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.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Saints Peter And Paul 2019

         SS. Peter & Paul                       (Acts 12:1-11; 2nd. Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18; Matthew 16:13-19)

My dear People of God, we are invited today to give thanks to God for the gift of the Faith with which we have been blessed; to thank Our Blessed Lord for establishing His Church on the abiding foundation Rock of His Good News proclaimed by Peter and Paul and the Apostolic College; and finally to express our gratitude for the personal witness given by both Peter and Paul in Rome.

In the infant Church there were certain people who claimed to have knowledge of some teachings of Jesus hidden from the general body of disciples, teachings which only those could learn who had been specially initiated by rituals of a secret nature.   For such people, the faith of the simple Christian was only the beginning; the first step indeed, but not, of itself, enough for a deeper understanding of and closer union with God. 

All those who fought the very idea of such secret doctrines did so stating that:

The authentic Christian teaching is for all Christians and is to be found by all in the Holy Scriptures;

The faith taught publicly by Mother Church is guaranteed by the fact that it is the traditional Church teaching originating with the Apostles and handed on through the unbroken line of their successors.  

In that way it was made clear that the fullness of the authentic teaching of Jesus is open and available to all in His Christian and Catholic Church.

You must remember that in the early centuries of the Church there were no printed books; what books there were had to be copied by hand and were very expensive to buy.  Moreover, there were few roads, and the best of them could only facilitate transport by horse and wheeled carriage; transport by sea was very slow due to ships having to wait for favourable winds and tides; and, of course, such modes of transport were open to attack by robbers or pirates.   All this meant that the church in each city or town generally preached what it had received at the beginning of its establishment from the wandering teachers who first came and proclaimed Christ to them and baptised them in His name.   Those itinerant teachers were accepted as disciples of Jesus; but those with the greatest authority were, of course, the twelve Apostles.   Churches founded personally by an Apostle, or those where an Apostle had been active, were specially respected;  above all, however, those whose Apostle had not only worked among them but was buried in their midst, perhaps in a tomb open to veneration, such churches were shown the greatest respect, and their tradition of faith was recognized as being most sure.  Examples of these could be found, for example, at Antioch in Syria, at Philippi, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica.

Nevertheless, even among these “super” churches with “surer” faith because of the founding and/or originating apostolic presence and witness, even among these, there was one which stood head and shoulders above all others, and that was the Church at Rome, where both Peter -- the Rock on which Jesus had said He would build His Church -- and Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles P/personally chosen by the glorified Jesus, had both worked and, indeed, suffered martyrdom for their unflinching witness to the truth of Jesus.   If any Church could remain free from heresy, if any Church could preserve the teaching of Jesus in its purest integrity, it had to be the Church at Rome.  Moreover, all wanting to know the fulness of Jesus’ authentic teaching would find it proclaimed more fully and surely in the apostolic churches, and above all, again, in the Church of Rome, the treasurer and custodian of the unique legacies of both Peter and Paul.  That true faith in Jesus and His teaching was known as the Christian faith, and that faith was intended by Jesus to be proclaimed to all peoples and churches throughout the known world, beginning with Paul the ‘Doctor of the Nations’.

That is why the ‘Christian Faith’ also came to be called the ‘Catholic – which means ‘universal’ – Faith’, because all churches were called and aspired to teach the doctrine of the apostolic churches, above all the doctrine proclaimed by Peter and Paul – Christian and Catholic -- at Rome.  The Catholic Church, one and potentially universal, was present in churches to be found in cities, towns, and village communities, throughout the known world; proclaiming one Christian and Catholic faith received from Paul and his fellow apostolic Evangelists, sealed and confirmed by the witness and authority of Peter’s original proclamation of faith in Jesus, the  Son of the living God.

Let me just give you the words of some of the earliest fathers and writers in the universal Church concerning the church at Rome.  First of all, the words of St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in France who was writing about the year 185 and whose memory we celebrated just a few days ago:

We do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.   (Adv. Haereses III, 3,2.)

There are so very many witnesses to the unique position of Rome in the early Church!  Were there disputes about the Faith?  Rome was asked to decide.  Was anyone being persecuted for upholding Catholic truth?  Such a person would go to Rome seeking sanctuary and support.  Were innovators seducing the faithful?  The example of Rome was invoked and her help sought, because she was known never to have been deceived by innovations detrimental to the traditions she had received from Peter and Paul.

