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, 22 February 2019

7th Sunday Year C 2019

7th. Sunday of Year (C)

(1Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38)


My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, when we seek to understand our Blessed Lord, we must always bear in mind that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.  Consequently, we should beware lest we foist our own attitudes and ideas onto Him; and, if we should ever think it might be necessary to understand His words in any way other than that of their clear and obvious meaning, then we must always have a reverential fear lest we betray His holy wisdom by indulging our own partiality.  Indeed, we must always suspect, and therefore inspect, our own sinfulness and prejudices before we say anything that might seem to lessen the force of His words and the integrity of His intentions.

That said, it is a fact that Jesus, at times, did seem to speak in such a way as to shock His hearers into thinking about, not just hearing, what He was saying.  Sometimes He seems to have deemed it necessary to provoke, or even offend, His listeners – as in last Sunday’s Gospel passage for example -- in order to make them seriously think about His teaching, rather than just passively listen to His words.

The Gospel reading we have just heard may have induced such passivity in some who might, perhaps, be inclined say that today’s reading was very nice.  Indeed it was ‘nice’ as regards expressing some beautiful aspirations or thoughts; but did it not also contain  some words that might seem to be as equally disturbing, if not shocking, as His words at His home-town synagogue, or the ’woes’ in last Sunday’s gospel?   For example, what is one to think about the words:

Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back?

In order to understand Jesus aright we must turn to Mother Church, our guide and support along the Way.  For she, together with our Gospel reading, also set before us today King David in the first reading, who gave us an admirable example of loving our enemy.  And yet, for all that David reverenced Saul as the Lord’s anointed King, he in no way trusted Saul as a person, and he had no intention of falling into the hands of that person, which is why he took great care to protect his own life by putting a considerable distance between the King and himself before revealing his presence:

(he) stood on the top of a hill afar off, a great distance being between them.

Only at such a distance did David think it safe to make Saul aware of what had, and what had not, just happened.  Notice too that although David reverenced Saul as God’s anointed, nevertheless he roundly accused him of his personal, evil, actions:

Why does my lord thus pursue his servant? For what have I done, or what evil is in my hand?  Now therefore, please, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant: If the LORD has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering. But if it is the children of men, may they be cursed before the LORD.

David was showing truly Christian love in his dealings with Saul but in no way was he willing to put himself at the mercy of Saul.

Now today there are some who refuse to accept the guidance of Mother Church: they turn to the Scriptures as the only source of teaching for Christians and will accept only the obvious and literal meaning of the words they read there, because any other understanding must, necessarily, come from some other -- and to their mind, invalid -- source.  Therefore, to remain faithful to such a Bible-only approach to Christian faith and practice they would understand Jesus’ words:

            To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also,

quite literally; and so, they might well think that, ideally, David in our first reading should not have been fleeing from Saul, but should rather have trusted in God and allowed Saul to apprehend him. 

There are many others in our modern society, and indeed they are the great majority today, who neither acknowledge Mother Church nor accept the Scriptures, and to their minds Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel passage is sheer madness:

Give to everyone who asks of you.  And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 

For, how can such words be relevant to, or applicable in, modern society, where there are so many liars and con-merchants, so many drug addicts and drunkards, so many care-free vagrants who have no scruples whatsoever.  How can a father, working hard to support his family, give to everyone who asks?   And again, from a social point of view, if people just allowed themselves to be mugged in the streets without trying to keep what was being stolen from them, where would our society be?  Thieves and blackguards, young thugs and budding bullies, would feel free to get their money from anyone they might choose to pick on in the street, with the result that there would no longer be any human society, just a modern jungle where might is considered right, cunning supplants consideration, and instinctive lies come easier than truth and its attendant difficulties.

