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, 30 November 2018

1st Sunday of Advent Year C 2018

1st. Sunday of Advent (C)
(Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1Thessalonians 3:12 - 4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36)

Our readings today are all concerned with the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of time, to do away with sin and subject all things to Himself for the glory of His Father. 

Now, it is not possible to speak of the events of those latter days using ordinary language, for they will be events unseen before and beyond all human anticipation and imagination; that is why, in the Old and New Testaments -- even when Jesus Himself is speaking  -- the language used is of a special character, called apocalyptic language, full of strange and extreme events: cosmic at times in their size and impact, always awesome and usually terrifying for mere human beings.  Therefore, because those times will be, so to speak, divine times, when the divinity of Jesus and the supernatural majesty and power of the all Holy God are revealed, they will be – for the ungodly -- times of deep darkness and great distress, such as only nature’s primeval powers can now inspire:

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars; on the earth nations will be in dismay.   People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

In the first reading, we heard:

In those days Judah shall be safe, and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: ‘The Lord our justice.'

Jerusalem will be safe because her inhabitants will be clothed with justice -- the supernatural God-given gift of righteousness -- says the prophet Jeremiah.  That is what St. Paul had in mind in our second reading taken from his first letter to the Thessalonians:

Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God – and as you are conducting yourselves – you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

Mere human beings, who have refused to live in a way pleasing to God, and who consequently, are not clothed with the righteousness of the Lord, will be unable to survive the manifestation of divine holiness on the day of His coming.  We are forewarned about this, dear People of God, every returning summer for, whether we have good eyes or weak eyes makes no difference, all of us can be blinded by the direct glare of the noon-day sun.  Likewise, immediately before the coming of the Lord, personal confidence, courage, riches or ability, self-pity or overflowing rage and anger, will be of no comfort when primeval, instinctive, terror strikes the human heart at the sight of the tumultuous seas, mountainous waves, or rivers of flaming volcanic lava in full spate.

Only those prepared by sincere conversion and divine endowment, fortified by prayer and personal love of God, will find themselves able to survive those days, as Jesus warned us:

Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent, and to stand before the Son of Man.

Since this will be the situation when God comes to bring time to a close and to destroy sin from the face of the earth; and most especially, when you think that we only have one life, that is one chance, and whoever gets it wrong cannot come back and try again, it is surely amazing that many put their trust in merely human self-appointed and self-opiniated, teachers, gurus, prophets, and guides!  Divine holiness, majesty and power will be manifested; all-seeing knowledge and inscrutable wisdom will be deployed; and yet, you find some devilishly proud and presumptuous people saying to others who are, incredibly, foolish enough to listen to them: “Follow me, do what I am doing, see how I am enjoying myself!  It won’t be that hard at the end … you just go to sleep, that is the end of everything, there’s nothing after that!”  Issues that have exercised human minds and involved human hearts and consciences from man’s beginning, which have provoked a morally unanimous religious awareness, appreciation, and response from humankind, are challenged and called into question by individuals whose pride is overwhelming and whose life but a fleeting shadow.  They come out with teachings which, seemingly human, are ultimately devilish: sexuality is not something given by nature but something to be 'more or less' genetically arranged according to personal preference; homosexuality is an equal option for life alongside marriage between a man and a woman; or again, there is no right and wrong, there is no truth, it is only a matter of social or political correctness and human upbringing; what used to be called ‘sin’ is but the result of genetic disturbance; and human life has no other dignity than what we accord it.

Dear People of God, life for us believers, is a wondrous mystery:  what is its true meaning; has it an ultimate purpose?  Mysterious too are the essential elements of life as we experience it:  what is love; how can one find happiness and peace of heart; why is life so tasteless without hope; what is justice, where is truth??  Again, why do we feel, inside, that some things are wrong; and why – having done such things, even though in secret -- do we feel disturbed, ill at ease, indeed, under threat???  Such mysterious questions as these are of vital importance, because both reason and experience teach us that life is problematical: money cannot buy happiness, worldly success or renown cannot guarantee peace of heart, nor can present pleasure foster future hope.

Here then, as we begin the season of Advent, we are urged by Mother Church to do some serious thinking.  We are bid look into our hearts to sound those hidden depths that we so rarely penetrate in our everyday life and activity, for only there can we find some appreciation and understanding of the mystery of our make-up as persons, as individuals who have been made divinely special.  For all of us do believe that we are special: none of us can tolerate injustice done against us, and we all hate lies and love truth as they affect our lives.  Who is there that does not know that life inspires hope, while death, on the other hand, provokes despair?  Inexplicably, we feel ourselves made for life, even though all things else are made and are content to die.