Peter and Paul: Christian and Catholic!!  Mother Church was established by Jesus on the Rock of Peter’s proclamation of faith in Jesus the Son of God; and Paul was chosen and commissioned by the Risen Jesus to proclaim that ‘Rock-truth’ throughout the world and to all peoples!   Mother Church: Christian and Catholic for all peoples from the very beginning … none excluded and none excused!!

‘None excused’ … I say that because of a most modern misuse of Jesus’ truth in our world today.  For many former Catholics and Christians now rejoicing in a secular society and rejecting  those titles of glory and hope … claim to be in the business (so to speak) of creating a better and more fulfilling world experience for people generally, and they seek to do this by borrowing from the French Revolution ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ luminaries … proclaiming a likeness to what a modern biographer of Robespierre has termed  his ‘Fatal Purity’, uniquely able to separate and destroy even the closest of former friends and associates.   That ‘fatal purity’ of modern ‘doctrines of life’ and their effect on humanity and its social nature is being manifested again in our days.  Modern lapsed Catholics and Christians and others rejecting Christianity out of hand nevertheless borrow heavily from Jesus’ teaching and aims… brotherly love, man and woman’s mutual relationship, the nature and purpose of sexuality … … in all these essential aspects of Christian and human life they try to adopt and adapt to their own agenda Jesus’ teaching, and as a result we have ever-increasing abortions, suicides, and mercy-killings, all of which are examples arising from modern ideas about and practice of, LOVE!!  Our modern evangelists -- politicians and activists to the core -- strive to sound, appear, and show themselves as good and compassionate people, and their use of words well known from Jesus’ teaching helps them to sell the essential aspect of their doctrine that now no one is excluded from the ‘good things’ they offer, but the closeness of their teaching with that of Jesus is a sham because they themselves want exclusions to be available from the fulness of that teaching because they  are absolutely against any God, even so lovable a God-man as Jesus, having any authority over them in their own very personal and private lives.

Dear Catholics and Christians, in our present world of change and uncertainty, where the Faith is often denied and Tradition derided, we should be both grateful for, and proud of, the blessings we have received: the supreme blessing and gift being that of the one, true, Faith guaranteed by Peter and proclaimed by Paul; the inviolate Faith, Christian and Catholic, preserved and revealed in  the one Church of Christ through the power of the Spirit of Holiness and Truth bequeathed to her by her Lord and Saviour.  And for so great a blessing each and every one of us should, on this feast above all, give heartfelt thanks to God our loving Father and offer most sincere prayers for Mother Church that she might continue to further the fulfilment of the work Jesus originally committed into her charge.  The world may criticize and even persecute Mother Church, but we, her children, must remember that Jesus is always with her as He promised; and that, just as He committed His mother Mary to John the Apostle's care, so also, today, He commits Mother Church to our confident care and loving solicitude:

Jesus said to His disciples, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.  The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Matt 9: 18-20.,37-10:1)          



Friday, 21 June 2019

Corpus Christi Year C 2019


 Corpus Christi (C)
(Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26; Luke 9:11-17)