In such a maelstrom of righteous voices, self-proclaimed Christian teaching and opinions, as well as modern politically-correct attitudes, I just want to recall to your minds how Judas Iscariot – pretending to be the super-disciple -- tried to turn Jesus’ teaching against Himself:

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.  So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of My burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”  (John 12:4–8)

I would suggest, dear People of God, that in our Gospel reading today, Jesus -- far from preaching madness, and far from attacking, provoking, in order to change -- is trying to guide us, lead us, into thinking through His words to His teaching, that we might perhaps, in that way, come to realize and appreciate a most important spiritual truth. 

Why does He choose to speak in that way?  Because we cannot have God given us on a platter; we have to want communion with God, that is, we needs-must come to want to understand, to want to love and to live for, Him supremely, and such blessings are only bestowed on those who desire them most sincerely and are willing to strive wholeheartedly for such communion.  Jesus is, therefore, speaking today – that is, to those who desire to know and love Him more -- not to provoke, as at Nazareth, but in such a way as  to urge them, call them, to strive, search, and pray, for ever greater understanding when things seem strangely obscure or even dark, for ever greater faith and trust when that darkness brings along with it an unwonted coldness that would  threaten the warm spark of love.

What then is He wanting us, today, to fathom out for ourselves when, moved, puzzled perhaps, by His words, we are, nevertheless, urged on by His Spirit within us?

Jesus, I suggest, is trying to make us realize that His Holy Spirit must be able lead us anywhere; and therefore, that there should be no set limits in our loving and obedient response to Him whereby we might cry out ‘Thus far and no further’. 

Moreover, Jesus wants to help us appreciate that our relationship with Him, by the Spirit, is to be a relationship that is not only ecclesial, but also and always personal, and indeed, sometimes, possibly unique. That is, He does not always and necessarily ask of us the same as He seeks from others.   In the most important and essential issues, the Spirit moves the Church as the identically one Body of Christ; at other times however, He may  will – for His own specific purposes – to move, use, an individual as a distinct member of that one Body, as He has done with His saints over the ages, for example our own, modern, St. Therese of Lisieux, unique and distinct most certainly, yet loved and admired by all.

St. Paul told us that:

As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 

That is, we have to -- it is our heavenly calling to -- become like Jesus.  Now, that is not to be done by following pat formulae or human imaginations; only the Spirit of Jesus can form us, individually and personally, into a distinct likeness of Jesus.  And therefore, we have to learn to recognize and respond to the Holy Spirit, given us by Jesus in Mother Church, when He tries to move us, as individual disciples of Jesus.  Moreover, though individually distinct, we are all, also, vital members of the One Body of Christ, and it is essential for the integrity of the whole Body that the Holy Spirit be able, by His divine wisdom and grace, to move us – both as one and individually -- in such a way as to harmoniously continue and further the authentic work of salvation inaugurated by Jesus.

Tragically, there are many in Mother Church today who are afraid to follow the Guiding Spirit of Jesus in their lives: they choose to do what is popular, they seek what promises to be successful, they adopt what is politically correct; while there are others who fear too much the responsibility of trying to hear, understand, and respond to what God wants of them.  Nevertheless, we must always remember that Jesus, too, frequently pondered, prayed, and struggled, to understand and follow His Father’s will:

Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will. (Mark 14:36)

He learned from events to recognize both His Father’s working in others, and His Father’s will for Himself.  For example, when Peter, without hesitation, and in the name of all the Twelve, said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” Jesus recognized that His Father had chosen Peter and that He wanted Jesus to do the same, for which reason, Jesus answered Peter saying:

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven.   And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.   (Matthew 16:17-18)

We, likewise, have to follow Jesus and try to recognize, understand, and obey God’s Spirit at work in us, seeking to form us personally in Jesus for the Father and for the Church.  And we must also recognize that He, the Spirit, may choose to lead us, as individuals, just as Jesus taught Peter:

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?"  Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?"  Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me." (John 21:20-22)

So, in our Gospel reading today, Jesus is not saying directly and with full intent, that here are some things you must do, literally and no matter what; rather is He trying to lead us into a right attitude in our relationship with and response to, His Holy Spirit working in the Church; an attitude, that is, of unconditional surrender to the Spirit.

