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, 27 September 2019

26th Sunday Year C 2019


 26th.Sunday (Year C)
(Amos 6: 1, 4-7; 1 Timothy 6: 11-16; Luke 16: 19-31)



The rich man – let us give him the traditional name Dives which is simply Latin for ‘rich’ – was a family man who, at the last instance, cared about his brothers; nevertheless, he was in hell because during his lifetime he had cared  about no one else.  He could have helped Lazarus in his most dire need, but did not do so; perhaps he ignored Lazarus because he was unaware of him, being totally wrapped up in himself and his present enjoyment of pleasure and plenty, and perhaps with an extra comforting anticipation of more of the same to come in the future; if so, that would have greatly increased his guilt.

However, Dives’ lack of fraternal charity is not the point I wish to dwell on today, for I think the answer Abraham gave to Dives’ concern for his brothers in Jesus’ parable has much that can be of profit to us who are seeking to become better disciples of Jesus.

If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

We should recognize that Jesus is speaking though Abraham’s name is used in the parable; and so, the ‘someone rising from the dead’ refers ultimately to Jesus Himself; and thus, the parable gives us a remarkable instance of the continuity between the old and the new in God’s dealings with His chosen people.

Moses and the Prophets were sent to the Chosen People of Israel to help them recognize their sinfulness by the offer of worldly salvation from slavery in Egypt, and then, through subsequent ages, from the belligerent opposition and persecutions of surrounding nations and ‘world’ powers – an offer subject only to their faithful response to the formative justice of God’s Law in their personal behaviour and the structuring of their society. 

However, their ever-recurring reluctance, and at times blatant refusal, to acknowledge and amend their own sinful ways despite the Lord’s mighty saving-deeds and paternal awareness expressed in the words of His chosen prophets, could only lead ultimately to their conviction by God,  as was indeed foreshadowed by the frustration shown by  some of those prophets beginning as early as Moses himself.

Jesus, however, came – was sent by His Father, Israel’s God -- not to convict but to save; and, as Man and Messiah, He chose Twelve Apostles, inspiring and empowering them by the holiness of His Own Person and the beauty, Wisdom, and Truth, of His Good News, and endowing them with the power of His most Holy Spirit, to help Him convert His People to appreciate, love, and embrace repentance for their sins, as did Peter himself, chief of those Apostles when, on making a remarkable catch of fish in obedience to Jesus’ word (Luke 5:8):

            Fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.’

Thus, humbled and repentant, the Chosen People were to find, in their heavenly Father’s home, an eternal salvation won for them by the power of Jesus’ self-sacrificing love embracing His Father, His Chosen People, and all men of good will.

‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets’ ... that is, in so far as they were not willing to accept the fact of their own sinfulness as witnessed by and testified to by their own ‘pride and joy’ Moses and the Prophets:

neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

Notice that word, SOMEONE, dear People of God, because that is what the one ‘sent by God’ -- Jesus’ most frequently used self-appelation -- would be known generally: someone, personally unknown and unacknowledged, someone, unappreciated by, and ultimately unacceptable to, the majority of those He had come, He had been sent, to call to salvation by words such as:

            Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,

as proclaimed by John the Baptist, and:

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the Gospel,

as proclaimed by Jesus Himself.

How could they therefore -- as a wilfully sinful people despite all the words that Moses and the Prophets had spoken to them from God --  possibly accept even the most loving invitation and call of Jesus, a self-sacrificingly obedient Son of God made Man; One willingly accepting to die, for their sins, on their behalf, before taking up His life again in accordance with His Father’s command?

Neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

However, Paul of Tarsus, was one Israelite who most certainly regarded Jesus as much more than a mere ‘someone’!  As a most ardent and learned Pharisee he had originally actively hated Jesus and persecuted His followers, until a heavenly visitation and subsequent Christian instruction, followed by years of loving contemplation of that holy teaching, changed him into the Apostle of the Gentiles who only once in our records of him totally let down his guard and spoke of himself and Jesus with total and self-less candour (Galatians 2:20):

         


The history of Mother Church is replete with many who have sought easy ways to develop a special relationship with Jesus, many trying to latch onto extraordinary ‘spiritual’ happenings: something out of the ordinary, something they could talk about and perhaps lead or induce others to seek to experience also.  That is how so many of the religious sects which abound in the world today first began.  Finding the traditional Church too boring, having too little emotion and too much formality, being too institutionalised, or whatever the fault or the criticism might have been, they sought new and ‘spiritual’ experiences outside the Church.  And then that sect, in its turn, became, inevitably, more of an institution, with greater organization and less spontaneity in the eyes of critics, who were dissatisfied thereat and once more went off, on their own, in search of, or following after, more exciting and engaging personal experiences; and soon, another sect, an offshoot this time from a previous sect, was born.  There are literally hundreds and possibly thousands of such Christian sects (and no doubt Muslim, Hindu etc. sects) in the world today. 

Therefore, one might say, perhaps, that the indifference of the many who refused, or merely failed, to listen to Moses and the Prophets in old Israel, and of the many ‘nominal only’ Catholics and Christians in the world today, is really the manifestation of perennial and pervading dissatisfaction: not simply with religion, but also with whatever can be considered as institutionalised; indeed, as dissatisfaction with life itself, as witnessed by the increasingly frequent suicides of rich as well as poor, couples as well as individuals.

Dissatisfaction, however, can be found a great blessing rather than a great temptation or subtle sickness; but, if it is to turn out as God’s work, the true nature of such dissatisfaction must be closely observed and humbly recognized.  Dissatisfaction with oneself can be the source of untold blessings from God , whereas dissatisfaction directed against the Church and ones’ brothers and sisters in the Faith is the devil’s work; dissatisfaction with ‘institutions’ benotes anarchists and ‘wild-ones’, dissatisfaction with life itself can denote incipient or rampant sickness, unless it is the result of sufferings endured but not  humbly accepted or positively embraced.

God-given dissatisfaction with one’s own self in the Church, whilst recognizing that the Church herself is God’s gift, guided and protected by His Spirit, can force us to seek to delve deeper into that Spirit-guided teaching which the Church proclaims, it can constrain us to approach more seriously and sincerely the Sacraments whereby the Spirit flows into our lives, and in so doing it can lead us to change our own attitudes, overcome our own lassitude and half-heartedness, and gradually enable us to see more and more of the true beauty and glory of God’s wisdom in the world He created and in Mother Church’s teaching;  and thus it can develop an increasing awareness of the presence and power of the Spirit Who alone can raise us up to more intimate life in and with Christ.

In the Church we have indeed Moses and the Prophets, but we have more, much more: we have Jesus, the Christ, and the beloved, only-begotten, Son of God, Who, through His Apostles and in the power of His Holy Spirit, still speaks to us today.  If we do not listen to Him and learn from His Spirit, no miracle, no extraordinary ‘spiritual’ experience can be of any help.

Do you feel dissatisfied, unfulfilled, in your life as a Christian in Mother Church at times?  Let that feeling be a blessing from God by recognizing it as dissatisfaction with yourself, and as a call from the Father for you to turn, away from yourself, to Christ, His Son, your Saviour:

In Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3);

a call to seek a deeper personal relationship with Him, to understand and love ever more and more His words brought to our mind in their integrity by the Holy Spirit in and through Mother Church’s teaching; for that has always been the prayer of Paul and the Apostles:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling (of you), what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (showing what He can make of you), and what is the surpassing greatness of His power (to protect and prosper you) toward us who believe.  (Ephesians 1:18-19)

And all that burned so ardently and compellingly in Paul as a result of his conviction that:

I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; 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.



Dear People of God, that P/personal awareness of Jesus as no mere ‘someone who died and rose again’, but as the Christ, the Son of God Who has loved ME is needed more than anything else in Mother Church today;  and only true desire, humble sincerity, and patient perseverance in simple prayer and obedience are needed to attain that oneness with Jesus, which can transform our experience of Catholic Faith as the delight of our human life, as the saving of Mother Church in our world today, and as an icon for all searching for fulfilent before God.     Just want sincerely, and pray patiently, that God’s will be done in you.       