In our first reading from the book of Genesis we heard of Melchizedek, a priest-king of Jerusalem, who, later on in Israel's history, would be described (Ps.110) as the eternal priest of Yahweh.  This great figure, King of Righteousness (as his name declares), priest of Yahweh God Most High, meets Abram and his men as they are returning victorious from battle with Chedorlaomer, the former overlord of the land.  Abram and his 300 strong force of warriors are exhausted after the battle, and Melchizedek comes with bread and wine to refresh them.
Let us just stop here and wonder at the wisdom of our God!  This picture of Melchizedek -- based on ancient traditions going back hundreds of years if not a thousand and more, and then taken up again in Psalm 110 about 400 years before Jesus -- presents us with a King of Righteousness, a priest of God Most High, who comes with bread and wine to meet the battle weary Abraham and his men.  Since Abraham is our father in faith, as St. Paul tells us and as we say in the canon of the Mass, who cannot see that here Melchizedek foreshadows Jesus?  Jesus it is Who comes to meet us, children of Abraham, wearied and wounded in our battle not only with flesh and blood but, much more importantly, with the baleful power of sin in the world; Jesus it is Who comes offering bread and wine which has become His own Body and Blood, the only food fit for the spiritual refreshment and eternal nourishment of all, who, like Abraham, our father in faith, are following God's call to a new and heavenly homeland.
People of God, here we can glimpse something of God’s astounding wisdom and beauty, enough surely to encourage us to whole-heartedly trust Him and joyfully praise His most holy Name!
Next, we are told that:
Melchizedek blessed Abram, with these words: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.  And blessed be God Most High, Who delivered your enemies into your hand".
With those words we have some indication of the nature and purpose of our Eucharist; and we are helped in such appreciation by taking note of the difference between Jesus’ fulfilment of what Melchizedek had only been able to foreshadow.  Melchizedek was, we are told, a priest of God most High; a very mysterious figure indeed, but one who could not fail to do what all priests of ancient times were appointed and expected to do: bring God’s blessing down upon mankind in need.  Such priests were also meant to be channels for gifts of praise and sacrifice from men to ascend to and be acceptable to God.
When the time of fulfilment came, none could have imagined that the ultimate Priest of God most High would be His very own Son-made-man, with the result that whereas Melchizedek was a merely functional link between God and man, Jesus, on the other hand, is a sublimely Personal link uniting God and man in Himself; and the reciprocal love between Jesus and His Father will always, and in everything, be the originating source and definitive model and fulfilment for every other blessing. 
God’s blessing mediated through Melchizedek:
Blessed be God Most High Who delivered your foes into your hand, 
was a singular blessing for the overthrow of one man’s earthly foes; it would, however, become a universal paeon of praise when mediated through Jesus for the overcoming of Satan’s baleful power of sin and death over all mankind:
            Glory to God in the Highest and peace to His people on earth.
Such is, People of God, Jesus' ultimate purpose present in the Holy Eucharist He has bequeathed us: first, to give glory to His Father and then, to bestow a blessing: peace with God and -- through His Spirit – salvation for His true disciples and all those of good will.
Let us now look more lovingly at the intimate details of Jesus’ giving glory to God His Father and peace to His faithful on earth.
First of all, we must recognize that Jesus alone can glorify His Father; we His disciples can only give glory to God in union with Jesus: by our offering – through the priest celebrating Mass – Jesus Himself in the Eucharist to His Father, and ourselves united with Jesus by our most sincere devotion of mind and heart.  At the priest’s elevation of the Sacred Host he holds up to the Father the Son Who – knowing the Father as He Himself was known and loved by His Father – sacrificed Himself for the  sheep: total sacrifice of Self for love of the Father Whose will He, the Son, knew and willed whole-heartedly to do in all things:
I am the good shepherd; just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I will lay down My life for the sheep.   (John 10:14-15)

Peace to His people on earth: this again Jesus alone can give, in the sense that He alone destroyed Satan’s power of sin and death by His own dying sinless on the Cross and rising bodily from the tomb.  When the priest elevates the Sacred Blood, he offers first of all to the Father in propitiation for our sins:  Jesus’ love and adoration, Jesus’ praise and thanksgiving, Jesus’ faithfulness, trust, and obedience.   And then we, so to speak, come into it for, since Jesus wills to bestow peace on earth though He Personally  is in heaven at the right hand of His Father, therefore He wills to use us -- His professed disciples and members of His Body – as His very Own members on earth to bring about the fulness of His gift of peace to all of good will.  

And that, dear People of God, we do, above all, by living out the one prayer He gave us, that is by humility, ‘forgive us our sins’ and fraternal charity, ‘as we forgive others’, the only conditional petition in Jesus’ prayer!!

Think of the dreadful mess in our world today, and see how much evil is done for revenge, retaliation, satisfaction … Jesus does not pray for the forgiveness of such people; He acknowledges His Father’s truth and righteousness as well as His goodness and mercy, He proclaims His absolute HOLINESS, Glory, and Beauty:

            Father, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Therefore, as disciples of Jesus, our first duty on receiving Communion is to give praise to God the Father Who, through the death and resurrection of His beloved and only-begotten Son, has freed us from the power of sin and death and bestowed upon us His Gift of the Holy Spirit.
And, to help us achieve Jesus' second purpose for our reception of Holy Communion, let us bear in mind the teaching of St. Paul who tells us:
(God) redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:14)
Notice that teaching of St. Paul, People of God: our reception of the Eucharist only bears fruit on the basis of our faith, Jesus' purpose on earth can only come to its fulfilment, through our faith in Him. 
In His feeding of the Five Thousand Jesus insisted that the Apostles share with Himself in the provision of food for so many:
            ‘Give them some food yourselves’, He said.
He still provides food for His People, and His demand for our contribution still remains in force, and the contribution each of us has to bring to the Eucharistic Table is dependent on our faith in Jesus, a faith not to be simply presumed but one to be repeatedly called to mind, renewed, and deepened in humility and love.
Bearing this teaching in mind, we are now able to see the full pattern of our response to Jesus and our rejoicing in the Eucharist today:
God has redeemed us through Christ Jesus; from Whom, by faith and the Eucharist, we receive His promise of the Spirit Who will guide Mother Church into all truth and form all of us, her children, into a true likeness of Jesus for the glory of His Father and the salvation of men.
First of all, therefore, dear People of God, be always prepared and ready to give thanks, glory, praise and honour, to our heavenly Father.  Then, renew your faith in His goodness, power and promise to us in Jesus.  Finally, welcome the Spirit Whom Jesus bestows; for Jesus' own Eucharistic Presence with us passes quickly.  He comes, however, to bestow the Spirit Who wills to abide with us in all the circumstances of life: welcome Both, therefore, open your heart to both Jesus and His Gift, and pray that the Spirit may abide in you and rule in your life so that you may be formed in the likeness of Jesus for the glory of the Father in heaven.
Finally, never forget Mother Church.    As we heard in the Gospel reading:
(Jesus) gave (what He had blessed) to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied.
It is still the same today: we are satisfied with heavenly food at the table set up by Mother Church.  The food is, indeed, from Jesus, but It is given and presented to us, as Jesus willed and established, through the priests of the Church.  Jesus has promised that He will never forget His Church; and so, although children here on earth do easily and all too frequently forget to give thanks to those who are nearest and should be dearest to them, we who, as children of Mother Church are disciples of Jesus, we who aspire to become true children of God, must never fail to thank God for Mother Church, and to ask His continued blessing on her whenever we receive God’s food from her table at her Eucharistic sacrifice.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

The Holy Trinity Year C 2019

The Holy Trinity (C)

(Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15)


Our first reading makes clear one most beautiful aspect of our relationship with God: the fact that the wisdom of God is not alien to us; in fact, it is delightful for us to learn of and learn from it, and thereby to appreciate and understand ever more of God’s great beauty and goodness manifested in all His works and to be experienced in all His dealings with us:

Thus says the wisdom of God: ‘The Lord possessed me … the forerunner of His prodigies of long ago, at the first, before the earth.  When the Lord established the heavens I was there … beside Him as His craftsman.  I was His delight day by day, playing on the surface of His earth, and I found delight in the human race.’

There, Wisdom brings about the closest union between God and man, in that God delights in His Wisdom, and His Wisdom delights in us;  and now if we turn to St. John’s Gospel in the New Testament we learn that:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  

Oh, the wonder of God!  The Book of Proverbs, written at least 600 years before Jesus is found to be in such profound harmony with the Gospel of St. John whose words open up for us the marvellous beauty of the wisdom hidden in those Proverbs written to prepare God’s People for the coming of Jesus, so far in advance, so long ago!

But that is not all, far from it!  Jesus in today’s Gospel reading assures us:

The Spirit of Truth will guide you into all truth.  He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.  Everything the Father has is Mine.

It is indeed, as I have just said, delightful for us to learn of and learn from, to appreciate and  understand, the wisdom of God manifested in all His works for us and in all His dealings with us; but it is yet more delightful, indeed sublime, for us to be able to even share in – according to our natural capacity and personal measure – the very life and love that flows between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for:

The Spirit of Truth will guide you to all truth.

He will guide us into all the truth that is Jesus’ about His Father and all the truth that is the Father’s about His Son; the Spirit will guide us into all truth, truth that enlightens and truth that inflames, truth that guides and truth that comforts; and in all the stages of our growth and spiritual development the Father will be our Goal, Jesus our Inspiration and Companion, the Spirit our Strength, our Hope, and our Guide .

All this is, I say, delightful for us, because, by our very nature we desire and long for happiness, being invited and encouraged to do so by the beauty of the world around us, created for us as our present home and sustenance, and originally, as a veritable garden of delights for our earliest forebears.  Now, however, without God’s calling us to Himself we – become fallen, sinful, and weak creatures – too easily imitate our forebears and seek for happiness where it cannot be found and should not be sought: in selfishness and pride, greed and lust, of all sorts.

As our first reading showed us, creation was indeed a joyful work of wisdom and love, and there are bonds of deep compatibility and joyous sympathy between ourselves and the rest of creation because God created the whole universe with mankind as its crown through His Wisdom -- God’s craftsman and delight -- and His nurturing and hovering Spirit of love:  Son and Spirit, the Father’s two creating hands!   Such bonds with creation, dear People of God, are not just the indirect result of God’s creative activity, they are directly willed by Him for our well-being and creation’s greater good, for mankind is the channel of God’s presence to creation and also creation’s voice for the praise and glory of its creator:

The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. The Lord God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and He brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. (Genesis 2:15, 19)

Praise the Lord from the heavens, sun and moon, all you stars of light! Praise Him from the earth, mountains, fruitful trees and all cedars, beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl. Let them praise the Lord for He commanded and they were created. (Psalm 148)

Mankind is part of, and open to, the whole of creation as its custodian before God. He is, however, unique in the whole of creation, in that he is made for, and called to, God; to share in God’s own life and blessedness as His true children through faith in Jesus by the power and working of His Spirit:

God created man in His own image; in the divine image He created him, male and female He created them.