People of God, we Catholics are Christians -- the original and authentic Christians -- called to bring the Gospel, the Good News, to the whole world, throughout time.  And the message we are commissioned to bring is that Jesus Christ is the only answer to the mystery of human existence and the supreme hope for our human destiny: He alone can bring peace and hope into our hearts and minds, together with the strength to live and love aright both in society and as individuals.  Above all, we are to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only One Who can raise us up to aspire to a heavenly destiny; one that will be truly ours -- in and with Jesus, by His Spirit -- a destiny before God the Father which will be the glorious and eternal fulfilment of all our possibilities, powers, and longings.  Our teaching is certain and clear:

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

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

How those who say: “follow me; do what I am doing; listen to me, I know”, how such people despise their brethren!  Why do I say despise?  Because they dare to imagine that the miserable prospects they offer can possibly fulfil a human being: pleasure, usually basic or even animal; success, though, even at its highest, is only for a very short time and, of itself, has no moral value; popularity, which -- basically shallow -- can only be sustained by craven conformity.

Jesus alone fully loves and truly appreciates us: He raises us to a life that is eternal and sublimely beautiful, a love that is fulfilling and divine. Indeed, He offers us a fulfilment that can penetrate to and transfigure the hidden and most intimate depths of our human and personal being.  That is why Catholics offer their whole selves to Jesus with no if’s and but’s: for example, when they marry, they offer the whole of that marriage – for better for worse, humanly speaking -- to Jesus, in the belief that, through Him and by the grace of His most Holy Spirit, their faithfully-lived Christian union will serve their own eternal destiny, mankind’s continuity and growth, and God’s loving plan of salvation for the world:

All things have been delivered to Me by My Father.  No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Luke 10:22)

Because the Father Who calls us to Jesus has committed all things to Him, so we too, who answer the Father’s call and come to Jesus as His disciples, commit all things to Him: there is nothing secret in our lives where He cannot enter, where He does not rule.  All ‘ours’, all of ‘us’, is for Jesus so that in Him we might be totally for the Father, and that we might thus come to find our eternal fulfilment in the glory and joy of His kingdom truth and love.

To that end we live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus and by His Spirit given us in Mother Church; for the Good News of Jesus comes down to us through her proclamation and teaching in all its original fullness of integrity and purity; and by her sacraments the Spirit of Jesus is sprinkled in blessing upon all that we do and are: body and soul, mind and heart, work and aspirations, yes and even our humiliations and sufferings endured for love of Jesus.

In all such ways does God’s Providence and Love govern, sustain, and guide our lives that we might ultimately be made able to humbly accept and whole-heartedly embrace what is sure to come:

(You) will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.   

Friday, 23 November 2018

Christ the King Year B 2018

Christ the King, Year B (26.11.00)

(Dan. 7:13-14 / Apoc. 1:5-8 / John 18:33-37)


Today, dear People of God, we are gathered to celebrate Jesus Christ our King, Son of God, Lord of Creation, and Our Saviour.   And today, Mother Church reminds us how Jesus replied to the questions of Pilate -- then Roman Governor in Judea -- regarding His Kingship:

"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.  Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me."


Jesus is King, and as King He bears witness to the truth; indeed, bearing witness to the truth is the distinctive sign and ultimate purpose of His Kingship.

Now, that gives us something to ponder; because we are, or want to be, disciples of Jesus, and He has told us: 

Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)

As Christians and above all as Catholics, we are very much aware of truth because we believe that there is a definitive truth about Jesus – sent by His Father for mankind’s salvation – a truth, about His Person and His Good News of salvation, to be learned and passed on to future generations; just as it has been handed down to us, by Mother Church, from past generations and ultimately, indeed, from Jesus and His Apostles themselves. 

Jesus is the Truth and He became incarnate, became a man, in order to bear witness to that Truth which He was and which He proclaimed.  That being the case, we can -- with gratitude and admiration -- recognize that Jesus’ Church’s cannot change Gospel Truth, the Good News, to suit changing worldly preferences or satisfy popular demands.  You will remember that, when Jesus established Peter as the rock on which He would build His Church, He said that:

            The gates of Hades will not overcome her.

What did He mean by that?  How could the gates of Hades, Satan’s dominion, overcome her?  Listen!  Jesus once told us about Satan, the devil, when speaking to some Jews:

You belong to your father, the devil. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a LIAR and the father of lies.  (John 8:44)

So you see that “the gates of Hades”, the kingdom of the devil, the father of lies, could only attempt to overcome Jesus’ Church -- our Mother -- by leading her away from Jesus the Truth into falsehood.  That can never be!  Mother Church was established by Jesus to proclaim and bear witness to His truth and to nourish with His food her children, those called by the Father to become disciples of Jesus, and those whom Jesus Himself characterized by the following words:

Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me. (John 18:37)

Jesus is the Truth; Mother Church proclaims and protects the truth about Jesus our Lord and Saviour; we, children of Mother Church, who listen to Jesus’s teaching and eat His Food and drink His Blood, are on the side of truth.