It is not permissible for us to set limits that would say ‘thus far and no further’ to the Spirit’s authority and inspiration; for the Spirit invites each and every one of us -- individually, as a child of God -- to follow His guidance, obey His will, and in that way allow ourselves to be formed in the likeness of Jesus for the Father, and also to be used by the Spirit for the good of the Church and for the Father’s glory.  If therefore, the Spirit does ask of you, personally, in any particular situation:

To do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you; to him who strikes you on the one cheek, to offer the other also; and from him who takes away your cloak, not (to) withhold your tunic either; (to) give to everyone who asks of you, and from him who takes away your goods  not (to) ask them back;

then, indeed recognize that He is wanting this of you now, in this particular situation, for the good of the Church and for your personal formation as a disciple of Jesus; but it is not, necessarily, what He is wanting from others, and it may not, indeed, be His permanent purpose for you.

It is immeasurably more important than any such individual, passing, actions -- meritorious though they may be -- that we learn to have a permanent attitude of listening for, and humbly responding to, the call of the Spirit.  As human beings, and as disciples of Jesus and children of Mother Church, it is not of the greatest importance that we always get things right, that we never leave ourselves open to the criticism or blame of men; far, far more important is it that we learn to listen ever better for the Spirit speaking within us; that we become more able to hear Him clearly when He does so speak, and become ever more prepared to unhesitatingly respond by following His lead along ways that give glory to God, help our neighbour, and exalt Mother Church.  Those ways are the only ways that truly lead to heaven because they are chosen for us by the Spirit of Jesus, for the purpose of forming each of us in the likeness of the ‘heavenly man’, and Mother Church herself as the perfect Bride of Christ, offering and commending His salvation to the whole of mankind.

Friday, 15 February 2019

6th Sunday Year C 2019

 6th. Sunday Year (C)
(Jeremiah 17:5-8; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the overall message of our readings today is one of trust and hope.  In our first reading taken from the prophet Jeremiah we heard:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.

That may sound somewhat strange, as if the same thing were being said twice; there is, however, a difference of emphasis between the two phrases.  “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord” stresses the fact that here and now -- in whatever circumstances such a person finds himself and whatever he is trying to do -- such a one, trusting in the Lord at all times, knows that it is the Lord who enables him to respond and face up to the changing situations, difficulties, and trials of daily life; whereas the second phrase ‘and whose hope is the Lord’ is totally centred on the future, centred on the very Person of the Risen Lord Jesus, now glorified in the human flesh He shares with us, and Who finally will come again to call all His faithful disciples to share with Him in the glory of His Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven.

The second reading, taken from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, being centred on the heavenly Jesus is obvi­ously to be related to that second phrase ‘Blessed is the man whose hope is the Lord’, for St. Paul tells his converts:

If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?

The Church’s proclamation that Christ is risen from the dead, Paul is saying, should be your sure and steadfast hope for your own future state beyond the grave; because Jesus has already taken our human flesh with Him to heaven, the only question will be about the nature of our personal relationship with Jesus; and for that we now turn to the Gospel reading, where Jesus develops that beatitude of ’trust in the Lord’ proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah.

Jesus, raising His eyes toward His disciples, said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.  Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.  Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.  Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man.   Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!  Behold your reward will be great in heaven, for their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.”

Blessed – not that inept word happy -- are those whose trust in the Lord is so great that  here and now, in this demanding, deceptive, and increasingly antagonistic world, their minds are in no  way centred on personal success or popularity in their dealings with the world, for they are well aware that their true peace and joy, their true fulfilment, is only to be found with God and their trying to doing His will in Jesus.  To that end, they are content to have less and, if necessary, to suffer more than others in the course of their daily lives; indeed, some there are whose commitment to the Lord is such that they are able to bear con­tradiction and opposition without ever regarding themselves as misguided or lonely.   Blessed, says Jesus, are such whose trust is, indeed, in the Lord their God. 

