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, 31 May 2019

7th Sunday of Eastertide 2019

(Acts 7:55-60; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20; John 17:20-26.)


In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we were given a picture of the fanaticism which can so easily surface in fallen humankind, for the murder of Stephen was the work of religious fanaticism of which we see so many most atrocious examples today.    There are, of course, all sorts of fanaticism: other prominent types today being football fanaticism, pop and rock fanaticism, and the animal rights brand.  I say that fanaticism is close to hand for fallen mankind, because human nature was made for God not for itself, man was made to love and serve, know and identify himself with, God, and ultimately to share in His eternal beatitude.  And so, fallen men and women are inclined to give themselves in varying degrees not only to God and the works of God, but also, and indeed, much more frequently, to someone such as a super-star, something like a football team, or to some cause chosen by  themselves, e.g. poor dumb animals etc.; and in giving themselves totally to what is not God or of God, the God-given impulse to religious devotion is thereby progressively changed, twisted, poisoned and corrupted, into various types of fanaticism each of which tries to imitate its distant origins by offering the satisfaction of pseudo-fulfilment through the excitement of belonging to a group of similarly motivated enthusiasts expressing support for their chosen team in its triumph or troubles, serving a cause that seeks to put right perceived wrongs, or simply exorcising personal frustrations, prejudices or anxieties, by public expressions of opposition or antagonism with regard to those at ease, in authority, or those who simply seem have more than others.

Fanaticism is never free nor can it express its evil mind through the true love of a Spirit-led heart: seeing nothing but an enemy it can only seek the pseudo-self- satisfaction of rejection or hatred.

Let us now look a little closer at the religious fanaticism shown in the first reading and compare it with the teaching of both the second reading and the Gospel:

All who sat in the council, cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him.

The present attention of those in the council was fixed on their enemy, Stephen, and at the back of their minds was the insistent problem of their own status with regard to the Roman overlords; they were most certainly not responding to the God they professed to represent.  The words of Stephen should have been answered, if indeed they were defenders of the Law; but, in order to answer they would have had, first of all, to listen to Stephen’s words, and that was something they were not prepared to envisage let alone do:

They cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord.

In so doing, they were in fact giving vent to, satisfying, their own feelings of anger, apprehension and even fear, not defending the Law of the Lord their God.

Human passions are no guide to God’s will: human anger does not serve divine justice nor can human sentimentality transmit God’s goodness; and yet emotions are part and parcel of our human nature, they are necessary for human actions, above all for human love and divine charity:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30)

However, such emotions need to follow the lead of, keep in tune with, a mind guided by faith in Jesus and able, by the grace of His Spirit, to look at the situation as a whole, not to indulge a mind that is exclusive in its focus because of the weakness of its grasp.  Human emotions should neither be stoked up by prejudice nor smothered by fearful self-interest.

If we now turn to the second reading we can see how the Christian is called not only to look to Christ, but also urged to long for, pray for, His coming:

I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star."  And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The Christian, therefore, can only be a truly living member of the Church (the bride) under the inspiration of the Spirit and to the extent that he or she is steadfastly looking and longing for Jesus.  Sadly, many nominal Catholics today are prepared to take scandal at supposed -- or real -- human sins and failings, and I read recently of one such (self-righteous, sanctimonious) young woman refusing Communion, that is, snubbing Jesus, because she did not approve of the sermon preached by one trying to do what he saw as his Catholic duty.  People of God, ‘the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come Lord Jesus”’, which means that in all his or her activities, the heart and mind of the devout Catholic disciple of Jesus should be relatively free and mutually respectful when involved in recognizing what is true, appreciating what is beautiful, and responding to whatever guidance God gives: that young woman I just mentioned allowed her heart to totally break away from her faith-enlightened mind

I pray that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Earlier I said that human sentimentality/emotionalism is incapable of transmitting divine goodness, and there I was referring to the wide-spread habit of praising and promoting popular causes by involving weeping women, excited children, apparently repentant men who had been ‘forced’ into whatever they may have done wrong, as though such presentations were the full truth or truly good, serving, that is, the social and spiritual well-being of those targeted by such presentations; in fact, however, they are often more well-suited to serve the worldly/personal  interests and preferences of those using them than the social or spiritual well-being of the community as a whole.