Saturday, 21 September 2019

25th Sunday Year C 2019


 25th. Sunday of Year (C)

(Amos 8:4-7; 1st. Letter to Timothy: 2:1-8; Saint Luke 16:1-13)

Dear People of God, there must be something of very great importance for us to understand in today’s Gospel reading because Our Lord is here presented as approving what was apparently quite wrong!

And that is precisely the point!  Our Blessed Lord wanted to shock His hearers and us, His present-day disciples and children of Mother Church, into not just hearing His words, but listening to His teaching, so as to ultimately appreciate and follow His advice:


Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.


Look around you, dear People of God, at the vast majority of people so infected by lust for pleasure, power, and plenty; who, worshipping Mammon, deny there is any Personal God, and mock at the very idea of man having a moral conscience any broader, any deeper, than mere legality; people who can contemplate making public their secret abominations, not indeed to confess their sins but because they are confidently seeking the public sympathy of fellow sinners and the token acceptance of the many who know-not-what as regards morality other than that which is politically correct and popularly acceptable. They ‘staunchly’ regard themselves as people of principle despite being answerable only to whoever pays their wages and the state which enables them live in safety and enjoy spending those wages:


The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.


But alas, despite such native ‘prudence’, too many – including some spectacularly successful ‘idols’ in the sight of men, as well as many other abused and disabused youngsters and druggies more or less unknown to men – having no hope for eternal life, are finding it increasingly comforting to regard suicide as an available opt-out when things go wrong, or ‘pear-shaped’ in more modern terminology!

Let us therefore see what we can find in Jesus’ teaching, for, He comes to help those even at life’s extremity, where the devil and his counter-creation can only whisper about that opt-out, which actually means total surrender of one’s human dignity to his will for self-assertion, self-glory, and human undoing.  For the Devil is damned and his kingdom is one of damnation into which he aspires to finally draw all those presently consorting with him as did Eve of old to celebrate him there in his own ‘satanic dwellings’ of damnation.

Jesus is therefore most persistently insistent:


Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.


Notice first of all the three focuses in that saying: ‘make friends’, ‘wealth ... fails’, ‘eternal dwellings’.

‘Make friends for yourselves’, Jesus says, for everyone suffering, everyone in need of whatever sort, needs friends, but to that end Jesus most earnestly recommends the steward’s ‘brutal’ honesty with regard to himself and his ability to face up to what was to come when he should lose his very, very good job!

That steward was truly honest to himself!!  What modern disbeliever and scoffer can contemplate eternity without most serious thought and secret prayer?  Of course, they say ‘no one ever comes back’, but that is only true against themselves, for countless saints have come back, Fatima and Lourdes are historically recognized!  No scoffer, however, has ever come back to prove that nothing but ‘nothingness’ lies around dearth’s dark and lonely corner!!

‘Wealth fails’, because ultimately it is only something, and not someone.  Things can be, are meant to be, possessed or used, by a someone, by a person; they can never of themselves, possess or use a person, other than by personal folly, enmity, or human greed and selfishness.  They cannot offer fulfilment for a human being.

‘Eternal dwellings’ because Jesus came to save men from sin and offer them salvation, a heavenly home as children of God; He has nothing to offer those who aspire to nothing but what is earthly:

Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.   (Mark 3:29)

But for those truly seeking to know about what Jesus is offering, friends are always available, even bought friends, yes, even friends bought by dishonest wealth!  Let us look closer at that.

In our parable the steward wrongfully used a measure of wealth at the expense of the owner who was a rich man, one who had amassed or acquired great wealth.  As such – amassed wealth -- it had unquestionably become ‘dishonest’ in the course of its being amassed, for one man cannot acquire an inequitable amount of money and power without others having, in some way, suffered during the course of that amassing process.

The rich man’s steward was about to be sacked for allegedly ‘wasting his master’s goods’ and such an unchallengeable dismissal on the basis of nothing other than a secret accusation was unjust.  Perhaps that is why the rich man could commend his unjust steward’s prudence!  But that is not why Jesus so urgently commends him to us:


I SAY TO YOU, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.


