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, 29 March 2019

4th Sunday of Lent Year C 2019


4th Sunday of Lent (C)
(Joshua 5:9-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)





It is indeed degrading for a human being to be held in slavery; and, just as someone who has long been under the influence of drugs cannot endure being deprived of their addiction, likewise, those who have been slaves for a long period of time can become so degraded that they are no longer able to conceive of anything more desirable than their daily quota of food and rest.  When freedom has been long denied, victims can find its very idea meaningless and its prospect unattractive and even frightening.

It had been like that with Israel in Egypt.  During many, many years of exhausting labour under the ever-present threat of beatings, the short nights at home with the daily quota of Egyptian food had been the sole and most deeply consoling opportunity to experience human peace and bodily rest: that partial satisfaction of their hunger together with a few snatched hours of sleep and family communion was the only joy they could imagine and to which they could aspire.  Long slavery meant that they found the thought of freedom decidedly un-attractive when the struggle to attain it might involve unknown dangers and loss of regular food; and during the trials of their desert journey they were, at times, much tempted to return to captivity once again for its regular provision of basic necessities.  Only after years of guiding, supporting, strengthening, teaching, and blessing by God on their way through the desert, did the Israelites learn to appreciate their new found freedom and recognize their own human dignity once more; and only at the end of that long journey to the Promised Land, was the Lord able to say to Joshua, the leader of Israel:

Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.

A similar situation is to be found in our modern society when life lived in this world and for this world’s pleasures and comforts is compared with the life offered us in Christ, which is lived indeed in this world but for the kingdom of heaven.  As St. Paul told us:

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.  And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and given us the ministry of reconciliation.

Being reconciled to God means that we have become, in Jesus, children of God, called to heavenly life, eternal life.  However, just as the Israelites, after long years of slavery in Egypt, found the prospect of freedom somewhat alien and unattractive, so too, those who today live in the world for the world’s rewards and pleasures cannot readily imagine the freedom of the children of God which Christ is offering: the joy, hope, and peace of those called to become, as Paul said, the goodness of God, seems totally unreal.

There are also others who started as Christians and Catholics in some measure, and then went on to imitate the younger son in the Gospel parable and left their paternal home, the faith of their fathers, in order to taste the forbidden fruit of independence and self- sufficiency before succumbing, all too often, to the pride and abandonment, to the pleasures and passions, of the world around.  Unappreciative of the blessings that had been their inheritance, they had set out to break what they felt were chains of conformity and to challenge what they regarded as unsubstantial taboos; and imagining indulgence to be without weariness or revulsion, they dreamt of total self-satisfaction without any qualms of conscience: and setting off to a distant country they squandered their inheritance on a life of dissipation.   When, having freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, they found themselves in dire need; and, indeed, once having aspired to ‘free love’, they came to realize that tatty relationships of convenience were all they were able to either give or receive.

However, our main interest is centred today, ‘Laetare Sunday’ (literally, ‘Rejoice Sunday’), not so much on the younger as on the elder son, the one who remained faithful to his father.  St. Paul in our second reading told us that:

God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  So, we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

The elder son in the parable had a somewhat similar office of reconciliation to fulfil with regard to his younger brother, and he seems to have failed in his duty; therefore, perhaps we can learn something from his mistakes that will be of help to us, and through us, also of help to those who -- lapsed or lapsing from the faith -- are on the way to becoming slaves, captivated by the promises, pleasures, and exigencies of this world.

According to Middle East culture and Jewish traditional values, the elder son should hold the position of mediator in a family crisis.  When the younger son asked for his inheritance, the responsibility and obligation of the elder one was clear to the first-century listener: the old father should have been asked to leave the matter in the hands of his elder son, because the younger boy did not really mean what he had said; the elder should then have demanded that his younger brother apologize to their father.  Instead of that, this elder brother of our Gospel parable seems to have been content to let the younger one go off with his inheritance.

Of course, the fact that we are told that he was not pleased when his younger brother returned home is understandable; I suppose very few brothers would have been pleased to see such a wastrel back home again.   Now, the elder brother could only accept his brother’s return out of love and/or reverence for his father … and he seems to have had difficulty in accepting his father’s extreme joy at his younger son’s return home.   Again, that is understandable, for this father’s joy was the expression of a unique love, that of a true, indeed exemplary father for his lost-and-returning child. 

Nevertheless, although the elder brother could not appreciate -- and we should not expect him to have appreciated -- such love, he ought to have recognized it and have made himself accept it with reverence, because of the almost inexpressible joy it gave his father. 

Now something of that sort can happen among us.  Far too often we, as Catholics and Christians, do not speak, as we should, about the beauty, the worth, the blessings, and, above all, of the joy of the Faith, as we have both learnt and experienced it in Mother Church and as disciples of Jesus in our daily lives.  For, we are all called, each in his or her degree, to live, like Paul, as ambassadors of Christ, ambassadors through whom God makes His appeal to those who do not yet know or appreciate Him.  St. Peter, writing to confirm recent converts in their new-found faith said (1 Peter 2:11-12):

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honourable among the Gentiles, that they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

The elder brother in Jesus’ parable seems, indeed, to have given good example to his younger brother in so far as he was always obedient and respectful to their father, as he himself reminded his father:

These many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time.