In the quotation I have just made from the Gospel you will see that Jesus had in mind the eternal well-being of all mankind when He prayed that the Apostles might be one, for He prayed with the express intention:

            That the world may believe that You sent Me.

His prayer that:

They may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one;

was not for His Apostles alone, but primarily for all of us, because the way the world would come to accept and believe in Jesus was not to be one sign-posted with extravagant gestures or emotional declarations by the Apostles, but by those same Apostles becoming ever more personally one-with-Jesus, and ever more collegially one-in-Jesus, by their every word and deed for Jesus:  

I in them and You in Me, may they be one in Us, Father.

For the Apostles, their centre of attention, their whole-hearted desire, had to be fixed on Jesus.  Though they would give their lives for those to whom they were sent, they would not overcome any enemies nor would they convert any peoples of themselves: they had to be centred on Jesus, so that He -- through His Spirit -- would direct the catch of fish for them, as of old.  And our second reading, taken from the book of Revelation, widened this spiritual attitude to the whole of God’s people with the words:

The Spirit and the bride (which is Mother Church, inspired, guided and sustained by the Spirit) say, "Come!" And let him who hears (and reads) say, "Come!"   Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.

Those whose minds are ablaze and charred by the fire of religious fanaticism, those whose eyes are blinded by the smoke of suspicion and hatred which such excitement begets, seek to assure themselves of a place in a ‘heaven’ of their imagining or in the hearts of men, by claiming to protect and promote what is right and good by indulging themselves in the worldly pseudo-satisfaction of rejection and hatred.

We, on the other hand, as faithful Christians, can have only one aim: by the Spirit, to live and die with and in Jesus for love of the Father from Whom we aspire to accept both life and death as His most gracious gift.  We cannot, must not, allow ourselves to be guided by human ideas of goodness; for the human heart can be a veritable cesspit of intentions and aspirations, while human goodness at its best is not good enough, it is too open to the corruptions of self-seeking pride or pusillanimity, political correctness and popularity.  We Catholics should seek to be guided and determined in all things by the teaching of Jesus as proclaimed by Mother Church (not by the personal outpourings of individuals however highly regarded) and as inspired into our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit of Jesus working in us through her Sacraments and with us in our best endeavours to follow His light and our conscience.  And the ultimate satisfaction we seek should be that for which Jesus prayed on our behalf:

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Friday, 24 May 2019

6th Sunday of Easter Year C

 6th. Sunday of Easter (C)

(Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29)


Judas – not Iscariot – had just asked Jesus how it was that He would make Himself visible to His disciples and yet, not visible to the world.  Judas could not understand how they, His disciples, would be able to see Jesus if people round and about them could not see Him; if He was really there wouldn’t all be able to see Him?

That, of course, is a question, indeed an argument, frequently posed by non-believers today: if the supposed Risen Lord and Saviour cannot be seen by all, then His Resurrection is nothing more than the work of over-excited Christians giving free rein to their imagination and hopes.

Jesus explains: With those who love Him, those who keep His word and seek His truth in all things, then He and the Father:

            Will come and make Our dwelling with them

and the Holy Spirit too will come to dwell with Jesus’ Church and abide in His disciples:

The Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My name—He will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.   (John 14:26)

The Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him. But you know Him, because He remains with you, and will be in you. (John 14:17)

In that way the disciples will see Jesus: through loving obedience to His truth they will experience Him in both their Church and their personal lives; He will not, however. force Himself upon those who do not obey Him.    At the final judgement He will be seen by all -- holy and glorious – and the sight of Him will condemn His enemies; but until such time they will remain free to continue crying out, ‘There is no God, no Saviour, no risen Christ’ … but by doing so they prove only one thing, that the light of their life is profoundly and tragically dark.

