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, 28 September 2018

26th Sunday Year B 2018

26th. Sunday (Year B)
(Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48)

Something of the beauty of Moses’ character can be seen in in our first reading today.
The people of Israel had been very troublesome to Moses and the Lord had accepted his prayer for help, and told him:

I will come down (in the cloud over the tent) and speak with you there. I will also take some of the spirit that is on you and will bestow it on seventy of the elders of Israel, men you know for true, that they may share the burden of the people with you. You will then not have to bear it by yourself. 

The Lord did according to His word and sixty-eight of the chosen seventy elders prophesied as some of the spirit on Moses came to rest on them.   However, two of those chosen -- Eldad and Medad by name -- had not gone out to the tent with the others and yet, the spirit came to rest on them also, so that they prophesied, apparently independently and of themselves, inside the camp.  

When a young man told Joshua son of Nun -- who from his youth had been Moses’ aid -- what was happening, Joshua rushed to Moses and said, “My lord, stop them.”  But Moses answered him:

Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow His spirit on them all!

Moses had no thought whatsoever about his own prestige or standing with the people, he was quite satisfied, indeed totally content, with the sublime privilege of being at one with God and of seeing God glorified in and by His people.

We have more of that fulfilling joy in God brought out in the Gospel passage today, where Jesus strives to guide the Twelve into an awareness and appreciation of the wondrous beauty and special dignity of their own relationship with Him as His Personally chosen disciples-cum-Apostles: after all, hadn’t three of them just witnessed His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, hadn’t they heard Him speaking there with Moses and Elijah!

John and his brother James had been indignant about, and probably somewhat jealous of, an unknown person drawing attention to himself by performing apparent miracles:

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out
demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” 

Whereupon, Jesus replied:

Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My name who can at the same time speak ill of Me.  For whoever is not against us is for us.

John and James had been concerned about someone apparently stealing their thunder.  Of course, they could excuse their displeasure and explain-away their annoyance as zeal for the honour of Jesus and, no doubt, that would to a certain extent be true, since they did indeed love Him.  Nevertheless, John and James were not called ‘Sons of Thunder’ for nothing, and something of their naturally fiery temperament had been stoked up to streaming-point by the unknown and, above all unauthorised, worker-of-wonders.

Let us take close note of Our Blessed Lord’s wisdom, patience, and goodness in His reply.   First of all, with regard to their concern about His good name:

Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My name who can at the same time speak ill of Me.

Notice, then, how He deals with their personal disturbance and exasperation:

Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against us is for us.

What wonderfully chosen and beautifully phrased words, able both to restrain and correct whilst at the same time giving comfort and offering encouragement!

In our first reading Moses had been fully content with his lot as a servant acceptable to and appreciated by the Lord his God; Joshua had, on the other hand, been most solicitous for Moses’ prestige in the eyes of the people.  Now, in our gospel passage, John and James -- like Joshua -- had not thus far reached the spiritual heights of Moses; they did not as yet fully appreciate and treasure their relationship with Jesus above all else, they had not thus far come to recognize the transcendent worth and beauty of the grace and truth to be found in Him as would St. Paul later:

I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith, to know Him and the power of His resurrection and (the) sharing of His sufferings by being conformed to His death.  (Philippians 3:8ss.)

The supreme value of oneness with Jesus, so esteemed and longed for by Paul, was not fully appreciated by the young Apostles and today, that failing, in a most exaggerated and pernicious form, is widespread in Mother Church among so many frail and/or nominal Catholics who have been brought up in a world become excessively aware of merely human rights and dignity, privileges not understood according to the Gospel of Jesus, but as defined and established by worldly, totally secular and political, authorities. Such vulnerable ‘followers of Jesus’ consequently find themselves unable to truly appreciate the privilege of friendship with a transcendent God, in-and-through the Person of One Who is both God and man, Jesus of Nazareth, uniquely beloved of God and uniquely devoted to the salvation of mankind.