My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.  But now we (that is, you and I together) must celebrate and rejoice because your brother was dead and has come to life again.

Notice here that the father does not attempt to draw the first-born into his own most deeply felt emotions at the return of the ‘prodigal’, as would have been the case had he said ‘my son’ rather than, your brother’: We must celebrate and rejoice because my son was dead and has come to life again.


we (you and I, both of us together), must celebrate, because your brother has come to life again.    

In this, the elder brother is like many Catholics today who will obey the commandments of God and Mother Church consistently enough, but who can never stir up enough zeal to give open and personal witness to Jesus and the heavenly Father, by their joy and delight, their peace and their hope in the Faith; and thereby they fail Jesus, themselves, and their neighbour.

Many -- especially young -- people find such passionless obedience given, they think, more out of fear than zeal, unattractive, because they themselves are unable to understand the difference between servile fear and reverential, filial, fear of God.  Had they greater wisdom -- which is a gift of God’s goodness, not born of human forthrightness and fury -- they might admit that, though faulty, such obedience is both reasonable and wise. However, finding it unattractive, they compound their lack of wisdom by completely ignoring it.   Nevertheless, there are others who do long, deep down, to know the strength and peace, to experience the joy and freedom, of a consuming commitment to the transcendent love of God; and when a Christian gives witness to Jesus and the Faith in such a way, then they – though young -- can be both impressed and inspired.

Failure to delight in the Lord is usually a fault in the believer.  Such a failure is not simply due to being undemonstrative by nature, but also to an insufficiently committed, perhaps lazy, spiritual attitude.  For delighting in the Lord is not a matter of blind emotion or natural excitability; rather true delighting in Jesus flows from a habit of faithfully remembering, deeply appreciating, and gratefully acknowledging one’s blessings.

Such an attitude is normal enough and indeed almost instinctive: for example, the rich man is perennially pictured as counting his coins, admiring his jewels, adding to his collections; we have had popular songs telling us to ‘Count your blessings one by one’.  In fact, it can be truthfully said that, no good, least of all a great good, can be suitably appreciated apart from the human instinctive practice of recalling, reviewing, and rejoicing over what has been gained or granted.  And the Psalmist applies this human, psychological, fact to religion when he tells us (Ps. 105:3-5):

Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!   Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!   Remember His marvellous works which He has done. 

People of God, I suggest to you, on this ‘Laetare Sunday’, dedicated to spiritual rejoicing, that you would do much to avoid repeating the elder son’s failure, if you learned to truly rejoice in your, our, faith.  By that I mean that you should try, first of all, to look honestly at yourselves and learn to recognize the many blessings you have received over the years; and then also begin to look forward to the promises given us concerning our future in Jesus; after all, can it be that ill-educated, grossly miss-led young ISIS fanatics, are the only ones who can commit themselves totally to a heavenly future they believe, or think they believe, in?

Finally, having, in that way, become prepared, ready, and willing, to speak more freely and sincerely of the sure delight we have in the faith, of the comfort and strength it affords us in the present life, and of the joyful and confident hope it inspires in us for the life to come, we all will -- in accordance with St. Paul’s words -- be graced to transfigure our old, private and hidden, obedience into public confession and praise, since:

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come!                        

                                                


Friday, 22 March 2019

3rd Sunday of Lent Year C 2019


 3rd. Sunday of Lent, (C)

(Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; St. Luke 13:2-9)

                    

Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel reading need careful consideration:



Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way, they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?   By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!  Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them —do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?  By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!

The attitude of Jesus’ contemporaries to the tragic deaths of those Galileans – probably nationalist activists such as Zealots or Sicarii -- whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of the sacrifices they were offering, or those killed by chance at the collapse of the Siloam tower, was symptomatic of the Jewish people’s understanding of their calling as People of God.  They had come to think that being God’s specially Chosen People involved spiritual precedence over Gentiles and pagans and at least a certain measure of material advantage in their regard whereby, if they observed God’s Law as closely and exactly as possible, they could expect God to protect and bless them as a nation in their relations with the surrounding nations, and as law-observant individuals in all the circumstances of their personal and social lives.  Such ideas made the recent tragedies very difficult to understand for the generality of people, for surely, those involved must have sinned against God!  After all, some of the Chosen People had even come to think that they could, if necessary, remind God of His duty towards them, while a small few others even thought they could try -- through radicals such as the Zealots or Sicarii -- to force God’s hand, and oblige Him to come to their aid against their enemies and glorify His name before them.  Having begun to overlook, then, qĂșite forget, they ultimately came to reject the very idea that they had been specially chosen by God to serve as His instruments for the spiritual GOOD of the Gentiles, who might thus become one with Israel in the universal and ultimately eternal, family of God’s adopted children.

We may learn how very serious this travesty of God’s intentions was in Jesus’ eyes by the fact that He doubled on their original tragedy of the Galileans by Himself recalling those killed at Siloam, and then repeating emphatically His own words – which were most certainly not pleasant for His hearers – I TELL YOU, IF YOU DO NOT REPENT, YOU WILL ALL PERISH AS THEY DID. 