That originally ‘dishonest’ wealth, having been dishonestly used by the steward for his own purposes, has had its double dishonesty somewhat cleansed by the steward using it for what was simply a measure of necessary self-protection against a not-to-be-questioned and life-threatening decision made against himself.  That is partly why Jesus could use this story to highlight the essential teaching He wished to make.

Jesus ‘commended the unjust steward’ to us, however, because He needed to emphasize the supreme importance of fear of God, and hope in Him sent to us for the one and only purpose of our salvation; salvation is of supreme importance and it is ultimately decided by the final stand we take in relation to Him Who originally made us for our blessing and His glory.

It is never too late to mend for Jesus ... what He recommends for even the most wayward, disorientated and depraved of sinners is, imitate the steward’s honesty with regard to yourself and your future now most imminent.   Make friends, Jesus advises and most urgently ‘implores’ ... finish your life with an act of supreme charity, say even one prayer to mankind’s supreme Friend, Jesus Himself ... but say it with the honesty to yourself and your situation shown by the steward in Jesus’ parable.


















Friday, 13 September 2019

24th Sunday Year 3 2019


 24th. Sunday of Year (3)

(Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14; 1Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10)




In today’s Gospel reading we are told that Our Blessed Lord was aware – did He just know their hearts or had He heard some whispered words? – however it was, He had become aware of certain Pharisees and scribes criticising His attitude toward a number of tax-collectors and other publicly known sinners who, as distinct from last Sunday’s ‘great crowds’ just traveling alongside Jesus, were in fact:

            All drawing near to listen to Him.

Today, we have to be aware of the dangers of consorting or discussing carelessly with unprincipled people, and Jesus Himself, so long ago, chose not to directly rebuke these, not indeed unprincipled, but most certainly self-appointed custodians of public morals and personally very self-assured and sanctimonious Pharisees, for their antagonistic thoughts and overtly pugnacious attitude:

            This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!

Now Jesus was, at that very moment -- according to the criticisms of the Pharisees and scribes -- giving too much, and too close, attention to those tax-collectors and sinners around Him, whilst neglecting they themselves, a very important group of devout Pharisees and learned scribes; leaving them, as it were, to continue finding their own pasture on the heights of Israel (the desert in our story) under the watchful eyes of friendly shepherds (the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets).

Jesus was not seeking to antagonize the Pharisees and scribes, and so He turned to them and addressed them directly as probable owners of a considerable flock, men, that is, with worldly understanding and good judgement, not mere local, uneducated, shepherds generally lowly esteemed for their religious infidelity:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?

Now, for prudent owners -- even though one sheep out of a flock of one hundred is numerically little enough -- nevertheless, one hundred is a perfect number and ninety-nine is not, and so, one sheep, perhaps not so very important of itself, could still be missed as part of the flock.  Addressing them in such a way Jesus could have hoped to draw reluctant assent from even such critically disposed listeners, and He might also have reasonably hoped further that they might -- tacitly at least -- continue to identify with Him when He went on to say:

And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home ... says, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep!

Yes, the Pharisees and scribes could appreciate such a little parable and agree with the sentiments thus far expressed; but there was perhaps one thought that might trouble them somewhat: ‘Who is this fellow comparing us – devout and learned as we are – with mere sheep, not perfect as a flock, without this one lost  sheep?’  And now, Jesus, the Master, showing His divine wisdom, suddenly changed His earthly ‘pastorale’ into a heavenly apostrophe:

I tell you, in just the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

It was a passing dart that Jesus hoped, indeed, might sting, but again it was not a face-to-face confrontation, for He went on immediately to address another parable to them telling of the deep but simple joy of a woman on finding again  her loved-and-lost coin, with no mention whatsoever, this time, of any righteous people having no need of repentance.

Let us, now, look a little more closely at the wording of Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep:

I tell you, in just the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.