Pilate said to Jesus. "What is truth?"

In our modern society there are many who deny that there is such a thing as objective truth, all is relative to current political attitudes and our personal needs and desires.

There are many, many more who, like Pilate, don’t know what truth is and don’t bother themselves about the question, trying to fill their lives with pleasure and activity of all sorts; and they act in full accord with the devil’s constant endeavour that the question of truth should never be allowed to impinge itself on our human, God-given, conscience, lest thereby God Himself gain entrance into our lives.

Let us now think of Jesus as revered and foreseen in a vision by the prophet Daniel as you heard in our first reading:

He – One like a Son of Man -- approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence and was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (7:13-14)

That same Jesus, we learnt from the second reading, is also:

The Alpha and the Omega, Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty.

Jesus -- the coming Lord of Glory -- is Truth, and His Kingdom, in all its majesty, power, and authority, is founded on truth; and we too, His disciples, have all been drawn to Him by the Father of all Good that we might learn of and be formed by the truth of Jesus and -- in our turn and by His Spirit -- ourselves become witnesses to the ultimate truthfulness  of God, to the beauty of His creation and the loving wisdom of our salvation.

Truth is our life as Christians and Catholics.  How do we live it?  Is it just a matter of trying not to tell lies?  That, of course, is absolutely essential.  The devil is the father of lies, we cannot serve him.  But we can only come to share in the Kingdom of God with Jesus our King if truth rules in each and every aspect of our lives as Catholics. 

When God chose some slaves to become His own Chosen People to fulfil His purposes on earth, He recued them from the objective evil of slavery and oppression and gave them a Law of objective truth to form them aright for His purposes through His servant Moses.   That Law demanded that the Chosen People learn -- first and foremost -- to practice OBEDIENCE, religious fear and awe, vis-a-vis their ‘Choosing God’, and also to gradually learn, as His Chosen People, to trust Him Who was leading them through desert wastes towards the Promised Land.

On being given that land -- their own, Promised Land -- the Chosen People (Luke 1:74-75):

That initial and salutary obedience, that modicum of growing trust – having been learnt though painfully at times -- enabled them to:

Serve the Lord their God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all their days.

Notice the change: they are now to SERVE; no longer ‘obey’ first and foremost, but serve wholeheartedly, which is, indeed, a far, far, better form of obedience:

in holiness and righteousness before Him all their days.

Moreover, the written Law was no longer their only approach to God; in their own Promised Land they were given Judges and Prophets to protect them from their enemies and to inspire them in their understanding of and response to the God Who was calling them to become ever more truly His Chosen People for His purposes and their well-being.

So, we are far from the original Chosen-People-making, Obedience-above-all, disciplinary relationship with the One Who was calling them; now they were expected, being helped and inspired, to Serve Him with ever deeper understanding and appreciation, with an ever more grateful and confident – yes, self-sacrificing when necessary -- trust.

Fleeing slaves having become God’s Chosen People were still being called by their God to become what???   Children of God!!!  Yes, adopted children of the omnipotent, all-holy, all-knowing and eternal God, through the gift of His beloved and only-begotten Son to His Chosen People’s supreme flower, the Virgin Mary of Nazareth, to become Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, for the salvation of all mankind:

For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me."

All peoples, nations and men of every language (will) worship Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Now, if we are to be authentic disciples of Jesus, we have to endeavour to understand the ramifications of truth.  For example, can anyone who is always worrying about self be recognized as an authentic disciple of Jesus?  To love Jesus means also, surely, to trust Him.  Again, if, when trouble comes along, a disciple repeatedly turns to human beings for help and consolation without recourse to Jesus in prayer, can such a disciple be considered an authentic disciple?  We have to be true disciples.  Again, if we never speak up for Jesus, His teaching, and His Church, no matter what people say against Him, can we be considered authentic and true disciples?  Can parents who leave the teaching of their children exclusively to the school, without ever themselves speaking of Jesus with their children, be regarded as authentic Catholic, Christian, parents?

We have to serve Jesus sincerely, seeking Him first and foremost, we cannot allow worldly riches and prosperity, human popularity or approval, personal pride or idle indifference to rule and determine our lives.  Trying to be authentic, treasuring and seeking the promise of heaven above all, we should allow the Holy Spirit to authoritatively guide our lives and resist the corrosive influence of the spirit of the world around us.