Selfishness and pride, greed and lust -- in all and whatever forms -- are directly contrary to man’s well-being.  That is what Our Lord made clear to us when, asked what was the first commandment of all, He answered saying (Matthew 12:29-31):

‘The Lord our God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’

There we can appreciate that love of neighbour is associated with and conducive to love of God, whereas selfishness – be it self-love or self-solicitude – is alien to both. Ultimately love of neighbour becomes one with love of God when Jesus Himself is seen as our neighbour ‘par excellence’.

Dear brothers and sisters, we should indeed rejoice and delight in today’s solemn worship of the most Holy Trinity, because of the glory and beatitude of  Divine Life and Love being gradually revealed and most marvellously offered to us: with the Father as our ultimate Goal, the Word-made-Flesh our Saviour and Inspiration, the Holy Spirit our Comfort and our Guide ... relationships to which we are invited and being gradually initiated into and prepared for here on earth, through our life as disciples and members of Jesus in Mother Church.

We thank the Father for calling us to Jesus first of all; we love and admire Him for the wondrous beauty of His truth: for Jesus spoke what He heard with and received from His Father; while the Spirit speaks not of Himself but calls to our minds all that Jesus taught us; and for His wondrous mercy and grace in Mother Church and in the secret gifts and sometimes quite personal blessings that keep, inspire, and rejoice each us on our way with Jesus.

We look to Jesus with boundless gratitude for revealing the Father to us, for bestowing the Father’s Promise, His own most Holy Spirit, upon Mother Church and endowing her with His own most precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist; for His total love for us in His sacrifice of absolute commitment to His Father’s will; and for the Church He founded -- His Body and our Mother -- which treasures and infallibly hands down to all succeeding generations the inspiration of His words of wisdom and love in her Scriptures, and lovingly pours out His healing and sustaining grace through her Sacraments of His abiding Presence with us.

We look and listen for the Holy Spirit Whom others can neither see nor hear, but Who is constantly opening our eyes and ears to appreciate and embrace the living memory of Jesus Our Lord, His uniquely life- and light-giving teachings, His Eucharistic and sacramental presence with us at all times and in all situations. We humbly await and even tremulously expect Him Whose presence we can never experience with present awareness but Whose condescension and favour we can most gratefully and joyously recall in the secret depths of our hearts, new-born with the life of Jesus for love His and our heavenly Father.       

Friday, 14 June 2019

11th Sunday of Year C 2019

 11th. Sunday, Year C
(2 Samuel 12: 7-10, 13; Galatians 2: 16, 19-21; Luke 7: 36-50.)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our second reading from St. Paul and our Gospel reading from St. Luke today are surprisingly inter-related and most intimately instructive in that relationship; to loosen the binding knot and taste the hidden fruit, let us begin by considering some difficult words from St. Paul in our second reading:

We know that a person is not justified by works of the Law but through faith in Jesus Christ; through the Law I died to the Law that I might live for God.

What does Paul mean when he says, through the Law I died to the Law?  How did he through the Law die to the Law?

Much has been written over many years by scholars of varying persuasions and abilities, and so I cannot pretend to offer a solution to the many difficulties they find in those words; but for all that, I will offer a suggestion that is both relative to the passage and, I trust, helpful for our understanding and appreciation of our Gospel today.

St. Paul was a great lover and proponent of the Law as understood by the Pharisees before he encountered the Risen Lord Jesus in a vision on his way to Damascus to persecute the Church of God out of zeal for the traditions of his ancestors in Judaism (cf. Galatians 1: 13s.).  Paul never lost his love for the Law, but after that encounter with the risen Lord Jesus he came to understand it much better as God’s means of preparing His People for the gift of salvation He intended to offer them in and through His very own Son and their Redeemer, God-made-Man in Jesus born of Mary of Nazareth, and Israel’s long promised and ardently expected Messiah:

If it had not been for the Law, I would not have known sin. We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh ... I do the very thing I hate. ... I delight in the Law of God in my inmost self, with my mind I am a slave to the Law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?   Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! 