He says, in just the same way because of there being a saving shepherd in both cases: the earthly shepherd who had gone in search of the lost sheep and, on finding it, carried it on his shoulders back to the flock; and a heavenly Shepherd, Jesus Himself sent by His heavenly Father as Messianic Shepherd of Israel.  The sinners -- literally ‘flocking’ around Him to hear His words -- public sinners in the Pharisees’ estimation, were men who, at this very moment and possibly to their own embarrassment, were finding themselves drawn by the Spirit to Jesus as a flock seeking guidance and, perhaps, learning how to repent; the Parisees, on the other hand, remained apart, highly critical of what they could not understand.

There however the parallel stops, for Jesus goes on to speak in His last four words of a ‘lost sheep’ which actually participates in its own rescue and return:

There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.

Now the words of Jesus take on a deeper meaning, more pertinent to the present situation, for the tax collectors – well known to the Pharisees as sinners -- ‘flock’ around  Jesus Who says:

There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people – and the Pharisees certainly thought of themselves as righteous – who have no need of repentance, an attitude publicly portrayed by the Pharisees standing apart and critically observing what was happening with the heavenly shepherd at work.

Notice now the difference between a lost sheep and a lost human being, a human person can repent on being ‘found’ by Jesus, which means, of course, that repentance is the result of an encounter with Jesus, an appreciation of and response to the divine beauty, goodness, and truth shining on the  human face of Jesus.  For only the experience of holiness can convict someone of their own sinfulness, only beauty can enable another to appreciate and acknowledge their own ugliness, and only innocence and simplicity can lead a liar to hate their own duplicity.

Now, the greatest charge against the Pharisees and scribes complaining against Jesus was precisely the fact that, by constant and carping criticism, they were their closing their hearts and minds to His patent beauty and truth, goodness and humility; ‘patent’ I say, because recognized and sought out -- against themselves and contrary to their own immediate interests -- by tax-collectors and public sinners.

This is a most important lesson for us Catholic Christians to learn today; for we are now being called to account for our faith in times when our governments -- the United Kingdom, the United States, and, of course, republican France -- are abandoning or have long abandoned their Christian heritage in favour of self-proclaiming scepticism and rationalism, after having openly supported the arming of rebels in Syria regardless of their sectarian fanaticism and known enmity towards Christians living where Christians have always lived and first proclaimed Jesus as Lord.  

In our account for the faith we treasure, it is not Catholic dogma that needs to be quoted, even though it is the backbone of our life and the substance of our hope; nor the superiority of Christian morality -- though that is undoubtedly the case over the course of history and when sincerely studied and objectively appreciated  What is needed above all for us to give today is an up-to-date and effective ‘account’ of our Faith; our own, personal, living, witness to Jesus in Mother Church: witness, that is, to the contentment and peace, hope and inspiration, each of us, as individuals, finds in our awareness and appreciation of the Person of Jesus Our Lord and Saviour, through our prayer and God’s Gift of His most Holy Spirit;  finding in His quite simple human words truths of eternal and sublime beauty enabling us to appreciate the wonder of creation all around us, to discover the transforming experience of earthly sufferings acceptedfor love of Him, and, above all, to embrace the previously unimagined mystery of human life -- graced for all of good will -- leading to a heavenly home of eternal fulfilment with Jesus in the Kingdom of His and our Father.

Toward that end, let us learn from today’s Gospel, and endeavour -- with those tax-collectors and sinners -- to draw ever closer to Jesus in our appreciation of the fact that the Good News we proclaim is His Good News: Good News embodied in His Person and in the salvation He brings and offers us; Good News to be lived in the power of His Spirit given to us through His Church, for the Father Who sent Him and Who calls us in Him. 

Dear People of God, draw ever closer to Jesus by reading the Scriptures with Him in view, above all read the Gospels which proclaim His words and recount His deeds; draw close, however, not so much by remembering words to be used in arguments but by a whole-hearted appeal to His Spirit, in the Church and within you personally, for enlightenment and power that you might more fully appreciate and better respond to His unique expression of divine love and eternal truth.


Friday, 6 September 2019

23rd Sunday Year C 2019


23rd. Sunday  of Year (C)
(Wisdom 9:13-18; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33)







Christianity – as commonly confessed by many so-called adherents – is, above all, a religion of love: for neighbour, and even enemies; and yet in our Gospel reading today we have our Blessed Lord directly addressing His past and present followers:

           

If any one comes to Me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life he cannot be My disciple.