For the disciples, on the other hand, that presence of the Holy Trinity in their lives, their hearts and minds, brings the supreme gift of PEACE:

            Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.

And that peace of Jesus is most supremely desirable because it is established on sublime love, THE LOVE THAT ENABLED JESUS TO WALK TOWARDS THE HORROR OF ROMAN CRUCIFIXION WITH TOTAL, UNSHAKEABLE, PEACE:

The ruler of the world is coming.  He has no power over Me, but the world must know that I LOVE the Father, and that I do just as the Father has commanded Me (John 14:31);

that is, to embrace crucifixion by the Romans and thus free mankind from the dominion of sin, and to rise again in the power of the Spirit and offer life-eternal with and in Myself to all my brothers and sisters, men and women of good-will.

For the People of Israel, it was the King’s prerogative and duty – as representative of God’s kingly power over His People – to win, achieve, bring about, worldly peace and security for the people; as we know from the words of a true Israelite father teaching his son, the future John the Baptist (Lk. 1:68–75):

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for He has visited His people and redeemed them.  He has raised up for us a mighty saviour in the house of David His servant, as He promised by the lips of holy men, those who were His prophets from of old.  A Saviour Who would free us from our foes, from the hands of all who hate us.  So His love for our fathers is fulfilled and His holy covenant remembered. He swore to Abraham our father to grant us that, free from fear, and saved from the hands of our foes, we might serve Him in holiness and justice all the days of our life in His presence.            

God alone could bestow true peace on His faithful People as a prelude to the ultimate peace of heaven; for God is, according to St. Paul (1 Corinthians 14:33):

            The God of peace.

For that reason, His covenant with Israel throughout the ages from Moses’ time had been a ‘covenant of peace’, as the great prophet Isaiah (54:10) explained:

Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you nor My covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, Who has mercy on you.

Now we know that Jesus quoted Isaiah’s very words found only three verses further on (54:13), so we can be absolutely sure that Jesus Himself read that promise of God’s unfailing love I have just quoted, and most surely realized that He Himself had been sent by His Father to be God’s ultimate Covenant of Peace with Israel and mankind: no longer a written document and remembered words though most highly treasured, but His beloved and only-begotten Son in His very own Person on the Cross of Calvary dying and subsequently rising for love of us.

Therefore, we see Jesus assuming His Messianic dignity, His divine power and authority, when He deliberately takes upon Himself to give what He declares only God can give:

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27);

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (NLT)

How supremely important is this love and this peace!!  Awareness of the fact that Jesus died for the freedom and salvation of all mankind and therefore for Paul personally, transfigured St. Paul’s life, and he responded with like love for Jesus and His church, absolutely certain – in the midst of his own plenitude of sufferings for the name of Jesus --  that the whole Church of Jesus is called to peace (cf. Ephesians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 7:15; Ephesians 2:14):

God has called us to peace in Christ, Who (Himself) is our Peace.     

And as disciples of Christ it is our duty and calling to spread that peace to all who are worthy of it (Luke 10:3–5):

Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.  Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’

Dear People of God, this is no subject to labour; Catholicism, authentic Christianity, is a response of love, calling ultimately for total commitment to the One, True, God Who wills to offer us a share in the blessedness of heaven in His most beloved, only-begotten Son, made Man for us.

As disciples of Christ it is our duty to spread this peace to all who are worthy of it, for Christ gave the disciples He originally sent to the Jewish people, that express duty (Luke 10:3–6):

I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’  If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you

God be with you, dear People of God, when you leave this house today to serve Jesus in a world where peace is so greatly needed but so little known.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

5th Sunday of Easter Year C 2019

5th. Sunday of Easter (C)
(Acts 14:21-27; Rev. 21:1-5; John 13:31-35)

The subject of our readings this week is summed up in the following words you heard from the book of Revelation:

He Who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things   new.”

How is God making everything new?   Beginning with Jesus Himself.