We asked how did Paul through the Law die to the Law?  It is clear now that Paul’s knowledge of the Law taught him what was required of him as a convinced Israelite, but  Paul’s deep self-awareness and great insight into our human condition also made it most abundantly clear to him that he himself -- despite his most ardent endeavours -- could not keep the Law in all its fullness and integrity, nor could any of his fellow Pharisees:

All who rely on the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the Law.’ (Galatians 3:10)

All, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written, there is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

(Romans 7: 7, 14- 15, 22, 24-25; and Romans 3: 9-12, 23.)

Why then the Law?  That was the question that forced itself upon his religious mind, and this was the answer he learnt from his experience of and love for the Risen Jesus:

 It was added because of transgressions, until the Offspring (Jesus) would come to whom the promise had been made. The Law was our disciplinarian until Christ came so that we might be justified by faith.  (Galatians 3:19, 24)

As we now turn our minds to the Gospel reading we will see that Simon, the Pharisee, had but a limited measure of Paul’s self-knowledge or commitment to the Law: for example, the proprieties expected when receiving guests had been either ignored or forgotten by Simon when welcoming Jesus; and how easily his solicitude for the reputation of his house caused him to start criticising, in his heart, the young Rabbi whom he had admiringly and respectfully invited to share his table:

If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him!

Of course, it was extremely embarrassing for Simon reclining at table with Jesus, as indeed it must have been for the others sharing his hospitality, when a woman, publicly known for her sins, entered his house – not only uninvited but also most certainly unwelcome – and, standing behind Jesus weeping profusely, began to:

Bathe His feet with her tears, wipe them with her hair, kiss them, and anoint them with ointment.

Nevertheless, how quickly his professed reverence for the one he called ‘Teacher’ evaporated in the face of this threat to his own public standing and self-esteem:  If this man were a prophet!!    Jesus, however, loved Simon and came to his help, forestalling him before he could actually say anything at all:

            He said to him in reply,Simon, I have something to say to you ....’

Simon, as we have said, had little in common with Paul his guest, but the sinful woman resembled Paul so very much in her profound appreciation of, and total self-abandonment to, Jesus.  Paul gave himself to Jesus -- in response to a personal vision and ‘mystical’ encounter with Him as the Risen Lord -- most humbly, lovingly, and unreservedly, on the basis of his profound understanding and appreciation of God’s revelation in the Scriptures entrusted to Israel’s custody for fulfilment: how penetratingly he recognized his need of the redeeming grace of Jesus, his Lord and Saviour!  The woman, most certainly, had encountered and heard Jesus previously, perhaps only once, but possibly a few times, because she came to Him as one loathing herself for love of His Goodness and Truth.

Paul learned his self-distrust from the Scriptures and from his vision of the Risen Lord; the woman embraced her self-loathing, it would seem, simply from encountering and learning from the man, Jesus of Nazareth, as He walked and talked in the course of His public ministry.  In her respect we can fruitfully recall some teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas who used to say that an unlettered peasant could know God better than he himself, know Him intuitively, that is, by the heart; because knowledge of God does not end in, is not fulfilled in, concepts but reality.  A theologian weighed down with concepts, though they be correct, can remain far from the Reality, while an ‘ignorant’ person can reach that Reality better, thanks to the transparency of more humble concepts.


Does not the Psalmist express himself in very similar words?

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.  Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Psalm 51:5-6)

The woman loved the Lord and suffered deeply from the open scorn and contempt she received when she tried to draw near to Him; and Paul’s very vocation as a Christian was to suffer more than any other apostle for his love of the Lord:

The Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring My name before Gentiles and kings and before the People of Israel; I Myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name.  (Acts 9: 15s.)

For both of them Faith was the crown of their relationship with Jesus, as St. Paul said:

Insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who has loved me and given Himself up for me.

Jesus turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love; the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.  He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you, go in peace.’

There are religious groups today, however, who gain followers or recruit supporters by offering them not peace but someone, something, to hate and/or violently oppose: offering the exaltation and satisfaction of humanly disordered emotions as the fulfilment of a pseudo-religious involvement and as the earthly foretaste of a promised and equally pseudo heavenly reward.  Society around us also proclaims earthly emotional experience and satisfaction – never openly hateful indeed, but not without deep-rooted intolerance -- as the only worthwhile and publicly acceptable ideal and reward: love – however disgusting -- is all, and homophobia is the supreme sin!!   Love, that is, which is to be felt and enjoyed as supremely pleasurable, not to be evaluated and most certainly not to be constrained, by any other considerations other than the human, earthly pleasure and satisfaction it affords the individuals concerned.