People of God, Jesus is King and He is calling us to share with Him in the joys of His Kingdom and that ultimate aspect of Jesus’ truth for us, DELIGHT IN HIM, needs expression in our lives.  We are not just to speak the truth, to witness to the truth, we must love the truth of Jesus, and that delight in God must begin to shine in our lives here on earth if we are to eat with Him at His Father’s banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven as children of light.  Each and every one of us must think for ourselves: is Jesus indeed my King, first and foremost in my life?  Does His will rule me?  Do His love, His goodness, His beauty and truth, DELIGHT ME?     

You have been called by the Father, because you have come to Jesus in the Church.  However, the way we all have to travel is long and it can be steep and hard in places, and we, in our frailty and weakness, can so easily begin to slumber along the way; forgetting our original calling, we can begin to find our delight in present, worldly, experiences and pleasures.  Future heavenly promises can then come to seem unreal and our faith unrewarding.  That is the devil’s work.  He is THE liar.  The pleasures you are turning to are only for a time and they become inevitably less and less delightful as the years go by, and you can be robbed of them by so many unforeseen events and circumstances.  Heavenly promises, on the contrary are eternal, they seem small, like the mustard seed, to begin with, but grow ever more wonderful over the years and ultimately not even death itself will be able to rob you of them.

Look to yourselves, therefore, dear People of God: take legitimate pride in your calling, but above all, in your King.  You are called to become like Him Who is the Truth: so, persevere in truth, be His true disciples and the truth will make you free and you will be enabled to dine and to reign with Him in His Father’s heavenly Kingdom.

Friday, 16 November 2018

33rd Sunday Year B 2018

 33rd. Sunday of Year (B)

(Daniel 1:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14; St. Mark 13:24-32)

For us Catholics and Christians there is a mysterious cohesion between ourselves and creation around us: all given life or brought into being by the One true God, with what is material and temporal serving and supporting all spiritual degrees, and with our own supreme spirit polarized towards God and eternal life.  As a result of this, things of earth and temporal events can stir our spiritual awareness, they can help us understand and appreciate something more of God’s mysterious presence for us in the world and our experience of it, and thus live ever more conaturally and delightfully with Him and for Him.

This year of 2018 is coming to its end and that fact leads  Mother Church to call upon her children to think appropriately about the end of this world, the ‘great and final end’ which we prepare for individually by the way we face up to all the little ‘ends’ we experience throughout life , and for which God’s People have been gradually prepared over many centuries by His grace at decisive junctures of their history.  Nevertheless, the readings Mother Church has given us for today sound very strange to our ears and we find it difficult to understand much of them, although they do make a deep impression on us with awesome words concerning events great and even cataclysmic; and yet, for all that, full of hope for all who believe in and love the Lord Jesus.

Those words of Jesus:

In those days, after that tribulation the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken;

had been used earlier in the Old Testament times predicting the ruin of nations hostile to Israel, as we find in the prophecy of Isaiah (13:10) foretelling the ruin of Babylon:

For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light;

and again, when the same prophet speaks of the downfall of Edom.

After Isaiah, another great prophet Ezekiel spoke in similar tones of the forthcoming destruction of Egypt:

‘When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light.  All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land’ says the Lord. (32:7-8)

The prophet Joel (2:28-33) used like words to proclaim the ‘Day of the Lord‘ when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on believers in Jesus before the wrath of God ultimately destroyed sin and sinners:

And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy … The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape as the Lord has said, survivors whom the Lord calls. 

And now, we find Jesus using that same type of language to foreshadow God’s final purifying of His People when evil will be purged away and God’s true servants revealed:

And they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; and then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

From the beginning of His public ministry Jesus had used the title ‘Son of Man’ when speaking of Himself and now, in the words just quoted, He identified Himself for the first time as the ‘One seen in a vision’ by another late and great prophet, Daniel (7:13-14):

As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when He reached the Ancient One and was presented before Him He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, His kingship shall not be destroyed.

In Daniel, the Son of Man heads the Kingdom of the Saints which is to supersede the heathen empires of the four beasts (Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome). Jesus now, therefore, showing Himself to be the Son of Man in Daniel’s prophecy, enables us to appreciate the fact that, in Him, humankind finds its supreme glory and God’s People its sublime Head, while God’s Kingdom knows the irresistible beginning of its definitive establishment:

And then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

This process is now going on before our very eyes, so to speak; for the Church is being purged of evil-doers whose secret sins are now being both made manifest and publicly rejected; while former hangers-on, members not by virtue of their love of and faith in Jesus but for reasons of social acceptability and personal advantage, are now freely abandoning her for those very same reasons.  Indeed, even at this moment, we ourselves gathered here are all part of it, for God the Father has called us here today as the Body of Christ, to celebrate and acclaim the glorified Lord as our Head.  He brings us together from all corners of the globe as the Church of Christ, called by the Spirit, to become ever more truly the fruitful Spouse of Christ for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls.