At the Last Supper, after Judas had left the room, Jesus, knowing that the sequence of events leading to His crucifixion had just been set in motion, said:

Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him

Jesus understood well enough what would await Him once the Romans were manoeuvred into putting Him to death: the pain, the agony, of that experience would be hard to endure even for the Son of Man.  And so He went on:

If God is glorified in Him God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.

That is, the Son of Man, having triumphed over His sufferings and glorified God on the Cross, would be raised from the dead and would once more assume His rightful place as Son at the right hand of His Father in glory.  For this, His human nature -- abidingly and uniquely His -- would be totally transfigured: having formerly befitted the humble figure of Jesus of Nazareth, it would now become a truly glorious Temple for the heavenly Son of God, made Man.

God's work of making all things new began in that way with Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God.

The Son shared with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the original creation when God made all things in the Son by the Spirit; that is why -- now that all things are being made new -- Jesus, raised by the Father in the power of the Spirit, appeared as Risen Lord to the Apostles and breathed His Spirit on them, locked as they were in the upper Room for fear of the Jews.   His breathing upon them was precisely the sign of a new creation being made; for just as God had breathed on the original creation to give it life:

The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7),

so now Jesus, appearing in the midst of His disciples and after having shown them the wounds in His hands and His side, said to them:

Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”   (John 20:19-22)

God is making all things new.  Jesus, the Risen Lord, shares in this work by breathing His most Holy Spirit on the Apostles, thereby making them a new creation where sin – conquered by the Lord of Life rising from the tomb -- is cast out of them by the cleansing and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.  A new creation indeed: Mother Church, the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

However, that work needs to develop and spread so as to be able to embrace the whole of mankind, because, as we heard in the first reading:

            God has (now) opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

And so, In the book of Revelation we heard the seer declare:

I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.   Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

That is how the new creation appeared to the seer in the book of Revelation, like a bride, beautifully dressed, prepared and preparing, for the coming of her husband.  The husband for whom the beautiful bride is prepared and preparing is the Son of Man Who will return in heavenly glory to usher in, on earth, God's ultimate kingdom, where sin and suffering will be totally obliterated; that beautiful bride is Mother Church in her perfection.   She is the beautiful bride preparing herself by gathering together, nourishing and forming, all those called to Jesus by the Father; and she forms them in Jesus by her teaching, her sacraments, her fellowship and, above all, by her gift of the Spirit; and thus God's work of making all things new continues even now, in us and in our world of today.   Her sacraments have been instituted by Jesus; her teaching is her remembrance of Jesus and is guaranteed as such by the Spirit; but her life and fellowship depends very much on all of us, her children on earth, walking faithfully and humbly under the guidance and power of the Spirit along the ways of Jesus towards the Father.  God the Father began the work by raising the Son of Man from the dead.  The Risen Lord, the Son, from His seat at the right hand of His Father in heavenly glory, furthers the development of that new creation by endowing His disciples, His Church, with His Gift of the Holy Spirit; and Mother Church in His Name, has continued that work of Jesus for some 2000 years, as she still does now, in and through us, as we proclaim Jesus by our endeavours to live in all things according to her proclamation of  His Good News, and the leading of His Gift, the Holy Spirit.

Jesus willed to help us in this by giving us a new commandment, one that is new not because it is novel, but because it sums up all that He had taught us:

I give you a new commandment: love one another.

Notice just how we are to love one another if you would learn why we are to love one another:

            As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loved us, and He does this in order that His love, His divine love, might be present in the world, in the Church, today.  Notice that, People of God, it is not just human love – a love which is too often nothing more than emotion, or what is much worse, sentimentality – but Jesus’ love, a divine and saving love, that we are called to show one another; and we can learn of that love because Jesus Himself told His Father how He had loved us whilst He was among us when He said:

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and the glory which You gave Me I have given them (that glory is the gift of the Holy Spirit). (John 17:6-7, 12, 22)