Catholicism, Christianity, on the other hand, offers -- supremely and solely -- the Truth of Jesus which, when whole-heartedly embraced, evokes a response of unique Love that can only be truly expressed through, and fulfilled in, unequivocal faith and commitment.

Jesus once used most solemn words that bring out in total clarity the deepest and most extensive problem and need in the Church today: lack of Faith in the face of the emotional attractions of extremism and the self-approval and self-satisfaction of comfortable worldly conformity:

            When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?

Dear Brothers and Sisters, we should treasure and try to develop our personal Faith in Jesus and commitment to His Church with heartfelt gratitude and serious endeavour, and pray devoutly for the growth of Faith in Mother Church and for God’s special blessing on all called to proclaim and propagate that Faith throughout the world.  Towards that end let us cast a final glance at King David in our first reading today, for he makes clear to us another most beautiful characteristic of faith:

Nathan said to David: ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Why have you spurned the Lord and done evil in His sight?  ... Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house because you have despised Me and taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.”’  David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’

There we can see the beauty of David’s faith!  He had an ‘intuitive’ relationship with God like that of the sinful woman with regard to Jesus in our Gospel reading; he was weak at times indeed, but he did not seek to justify his behaviour before God’s judgement:  I have sinned against the Lord!  The extremists of today would say to any such words of judgement against them or their actions, ‘We were forced to, we had no choice but to, behave, respond, as we did’; whilst the world of human righteousness and political conformity would most probably not even be able to understand any such words against their works or policies: ‘This world’s love guided us in all that we did or sought to do.’  Before God and the truth David was totally simple, with no complications of pride, seeking no refuge in self-justification.  His example is also most worthy of our admiration and imitation along with that of Saint Paul and of the ‘sinful woman’.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Pentecost Sunday Year C 2019

             PENTECOST SUNDAY (C)                             
(Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11; 1st. Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23)


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are celebrating one of the three greatest solemnities enshrined in the liturgy of the Church: Pentecost, recalling the Holy Spirit and the part He plays in the building up of Mother Church and in our own individual lives as disciples of Jesus.  There is much of beauty to be said about the Holy Spirit, so let me make a beginning by recalling the words of St. Paul which you heard in the second reading:

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.   And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God Who works all in all.  

Different ministries, callings, given to all sorts of people, but each and every one of those called is offered the same Holy Spirit that He may enable and guide them to suitably respond to and fulfil their individual calling.  As the Apostle of England, Pope St. Gregory the Great explained, “we are called to make the effort, and we go out to battle; but it is the Lord Who does the fighting.” 

There are differences of ministries, Paul went on to say, but the same Lord: for whatever work we undertake, we do it in the name of Jesus, by His most Holy Spirit, for the blessing of Mother Church and the salvation of those of good will; there are diversities of activities, but the same God and Father Whose loving Providence directs everything that is done to serve His ultimate purposes for good; and St. Paul tells us elsewhere just what God’s ultimate purposes are, when he writes (2 Corinthians 6:16):

You are the temple of the living God; as God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them; I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

Each of us then is called to serve our Lord and Saviour by making use of the gifts His Spirit opens up to us, and in that way, to help build a Temple for God’s Glory and also work out our own eternal salvation as St. Paul explains further:

(The) foundation ….. is Jesus Christ.   Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.   If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.   If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

I remember reading of a man in the early Church whose vocation from God -- as he saw it -- was to help pilgrims coming to Jerusalem at great cost and personal danger from all over the world for love of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: he would carry their baggage up the final hill to the holy city, then go down again to help, in the name of Jesus, the next pilgrim up the hill so often as he could that day and every subsequent day for which the Spirit gave him strength.  How humble and simple a gesture, so beautiful and selfless! What total commitment to, trust in, and love for, God manifested in Jesus!!

In the first reading you heard how the Apostles themselves received the Gift of the Spirit and began to work under His guidance and even indeed under His direct influence:

(They) were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.   And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

Peter made use of his own particular gift of the Spirit to proclaim the name of the Lord Jesus at the very first Christian celebration of Pentecost, and we are told that:

Those who gladly received his word were baptized, and that day about three thousand souls were added to (the disciples’ number). (Acts 2:41)

If we likewise, as living members of the one Body of Christ, open our hearts to receive the Spirit, each of us will be given a share in the Spirit’s gifts whereby we too may be enabled to work and prepare for God’s Temple of glory in its ultimate beauty and variety.