Those words of Jesus are of perennial significance for the spiritual awareness of the corporate body of Christians and the individual souls of all believers:

Do you think because those Galileans who suffered, or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?  By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

We Catholics and Christians know that those who perished as pedestrians at Siloam or as worshippers in the Temple precincts, were not greater sinners than other Jews or Galileans in Jerusalem at that time, for Jesus is not merely saying, opining, that they were not shown to be greater sinners by their unfortunate end, He is saying quite categorically – on His own authority -- that they were by no means greater sinners than all around them.  And on that basis Jesus then went on to warn His hearers:

            I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!

PERISH AS THEY DID: dear People of God, notice that Jesus is not saying that His hearers are likely to suffer from Pilate’s soldiers as did the Galileans, or be killed by another tower of the city falling down suddenly upon them.  No!  But He is saying that for those of His hearers who remain unrepentant, death will come upon them just as unexpectedly and disastrously-for-them as it had fallen on those now ‘famous’ unfortunates.

That, of course, is of the utmost importance for modern attitudes among unrepentant Catholics and Christians of our times because many so very easily spring to the defence of their own flagging, failing, and lapsing Christian witness or Catholic observance by words such as, ‘I live as good a life as other people’, ‘I am no worse than many others and a lot better than some of them.’ Or more recently, ‘Look at all the scandals going on in the Church, I am much better than that!’

After Jesus’ words today that is no justification, defence, or excuse whatsoever, in such words, which can all be summed up by the old banality: ‘There would be no Catholics left if my failings were considered so very bad’.  Perhaps there might even seem to be a measure of truth in such an attitude for some people but, most certainly, it had provided no excuse whatsoever for the Jewish audience Jesus was addressing with those words, IF YOU DO NOT REPENT, YOU WILL ALL PERISH, for they did, in fact, largely perish! Jerusalem was flattened, millions died in the Jewish war with Rome, and the nation was scattered far and wide among the Gentiles.

How many of those lackadaisical, unrepentant Jerusalemites had convinced themselves with thoughts such as, ‘I am as good as …’ and ‘there would be no Israelites left if …’ 

And what does that word ‘repent’ mean in this context? 

Our first reading was all about Moses himself having to learn about the sublime HOLINESS of God before speaking in His name to the enslaved Israelites; our second reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians was a warning against spiritual self-satisfaction, attending only to the formalities of Christian worship while ignoring the duties of Christian morality and witness in their daily living.  As for Jesus in our Gospel passage, you have heard how He warned explicitly about lack of repentance before God and of the dangers of fruitlessness in a Christian life:

             

He told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’  He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down.’”

Bearing all these aspects in mind, we can say that ‘repent’ means ‘change your mind, your attitude, turn from your evil ways, turn to serving, looking for and answering to, the God of all holiness and goodness, the Father of all believers in Jesus’; it can be regarded as a condensation of those other (again very difficult to modern ears) words of Jesus:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  (Matthew 10, 34-39)

‘Repent’ can be accurately understood as the effort a disciple needs to make in order understand, appreciate, and appropriately adopt into his own style of life, those and other words of Jesus where He demands first place and supreme love for God and for Himself as Son sent by the Father, and where He calls for love of neighbour and death to selfishness.

We are all called to Our Lord, to Holy Mass each Sunday, as was Moses called in the first reading, Moses! Moses!  Moses answered, Here I am Lord as he walked towards the burning bush:

God said, ‘Come no nearer!  Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’

Moses had been drawing close to God from curiosity:

I must go over to look at this remarkable sight and see why the bush is not burned.

God so urgently required ‘repentance’ that:

            Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

We too should be present at Sunday Mass with a sincerely repentant attitude, wanting simply and solely to worship God: to learn of His glory and goodness, wisdom and beauty; to join in declaring or (as best we can, and if the sopranos, God bless ‘em, will allow!) in singing His praises in the psalms and canticles; to seek His will, His way forward for us, as we hear the Scriptures read and the homily delivered; and, above all,  we should be most intent and committed in offering Jesus’ sacrifice with Jesus Himself through the ministry of the priest, most humbly and sincerely joining our own sacrifice of self with that of Jesus to His Father, for the praise and glory of His most holy Name.

Now it is most desirable for us to leave Holy Mass not only with a repentant and grateful heart but also with a certain awareness of how we can make progress in our efforts both to please and draw ever closer to the God and Father Who so loves us.  Saint Paul gave us such advice adapted to our every-day living:

Do not desire evil things; do not grumble; and, whoever thinks he is standing secure, take care not to fall.

Do you fear that all these warnings might make life burdensome and tiring for you?  Look at the Western world around you!  Warnings are not against you, they are to protect and help you:

            Cultivate and fertilize (your souls) that (they) may bear fruit for the future;

they are like the precious Blood of Jesus poured out to:

To rescue us and lead us into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey,

a land, our homeland, where the Father is waiting to embrace us as did the all-forgiving father in Jesus’ parable:

 So, he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’   But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ (Luke 15:20–24)

The ‘boy’ become the ‘prodigal’ had suitably repented …. So may we all do likewise, in Jesus, by His most Holy Spirit, for the Father.