People of God, recognize where we find ourselves at this juncture in time: the process for the purification of God’s People and the establishment of His Kingdom has begun, since Jesus has risen from the dead; He is to be seen and heard, known and received by those who love Him in His Church; and all this is leading to a final denouement in which Jesus will be seen by all mankind whether they love Him or not.  He will appear, not humbly as Bread and Wine totally given over to our need and service, but in all His glory as the Son of God, Redeemer and Judge of all mankind.  At present the words of today’s second reading are being fulfilled:

He offered one sacrifice for sins, and took His seat forever at the right hand of God; now He waits until His enemies are made His footstool;          

and we all, in the bosom of Mother Church, are being ‘led to justice’ as the first reading put it, being instructed in virtue and wisdom as we learn to lead our lives in conformity with Jesus’ teaching and come to know truly – in fact and in experience -- something of the infinite beauty and boundless goodness of God our Father.

It is a fact that today we see all around us the wicked proving themselves wicked; we find that wisdom and understanding, far from being valued and sought after, are derided and disregarded, while the most abominable practices are openly flaunted and accepted; indeed, they can even be found covering themselves over with a cloak of pseudo-respectability, to such an extent that some simple Christians and even some Catholics are troubled, as Jesus foretold:

False Messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect.

In our Gospel reading Jesus again mentioned ‘His elect’ as you heard:

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and then He will send out the angels, and gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

Who are these ‘elect’?  Daniel told us in those words (12:10): many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, because the elect are those faithful disciples who are being formed into a likeness of their Lord through their experience of and response to life under God’s Providence by the sacraments of Mother Church and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whereby they are encouraged and enabled to walk perseveringly and faithfully along the way of Jesus.  A notable part of the purging and purifying of the faithful elect is accomplished by the sufferings they have to endure and embrace in order to remain true to Jesus despite the allurements and trials of life; and today mockery is one of the great trials Catholics and Christians have to endure for Jesus, especially mockery of Jesus’ teaching about a future judgement.

Now Jesus speaks of the coming judgement when He says:

After that tribulation (the appearance of false messiahs performing their signs and wonders) the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

We can imagine something of the calamitous nature of such pre-judgement events because today we are not unaware of the primeval powers at work in our own sun and Milky Way, and in astounding galaxies above and beyond us: galaxies that defy counting and involve powers and occupy space beyond human imagining.  In fact, we have learnt and are still in the process of learning so much from the heavens that some scientists imagine the heavens as the source of the knowledge of all times, past and future.

For the Psalmists of old, however, the heavens spoke resoundingly of the glory of God.  In those days, though there were few facts available other than what our human senses could immediately discern, the Psalmists -- being filled with God’s spiritual gifts of humility and wisdom -- were able to understand and interpret aright what basic facts were known to them.  Today, on the other hand, for many moderns the facts are so multitudinous and often so tenuous that their minds are overwhelmed as they seek to co-relate and then co-ordinate them into a comprehensible whole; and where faith has been lost or rejected, and pride acknowledged as a reliable guide, many falsely interpret what they have correctly but only partially observed, with the result that their reading of the heavens proclaims not the Glory and the Goodness of God, but rather power for no purpose, majesty with no significance, and beauty alien in its cold irrelevance.

Therefore, dear People of God, do not let yourselves be troubled by scoffers who ignore the teaching of truth, who walk, indeed run merrily, along the ways that lead ever further from God.  Let Mother Church guide you, let the Spirit of Jesus lead you to righteousness and insight; for then you will come to know, even here on earth, something of the plenitude of peace and fulness of joy promised by Our Lord, before ultimately sharing in His transcendent glory and sublime joy:

When all things are subjected to Him (and) the Son Himself (is) subject to Him Who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be All in all.  (! Corinthians 15:8)

Friday, 9 November 2018

32nd Sunday Year B 2018

32nd. Sunday, Year B

(1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Saint Mark 12:38-44)


Dear People of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today too much attention is given to appearances as distinct from reality: ‘ikons’ are loudly proclaimed simply on the basis of popularity and crowd excitement whereas that ‘iconic’ person is necessarily clothed in flesh and blood and uses a human heart and mind, all essentials of real human life, and all of which are totally ignored by popular excitement … the suicidal, the drugged-up, reality is not part of popularity’s worship of the ‘ikon’.   That type of approach to music and entertainment, is real and therefore perhaps inevitable, but it should have no right of admittance to social and political, let alone religious life.  Nevertheless, because popularity calls emotive crowds onto the streets far more quickly than reason can penetrate minds and convert hearts, governments feel the need to present their policies with an appearance that might evoke popularity, which is so important these days that even what is wrong -- when clothed in popularity’s bed-companion ‘notoriety’ -- can win immediate and emotional approval from many.  That state of affairs seems to be the necessary concommitant of what we like to call ‘democracy’, an ideal social system for a relatively small group of thinking people, but far from ideal in a society like ours where numbers and popular excitement threaten to call the changes, not rational appraisal or moral rectitude.