Our world and indeed the whole universe is God’s creation: it is wholly from the God of infinite goodness, it silently witnesses to God’s unimaginable and endless beauty, it unceasingly praises God’s sublime majesty; moreover, it is also for the whole of mankind.   But for those who can only recognize human values, God’s sublimity is both shocking and challenging for human pride, and friendship with Him in and through the God-made-man-for-us can seem a frightening responsibility. Such fear and fright easily lead such vulnerable disciples to begin to question not only God’s majesty and presence in the physical world around us but, even more, His healing and saving power -- in and through His Church -- for human society and for their own individual lives in particular.  Quiescence in such a state can only lead to Jesus’ saving grace and His promise of eternal life and fulfilment, becoming not only side-lined and gradually ignored, but even being denied and ultimately hated: all in total compliance with the world’s yearning for pseudo freedom to be what they want to be and for pseudo love to delight in whatever pleasures and pleases them.

In such a situation it behoves us to return to Our Blessed Lord Jesus again for guidance, comfort, and strength.

He understood fully the Zebedee brothers’ feelings for Him and for themselves, and so, He lovingly and most humbly opened up for them a beautiful insight into the possibilities of their relationship with Himself by His use of one tiny word, ‘us’.   Jesus did not speak to them of what they had been privileged to see on Mount Tabor because the ‘sons of thunder’ had had their nose put out of joint (as the common and somewhat vulgar phrase has it) by the fact that this stranger had DONE something himself, and in doing something he had shown himself to be a somebody whereas they, James and John, had done nothing, they had merely SEEN something taking place before them.  The fact is, dear People of God, those two ‘sons of thunder’, though called to become Apostles, were still potentially proud, and actually very self-centred.  But, for all that, notice how Jesus so patiently, so compassionately, deals with these two!   He draws their special attention to one, tiny, word, minuscule in size but full of, capable of embracing, endless possibilities of the deepest sensitivity, most startling beauty, and totally self-forgetting power of commitment and peace:

            Whoever is not against US is for US!

The anonymous miracle-worker is not included in the embrace of that one word ‘us’ as used by Jesus.   And having said that, Jesus had no need to say more …. the Spirit was at work in His few words and His disciples now humbled hearts.

Although that unknown man had been immensely privileged to work wonders in the name of Jesus – works far beyond his own natural abilities,  John and James were now being called to recognize and treasure the ‘pearl beyond price’ in the Christian experience of life before and with God … that is, oneness with and love for Jesus, a pearl so graced as to able to burn away all thoughts of self and self-interest in a furnace of total love for and commitment to One supremely and sublimely beautiful, holy, and true.

It is the same for Catholics and Christians being persecuted openly or deceptively in our world today; and the question before each of us is that put to James and John, and ultimately to Peter and the whole Church:

Do you love Me more than yourself and the world?  Do you truly want to love Me?

Dear People of God, for all of you who can humbly and sincerely answer that last question with a ‘Yes’ there is only one further question, and that is inevitable:

            Are you therefore willing to work on and try to develop   your desire to love Me.

‘Yes’ to that question, is the life’s work and joy of all true Catholics and Christians. 

Friday, 21 September 2018

25th Sunday Year B 2018

                        25th. Sunday (B)                   

 (Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16 - 4:3; Mark 9:30-37)

Jesus was teaching His disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill Him, and three days after His death the Son of Man will rise."   But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question Him.

The words of Our Blessed Lord were clear enough, People of God, but the disciples seemed not understand what He was saying.  Why?  Surely it must have been because they did not want to accept that suffering should come into the life of Him Whom they acknowledged as the Christ of God, the glory of His People Israel, and their own, much loved and even more revered, Lord and Master.

It is still the same today: so many people are unwilling to accept that suffering can have any salutary role in their own lives as Catholic Christians, thinking it wrong and totally incomprehensible and that anyone living, or trying to live, a good life as a disciple of Jesus the Lord, should have to experience unjust and undeserved suffering; and consequently, when suffering comes into their lives they are easily scandalized and too frequently turn aside from discipleship in a greater or lesser degree.

