintly foreshadowed by the physical journey of Elijah to Mount Horeb, but it was directly envisaged and indeed made fruitful for us by Jesus Our Lord when He spent forty days and forty nights in the desert fighting with, and triumphing over, Satan.  After that epic conflict Satan retired temporarily while Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the Gospel and laid the foundations of His Church.  Then, apparently contesting the definitive nature of Jesus’ previous victory, Satan once more entered the lists for an ultimate struggle with Jesus where he pitted his dire threat of earthly suffering and death against Jesus’ Personal power to promise and bestow eternal life.  Jesus took up Satan’s gauntlet and, by rising from the suffering and death of the Cross in the power of the Holy Spirit, He totally destroyed the Devil’s earthly power, before finally ascending in bodily glory to heaven, and thereby manifestly confirming the validity of His promise of eternal life, and establishing the foundations of God’s coming Kingdom  through the subsequent Gift of His most Holy Spirit to Mother Church and, through her, to all His faithful disciples.

So, our journey in the strength of Jesus’ Eucharistic Food is meant to lead us in the power of His Spirit to triumph over sin and suffering in our lives, before passing -- with Jesus -- through death to our final triumph over Satan.  Thereupon, He will guide us to the heavenly home where God the Father has prepared a festal gathering for His Son, and where Jesus -- having prepared many rooms -- gives welcome and rest to all who have persevered in His Name.  Ultimately, He will lead all His faithful and triumphant disciples into the glorious Presence of Him Who will embrace us as His true children in Jesus and thereby show Himself to be the One true Father of all, before – as the supreme source of all that is good -- inviting us to take our place at His table where we will share in Jesus’ eternal happiness and glory.                                                                        

Friday, 3 August 2018

18th Sunday Year B 2018

18th. Sunday, Year B

(Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; Gospel of St. John 6:24-35)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, a common difficulty for modern-day Catholics in the West seems to be not that those still practicing as Catholics do not believe in Jesus so much as the fact that they cannot see themselves as being in need of Him:

God is good, we think we are sincere enough in our practice, but somehow, we cannot drum up much enthusiasm for our religious faith: Jesus in heaven now, the heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit with the Church and in us now, we believe they are Persons, but They are not real to us, They are more like notions we accept.   We do indeed want to love God and Jesus, and we would say we trust the Holy Spirit ever at work in us and for us, but, though we most certainly do not approve of many modern atheistic and hedonistic developments in the world, nevertheless,  the world is still more or less OK for us, were it not for the fact that, in this world and as  it impacts on us, we are not able to see ourselves, somehow feel ourselves, in any real need of God, not even of Jesus, the closest of all Three to us…..

Of course, as we draw closer to death, or perhaps become more aware of its possibility or proximity, we modern-day Catholics don’t want to approach it as the end of everything.   No, I personally want death to be the climax of my life, the moment I have lived for, the moment of meeting Christ, God, somehow Face to face, showing me His infinite mercy and love … the moment when, with all my sins forgiven and forgotten, whatever good I may have done, whatever right aims or purposes I may have pursued, are consolidated and crowned, the moment when all my love and longing for God is fulfilled for all eternity.

However, such thoughts of death are not normal everyday thoughts for busy and too-often-and-too-much pre-occupied members of Mother Church and of modern society with all its demands and requirements.  Such parishioners, such people, do not feel themselves, experience themselves, as being in-need-of Jesus; and that does disturb them, at least in the depths of their personal, Catholic subjectivity, because they know that ‘things’ are only done in the world by people wanting something, whatever it be, money, friendship, love, fame or just popularity; and they also know – as Catholics -- that without Jesus they are and can do nothing worth-while.

What can such Catholics do to realize (as Blessed J.H. Newman meant it) their need?

In today’s Gospel there were some Jews experiencing a somewhat similar ‘need’, suffering from a somewhat similar uncertainty, conscious unknowing.

            What can we do to accomplish the works of God?

To them we are told that Jesus answered, saying:

            This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He has sent.

They wanted concrete works they could do, and having done them feel themselves as belonging to God.  Jesus offered them, FAITH:

            Believe in the One He has sent.

Then they asked a sign of Jesus, bread like Moses of old.  Jesus had far greater bread to offer them, of course, but they wanted bread they could gather knowing it was a sign they could count, measure, and assess:

            Sir, give us this bread always.

Jesus again offered them, FAITH:

Whoever COMES TO ME – the bread of life – will never hunger, and whoever BELIEVES IN ME will never thirst.

Dear People of God wanting to become more aware of your need for Jesus, do not be alarmed at your feeling of, should we say, emptiness with regard to the reality of your faith.  For the fact is that God, the Holy Spirit, is actually making you aware of the supreme disease afflicting Mother Church and all Christian people … the disease of merely nominal faith, a faith ignored when temptation or need comes along, a disease afflicting many, even the highest, of the ‘clergy’ and also far too many of our laity who, in the course of their ever-so-busy days, think little – if at all -- of God, and yet imagine their ‘littleness’ allows them to assume and accept all sorts of excuses for their failure to assert, make use of, their faith.

Yes, those of you who are somewhat troubled by the fact that you do not have any felt need for God and Jesus are already under the influence of God and Jesus’ most Holy Spirit, Who wants to make you aware of, but not, as I said earlier, alarmed by such awareness because He wants to help you do something about it.

Look again at Jesus in today’s Gospel reading responding to the Jews questioning Him, assertively however, not humbly:

            I am the bread of life;

but then He goes on to talk, not about collecting or eating such bread, but:

            Whoever comes to ME, whoever believes in ME,

Because, as He had said earlier to them,

The true bread My Father gives you is that which comes down from heaven and gives (His) life to (for) the world.

Dear People of God, the Holy Eucharist is Mother Church’s most sublime treasure, but it is a gate that we must enter, through which we must go, to meet with, open our hearts and minds to, the Person of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour Who constantly intercedes on our behalf before His Father in heaven.

Then, after that meeting, heart-revelation, and subsequent trust, follow the advice of that great disciple of Jesus who spoke to us in our second reading today:

Put away the old self (and its constant worries) and be renewed in the spirit of your minds (trust), and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and truth.

And let the peace of Christ control your hearts and be thankful.  And whatever you do in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  (Colossians 3:15-17)

For God is the One who, for His good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world.   (Philippians 2:13–15)