I think that, even today, many can still understand and appreciate the meaning of Our Lord’s words and the beauty of the character they portray.  It would indeed be a privilege to know someone like that; and how still more wonderful would it not be for us ourselves to be personally blessed to such a degree that it could be truly said of us, that our trust was wholly in the Lord.

However, leaving aside such personal thoughts and aspirations, those words of Jesus I have just quoted would have been an excellent place for Him to end His short discourse and thus leave a pleasing impression on the minds of His hearers.   But Jesus did not stop there, He went on to add:

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.   Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.  Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in that way.  

Why did Jesus go on to say those words?  Because, dear People of God, Jesus came to bear witness to the truth and we present-day Christians in a up-to-date and increasingly pagan society are afraid to accept and profess them as God’s truth.  There were very many Jews in Jesus’ days who pretended to be authentic, obedient, Jews for what they could get out of such pretence: the admiration of others, money, authority, and social position.  And why does Jesus, through His Church today, continue to say such words to many who call themselves, or are regarded as, Catholics and Christians whereas, in fact, they are insipid or even treacherous witnesses to Jesus before the world?  Because Jesus’ words were and are for all time and they are most urgently needed today.  Dear fellow Catholics, if at times the immediate words of our pagan legislators and leaders of society seem to bear witness to Jesus’ own words or intentions their overall actions and their most intimate intentions are far from love of and/or obedience to Jesus.  And what is more, there are Catholics and Christians of greater and lesser significance who also cannot comfortably hear, and most certainly cannot proclaim, such words of Jesus as we have just heard – and there are many other like words disregarded for public reading – lest such proclamation provoke hostility towards themselves or the Church!  It could even result in someone saying to them personally: “What’s wrong with being rich?” or “What’s wrong with having plenty; what’s wrong with enjoying a good laugh and liking to hear praise?”  Before such confrontation far too many Christians today become apologetic; they want to slip away quickly before their adversaries go on to add in yet more strident tones: “The trouble with you Christians and Church-goers is that you are spoil sports; most human feelings and pleasures are sins according to you.”  And if, at this late juncture, a few of the more prominent and committed Catholics might, perhaps, still be standing apparently firm in the face of  such hot, self-righteous, indignation from worldly people, they will almost certainly feel it necessary -- more prudent -- to explain Jesus’ words in such a way that their cutting, offending, edge is blunted and softened so that they no longer trouble, disturb, and certainly cannot infuriate, the sensitive ears of those who have left behind former religious and/or pious Christian attitudes for more modern, politically-correct and popularly-acceptable thought patterns.

Why, People of God, did Jesus not behave in such a way?  Why did Jesus choose to use provocatively hard words, as in today’s particular occasion of Luke’s ‘Sermon on the Plain’, without giving any expla­nation?

It was most certainly not because He didn’t love His hearers divinely; it was not because, as a man, He was irritated and fed-up with people, or that He just couldn’t be bothered to explain His thought.  On the contrary, His words on this occasion were carefully chosen with the divine intent of spurring His hearers to ponder in their minds and search their hearts in order to find for themselves some understanding.  In other words, His failure to explain further was motivated by true love, divine love for the salvation of His listeners.  Modern pseudo-Christian attempted explanations and justifications, on the other hand, being motivated by human sentimentality at the best, or more frequently by self-love, that is, by fear of giving offence, are so weak and insipid to non-believers that they promise them­selves to have done with such people and with any further thoughts about the Faith itself.

Once again, therefore, we come back to the burning question of why it is that Jesus so frequently and consistently differs from us and our modern sensitivities? 