Friday, 15 March 2019

Second Sunday of Lent Year C 2019

2nd. SUNDAY of LENT (C)
(Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:20–4:1; Luke 9:28-36)



Dear People of God, today’s Gospel is replete with teaching about Jesus.  Notice first of all that:

While Jesus was praying, His face changed in appearance, and His clothing became dazzling white.  And behold, two men were conversing with Him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His exodus which He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

The meaning is clear.  Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the most charismatic figure among the OT prophets were speaking with Jesus about His imminent exodus, Passover, in Jerusalem; thereby telling us that the Law and the Prophets of Israel had indeed been leading to, speaking of, and preparing for, Jesus at their deepest level and according to their supreme intention and purpose.  We, Catholics and Christians, who desire to know and love our Lord and Saviour as fully as we can, should aspire to recognize and appreciate ever better the witness to Jesus contained in the writings of the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament God spoke frequently to Moses from a cloud that accompanied Israel throughout her desert wanderings:

The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain … and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”   Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and cloud covered it six days.  On the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud, so Moses went into the midst of the cloud and up the mountain.  And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.  (Exodus 24:12, 15-18)

In such a way Moses was taught by God throughout Israel’s forty years journeying to the Promised Land.

Notice, however, that in today’s Gospel reading, God the Father -- again speaking from a cloud -- told the disciples Peter, James and John:

            This is My chosen (beloved) Son. Hear Him!

That would seem to be saying that no more would there be a voice from a heavenly cloud speaking to the new Israel, but that the words of Jesus Himself would be all that could be desired or would be needed.  Indeed, those words would seem to proclaim Jesus as God, speaking on behalf of, and with the authority of, the Father Himself.

‘Hear Him’ is a command, a command for Christians of all time, meaning ‘hear and obey’.  There, indeed, we have the first of all commandments for Christians, a command which Jesus Himself confirmed:

If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

But there is more in the Father’s words beside the commandment to ‘hear’ Jesus; there is also a most intimately Personal invitation or call – This (Gift) is My chosen, My beloved, Son, hear Him – hear Him in such a way as to love Him as well as to obey Him; the implication being that the only true knowledge of Jesus (‘hear Him’) is that which results in love for Him.  Jesus Himself is sublime in His humility: He is well-satisfied concerning our love for Him if we keep His commandments.  But the Father’s words are words of the ultimate and most sublime Father about His only chosen, begotten, and beloved, Son: they not only mysteriously embrace the full ardour of the Father’s beatific love for His Son, they also indicate something of the Father’s burning desire that we who receive this gift of His Son, should both hear Him and also come to love Him as the Father Himself wants us to love Him, that is, by our sharing, participating in and with, the Father’s very own love for Him.

Turning our attention now to the first reading we were told that, on hearing God’s humanly-inconceivable promise:

Abram put his faith in the Lord, Who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.

However, that most laudable initial faith of Abram -- soon to be named Abraham -- had to be strengthened for future trials:

The LORD said to Abram: “Know for certain that your descendants shall be aliens in a land not their own, where they shall be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.   But I will bring judgment on the nation they must serve, and in the end they will depart with great wealth.  You, however, shall join your forefathers in peace; you shall be buried at a contented old age.

And so, as an unforgettable support for such enduring faith by Abram and subsequently of Israel, Abram was given – as you heard -- a mysterious vision and historic promise.   Abram himself had had some part to play in that vision, for he had brought, prepared, and arranged the animals called for by the Lord; and subsequently, he had stayed beside them, to protect their integrity as sacrifices, until such time as the Lord God Himself had appeared under the same fiery symbol He would later use again in the burning bush for Moses and the column of fire going before and guiding Israel through the desert of Sinai, and ultimately climaxing with the tongues of fire at Pentecost. 

When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those (sacrificial) pieces.

Such was the awesome background to the Lord’s words of confirmation for Abram’s faith:

To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great River, the Euphrates.

As one of those described by St. Paul in the second reading whose ‘citizenship is in heaven’, Abram was subsequently named Abraham and, as befitting our Christian awareness of him as our ‘father in faith’, he lived St. Paul’s exhortation in today’s second reading, in the most exemplary manner:

            Stand firm in the Lord.

People of God, let us now closely observe and carefully imitate both Abraham and Mary.  Yes indeed, let us keep our eyes firmly on Abraham whose admirable faith in God was  confirmed by the Lord’s mysterious and fiery self-manifestation amidst the sacrificial flesh; let us keep our eyes even more firmly fixed on Mary, whose supreme faith in God’s promise was confirmed both by the awesome mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation brought about in her own womb, and by the consummate mystery of the His Passion, Death, and Resurrection given us for our confirmation and constant growth in the faith we have received from God the Father Who first drew us to Jesus.  Today, God renews His choice of us by calling us anew to ‘hear’ His Son -- Who speaks clearly and surely to us in and through His Church -- and on hearing Him, to love Him by the Spirit, now gifted by God for that very purpose, that we might in some measure become ablaze with the Father’s own love for His Son.

There is no faith without promises, there is no faith without mystery, and our Christian faith, in its ultimate awareness of and response to the totality of human experience and divine goodness, embraces unimaginable promises together with unfathomable mystery.   There, indeed, lies an inescapable tension, but it is one designed not for our destruction but for an ever-continuing and harmonious development of all our human capabilities originally given us as the ‘image and likeness of God’.

Promises and mystery are not to the liking of modern secular society where tangible, controllable, profitable, and temporal – quick -- attainments are sought at every level.  All too often, for such people, as St. Paul said in the second reading:

Their God is their stomach, their glory is in their shame.  Their minds are occupied with earthly things, and their end is destruction.