Now, this they do because they have allowed themselves to become worldly in their thinking, as Jesus reproached Peter:

Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle to Me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.  (Matthew 16:23)

Having become worldly in their thinking, such people soon come to love not the Lord so much as themselves, and the world for which success -- in its many variations such as plenty, power and pleasure -- is the only fruit of life considered as acceptable and fitting for them.  In that way having begun as just weak Christians, fearful and tremulous at the very thought of any cross, they can easily end up as knowing participators in what is commonly referred to as life’s rat-race.

Saint Augustine has a remarkable sermon which touches on this subject, let me quote you something from it.

A sheep is weak, that is, it lacks courage, with the result that it may give way to temptations if they come upon the sheep when incautious and unprepared.  The negligent shepherd does not say to a believer of that sort: ‘My son, when you come to serve God, take your stand in righteousness and fear, and make ready your soul for temptation.’  One who speaks thus, strengthens the weak and makes him strong instead of weak, so that when he has found faith he will not hope for this world’s prosperity.  For if he has been taught to hope for this world’s prosperity, he will be corrupted by the prosperity itself: when adversities arrive, he is wounded, or perhaps utterly crushed.  One who so builds is not building him on a rock, but setting him on sand.  ‘The rock was Christ.’  Christians must imitate the sufferings of Christ, not seek for pleasure.  What kind of men are such shepherds who, fearing to hurt (or displease) those they speak to, not only do not prepare them for imminent temptations, but even promise the happiness of this world, which Christ did not promise to the world itself?

Those who, in their promotion of self, would avoid all suffering either try to lie low throughout their lives, or else they seek to ignore what others may think and gradually learn to ride rough shod over what others may want.  A life thus spent in promoting and ‘defending’ self makes life something of a battlefield where arguing and quarrelling are common weapons, and the subtle and secret art of maligning others is quickly and easily learnt, being less dangerous than openly accusing or condemning others regarded as opponents or rivals.   Ultimately, of course, such protagonists in the ‘struggle for life’, come to embrace lies as their preferred version of the truth, and hate truth as being permanently twisted against themselves and to their detriment. 

Let us now return to Jesus and learn how He persuaded His disciples to overcome their fears and change their ways:

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, He began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”  But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.  

Jesus knew what had been going on, literally behind His back, as He and His disciples had walked along, and:

Taking a child, He placed it in their midst and putting His arms around it He said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in My name, receives Me.”

In the ancient world children were thought little of, and frequently and publicly much abused.  Therefore, when Jesus took one such person, so insignificant and singularly unimportant in the eyes of the world, and said:

Whoever receives one child such as this in My name, receives Me,

He thereby gave His disciples a picture that was so easy to remember as to be unforgettable, and yet at the same time one that offered them teaching of inexhaustible riches.

For those well-disposed and well-intentioned, for those -- above all -- small in their own conceit, even the smallest work is able to bring such a disciple to Jesus’ attention: there is nothing too small, nothing too insignificant, which -- when it is received, embraced, or done, for Jesus’ sake -- does not bring such a disciple close to his Lord. To be appreciated by the world one has to be, or try to make oneself, significant, great, successful; such endeavours for personal renown are, however, of no advantage in the Christian life, for God exalts the lowly and humble of heart, while pride -- inevitably and invariably -- separates from the Lord those who pursue it.

Again, dear People of God, observe what sort of relationship the disciples had with Jesus.  We hear it said today: “Why are our churches so quiet?  We should be greeting our friends and the Lord there!”   Notice the disciples and Jesus in the Gospel passage:

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, He began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”

They had walked the way to Capernaum, but, quite obviously, they had not been walking like a group of mates chatting on the way, because, on their arrival at the house, Jesus had asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”  He would appear to have been walking ahead and alone, and they had been following as a group.  Why?  There was, obviously, something very different about Jesus, nobody walked alongside Him, shoulder to shoulder, as His equal, His special companion, not even Peter or John.  There was a distance between the disciples and their Lord: not one of separation, but rather, one of reverence.  We can see the same attitude in another detail mentioned in the Gospel reading: for, though the disciples did not understand His teaching concerning His future Passion and Death:

they were afraid to question Him. HeHHhhhhhhHhhhh

Now this was not a fear such as we usually have in mind when we use the word:  for it was a fear which in no way hindered them from following Him wherever He went.  It was such a fear as rises in every humble human heart in the presence of the One who is far greater than they, the presence of the One of Whom Jesus spoke when referring to the Temple in Jerusalem, the pride and joy of the Jewish nation, known and admired far and wide in antiquity, whose very stones still fill modern engineers with admiration and amazement:

I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the Temple (and He is speaking to you at this very moment). (Matthew 12:6)          

Before such a One, only the blindness of culpable ignorance and devilish pride could have rendered the Apostles incapable of feeling and of appreciating an instinctive fear rising in their hearts in His presence.

People of God, we should never be ashamed to fear the Lord, for it is proof of the authenticity of both our knowledge of ourselves and our appreciation of Him.  However, let it be a fear like that of the disciples on the way, a fear which, far from repelling them, drew them after Him, irresistibly, wherever He went: pray that you too may progress along their way of discipleship, experiencing a like, reverential, compulsion to follow Jesus ever more faithfully, ever more closely, even though it lead to your sharing in His sufferings.  Indeed, look beyond the disciples, and pray that your reverential fear may become ever more and more like the reverential love which Jesus Himself, our Blessed Lord and Saviour, had for His heavenly Father when He said:

You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for My Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)   

Finally, may your appreciation of the glory of the Risen Lord in His Temple, the Church, lead you to shun all worldly attitudes of mind and heart, and fill you with a fearful reverence before her proclamation of His teaching and her dispensing of His grace; such a fear, such a reverence, that grows within you until it becomes a totally consuming love which can find its truest and fullest expression here on earth only in devoting and sacrificing self, in her service and for His glory:

That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. (John 14:31)

Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.  (John 10:17-18)     

Friday, 14 September 2018

24th Sunday of Year (B) 2018

24th. Sunday (Year B)  

(Isaiah 50:5-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35)

We heard in the first reading a prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Suffering Servant, the Messiah, the coming leader who would deliver Israel from her bondage to sin.  He is known as the Servant because He would be totally obedient to the Lord the God of Israel, and totally devoted to His Chosen people; He is better known as the Suffering Servant because it would be by His human sufferings -- pictured so graphically for us by the words of the prophet -- that He would fulfil God’s plans and purposes for His People, not by any triumphs of military prowess.  Moreover, since those sufferings would come His way as part of God’s will for Him – not as mere chance manifestations of human wickedness -- therefore the Suffering Servant would be also be characterized by His constant listening for and to God in order to know His will and walk His way in total and unfailing obedience:

The Lord GOD opens My ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.

Having come to do His Father’s will, Jesus’ constant aim throughout His life was to listen to, obey, and thereby glorify His Father.  This He showed, for example, when He chose Peter as the foundation rock for His Church because He, Jesus, recognized that it was His Father Who had revealed the truth to Peter “It was not flesh and blood which revealed this to you but My Father in heaven”; and again, when, in the Garden of Gethsemane He  prayed, “Not My will Father, but Thine be done.”  Indeed, His final and supreme prayer was that His own death would serve for the ultimate glorification of His Father:

Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven, said, "Father, the hour has come.  Glorify Your Son, that the Son may also glorify You.” (John 17:1)

Therefore, in order to show the faith of which St. James spoke in our second reading we too must always seek to hear, recognize, and respond to, the word of God.  Faith is not something we are born with, it is our God-gifted response to Him Who addressed and confronted mankind supremely in and through His Beloved Son’s life and Gospel proclamation, His  death and Resurrection, an event and a message now treasured by His Church in order to be passed-on and handed-down to His Christian and Catholic people world-wide in all its integrity and beauty, so that it might find a ‘home of resonance’  in the pure (dead to deliberate and wilful sin) and peaceful (God-seeking, self-less) depths of each and every truly Christian conscience.

In the Gospel reading we were told that:

Jesus and His disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”  And He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to Him in reply, “You are the Messiah.”  Then He warned them not to tell anyone about Him.