Our Blessed Lord gives us an insight into God’s awareness and appreciation of the difference between appearance and reality which is of supreme importance for us in the spiritual life:

Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.   A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.   For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Who was the poor widow?  We do not know of course … we know nothing other than that she was very poor and very devout.  In order to make her a more real subject for our consideration I would like to compare her with those of today’s Catholic people who feel that they have so very little, indeed nothing, to give to mankind, to offer God.  These people are oppressed secretly by what they think of themselves.  They see themselves  as incapable of doing anything of note or worth, without any social graces: they do not speak well, they cannot express or share emotions sympathetically with others, they have no physical ‘presence’ or bearing, let alone any personal confidence.  They have faults, even sins, which though they would love to be rid of, nevertheless they seem unable to throw them off.  Again, past and confessed sins may still trouble them with feelings of guilt or keep on cropping up again and again as unwanted memories, or as the same old temptations which, though they do their best to resist them, nevertheless keep coming back again and again.   Thus, they find themselves always more or less anxious and worried, spiritually listless, ever hearing in the background of their daily living a voice whispering that the years are passing and they seem to be getting nowhere, whispering ever so slightly but ever so insistently, ‘what is the good of you trying – pretending -- to be a faithful Catholic and good Christian.

Let us now turn our attention to our Blessed Lord and Saviour.

You will remember, People of God, that at the very beginning of His Public Life and Ministry, He was led by the Spirit into the desert where He was tempted by Satan.  The Evangelists give varying descriptions of this time of trial, but the fundamental issue seems to have been that Jesus should show Himself as a political Messiah, a military leader who would lead the oppressed Jewish people in revolt against their Roman masters and set up the standard of the Kingdom of God by political and, if necessary, forceful means.  Jesus, however, was not deceived, and Satan left Him, according to St. Luke’s enigmatic expression, until an opportune time.  Later on, near the end of His successful ministry in Galilee the enthusiastic inhabitants of that area wanted to seize Jesus after His miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in order to set Him at their head as the Messianic King, to lead their army.  Jesus simply escaped their clutches.

Thus, at the beginning of His ministry, at His moment of success in mid-course, and so again, almost at the end of His life’s work, Jesus encountered the same temptation: for less than a week before His death, a thronging crowd in a paroxysm of excitement could be heard proclaiming as He entered Jerusalem:

Hosanna, blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD!  The King of Israel!  (John 12:13),

as they waved palm branches and strewed their clothes in His pathway, proclaiming Him as leader and Messiah indeed, but only as such for their political and national aspirations, not for the fulfilment of their role as People of God for the salvation of all mankind.

People of God, we should reject despondency even though it may be that, after many years, we find old temptations and trials raising their heads at times and trying to re-assert themselves.  For Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, though there was no trace of sin whatsoever in Him, nevertheless, we see how the same trial, the same wearisome temptation of the Devil, kept rearing its head through the entire course of His public ministry.  And, on the other hand, we can, in our turn, offer the widow’s mite to the glory of God, if and when -- despite our feelings of wretchedness, despite all temptations to despair – we continue to give our own ALL by never saying ‘yes’ to such temptations …. As St. Gregory the Great taught, ‘the Devil can put all sorts of thoughts into our head, all sorts of feelings into our body, but he cannot make us say ‘Yes’ to any such things.

Our ‘all’, little though it may seem to us – just as the widow’s mite no doubt appeared to her in comparison with the much, much larger offerings of rich donors – our maybe miniscule ‘all’ is, nevertheless, inviolate, purest gold for God’s glory, thanks to our abiding oneness with and in Jesus, and thanks to our enduring obedience to Spirit of Jesus living and ruling within us – never giving a consenting, accepting, ‘Yes’ to the Devil’s solicitations.

It may well be, dear People of God, that as we leave Church today, some go out with deep consolation and deep gratitude for blessings received and acknowledged; but it may also be that others go out, clinging to God, but knowing only thing: that fellowship with Him -- the privilege of knowing Him, His infinite goodness, His incomparable beauty and truth – is all they want, no matter how they have to fight for it.  And it may well be that Our Blessed Lord Himself will say as He sees all of us go our separate ways as His disciples to work for the coming of God’s Kingdom:

Amen I say to you, that poor person has done more for God’s glory and honour than all who have generously contributed so much; for they gave something of their surplus plenty, whereas that individual gave his or her very all.