The reason for Jesus’ difference, the reason why the authors of the Sacred Scriptures, the old Prophets, and the New Testament writers Peter and Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are at times so different from us in their attitudes and words, is because too many modern Catholics are, in fact, like the Corinthians to whom Paul was writ­ing in today’s second reading:  the Lord was not those Corinthians’ hope for the future, and too many of today’s believers, likewise, do not put their trust fully in the Lord for our present and future well-being.  Too many, high and low, try ever so hard to please and placate, to be politically correct and socially acceptable even though we have clearly heard the Prophet saying in the name of God:

Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and seeks his strength in flesh.

Because we, Catholics and Christians as a whole, do not fully trust the Lord, because we – in the sight and hearing of men -- try so desperately to secure our own personal acceptability, therefore many laboriously thought-out and much publicised projects and programmes come to nothing, and have to be returned to the plan­ning board again and again to find out what went wrong the first time, why people did not respond.   And then we hear of yet another approach, an­other new scheme, that will, it is fancied, assuredly bear the fruit we like to desire, and bring the worldly success we so deeply crave.

People of God, it is only those whose hope is THE LORD, who calmly trust in His loving Providence and rejoice in His Personal presence in all life’s circumstances and before all people, who can speak God’s truth when necessary, as did Jesus, without thoughts of self-interest or politics of popularity and power intruding themselves so as to influence, mould, and divert, the Spirit’s lead.  So often words like ‘prudence’ and ‘wisdom’ are desecrated by being twisted so as to protect and disguise their user’s secret fears and  less-than-honourable aspirations: “It wouldn’t be prudent to say that just now”, “we must  be wise in our choice of words, and weigh up carefully the possi­ble effects of speaking out in such a way”; and thus we find ourselves behaving just as did the Pharisees when Jesus asked them about John the Baptist:

The baptism of John, where was it from: From heaven or from men?  And they reasoned among themselves, saying: "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'  "But if we say: 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet."  So, they an­swered Jesus and said: "We do not know." And He said to them: "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21:25-27)

In such a way -- by countless human caveats and cautions -- the influence of God’s Holy Spirit of fire and truth is, in modern western society, impeded and confined, blunted and obscured, before finally being rejected and denied.

Jesus proclaimed His Good News under the inspiration and in the power of His Spirit.  The Holy Apostles, the Fathers of the Church, all the Doctors and Saints -- holy men and women -- who have guided and illuminated Mother Church throughout the ages, have, each in their own degree, done likewise: they have spoken, they have acted, in obedience to and un­der the impulse of, the Spirit of holiness and fire Whom the Lord has bequeathed to His Church.  And we Catholic Christians of today, as a whole and individually, must learn the courage to speak and act in like manner, lest our tainted presentation of God’s Truth, of Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice, of the ‘faith of our fathers’ and of Mother Church’s saints and martyrs, will continue to fail today’s sinful and secular society.

Do not think I am advocating ‘Dutch courage’, or the ‘Gung-Ho’ attitude and tactics of religious fanatics: far from it, I am speaking of that quiet courage and firm conviction which comes from God and is given only to those who:

Trust in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. 

Thursday, 7 February 2019

5th Sunday Year C 2019

5th. Sunday Year (C)
(Isaiah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11)

All our readings today conspire to bear witness to what is the most fundamental teaching of Christianity, and of its forerunner, Judaism: the sinfulness of man, his need for and calling to redemption.

When the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God seated on His throne of glory, ‘high and lofty’, where the angels before Him cried out continually ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, he said:

Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.’

St. Paul, for his part, when expounding his proclamation of the Gospel, wrote, as you heard:

            Christ died for our sins; I am the least of the Apostles.

And In our Gospel reading, Peter glimpsed the majesty of Jesus Who, after having used his boat as a platform from which to teach the crowd on the shore, gave him a miraculous catch of fish, whereupon Peter:

Fell at the knees of Jesus and said: ‘Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!’