That apparent contradiction is surely the sign and measure of our alienation from Him!  

Christians of all sorts search around anxiously these days for more people in Church, and, in that respect, regard themselves as being motivated by the Christian spirit of evangelization.  And yet, again, Our Blessed Lord was not, apparently, over-pleased by the fact that Great crowds were travelling with Him’, for we are told that:



He turned and addressed them: ‘Whoever does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.



Why such a difference between Jesus and modern versions of Christianity?


First of all, let us give careful attention to the actual life-situation which provoked those words of Jesus: we are told that ‘great crowds were travelling with Him’, and Jesus – responding compassionately to their demonstrative support but merely surface love and commitment -- told them that only those who would follow after Him, behind Him, walking, that is, in His footsteps, along His ways, and learning from Him, could possibly become disciples who might eventually learn to walk -- as the apostles -- with Him.

And there we have a partial answer to the question above, ‘Why such a difference ...?’  which I shall now try to develop.

Too many nominal Christians and pseudo-Catholics these days want and pretend to walk with Him before they have learned to walk behind Him, before they have sought to learn His ways and preferences.  They begin by emphasizing their heart’s passing, urgent, affections to the detriment of real and personal commitment; and they imagine they can love without adapting to the one they ‘love’, without learning how to change themselves so that their ‘commitment’ and ‘love’ might be acceptable.  This attitude of presumed personal worthiness is widespread in modern western society: whatever anyone does – provided it is within the law of the land – is fine, if they want to do it that way; whoever, whatever, people think they are or want to become is right for them, again so long as it is ‘politically correct’.  No other responses to such personal positions are acceptable in our modern society.   


Of course, such an attitude is not the Catholic and Christian ethos at all.  Nevertheless, some -- always too many -- prelates and leaders have been tempted and tainted by such wide-spread ideas, and thus misled, they have begun to conjure up a modern Jesus no longer necessarily based on the Gospel picture, a Jesus more adapted to present popular attitudes and aspirations, desires and hopes.  For that end they tend to evoke and promote-- contrary to Jesus’ Own express example in today’s Gospel reading and frequently elsewhere -- disciples characterised by excitement and emotion, sometimes clap-happy and, of course, infant-hugging, and they regard numbers as a sure sign and measure of success.  They delight most of all in prominently-active members of the Church society, rather than in humble disciples of Jesus who want above all to learn how to rightly obey and faithfully follow Him  wherever He -- by His Most Holy Spirit given to His Church and bestowed on them by His Church -- might lead them, along the way of self-sacrifice for personal love of Him.


Jesus Himself did all His saving work in Personal humility for total love of His Father and suffering mankind, and in today’s Gospel reading, looking at the ‘great crowds’ around Him, He was wanting such disciples, ultimately willing-and-able by His Spirit, to commit themselves with and in Him, to His heavenly Father in total love and trust.  Today, He is also disappointed as He was then, because so much ‘evangelisation’ is done from intentions rarely free from deep-rooted self-love and ‘faithlacking’ submission to worldly interests and expectations.

Looking back again at the Gospel account, why did our Lord use such an emotive and, dare I say it, ‘objectionable’ word as ‘hate’?

As you probably know, ‘hate’ in that context means ‘put in second place’; and its objectionable connotations are useful because Jesus wanted to strongly -- very strongly indeed – to emphasize the fact that God must always come first; parents, family, even self, always second, never before God. However, we should notice too that Jesus understood such ‘hatred’ to be a cross -- no secret joy or satisfaction -- for human nature; and part, perhaps indeed the essential part, of that cross He immediately went on to refer to when He added, ‘Whoever does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.’