For us, however:

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body.

And although we ‘await’ the fulness of what can only be bestowed on us in our heavenly and eternal home, we already have, and even now rejoice and delight in, what is a foretaste of that heavenly fulfilment: the mysterious presence and power of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our life … the Father anticipating and fulfilling us so mysteriously, knowing us and loving us so intimately; the Son, our Lord and Saviour, our glory, our example and our companion; the Holy Spirit Who enlightens, guides, sustains and comforts us in all our efforts to love and follow Jesus with our whole mind and heart.

Dear People of God, those are true Catholic and Christian joys; they are not worldly joys but they are truly human and deeply personal joys, arising from a personal relationship with and love of God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- and given for the Christian fulfilment of children of God become strangers in this world.  They are far richer and deeper than the pseudo, much sought after, joys of this world where those who seem richest suddenly, and not infrequently, put an end to their lives in painful emptiness; where crimes are committed for pleasures which are totally insufficient because of their passing and yet ever-recurring and demanding nature, pleasures which can prove deadly for those who indulge them and, too often, harmful to others.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm in the Lord.







           







       










Friday, 8 March 2019

First Sunday of Lent Tear C 2019


 First Sunday of Lent (C)

(Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Romans 10:8-13; Saint Luke’s Gospel 4:1-13)

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Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil.

Surely, we have here the source of those words recommended later by Our Lord for our own most intimate and personal prayer with His heavenly Father: ‘Lead us not into temptation’.  Lack of understanding, whether on the part of episcopal bodies or individuals, cannot justify tampering with Our Lord’s very-own-teaching-words, words He uniquely recommended us to use when praying to His Father, words handed down to us by tradition given us to continue His uniquely saving purpose for men of all time.

Setting aside misunderstanding or controversy, let us now try to develop our own appreciation of today’s Gospel reading and the Lenten season we are entering upon.

Jesus, I believe, had longed to begin His mission for perhaps some 25 years, for had not John the Baptist heard from his father Zachary (Luke 1:76s.):

And you, child, will be called prophet of God the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation?

John the Baptist knew, therefore, from early childhood of his calling and destiny; surely Jesus was, from His earliest years, secretly orientated by His heavenly Father towards His own future public mission, the very reason for which His Father had sent Him among men.  And here is the first point I want you to notice carefully, People of God:  Jesus, the Son of God, longed for His earthly destiny to open up before Him and aspired to its fulfilment but … He waited long years for His Father’s call.

Now at last – so to speak – His waiting is ended and His longing fulfilled, for we have just heard in the Gospel:

He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted

St. Mark tells us, THE SPIRIT IMMEDIATELY DROVE HIM OUT INTO THE DESERT; whilst St. Matthew writes that JESUS ... WAS LED BY THE SPIRIT INTO THE DESERT.

Such words and such unanimity among the evangelists indicate a most compelling, imperious, call which, nevertheless, left Jesus perfectly free; and there we should again learn from Him, dear People of God, lest we ever allow ourselves to be tempted by thoughts of ‘holiness achieved quickly’’ for Christian holiness is a gift before it can ever be said to have been achieved.  We should, indeed, long to be holy and pray to love God without any reserve; but, with Our Lord, let us wait for, and never lose hope in, Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit, working in us for the fulfilment of God the Father’s saving purpose.  Let us humble ourselves as weak and sinful persons, whilst constantly praying to be strong and holy; for, as the Psalmist (2:3) tells us, the just man IS LIKE A TREE PLANTED BY THE STREAMS OF WATER, THAT YIELDS ITS FRUIT IN ITS SEASON.

Jesus’ season had finally come and He was ready to undertake, and succeed in, the contest opening out before Him; we, His disciples, must -- throughout our lives – be on the watch, waiting and praying, that we might be found ready, like Him, to embrace our season and bring forth fruit expected of us by God.

The first Adam, a man of earth, had originally been tested and found wanting; Jesus, the Second Adam, the heavenly man, likewise submitted to a testing; and here, the Gospel warns us modern Catholics and Christians that we who have been baptized into Christ must also be prepared to endure temptation with Him.  We are tempted from without by the Evil One, and from within by our own concupiscence.  Jesus, like the first Adam, could only be tempted from without.  Adam could and did sin, whereas Jesus not only did not, but could not, sin.  Jesus was both perfectly free and, at the same time, infallibly holy.  It is impossible for us to understand fully how temptation affected the Son of God, but we do know, with the certainty of faith, that it could not have touched Him at all had He not been also, and no less truly, Son of Man.  He consented to be tempted so that, as the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us:

He might be able to sympathize with our weaknesses, (as) One Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. (4:15)

This temptation implies two things: first, that Jesus knew Himself be the Messiah whom the Jews were expecting; and secondly, that He was also well aware that He possessed extraordinary powers.  The time had now come for Him to make use of these powers, and behold, the devil was immediately at hand in the hope of leading Him to misuse them from the very beginning.

He ate nothing for forty days and when they were over, He was hungry.  The devil said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God command this stone to become bread’.