Notice, dear People of God, there is no mention of emotional affection.  Because He was truly and fully human Jesus did indeed have such love: for example, He wept at the death of Lazarus, and He wept over the fate of Jerusalem.  Nevertheless, the truest love He showed us was not emotional and most certainly not sentimental: His deepest and truest love, was shown by His revealing the Father to us; by giving His Church the words He Himself had received from the Father; by freeing His disciples from the power of sin, and endowing them with the gift of the Holy Spirit that they might become their true selves in Jesus, and for God become their Father.  That is divine, holy, love; and that is the way we too should try to love one another.  Earthly, emotional love can be good, but it is merely human, it is not enough; because we are called to a higher and divine way of living, humanity needs to exercise a saving, salvation, love -- which used to be called charity – and which alone can fit us for the new creation.  

Notice, People of God, who it is that loves us in that way best of all: Mother Church.  She reveals to us the Father and gives us God's word; she warns us of evil threatening us, though she is so often reviled for doing so; and she alone bestows upon us the gift of God's Holy Spirit.  She it is who loves us best, after Jesus, and that is why we call her Mother Church. 

And so, loving one another in such a way -- which neither disregards or denies our human love but rather sublimates it -- the work of Jesus is able to continue effective among us, His New Creation, even though He has gone away.  He enables us to love in that, His way, through His Eucharistic Presence whereby He continually refreshes us by the constant renewal of His Holy Spirit's presence, promise, and power in our lives:

The Holy City, the new Jerusalem prepares (herself) as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband.

Such preparation is not always easy; indeed, recognizing, resisting, and driving out the devil is very hard work at times: that is why Paul and Barnabas, as we were told in the first reading, went about strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith, with the words:

            We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of  God.

While not an easy task, however, it is always a glorious and supremely fulfilling calling to share in this divine work.  Let us, therefore, strive hard to walk in the way of Jesus as children of Mother Church and let us look forward with ever more joyful and confident hope for the glory that will be ours when God's Kingdom is finally ushered in at the return of the glorious Son of Man; for, in that heavenly Kingdom, we will shine as the children of the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit, as the prophet Isaiah foretold:

You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.   (62:3)                           


Friday, 10 May 2019

4th Sunday of Easter Year C 2019

    4th Sunday of Eastertide (C)
                                      (Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rev. 7:9, 14-17; John 10:27-30)

After Jesus had risen from the dead and poured out His Most Holy Spirit upon His disciples, there were men and women to be found -- even here on earth -- already participating in the eternal life of heaven; and our readings today celebrate that gift of eternal life which even now begins to take hold of, and shape the lives of Jesus' true disciples.  From the book of Revelation we heard:

I John had a vision of a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches.

That puzzled John the seer, and he was told:

These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 

That was in accordance with Jesus' own words to Nicodemus:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

Multiform cleansing is one of the main purposes to which we dedicate our use of water.  Those, however, who come out of the great tribulation of which the seer speaks, have washed their robes with the only cleansing agent able to wash away the stains of human sin, that is, the Blood of the Lamb; for it is that Precious Blood, poured out for us, which alone gives the power for supernatural cleansing to the baptismal waters of the Church.  As Jesus said:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

People of God: it is a fact of Catholic spiritual awareness that the sacraments of Mother Church are to be regarded as the fruit of the outpouring of Jesus' Blood, and that such a precious outpouring should never be rendered vain by thoughtless irreverence, let alone by downright disdain.  Today, however, far too many parents, with only tenuous catholic connections, think they will have their child baptized merely to satisfy their own parents, or, perhaps, to gratify their own pseudo-conscience ("I would like to have my kids done … then I will feel I have done my best for them"), without having any real intention of bringing up their child in the ways of Jesus according to Mother Church's teaching.  They understand baptism only as ceremonial, where mere water is poured over the child's head, whilst a few words are said, and then all is over and done with.  They have little or no reverence for the sacrament; no awareness that the water poured out is holy water; water empowered by the shedding of Jesus' blood, water which -- as the seer tells us -- enables those dedicated to Jesus to: 

Wash their (souls) and make them spotless in the blood of the Lamb. 