Peter, as first of those uniquely called ‘fishers of men’, of those totally-committed first disciples of Jesus the prophet, had originally been privileged to hear the Father as Our Blessed Lord Jesus Himself tells us:

No one can come to Me unless it is granted him by My Father  (John 6:65);

and now he became the first to publicly recognize and confess Jesus as the Messiah, saying those typically decisive and uncompromising words: You are the Christ.

There was no doubting Peter’s commitment to Jesus, but he had not yet learnt how to distinguish sufficiently between the Father’s revelation and his own intense and emotional feelings when Jesus began to speak openly and clearly about His own forthcoming Passion, Death, and Resurrection.  Those words of Jesus so impacted upon Peter that, we are told:

             Peter took (Jesus) aside and began to rebuke Him.  

I would rather have said that he went aside to join Jesus, but in fact the gospel says that he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him!  Peter was, as I have just remarked, both decisive and determined by nature; but, on this occasion, his own loving intuitions concerning Jesus’ safety and honour led him to completely overstep the boundary between disciple and master, with the result that:

Jesus turned around and, looking at His disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

What a put-down!!  However, lest we think that Jesus’ response to Peter’s effrontery was motivated by anger, however justifiable, notice what St. Mark tells us:

Jesus turned around and looked at His disciples.

Yes, Jesus words were not even words of annoyance let alone anger, they were measured words deliberately chosen to guide and protect His other disciples – who both admired Peter and were accustomed to follow him with full confidence -- by correcting Peter’s presumptive impetuosity.  Neither men nor circumstances were the issue at this moment;  for Jesus, God His Father was in loving command over, and total control of, every aspect of His life, and such being Jesus’ love, every aspect of His Father’s word and will evoked a response of absolute commitment from Jesus: there was nothing that God could ask of His Son that His Son would not embrace, even to the extent of His Passion and Death on the Cross.   Peter’s present anxious fear for Jesus’ well-being was quite alien to Jesus.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear?  The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom am I afraid?  When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, these, my enemies and foes, themselves stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear; though war be waged against me, even then do I trust.  (Psalm 27:1-3)

And so we see how, in order to instil in His disciples -- Peter above all -- total trust in His Father’s overseeing wisdom and love, Jesus rejected Peter’s blind emotionalism with those heart-felt and shockingly pertinent words: ‘Get behind Me, Satan!’  For Peter -- in his mixed-up proclivity to decisive action -- was actually carrying on where Satan in the desert had temporarily stopped: trying to persuade Jesus to seek His own ends, His own self, rather than follow His Father’s way, do His Father’s will.

Therefore Jesus called not only His disciples to Himself, but also we are told, the whole crowd of ordinary people following Him at that time, because the Church He would build would be built upon Peter the Rock and would have to believe totally and unswervingly that Jesus, the Head of His Body the Church, was, had always been, and to all eternity would always be, totally and completely, One with the Father:

             I and the Father are One.  (John 10:30)

Notice, not only those already fully committed to Jesus, not only those seeking to learn more and more about Him and His Good News, but even those ordinary people who were just seeing Him and hearing of His Gospel message for the first time, all of them had to appreciate this absolutely fundamental truth about Jesus’ relationship with God His Father, and about His plan for mankind’s salvation through their Gift of the Holy Spirit of Truth and Love, Power and Might:

Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.   For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

Whoever, that is, having heard the Father’s call and come to Me, must realize that, as My disciple, he must follow Me and, in his turn, acknowledge that the Father is -- through the Spirit -- in total control of his life too, and trustingly follow the Father’s call wherever it might lead.   ‘Whoever wishes to save his life’ -- fearing, that is, that the Father is not willing or perhaps not able to do so -- ‘will lose it’.

One of the iconic pictures of modern advances in social awareness and personal responsibility is that of a young person looking forwards and upwards -- that is, to an ideally bright and better future -- with the words ‘I want to do something worthwhile with my life’ on his or her lips.  Regretfully, in reality, the life in question is almost always a life offered to such young people by the world according to the society in which they live, a life to be judged according to its correspondence with the world’s common aspirations such as success, popularity, charism, talent, all leading to plenty and pleasure; aspirations such as singular achievement, endurance, fighting-spirit and indeed ruthlessness, all manifestations of an individual ego striving to prove itself in so many and varied aspects and avenues of life in the world.