The Old Testament begins with the story of creation and the fall of man; Jesus began His public ministry proclaiming ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!’; and on the Day of Pentecost when the assembled crowd were in amazement at what they saw and heard:

They were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?”   Peter (said) to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”   (Acts 2:37s.)  

The sovereign majesty of God convinces those spiritually alive to and aware of His presence that they themselves are unworthy of such proximity because their own sinfulness dishonours His sublime holiness.  Isaiah, who would speak such wonderful words concerning the Suffering Servant and God’s love for His people, considered himself to be a ‘man of unclean lips’, while Paul, the doctor and teacher of the nations, regarded himself as the least of the Apostles, indeed, ‘not fit to be called an Apostle’.   Peter, an expert fisherman on waters he had known and experienced at first hand all his life, sacrificed his own judgment and his own standing before the observing crowd on the shore by putting out into deep water again in broad daylight and doing what they would certainly consider foolish and futile … lowering the nets he had only just made clean once again into the waters at the word of this Holy Man with him.

People of God, anyone who sincerely seeks God, who tries to live in His Presence, instinctively recognizes that they themselves are not what they should be.  In His presence such men as Isaiah, Peter and Paul, felt that there was just something wrong with themselves, something from which none but the One they were approaching or better, Who was approaching them, could heal, cleanse, and thus justify, them.

Now, Adam had been created in original integrity, he was ‘just’ before God; but he subsequently sinned and lost that original justice given him by God, he sinned, and thereby became unjust.  We, as his children, as his descendants, are therefore born unjust; as such we have not sinned personally but have simply been born into a state God did not intend for us, which is why it is called ‘original’ sin, because it has been passed down to us from our human origins.  Only subsequently did we personally become sinners, when we corroborated our unjust state of birth by our own actual sins.  Adam, created just -- thanks to God -- became a sinner; we, born unjust -- thanks to Adam -- subsequently become personal sinners.  Only Jesus, by His own death and resurrection and by the Gift of His Holy Spirit, can restore us, through faith and baptism, from unjust and sinners, into just -- as originally intended by God -- and holy in Jesus.

The original sin in Adam, was indeed a personal sin whereby he lost his original justice for himself and for all his posterity; ‘original sin’ in us is an inherited ‘lack’, we are born into a state lacking – thanks to Adam -- the original justice God had intended us to have.  Now, if we look back to Isaiah, Paul, and Peter, we recall that they too felt themselves ‘lacking’ before God … Isaiah knew himself to be of unclean lips; Paul felt unworthy, the least of Apostles; Peter recognized himself to be a sinful man.  What did God make of them?  Isaiah had those ‘unclean’ lips touched with fiery altar tongs and was able to proclaim what has been called the Old Testament Gospel of Christ; Paul ‘least of all’ became the Teacher of the Nations; Peter ‘that self-confessed sinful man’ became Head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ, and suffered on a Cross like Jesus, for His people.

Those glorious witnesses are for our consolation.  Being born in original sin implies no condemnation, necessitates no failure; but it is a weakness, a ‘lack,’ we take to the Lord Who changed water into wine for the newly-wed couple ‘lacking’ refreshment for their guests.  But precisely, that awareness of being lacking, that acknowledged personal need, has ever served to provoke the love and generosity of God and Jesus … it is only when sinners will not acknowledge their need before God, only when they presume themselves to be without sin, when they assert themselves able to look Jesus in the eye without shame, only then do they find themselves having to regard ‘original sin’ as a doctrine to be rejected, denied, and hated.  Hated indeed today to such an extent that the very reality of sin is denied: ‘it is a Christian and Jewish invention’, totally unreal, and most harmful to modern sensitivities which, though they can contemplate abortions and suicide being ‘aided and abetted’, are upset and disturbed  to hear or think of people invoking God’s mercy for sinners, or praising what they call ‘virtues’ that would condemn human sinfulness.