Such water, and indeed the grace of all the other sacraments, can only be used, poured out, or received, in Spirit and in Truth; that is, in a sincere love of and reverence for Christ in His Church, showing itself as a desire both to obey His teaching and to follow the guidance of His Spirit.

But let us leave the behaviour of doubtful Catholics behind this Eastertide; let us now look forward and upward that we may hopefully come to better appreciate and fulfil our calling as disciples of the risen Christ; let us try to learn more about this new life He has won for us and so become more adept at living it by delighting in God and serving our neighbour.

They stand before God’s throne and worship Him day and night in His temple.  The One Who sits on the throne will shelter them.

The Lamb Who is in the centre of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.   And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. 

Those before the throne of God serve Him day and night in His Temple; that is, they delight in Him, praise, worship, and glorify Him with whole-hearted commitment and joy.

To understand something of this, just think, my dear people, of a spontaneous "Oh!" and outburst of clapping or, something far more astounding, an almost imperceptible, common, intake of breath followed by a deep silence of hovering life, which can take place when some gathering of people is astonished by the sheer beauty, majesty, power, wisdom or skill, of someone or something heard or seen.  Now those who are before the throne of God catch glimpses of His infinite beauty, wisdom, and holiness; His awesome majesty and power; His unimaginable goodness and humility: they see God.  And because God is infinite, just as when travelling by car through some country or woodland guided only by the stars above and the full beam of your car's headlamps, you catch ever- fresh glimpses of beautiful trees, flowers, streams, cottages, lit up by your  headlights and all following one another in continuous flow as you go on your journey through the night, so it is for those before the throne of God: those thus blessed can never weary of praising and delighting in Him, because He is endlessly new and totally beautiful, admirable, and good; He fills to overflowing each and every human desire and capacity for joy and fulfilment.

He Who sits on the throne, we are told, will spread His tent over the blessed; they will never have anything to fear for their treasure and well-being is secure, nor can their love ever be dimmed or threatened; eternal peace and security overarch -- so to speak -- and protect the fullness of their sublime blessings.

The Lamb at the centre of the throne will be Shepherd of those He has brought into the Father’s presence and He will lead them to springs of living water: yes, Jesus, Our Lord, will be there -- with us and for us -- as Our Shepherd, our Leader, our Glory; and He will lead us along the heavenly paths of eternal life, so that, with Him, all that is truly human in us, far from being smothered or denied, will be glorified as He, our Lord and our Brother, is most fully and beautifully glorified in His sacred humanity.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Who can fittingly speak of the intimacy and tenderness of God the Father's relationship with each and every one of His children redeemed by the blood of His Only Begotten and most Beloved Son?  All lingering hurts and humiliations, all accumulated anxieties and fears, will be gently wiped away by the all-knowing, fully-understanding, and ever-watchful, love of our Father in heaven.

That is some slight idea, and I hope, some glad anticipation, of the life of heaven.  Now, that life -- Mother Church teaches -- begins here on earth for Jesus' true disciples, but its heavenly fulfilment can only be attained by those who have passed through tribulations of varying degrees chosen by God in His Fatherly goodness to cement their union with Jesus in sincerity, depth, and trust.

These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

What are these tribulations?  Let us recall our second reading:

On the following Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.  When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. 

Today, many who are turned from God and seeking worldly power and fulfilment, behave like the jealous Jews of Paul's time: they reject the Gospel themselves and seek to prevent others hearing and obeying it.  The young are – by social and peer pressures -- challenged to try out, indulge in, sex and drugs, urged to be seen to have and to enjoy as much of the world as everyone one else.  Others have friends or acquaintances who, not trusting God themselves, constantly incite them to worry about the past, present, and what might imaginably happen in the future, especially with concerns about money, health, or others’ opinion of them.  For young Christians these are modern equivalents to the persecutions endured by Paul and the early Church; less violent trials indeed, but more insidious temptations awaiting those still immature in the love and discipline of the Lord.

The Gentiles were delighted, and glorified the word of the Lord (proclaimed to them).   All who were destined for eternal life came to believe.