For us Christians and Catholics, however, that is not the life to which we are called: our life is offered to us not achieved by us; it is centred on God and the heavenly home being prepared for us; it is a life to be lived in the company of Jesus Who is the ‘Way, the Truth, and the Life’ for all our endeavours here on earth; a life to be realised in the power of His most Holy Spirit with which we have been gifted; it is a life to be gratefully embraced and brought to fulfilment in the company of men and women of good will called, like us, to live and to work for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind.     








Friday, 7 September 2018

23rd Sunday of the Year (B) 2018

             23rd. Sunday of the Year (B)                  
(Isaiah 35: 4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37)


Jesus was in a region – the Decapolis, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee – where a sizeable Jewish population lived; they were, however, influenced by the alien culture prevalent in those 10 cities (‘Decapolis’ is a Greek word meaning ten towns or cities) whose citizens lived in a Greek-style society with Greco-Roman government, and whose laws and religious beliefs – especially when taken together with their moral standards and practices -- were regarded by devout Israelites as ‘heathen‘.

There was sufficiently close contact between Jews and Greeks to support business activities and also to enable the ‘Greeks’ to acquire some awareness of and acquaintance with Jewish customs and religious practices.  Jesus had recently healed the daughter of a pagan Syro-Phoenician woman who, you will surely remember, had said that even the dogs were allowed to eat scraps from the children’s table. On that occasion Jesus had healed the daughter at a distance, her mother having come alone to beseech Jesus’ help.

Here, however, there was a crowd of expectant people, probably Jews who, we are told:

brought to Jesus one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him.  (Mark 7:32)

Jesus, you will notice, did not seek out this man any more than He had sought out the young girl whom He had healed because of her mother’s importunity despite His own apparent unwillingness to do such a healing.  On this occasion, however, it was a crowd, probably most of them members of the Chosen People to whom alone Jesus had been sent, who “begged” Him to lay His hand on this deaf and speech-impaired man.

People of God, recognize that this episode might well have brought a certain joy to the heart of Jesus.  The pagan woman had come to Him for the sake of her natural daughter; here, there is a crowd of people united in the faith of Israel asking for the healing of a fellow believer.  They did not, most probably, observe their faith with sufficient care -- living and working, as they did, side by side with pagans -- but for all that, they still kept firm hold of a most important characteristic of their Jewish background, care for each other.

That is something we should note, for it is very important for each and every one of us to have friends who know how to invoke Jesus’ blessing on our behalf!  Surely none of us here are among those arrogant and puffed-up people who think they don’t need anyone’s help, who are quite confident that their lives are good enough to withstand even the gaze of God.  Such people think that way, of course, because they have a low idea of God, being totally ignorant of His infinite holiness, imagining that they could look Him in the eye, so to speak, without even any embarrassment, let alone any fear and trembling.  For us, however, who are aware of the sublime holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity and of ourselves, we should notice how often in the Gospel people are blessed and healed through the intercession, help, of personal friends, and of those personally close to Jesus, such as the Apostles. Dear People of God, it is very, very important that your children understand the blessing of having good friends.  Criminals have ‘friends’ who they call good friends because they won’t tell on their mates; drug addicts too have so called good ‘friends’ who won’t betray either their suppliers or their customers.  Your children, dear People of God, need, should have and should appreciate, good friends who are good-living friends.

You will be aware, in this respect, of the difference between a Catholic funeral -- with the Church filled with friends beseeching, in the Name of Jesus, God’s mercy for their friend and loved one -- as compared with a funeral service replete, not with prayers to God in the name of Jesus but, with very human praise for the one departed, and with no little self-display by those singing such emotional praises. 