Self-preservation is the most fundamental of all our instincts, and after such a prolonged and rigorous fast it must have been clamouring at the portals of Jesus’ will for satisfaction.  The devil tried to make use of it.  In the case of Adam and Eve he had not sought any such help from the legitimate needs of an oppressed nature, for, with but little effort, he had sown the seeds of distrust of God into Eve’s heart, and Adam lamely followed her.  It would not be so easy with Jesus ... the devil guessed that much from the beginning.  But perhaps the clamouring needs of nature might serve to blind Jesus as to Satan’s real purpose, for he desired to accomplish in Jesus that of which St. Paul was to accuse the Galatians (3:1-3):

O foolish Galatians!  Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?

The Spirit of God had brought Jesus, Son of Man, into this wilderness ... would He not take care of Him there?  Indeed, He would.  The devil, however, invited Jesus to doubt this, by suggesting that He make use of the power which was His for the salvation of men and the glory of God, to satisfy a purely natural need.

But Jesus answered, ‘It is written, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”’.

Jesus did not deny the fact that man needed bread for his body, but affirmed that he also had need of God’s word for his soul, and He implied that spiritual considerations transcend, and sometimes can over-ride, the needs of nature.  This is why the apparently excessive fasting and mortification of some of the saints was not sinful, even though it may have ruined their health and notably shortened their lives.

Notice also, dear friends, that Our Lord simply quoted Sacred Scripture.  How we should reverence the Bible, for the very Son of God chose to cite its words rather than formulate His own reply!!

Another point also imposes itself for our consideration here.  We read very frequently in the Old Testament of the anger of God, Whose wrathful presence is manifested in upheavals of nature ... the mountains are shaken, the sun, moon and stars fall from their courses, lightning flashes are His arrows, the thunder His voice, and the storm clouds His chariot.   Those figures of speech give most eloquent expression to the inspired author’s realization of the utter and absolute incompatibility between the all-holy God and sin.

Look now, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, at Jesus, God made Man: for our sake He patiently, humbly, endured being tempted by one He found supremely loathsome and absolutely disgusting!  Will we not, for His sake, try harder to support patiently others when we find them trying?

The devil made a further bid.

He took Jesus up (Luke does not say where), and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant, and said ‘I shall give You all this power and glory for it has been handed over to me.  All this will be Yours, if You worship me.’  

In Psalm 2 we read of the Messiah: (THE LORD) SAID TO ME, ‘YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.  ASK OF ME, AND I WILL MAKE THE NATIONS YOUR HERITAGE, AND THE ENDS OF THE EARTH YOUR POSSESSION.’   Notice well, dear People of God, how the devil tries to usurp the place of God by offering to fulfil God’s faithful promise in his own duplicitous way.

Was Jesus’ Kingdom to be a kingdom of this world?  Was it to surpass, by its universal embrace, the magnificence of all the empires ever seen upon earth?  Was the kingdom indeed thus to be restored to Israel in the way the Jews wanted, was Jerusalem thus to become in a new sense the CITY OF THE GREAT KING?

Jesus answered him:

It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him alone shall you serve.’

Notice, once again, Jesus quoted Scripture to the devil.  The drama continued:

Then the devil led Him to Jerusalem, and made Him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to Him, ‘if You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, “He will command His angels concerning You, to guard You” and “with their hands they will support You, lest you dash Your foot against a stone.”’

There is (sic!) no lack of heights in the Judean desert from which Our Lord might have been tempted to cast Himself down; but the desert could not provide an admiring, stupefied, crowd to behold the spectacle, and that is why the devil, Satan, took Jesus to Jerusalem.

Jesus had been sent as Man to make us -- in Himself -- adopted children of God, His own brothers and sisters.  Could the bonds which would thus bind us to Him and to the Father in heaven ever be formed out of curious amazement and superstitious awe?  No!  They would have to be unbreakable bonds of love, indeed of bonds of shared divine charity, able to endow us with heart-willed, mindful and humble, obedience.  Love cannot be exacted by force but must be gradually won; it cannot be foisted upon men, but has to be gently instilled into their hearts.  Jesus did not will to prove to men that He was the Messiah ... He preferred, He willed, to lead them to spontaneously recognize Him as such.  All this, however, could only come-to-be in the Father’s good time; and here, yet again, Jesus refused any attempt to precipitate events.

Jesus said to him In reply, ‘It also says, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Jesus would not become a political figure.

The devil departed from Him for a time.

The desert had ever been, in the tradition of the Bible, the place of temptation, the domain of the devil.  Now Jesus had indeed, as St. Mark tells us (3:27) ENTERED A STRONG MAN’S HOUSE ... (AND) BOUND THE STRONG MAN; and St. Matthew tells us the same thing by having Jesus reveal the devil’s personal and intimate name as Satan.  Because He had thus defeated the devil in a deep personal encounter, Jesus was, and is henceforth, able TO DELIVER US FROM THE HAND OF OUR ENEMIES ... TO GIVE LIGHT TO THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH.  (Luke 1:73-79)

Never again did the devil (Satan) dare to enter into personal combat with Our Lord.

But the battle went on, nevertheless, to the end of Jesus’ life, for the devil stirs up men to fight his battle for him.  To the end Our Blessed Saviour continued as He had first set out, as to His disciples, concerned about Him having had nothing to eat, He said, MY FOOD IS TO DO THE WILL OF HIM WHO SENT ME (John 4:34); so, when the Jews asked for a sign made to suit them He said, AN EVIL AND ADULTEROUS GENERATION SEEKS FOR A SIGN; BUT NO SIGN SHALL BE GIVEN TO IT EXCEPT THE SIGN OF THE PROPHET JONAH (Mathew 12:39); and when the crowds wanted to seize Him and make Him king JESUS WITHDREW AGAIN TO THE HILLS BY HIMSELF (John 6:15).