There are many Catholics who had once been gladdened to hear the word of God and experience the grace of God in their lives before such trials and temptations sullied the purity, peace, and joy, of their faith:

The Jews incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory.

Many, when friends and family oppose them – like those devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city – allow themselves to fall by the wayside.  They may not always fall away from Church, but certainly, joy in Jesus no longer fills their heart; and like their longing, so too their searching, for Him dries up; they settle for life on earth and no longer think of, or aspire to, that heavenly life which, after its beginning in baptism, should develop through a life of discipleship and reception of the sacraments, into its full flowering in heaven.

My sheep hear My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, they shall never perish; no one can take them out of My hand. 

Dear People of God, you have been called into Jesus' flock; listen, then, to His voice, trust Him and follow Him alone.  Do not yield to siren voices whose worldly attitudes and aspirations only serve to stir up tensions and antagonisms, worries and anxieties, in your hearts and lives.  In Jesus alone are true joy and peace, true fulfilment and strength, to be found.  Keep close to Him and you will never perish, for none can snatch you from Jesus' hand, from His sure and loving care; follow closely in His traces and He will lead you to eternal life, for such was the commission given Him by His Father, and to do His Father’s will most perfectly He lived, died, and rose again.   

Friday, 3 May 2019

Third Sunday of Easter Year C 2019

3rd Sunday of Eastertide (C)
(Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; Rev. 5:11-14; John 21:1-19)

These Eastertide appearances gave great joy to the Apostles and disciples of Jesus and so they have continued to rejoice Christian souls throughout the ages even to this very day, when, in our Gospel reading we heard of the Apostles on Lake Tiberias/Galilee, busily fishing all night without success, and then catching sight of the Risen Lord walking on the shore line and guiding them to make a remarkable catch of fish.  Thereupon, He invited them to share with Him a meal He had already prepared:

As soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread,

and Jesus was urging them to:

            Bring some of the fish you have just caught.

You will recall that, at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had promised His Apostles that He would make them into fishers of men: here, they are being taught the very nature and dignity of that mission and ministry to which He was calling them.

They were to be co-operators with Jesus, as shown by the great catch of fish they -- at His prompting -- had just caught and brought ashore to join the fish Jesus already had cooking for them.  Subsequently, they would indeed bring large numbers of men to Jesus to receive the salvation that only He can give … as signified by the fact that only He had brought bread, not merely in remembrance of the manna given by God to sustain Israel in her desert wanderings, but the true bread from heaven that Jesus’ own Father would give, the only real bread of eternal salvation.   Indeed, their future Apostolic ministry would not only make them chosen co-operators in the world-wide work of Jesus, but such oneness with their Lord would also be for their own supremely personal fulfilment and joy while serving as the crowning testimony to and authorization of their unique witness to Him in His nascent Church:

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.  Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are His witnesses to these things (Acts 5:30-32); witnesses chosen by God … who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead (Acts 10:41).

Jesus’ food had always been to do His Father’s will, as He Himself said, and now the Apostles of His choosing would learn to follow their Lord by themselves seeking to do the will of Jesus in building up His Church on earth.

In view of what was about to happen here on the shore of Galilee, Jesus had food ready: He had prepared a meal He willed to share with the Apostles to show them that, as His specially chosen disciples -- chosen to co-operate with Him and share His mission -- they would need to share in His strength, and indeed, ultimately, to share in His Spirit in order to able to fulfil the mission He was entrusting to them.

Let us, therefore, have a closer look at how those Apostles actually carried out the mission given them by Jesus; let us see them furthering -- in the power of His Spirit -- His Church towards its world-wide fulfilment.

Notice first of all, People of God, that the Apostolic proclamation was not a message about themselves, saying: "Come and join us; see how much we love Jesus and share the joy we find in serving Him".  Indeed, the Apostolic proclamation was not, first of all, even a message about Jesus' love for us: "Come to Jesus, Jesus loves you!"   The first, the most important, the absolutely essential content of the Apostles' preaching was what God, the Father, had done with, in, and for Jesus:

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus Whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.   Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour.