People of God, you who have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, you who rely not on yourselves but hope and trust fully in the Spirit of Jesus dwelling in you as God’s Gift, in your humble acknowledgment of sin before God be in no way downcast before men: think back to Isaiah of unclean lips, he became the one who cried out before God, ‘Here I am, send me to proclaim Your word’; think of Paul ‘the least’ who could finally say ‘By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me has not been ineffective; indeed I have toiled harder than all of them’; remember Peter, who from being a fisherman on the waters of  Galilee was made into God’s chosen, world-wide, Fisher of Men.

What can God make of you?  That is unknown, but we can be certain that your humility before Him makes it possible that He will make something of you: for His glory, for your salvation and joy, and for mankind’s greater and grateful good.

Friday, 1 February 2019

                  4th. Sunday of the Year (C)                             
 (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; 1st. Corinthians 12:31–13:13; Luke 4:21-30)


People of God, in our second reading today taken from St. Paul’s first letter to his converts at Corinth, we heard one of the most famous, the most important, and the most beautiful texts of the New Testament: a text that is famous among Christians above all because of its fundamental doctrinal importance, whilst among unbelievers and nominal Christians it is famous because of its beauty.

We who are disciples of Jesus know that the devil always seeks to camouflage his evil designs into something apparently good by ‘covering’ them with a pseudo-righteousness which is nothing but the fruit of his lying lips.  Today, many in our modern consumer society --  including far too many formerly faithful but now lapsed Christians -- are still be able to bring to mind those words of St. Paul about the supreme worth and beauty of charity, which they prefer to call “love” and, at times, despite years of absence from, or almost total ignorance of Church life and the Catholic Faith, they will tell you in a triumphant tone and with crushing emphasis that “love” is what Christianity should be all about, not religion. And of course, though using the words of Scripture -- “love” is the word used in our popular bible translations today -- they distort the Catholic meaning of those words.  For example, when using that word “love” some relatively few mean nothing more than “being nice to”, “never hurting” people; whereas others, the vast majority, intend the word to include all the sexual excesses and aberrations popular and possible -- provided they are not considered to be criminal -- in today’s no-religion, permissive, and politically-correct modern western society.  Religion, which for the true Christian is the God-given means and channel of learning and expressing supreme love for or charity towards God, has no true significance, according to their way of thinking, being concerned with merely ritual and rites, public pomp and posturing.

Let us, however, who want to be whole-hearted and obedient disciples of Jesus and children of Mother Church, never mix up our apostolic faith and practice with such ‘fashionable morality’.

You will well remember how the Apostle Peter did – out of his own personal love for Jesus -- once speak to the Lord in an overly-worldly way and, we are told, Jesus turned to him immediately and said:

Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men. (Mark 8:33)

Now, don’t all pseudo-Catholics and all lapsed non-believers yet politically correct people assure us that true Christianity ought to be all about loving people, “not hurting” anyone? What do you think: was that a “nice” thing for anyone -- let alone Jesus Himself -- to say?  Do you think those words of Jesus “hurt” Peter?  Of course they did, because they were meant to hurt him, in order to heal and protect him.  The fact is, however, that modern humanists who often make use of Christian words, do not really care about Jesus or His teaching: they don’t seek, first and foremost, to be His true disciples, above all, they want to be personally popular and successful on the contemporary stage  And so, when they use the words of Jesus, they do so only in such a way as to win arguments and gain public approval, not to proclaim the saving truth for which Jesus died.

Therefore, let us now turn to our other Scripture readings today and try to learn more about Jesus: His teaching, His attitudes, and His purposes.

We are told in the Gospel reading that, after reading from the Scriptures on the Sabbath in His local synagogue at Nazareth:

Jesus began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."  And all spoke highly of Him, and were amazed at the gracious words came from His mouth. And they asked, "Isn’t this the son Joseph?" 

But then, Jesus immediately continued, saying:

Surely you will quote Me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself! Do here in Your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum!' And He said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. 