However, when the final drama of Calvary was to be played, the devil once again tempted Jesus with the same three suggestions he had made in the desert, THE RULERS SCOFFED AT HIM, SAYING, ‘HE SAVED OTHERS; LET HIS SAVE HIMSELF, IF HE IS THE CHRIST OF GOD, HIS CHOSEN ONE! (Luke 23:35).   SO ALSO, THE CHIEF PRIESTS MOCKED HIM ... SAYING ... LET THE CHRIST, THE KING OF ISRAEL, COME DOWN NOW FROM THE CROSS, THAT WE MAY SEE AND BELIEVE.’  (Mark 15:31-32).   But Jesus would give neither relief to His tortured body nor a sign to those ill-disposed Jews.  To Pilate, indeed, He did give an answer, PILATE SAID TO HIM, ‘ARE YOU THE KING OF THE JEWS? .... YOUR OWN NATION AND THE CHIEF PRIESTS HAVE HANDED YOU OVER TO ME; WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?’   Jesus answered, ‘MY KINGSHIP IS NOT OF THIS WORLD ... FOR THIS WAS I BORN, AND FOR THIS I HAVE COME INTO THE WORLD, TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE TRUTH.’ (John 18:33-37)

Dear People of God, let us now look at the world around us in the light of Jesus’ truth.

Secular society today wants to be rid of the very idea of sin because it hates above all the idea of a God of Salvation, a God becoming Man, living, suffering and dying as a man for love of, and the-saving-of, us human beings.   But men of the world today hate above all the very thought of One having both the right and authority to interfere in their lives.  That, People of God, is the very ESSENCE of sin: there is no one who has any right or authority to interfere in MY life.  Ultimately sin is not a matter of doing wrong things … much that is good is being done in our present-day secular society, but sin has never been more deeply rooted in society because most of its citizens are now disbelievers, against the very thought of any divine power, because each and every one of them wants to be free to commit their very own choice of (pet) sin when it seems necessary to them.  They do not often want to be always doing wrong things, bad things, in fact they want to think of themselves as GOOD; but, good-without-God.  A ‘free-goodness’, isn’t that the best sort of goodness … no, because only One was free before the face of, in the presence of, the Devil, being devilish, that is TEMPTING.  And only because that One, Jesus Christ, has bestowed His most Holy Spirit on those who believe in and obey Him,  can any human person do ‘free-goodness’.  All disbelievers, rationalists, or whatever God-less people may be called or call themselves, want, theoretically, and will, actually, commit their own choice of sin when they feel the need to do that personal something God would prohibit.            

Friday, 1 March 2019

8th Sunday Year C 2019


 8th. Sunday of Year (C)

(Eccles. 27:4-7; 1 Cor. 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45)





In our troubled times, when many are feverishly seeking for the good things the world has to offer, and Christian morality is often side-lined for personal advantage or profit, people can and do find themselves in difficulties of all sorts; and, finding themselves weighed down with troubles and enmeshed in problems, they frequently turn to others for help.  Now that is normal enough, indeed it is typically human.



However, in modern pagan society such human situations are too rarely sanctified, by Christian and Catholic attitudes.  For example, it is frequently the case that family and proven friends are the last to be consulted by young people wondering what to do with their future or in their present difficulties, because such youngsters do not want to feel themselves -- or be made to feel themselves -- as youngsters any longer.  They are not, perhaps, at the stage of seeking faith-advice on how to do God’s will as good Catholics, but simply wanting, above all, as individual and increasingly decisive persons, human appreciation and possible help from peers with whom they now spend the majority of their formation time.    However -- and this may be of concern for the parents who have thus far taught and guided them -- they may well have not yet learned from taught wisdom and life-experience how to recognize and appreciate a true friend and set up good friendships; and they may also – parents’ concern again – be as yet lacking in the necessary moral courage to be able to reject bad friendships.

And so, turning instinctively to their peers for that sympathetic hearing these youngsters so want, there is the danger that any injudiciously chosen helper(s) may go on to give them not merely a sympathetic ear in present troubles but also opinions and advice – sometimes incitement – with regard to future actions. 

Loving parents with sons or daughters under trial as I have just shown will therefore have no doubt whatsoever about the answer to Jesus’ question:

            Can a blind person lead a blind person?   