And why, did the Apostles say, God had done this for Jesus, done this in and through, Jesus? 

To give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

God exalted Jesus ‘to give repentance to Israel’, and then, after such repentance has been acknowledge and embraced, ‘to give forgiveness of sins’.  Consequently, the first aim of the Apostolic proclamation of the Gospel and its ultimate purpose was to proclaim, above all, the glory of God ‘Who raised up Jesus’, while declaring the indisputable fact of human sinfulness shown in all its horror by the crucifixion of the Son of God and Lord of Life; then, by highlighting the forgiveness of sins, to once again take up the paean of praise for the fact that in Jesus we are no longer subject to the power of sin,  we are now FREE to henceforth live, love, and work with Jesus, by His Spirit, for the glory His and our Father and for the salvation and better-being of our and His brethren here on earth; in all things we are called to fight with Him, by His Spirit, against the devil and our former sinfulness, knowing that we can overcome such trials and learn to love and live by the Cross of Life.

We are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.

No matter what violence was threatened or used against them:

The Apostles day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. 

Such, People of God, was the way the Apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit of Holiness and Truth given them by Jesus, preached the Good News.  That was how Peter, restored and confirmed as the Prince of Apostles, carried out the commission given him when Jesus said:

            Feed My lambs; take care of, feed, My sheep.

Notice too, this time from our second reading, that, in heaven -- as seen by John whilst banished to the isle of Patmos -- the song is the same as the Apostles' proclamation, namely, a song, a celebration, of Jesus as the slain Lamb, raised and glorified by God:

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!"

Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing! 

  And why?

For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9-10)

People of God, notice, LEARN, and take courage.  The Catholic Church proclaims truth, God's truth, to the whole world.  She does not say, "Look at us Catholics: how holy we are, how happy we are.  Come and join us, become holy like us, share in our happiness".  No!  Mother Church has a message for all who are aware of sin in their lives and who long to be freed from their bondage to sin; and to them her message is: "This is what God has done for Jesus and what He wants to do for all who will believe in Him: believe the Gospel,  confess your sins, embrace the new life of baptism, and open -- Oh yes open! -- your mind and heart to the Holy Spirit Whom God is offering to you and all mankind in Jesus.”

Of course, Mother Church can point to many signs that help to confirm her message: her own enduring of hatred and oppression throughout the ages; the holiness of so many of her children's lives; the wonderful way in which her truth understands, answers, transforms and fulfils, our human condition; the miracles which have, throughout the ages, transfigured the envelope of humble creation.

However, since all these are dependent on and secondary to the fundamental message contained in Mother Church’s Apostolic proclamation of the glory of God and the salvation to be found in Jesus through repentance and faith, we, children of Mother Church and disciples of the Risen Lord Jesus, should never, ever, be ashamed or embarrassed, to proclaim the Apostolic, Catholic, truth about Jesus.  Let no one disturb, or frighten you with words such as, "Look at you!"  or, "Who are you to talk?"; for when we proclaim Jesus as Saviour we are acknowledging ourselves as sinners: we should be better, we want to be better, we will seek and strive to be better, but we will never be found among those who proclaim themselves, rather than Jesus.   Jesus came to call sinners, and that is precisely why we hope in Him, because He came to call and to save us and all other sinners.  His message, the proclamation of Mother Church, is not for those who deny the reality of sin for, until they become aware of the sin which is corroding their own lives, society, and indeed the world around us, and until they conceive a fear of the consequences of and punishment awaiting, sin, then they are, and will remain, deaf both to the saving truth proclaimed by Mother Church and the call of Jesus to eternal life.

People of God, join in the heavenly choir; join, in all sincerity, your voice to theirs as they cry with a loud voice:

Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing! 

For, by so joining your voice to that of the heavenly throng, the final words of the prophet will be brought closer to their eternal fulfilment:

I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: “To the One Who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour, glory and might, forever and ever.”