All the members of that one body, being many, are (yet) one body. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into (the) one Body (of Christ) -- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free -- and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the Body is not one member but many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-17)

There is another reason, however, for our different gifts: it is because we ourselves are all different; each one of us is a special creation of God with our own unique personality.  Now, in the service of Jesus, the gift of the Spirit is meant indeed to make us all one, but not, however, all alike; and so the Spirit comes to make each one of us both a truly harmonious and living member of the one Body of Christ, but also truly and fully our very own self as God planned and created us.  In God, individuality is meant to build a unity that is strong.

Let me give you, once again, a picture from the Fathers of the Church.  Water, as you know, is often used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, and supremely in the sacrament of baptism.  Now water coming down from heaven as rain falls upon and for all the plants alike: water falls upon the ground and feeds the vine and the apple tree, the crops and the vegetables, to name but a few.  That same water in the soil, however, produces eventually wine, thanks to the vine, and cider thanks to the apple tree.  Seeds in the field, thanks to the one water from heaven bring forth now wheat, or barley; now parsnips or potatoes, each according to their own nature.  So it is with us, dear People of God:  we should delight in and treasure God’s Most Holy Gift offered to us today, for it is in Him alone that we can find and fulfil our true and secret, indeed sacred, self.

St. John tells us of an event which occurred at the great Feast of Booths in Jerusalem:

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, Whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Jesus was preparing His Apostles and His future Church for all those countless peoples who, over the centuries, would come to Him thirsting for the gift of His Spirit.  He told His Apostles to go out to the peoples in His name:

Peace to you!  As the Father has sent me, I also send you.

And then, in order that Jesus’ promise of living water might find fulfilment:

He breathed on them and said to them, “receive the Holy Spirit.”

The Apostles could not give the Spirit of themselves; the Spirit had first of all to be given them by Jesus Himself, only then could they give the Spirit in the name of Jesus.  But there must be no obstacle of sin in the ones who would come thirsting for God’s Gift, therefore Jesus tells His Apostles:

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

People of God, recognize and reverence the dignity of Mother Church.  To establish,  guide, and sustain His Church Jesus gives His own most Holy Spirit: only in Mother Church can you find, and receive the fullness of, the Spirit given to the Apostles for the Church, and only in Mother Church can our souls be cleansed and freed from sin in order to worthily receive the Spirit.  In matters such as this we must not follow the our blindly proud and sinful ignorant world around us.  Sins can be forgiven by God alone, is not enough that your neighbour or your friend understands you; it is not enough, in fact it is no excuse at all, that you might only doing what many people are doing; it will not enough even if an evil government give you the legal right to act contrary to Catholic teaching, as, for example, with abortion, contraception, and sexual profligacy, for sin is sinful despite any government legislation and can only be removed by God’s forgiveness.  Therefore, Jesus gives His Apostles and His Church the power to first of all forgive sins and then bestow the God’s Gift of the Holy Spirit.  None who is unwilling to seek God’s forgiveness through His Church can receive His Spirit from the Church in Holy Communion.

However, this emphasis on the need for sins to be forgiven is but the reverse side of the most awesome and wonderful truth and, at the same time the deepest and most fulfilling joy offered us by the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives at Pentecost.  Our heavenly, supernatural, destiny is to live in, share with, Jesus in the all-holy beatitude of the most Holy Trinity, to personally experience the divine love that ebbs and flows between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the eternal peace of Their mutual Joy and Truth; and only the Holy Spirit -- purifying and working in and with us here on earth -- can prepare us to become so one with and like Jesus, that in Him and for His sake we may be admitted into the sublime Presence of the Father of Glory.   When, therefore, God demands that we must be purified from our sins, He is not interested in morbid nit-picking, nor is He tyrannically demanding total observance of His own arbitrary laws and observances; He is seeking to help us become -- in Jesus -- His own adopted children, able to delight in and share with their Saviour in ‘the glory He had with the Father before the world was’.  

People of God, this is a day of exclusively Catholic and Christian Faith, for Our Lord Jesus made it clear to His Apostles (John 14:17) that:

This is the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, because He abides with you (in Mother Church) and will be in you (individually, as a true child of Mother Church).

Come dear People to this feast, come on this most holy day, in total trust, confidence, gratitude, and joy to receive the Gift of the Spirit from Jesus Himself anew in Holy Communion.  The Spirit alone can make you truly free, and lead you to experience the fullness of joy and peace; indeed, the Spirit alone can make you fully your own real self: a unique reflection of the Father Who created you, in the Lord Who saved you, and by the Spirit Who moves and forms you.