Dear People of God, the greatest calling anyone can have is to give their all for God and to help others do likewise, and in order to do that we need to have a very clear awareness and appreciation of the world around us, a world concerned above all with appearances, concerned with superficiality which evokes immediate reaction.  On that basis, our modern world is moribund: more and more horrific murders, not so much by groups for an agreed purpose but by individuals seeking to express self; and while lascivious sexual relationships are unregulated and Christian marriage is attacked openly or insidiously, countries here and all around can no longer see children coming along to maintain their national identity and particular character and their schools no longer teach any authoritative life-style to students or maintain acceptable discipline that helps teachers do their work.

If you remember, dear friends in Christ, it was Judas the traitor, who foreshadowed our modern irreligious world because it was he who presumed to teach Our Lord and the Eleven about Christian Charity (John 12: 4-6): 

Then Judas the Iscariot, one (of) His disciples, and the one who would betray Him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. 

The same is happening all over the world today, the Devil having taken charge then tries to prove himself holy; so be aware, dear friends, do not allow yourselves to be impressed by appearances ‘plugged’ by pagans, however cultured they may be, look to Christ Who knows and loves you through and through, hope and trust obediently in His Spirit Who will guide you surely to where Christ is, and thank the Father Who gave His Son for us and gives His Spirit to us that we can become His own true children in Jesus.


Friday, 2 November 2018

31st Sunday Year B 2018

                        31st. Sunday Year B

(Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Hebrews 7: 23-28; Mark 12: 28-34)

Catholics and Christians generally today are not wholly at ease with the words of Our Lord:

The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.

Many religious-minded people today who, while not declaring themselves to be Christians, nevertheless like to think of themselves as ‘morally acceptable’ people, are not truly at ease with those words I say, because those words of Our Blessed Lord are far too God-centred for them.  The Jesus they vaguely remember and the Christians they like to think of are known for doing ‘good’ to people, speaking ‘nicely’ to them, supporting social efforts for popular charities, all positive ways of ‘doing good’ … and all of which they approve because the ‘good’ they show forth is a popular good; the kindness, the niceness they manifest is always pleasing and somewhat emotional.  Oh, how a weeping woman or beaming child are sought after to ensure that such deeds can be appreciated and praised by all!

Our Blessed Lord’s words however speak of One Who is above us and this world … He is not to be found in it, not that is, unless you are a very religious person: perhaps one of those Catholics who go to Mass on Sundays and can even be found, at times, holding beads and whispering something to themselves  That God has to be worshipped and prayed to, even though time spent in prayer is generally regarded by ‘normal, not very religious people’ as time wasted, a time in which opportunities for ‘proper’ work for others is squandered.  Indeed, some even seem to entertain the suspicion that such prayer is basically selfish, a reprehensible exercise in spiritual self-seeking.

In our second reading we heard mention of the words ‘High Priest’ with regard to Jesus; and how alien those words seem to those moderately-minded people who have only vague memories of Jesus and Christianity being centred on doing ‘good’ and being ‘nice’!

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, Who was faithful to Him Who appointed Him. (Hebrews 3:1-2)

The office of High Priest was supremely important for God’s original Chosen People because, as we are told in the letter to the Hebrews (5:1):

Every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.

The High Priest represented the Chosen People before God, and that is why it was the supremely important post, because Israel had only become God’s Chosen People and an independent nation by the gift and grace of God; and Israel’s continued existence as a nation and as the Chosen People, depended upon her being in a right relationship with the God Who had made her His own.

However, as you know, that right relationship did not endure; Israel sinned against her God and was ultimately punished, indeed ultimately destroyed as an independent nation and superseded as God’s Chosen People.   This fatal fragility of Israel in her relationship with God was mirrored or manifested in the very person of the High Priest, for again, the letter to the Hebrews, as you heard in our second reading, tells us that:

The law appoints as high priests men who have weakness.

Nevertheless, the author then immediately goes on to add that that situation would eventually be remedied by the appointment of a new High Priest for the new People of God:

The word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son Who has been perfected forever. 

God’s oath appointed His Son as High Priest, the Son made perfect forever: perfect, because He was, by His very nature as Son, most sublimely united, indeed consubstantial, with God the Father; and as man, He was made perfect forever through His Passion and Death on the Cross followed by His glorious Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.  He now lives in His-and-our human flesh at the right hand of the Father, continually interceding for us through all ages.  He is the perfect High Priest because He loves the Father supremely as the only-begotten Son, and because He was made perfect as our High Priest by the love with which He bore, on our behalf, His Personally unmerited and humanly immeasurable sufferings.