It is faith alone which prepares for and can appreciate what is holy; and so, Jesus’ healing was not to be done openly before a somewhat motley crowd of observers made up of far-from-fervently-practicing Jews, with a sprinkling of others hoping to see, and ready to gawp at, some display of pagan magic.  Moreover, Jesus would not only speak His word of healing, He would also use His human flesh to touch the man, and so we are told in our Gospel reading that it was only after having taken the deaf and speech-afflicted man aside from the crowd that Jesus then:

Put His finger in his ears, and spitting, touched his tongue, then He looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’!

People of God, we should clearly recognize and appreciate that Jesus uses human nature still: we Catholics do not pray to a God who is just “up there”: we pray to, we turn to, we love, a God Who is with us also here on earth, a God Who is with us in His own flesh and blood in the Eucharist; indeed, in so far as we are true disciples of Jesus, in so far as we live in His Body by His Spirit, we are all “flesh of His flesh, blood of His Blood”.  Because Our Blessed Lord deliberately continues to use His Body for mankind’s salvation through the instrumentality of His Church -- His Mystical Body and His Chosen People -- He thus deigns to use us, His disciples, in His work of redemption even today.  Our Christian vocation in Mother Church is therefore clear: as loving and obedient disciples of Jesus – the Son of God made flesh for men -- we are called to become, each in our degree, willing instruments for His continuing work of salvation: by our Catholic prayer and worship, by our Christian giving and loving, indeed, by the very way “we live and move and have our spiritual being” in Him.

Finally, notice those words:

He looked up to heaven and groaned.

We have the same mention of such a sigh or groan in the next episode of St. Mark’s Gospel when, after miraculously feeding the four thousand:

The Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him.   But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation." (Mark 8:11-12)

That ‘groan’, that “sighing deeply”, expresses the deep compassion felt by Jesus all mankind suffering so much under the burden of sin, as St. Paul tells us:

We know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.   Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.             (Romans 8:22-26)

However, His sighing deeply, His groan, is also the result of His immense indignation that His Father’s creation, originally so good and so beautiful, should have become so deformed and ugly, thanks to the Devil’s lies and our complicity.  This is why, People of God, we should, indeed why we must, hate sin for dishonouring the Father of glory, for bringing such sorrow to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and for the degradation and grief, the pain and loss, it continues to bring about in the lives of all men and women, children, and even those still in their mother’s womb.  

Make no mistake about it, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to hate sin; but also, as Christians, we must still love the sinner; that is, we must convict sin (‘do good-ers’ cannot do that) yet without condemning the sinner.  As ever, the devil seeks to be equal with God, he seeks to portray himself as holy and so he parodies Christian love in this matter.  The world, at the devil’s instigation, says that in order to love the sinner we should forget about, pass over, the sin: for example, Christians should, they say, have such understanding for the pregnant girl or woman in difficulties of whatever sort that we should think only of helping them, not about the evil or the horror of abortion.  Again, how many parents are persuaded to keep peace – and, of course, make things easier for themselves -- by saying nothing about their children’s faults, failings and sins?  

And yet, People of God, only those who have never known anything of or about those sighs of Jesus could adopt such supine and self-serving attitudes; only those who have no awareness whatsoever of the honour due to the Father; and, indeed, only those who do not, in fact, care anything about the ever increasing sufferings of mankind, could possibly persuade themselves that such ‘love for the sinner’ is in any way Christian: Christian love is only for the sinner possibly turning toward Jesus, not for sinners deliberately turned away from Him. 

Jesus is in our midst to heal the world because His loves us to the extent that He gives Himself entirely to us and for us.  He wills that we, His People, have a like love for our neighbour, and that we share in His saving work for the whole world.  That love and that work demand that we, with Jesus, hate sin, in all its forms: for what agreement can there be between the God of holiness and the father of lies, between Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the one who, through sin, injected death into the life-blood of mankind.  St. Paul tells us explicitly:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?   (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)

That true love of neighbour which calls for our hatred of sin is the only way whereby the vision and prophecy of Isaiah, heard in the first reading, can be fulfilled; in Jesus and by His Spirit of Holiness working in and through His Church:

Be strong, do not fear!  Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God (which includes, hating and destroying sin); He will come and save you."  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.   Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing.  For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.   The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.   A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.  The unclean shall not pass over it. (Isaiah 35:4-8)