Jesus speaks most earnestly of the need for any one wishing to become a disciple of His, to seriously ‘count the cost’; and yet we, so light-heartedly at times, seek to encourage converts and claim back ‘lost ones’ by the fellowship we fellow-believers can offer them, both as individuals and also by the joy of our family and parochial gatherings: such as the  beautiful simplicity of our baptisms where the innocence of the child so easily takes precedence in the minds of parents and friends over the sublimity of the prayers being offered and the responsibilities being assumed on its behalf; likewise the splendour of our weddings where the present joy and beauty of the bride-to-be and the parents’ ardent hopes for the couple’s future happiness and fulfilment easily take pre-eminence over the lovers’ for-better-or-for-worse commitment to each other before Christ, and the Church’s prayers for the blessing, guidance, comfort  and strength of the Holy Spirit in all the joys and trials incumbent on married life.

Jesus once said (Matthew 23:15) to some Pharisees:


You cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves,



and that should be borne in mind by us today, lest our modern zeal makes new converts twice as superficial in their Catholicism, Christianity, and discipleship as too many of us have long been.

Our Blessed Lord summed up His thoughts in these few words:

Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be My disciple.

 

St. Bede gives us great help to rightly understand these words, for he distinguishes clearly between those called to ‘leave behind, relinquish’ all possessions, and those here called to ‘renounce’ such possessions: that is, those called to take great care that they do not allow themselves to be possessed by their possessions.


What, however, are we to understand with that word possessions?


It does not refer to merely material things, for there are many human spiritual realities we appreciate and treasure: for example, ‘my freedom’ was of great significance in the early years of the Church and, indeed, still is in many parts of the world where Mother Church -- even to this day -- suffers persecution; and there are, of course, the frequently encountered and unworthy memories of such treasured freedom lingering on the lips of those who like to invoke ‘my opinion’ to excuse their public words and actions.  ‘My reputation’, ‘my good name’, ‘my peace of mind and heart’, are also among such ‘possessions’ which a man can value much more highly than merely material things.

Jesus’ words:  If anyone comes to Me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple’; and  ‘Whoever does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple’ seem to refer to personal bonds of love on the one hand and to our instinctive rejection of suffering on the other, and here Jesus’ words were soon to be backed up by His own Personal example and experience whereby they have acquired a most touching intensity of significance and depth of meaning for us.  And as, in our Gospel reading, Jesus looked round to see the crowd excitedly travelling with Him, He would appear to have foreseen what lay ahead of Him and His words were penetrated through and through with that total love and commitment which would lead Him most lovingly to leave His mother a lonely widow in Israel, and take upon Himself the horrible pain and total ignominy of the Cross:


If anyone comes to Me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.



The awareness of His Passion and Death was always with Jesus, close to the surface, never to be ignored or disdained, because He needed to prepare Himself for Satan’s final assault and thus to  fulfil His Own longing to give the ultimate expression to His love for His Father and for us when the opportunity came.  Therefore, the crowds light-heartedly travelling along with Him this day stirred His pity and sorrow for their incomprehension of what was truly involved, as would James and John later on stir Him to a similar response:


‘Teacher, grant us to sit one at your right hand and one at your left in your glory.’  Jesus answered them, ‘You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptised with?’   (Mark 10: 35-38)


Of course, our Gospel story is much more emotive than that episode with the somewhat ‘pushy’  mother of James and John, and her two still young and ambitious sons, for in our Gospel the great crowds seemed to instinctively recognize their shepherd; but were themselves, most sadly, no better than sheep in their following of Him, for they had so very little comprehension of Who He was, what He was doing, where He wanted to lead them, and what were the forces arraigned against Him, and indeed against them.  It was with regard to such a situation that we heard in the first reading:


Scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven who can search them out? 


Dear People of God, let us give most heartfelt thanks to God for our Lord and Saviour come down for us from heaven, and let us express our thanks by striving to serve Him with sincerest love, and with ever greater, ever deeper, understanding of the truth Jesus came to bring on earth:


The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have come to believe that I came from God.  (John 16:27)



That is the only way modern excitement and presumption of worthiness can become acceptable love for Jesus, if it learns about Him from Mother Church and comes to believe that He is from God, come among men to share God’s truth and bring God’s salvation for all those humble enough in heart and mind to yield themselves to the guidance of His Most Holy Spirit with quiet and patient confidence for the coming of His Kingdom.