Nevertheless, many adult persons – not youngsters this time -- who have long thought of themselves, or been considered as, practising Catholics, when they get ‘bogged down’ in troubles begin to say to themselves, ‘Many people are doing this … I don’t see what is wrong if so many are doing it’, and trying to salve their conscience by thinking they will have many companions to back-up any immoral attitudes they may adopt, they often turn to some non-believer, some ‘personal friend’, who is or has been in more or less in the same boat -- so to speak -- as themselves, because they are not wanting -- as believing adults should want -- to find out what Our Lord would have them do, what His Church teaches, what their own conscience urges, but imitating those adolescents-in-faith we have just considered, they also want, above all, a sympathetic and supportive hearing.  Here, however, there is much more that is blameworthy than in the case of youngsters wanting the same; for such ‘childish’ self-seeking by adults is incompatible with any true profession of Catholic faith, as witness those hundreds, thousands (?) of nominally Catholic women in Ireland recently having been shown clamouring for abortion and the right to use their bodies for their own purposes, even Deo-non-volente.  Behaving in such a way rather than seeking God’s way to right their difficulties and wrongs, proclaiming the emotional high’s and low’s of their own individual stories, they were explicitly seeking an excuse for actions planned or already carried out.  Wanting above all moral support from others without faith or from others who have done the same as themselves are planning, they may indeed end-up perhaps comforted for a little while as sinners among many other fellow-sinners, but in no way justified as disciples of Jesus or as living members of His Church.  God is not impressed by, nor does He seek, numbers as perhaps too many priests and bishops do; for did not Our Blessed Lord Himself say that the road leading to perdition is broad and smooth, and that many choose to walk along it, whereas the gate leading to life is narrow and few enter therein.

As disciples of Jesus, we believe that we need to learn from Jesus and we profess to want above all to learn from, and become like, one with, Him.

A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

Now it is a very great blow to teacher to realize that your supposed disciples never can, never want, to turn to you in their need.  Jesus alone died for us, Jesus alone can save us: we know these facts and we say we believe them.  However, it is indeed a ‘slap in the face’ for Our Lord when His disciples turn for preference, in the way we have described, to worldly and sinful human beings rather than to Himself Who died for them and Whom they call their Saviour, or to those of His disciples who best know His teaching, His will, and His ways. 

Let us now listen once more to Jesus with regard to those who are prone to offer themselves as advisors:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Advisors, Jesus says, who claim to be able to help, or pretend to give help to, others in their troubles with advice that springs from their own unenlightened and disordered lives, are usurpers.  

I am the true vine, you are the branches.  Unless you eat My (fruit), (that is) eat My flesh and drink My blood, you do not have life in you.

People of God, never forget that the way you try to make yourself happy in this world will determine whether or not you find real happiness in the kingdom of heaven.  Seek sympathy from those who want ‘their share’ of this world’s forbidden fruit and you will never taste true happiness in eternal life.

So, who are you going to take advice from?   First of all, however, what sort of advice do you want?  There is advice involving knowledge and there is advice involving merely opinion.  Both are advice, that is, something proffered as helpful not obligatory, but knowledge-sought advice honours what or Who is being sought, opinion-sought advice usually favours whoever is asking.

There is only one to whom we, as Catholics and Christians, can ultimately turn, and that is to Jesus.  But when I speak of turning to Jesus, I do not mean to imply that we have a private connecting line with Our Lord.  Our link with Jesus is always, fundamentally, through His Church and by His Spirit given us in the Church.  But, life in the Church is aimed at union with, service of, love for, Jesus Himself;  we therefore, as individual disciples truly seeking Jesus,  can ask whomsoever we want in Mother Church whom we believe can best help us to Jesus, that is, with superior knowledge or a presumably more holy opinion, and He, Jesus, will contact us through them, for Jesus makes His true disciples good through washing away their sins in the waters of baptism and then by guiding and ultimately endowing them with the wisdom of His most Holy Spirit in mother Church.

If, however, we are not truly seeking Him, His truth and His way, but really our own self-satisfaction, then we ourselves are hypocrites pretending to seek Jesus by the help of advisors who give “friendly” advice, advice which only seeks to be in line with what are the popular and politically correct opinions of the day; advice that can only harm those Catholics and Christians foolish enough to seek and accept it.

Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.

Make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

Surely, none of us wants others’ bad fruit to poison our own life?

So, before you seek, and most certainly before you accept, any advice, you should be clear about your own attitude: What are you seeking?  Are you seeking worldly acceptance and popularity, worldly success and/or profit, or perhaps just the worldly satisfaction of a life as trouble-free as possible?  If so, you are deceiving yourself if you think that you are acting as a Christian, let alone a true Catholic.

However, if you are, as a disciple of Christ, wanting to know how best to walk along Jesus’ ways through your troubles, then listen even more closely to God’s holy word in the book of Revelation (2:7):

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

To him who overcomes: that means, “to the one who perseveres, who endures, who persists”, as a disciple of Jesus, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life.  Jesus is the tree of life: eat of the fruit of such a tree, eat His Body and drink His Blood, and life is and will be yours, for:

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. (John 6:53-55)

We are told by St. Luke (8:18-19) that when Jesus was walking the paths of Palestine,

            A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

The sharp and immediate response of Jesus, showing just how much it meant to Him, was:

Why do you call Me good?  No one is good-except God alone.

Jesus is now risen and is to be found at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  Jesus is the only good Person, good Teacher, for us.  Jesus alone is good, and we, disciples of His, turn only to Him in Mother Church, we seek only His guidance, teaching and grace, from His Church and from His disciples.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

There is only one Sacred Heart, that heart of Jesus from which poured water to cleanse you and blood to revitalize you.  Turn to Jesus, draw close to His Sacred Heart and you will find real, not emotional, sympathy, light to give you understanding, and grace to help you do whatever is necessary to rise above your troubles.  You will experience what the prophet Isaiah (40:31) had foretold:

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.