It was fitting for Him, for Whom are all things and by Whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)

The ritual High Priest in Jerusalem, even though he offered bloody animal sacrifices before God on limited ceremonial occasions in the Temple, was, for the most part, occupied by Sanhedrin religious in-fighting, and by political dealings with -- and even at times on behalf of -- the Roman occupying force. 

The supreme key to the perfection of Jesus as High Priest, however, was His love for and obedience to God His Father: the whole of His life as man on earth was one of continuous union of love in mind, heart, and will, with His heavenly Father as He manifested and proclaimed the Gospel of Peace to all those of good will who would hear and learn from Him. He offered but one sacrifice to the Father: that of Himself on Calvary; and His subsequent, eternal, ‘negotiating’ on our behalf is by means of prayer to, with and before, His heavenly Father.

In that way the supreme importance of prayer to God was established for all ages among the new People of God.  And since, as St. Peter tells us, the new People of God are a priestly people, being members of the Body of Him Who is the High Priest of our confession, we are above all, called to and consecrated for prayerful union with the Father expressed in the words of Our Lord we began with:

The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.

As a man with a mission, Jesus sacrificed countless opportunities to do good works during His time on earth: people were looking for Him and He moved on; He avoided the crowds; He imposed silence on many He had cured; and, generally speaking, He did not seek out sick persons to heal, rather He had to be sought out by those who wanted healing, and He had to be persuaded by their faith.  Meanwhile, Jesus was at all times and in all circumstances communing with His Father, and He emphasised this personal and private relationship by often seeking solitude in order to give Himself more intensely to this prayer relationship of Son with His heavenly Father.

We can, therefore, surely recognize how wrong it is to think that Christianity is, first and foremost, concerned with doing worldly, physical, visible, good to people; wrong, because our aim has, above all, to be one with Jesus in giving:

Glory to God in the highest and peace toward men of goodwill.

Glory to God, that is, oneness with God in loving obedience and communion that leads to eternal life: the salvation that God the Father wants to bestow on all mankind in response to the intercession of Jesus, our heavenly High Priest, together with that of His priestly people here below.

Influenced by the world around them, many people today as we have seen, want tangible success if they are to practice religion: they want to be seen, or at least to see themselves, achieving something; and, often enough, they find prayer, which produces no immediate or tangible results, difficult and unrewarding, and this lack of “success” brings about a distaste for what is regarded as the “nothingness”, the “dryness”, the “uselessness” of prayer.  This reaction is, of course, the result and the sign of a deep-rooted selfishness common to us all in one form or another, for prayer is first of all God-centred, it is homage to, appreciation and praise of, God; it is not something entered into for our own immediate satisfaction and pleasure.   However, since Jesus both died and rose again to glory, where that native selfishness is done to death by a sincere and persevering approach and response to God in prayer, that prayer is indeed able to develop into a supreme delighting in God. 

Jesus intercedes before His Father as the only-begotten, beloved, Son, as we heard in the second reading:

He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Here, you will I trust, notice, that the second commandment mentioned by Our Lord has not been forgotten:

You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

The fact is, People of God, that it is impossible to love the Father in spirit and in truth and then to fail to love one’s neighbour.  Modern Christians and Catholics need to learn anew how to appreciate the supreme importance and value of prayer before God; for the angels’ proclamation at the birth of Jesus was, as I have recalled:

Glory to God in the highest and peace (salvation) to His people on earth,

and every act of true prayer, because it is indeed for the glory of God, is also, and supremely, for the salvation of all mankind.

Those who side-step the difficulties of prayer and concentrate on doing good works, are not only trying to put the cart before the horse, but also can easily harm themselves by slipping into the trap of vainglory by seeking either the sensible reward of human appreciation of their labours, or else by sliding into the trap of self-approbation, imagining that they themselves are doing the works on which they set such store.

True prayer, however, is often the painful awareness of our own emptiness and need of God, only occasionally being sweetened by a passing experience God’s great goodness.  Works done to avoid the difficulty of prayer can, at times, become an outward display covering an increasing awareness of spiritual emptiness before God.  For the perseveringly faithful disciple of Jesus, on the other hand, aridity and difficulty in time devoted to prayer -- especially in prayer of praise and thanksgiving -- can result in a joy and inspiration, a peace and strength, that show themselves, secretly indeed, but yet convincingly, as though the One Who would not endanger our prayer with His favours, does not hesitate to make us mysteriously aware of His presence in the ordinary circumstances of years and seasons, days and nights, and in the special moments of perseverance in and through suffering and striving.