That, however, was only a beginning for He then went on to quote examples from the Scriptures where Israel had not been found worthy of a miracle, and soon:

All the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things.

How deep was their indignation, how wild their rage!   They even went so far as to:

Rise up and thrust Him out of the town; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, that they might hurl Him down headlong.

People of God, one of our greatest failings today in our Western society, which formerly was proud to call itself Christian, is hypocrisy: it seeks to portray itself as being good without God, multi-cultural, but for the requirements of business barons  and ambitious politicians rather than in accordance with the wishes of the indigenous people, and without having any serious appreciation of, or will to make right accommodation for, religious convictions that have formed our people over many centuries.   Many of those who are influential do, indeed, still take up vaguely-remembered Christian concepts and teachings, they may even seem to quote Jesus, nevertheless they seek but the esteem of men; they obsequiously bend the knee to political correctness but will not bow their head in faith or accept the yoke of obedience to the Word of God.

We, however, who want to be true disciples of Jesus, must always remember the words of St. Paul heard in our second reading as he taught and intended them:

Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. 

That greater gift, that more excellent way which, as you all know, is at the heart of our Christian faith, is the way of love: but note, such love is not mere social niceness, not mere human charm, not political agreeableness, and most certainly it is not an authoritative expression for popularly acceptable sexuality, it is Christian love, a sharing in God’s own love, and for that reason it is most properly called CHARITY.

Christian charity is, I say, a sharing in Jesus’ love for the God the Father, and then, for His sake, love of the children of God, that is, of our neighbour, a love that seeks to help our neighbour in the ways of God.  Christian charity is love of God even to the forgetfulness of self and to the scorning of worldly popularity, for it is not possible to put God first sincerely, whilst, in practice, seeking worldly esteem and success.

St. Paul assures us that, from this changing world, we can take with us only what will abide to eternity, that is:

Let us, however, consider closely what he recommends and what he warns us against.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

All the gifts Paul mentions there are sublime gifts of themselves … the Corinthians were wanting wonderful blessings … such prophecy, such understanding, such faith ….  indeed, you might go on to say, such love as to bestow all one’s good to the poor (like St. Anthony and many other great saints), such charity as to give one’s body to be burnt (like St. Laurence).  However, in aspiring to such gifts and graces, the Corinthians were being motivated by a devilishly hidden, ‘covered-over’ pride: for, wanting to be personally noticed, publicly praised, esteemed and honoured in the Church, they were not truly seeking to love God supremely.

Paul therefore tries to turn them in the right direction:

Earnestly desire the best gifts. I show you a more excellent way.

He guides them to charity.  But here notice that because of their penchant for pride he recommends the lesser expressions of charity first, those demanded by the second aspect of the great commandment: love of neighbour, a derivative form and expression of charity towards God Himself:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

With love for our neighbour, and for the love of God, that is, in the fullness of Christian charity, let us ‘put on the whole armour of God’ as St. Paul recommended, since the enemies of Christ … and many ‘nice’ and ‘respectable’ people around us are indeed enemies of Christ, virulent in their attacks on Jesus and His Church in our times.

We should also recall and take to heart God’s words to Jeremiah, the great prophet who most closely foreshadowed Jesus in the contradictions and contempt he had to endure in order to remain faithful to God and help save his people:

My people have forsaken Me; therefore, prepare yourself and arise and speak to them all that I command you.  Do not be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them; for behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land (and) against the people of the land.    They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you to deliver you.

Dear friends in Christ, steel and sympathy, both of them, are inherent to and absolutely essential for true Christian love, a living offshoot of Divine Charity.  Is your ‘love’ worldly: all sympathy and softness professing not Catholic and Christian truth but worldly conformity which, holding you in thrall, promises to assure your public ‘acceptability’ and personal satisfaction? In other words, have you lost that steel demanded by Jesus of all His disciples and exemplified so strikingly in His own visit to, and words in, the home town that wanted to own Him?