If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 29 November 2019

1st Sunday of Advent Year A 2019


1st. Sunday of Advent (A)

(Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our Gospel reading is indeed suited to the Advent season of anticipation and expectation, but there Jesus is anticipating something much more solemn than the subject of our traditional Christmas celebration: preparations for which are usually centred on choosing gifts, arranging festive gatherings of family and friends, and planning meals of more pleasing, ample, and diverse character than those for normal daily sustenance.

Note this, dear People of God, that our three readings today – from the prophet Isaiah, St. Paul, and the Gospel of St. Matthew, are comprehensive in the fulness of their Christian anticipation:

Isaiah spoke of the initial awareness of Christ’s coming, and the desirability, the need, to seek out and learn from, His saving teaching:

Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may instruct us in His ways, for from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem;

then we heard St. Paul in his letter to the Romans telling the Christians of Rome -- the capital of the Empire and the world’s sin -- to bear adult witness to, to ‘put on’, Christ:

Salvation is nearer than when we first believed, let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ;    

and finally, Our Blessed Lord Himself in our Gospel reading went yet further exhorting His disciples to persevere to the very end, to the ultimate climax of human life and Christian hope and expectation:

Stand erect and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man coming with power and great glory.

Dear People of God, let us, as children, always be ready and eager to learn about Jesus our Friend; let us, as committed disciples witness to and fight with Christ Jesus, our  Guide and Protector, against sin in us and in our world; and let us pray that, at the end, we – as those who have long loved Him -- may have unshakeable confidence and trust in Jesus the Lord and Judge of all mankind and the Saviour of all His true disciples.

During Advent, traditional Catholics preparing to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus in Bethlehem, commonly try to cast their thoughts back nearly 2000 years while rejoicing whole-heartedly in their present-day awareness and experience of the joys and blessings 2000 years of Christian faith and fulfilment have brought to the world and their own personal and family lives.  As modern Christians however, up to date indeed as regards worldly things demanding their attention, they are not necessarily up to standard for the appropriate expression of the fullness of authentic Catholic appreciation, worship, and love of God.  They do rightly want to teach their children about Jesus and to give God heartfelt thanks for the coming among us of His Son, born of the Immaculate Virgin Mary of Nazareth for our salvation; however, they tend to think only of going back to the shepherds, the angels, the crib, and the Magi, all long cherished and well remembered.

A closely related and like fault can to be seen frequently with indulgent grand-parents: they love their grandchildren and want to make and to see them happy, and so they often lower themselves down to a childish level of behaviour for immediate companionship and joy; too rarely do they seek to raise the children up -- even very gently -- towards more adult appreciations.  To try to lift up the mind of a child can be a risky business many prefer not to take; they find it so much easier for themselves to behave as a child with the children, winning immediate and joyful laughter all round and -- as a very acceptable bonus -- they get praise from all who are watching and admiring their easy rapport with their grandchildren!

Now that is what happens not only at home and in the family but also with the overall Catholic and Christian use of the Advent preparation: ‘just delight in the Infant Child, with spontaneous childish delight which delights parents as well; don’t spoil it by trying to somehow include a thought about something more serious and demanding, least of all any thoughts of Second and final Coming.  After all, Advent is not Lent!

That of course is very true, Advent is not Lent.  Nevertheless, Advent does bear a marked likeness to Lent in so far as both are times of expectation, preparing for an ever-more intimate sharing with Jesus in our appreciation of and co-operation with His work of salvation; and Advent, preparing to celebrate the very beginning of Christianity, also looks forward to all that is Christian, which means that it is the most comprehensively anticipatory, expectant, of all the liturgical seasons, as Mother Church’s choice of readings for today shows.   Indeed, Advent would tell us most insistently that Christianity is, essentially, a faith that is ever looking-forward in anticipation, and with humble, joyful expectation, to all the ever-greater blessings and glory Jesus has promised that God, His Father, is preparing for us as His prospective adopted sons and daughters.

ADVENT EXPECTATION calls for adults to encourage and teach their children how to find and express joy in the first coming of Jesus as a child of Mary and as their special Friend and also to help them begin to learn and express love for Jesus, come to be with them as their constant Guide and sure Protector.   And that initial, glowing, love for Jesus should itself then be gently sign-posted – yes, by parents and grand-parents! -- for later awareness of Him as Lord and Saviour over the years of deepening human maturity leading to full-blown Catholic commitment and Christian witness to Jesus Christ, Son of God made Son of Man for our salvation.

And those adult years of Christian maturity ---  years of loving service through suffering and joy, years of witness to well-known and understood faith and to truths of faith known only partially though promised a most glorious fulfilment --- those years of full discipleship,  enable the Spirit of God to bring to the mind for such disciples thoughts,  considerations, and even a measure of EXPECTATION of the Second, most public and indeed Universal, Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  When?  We do not know, but we do know with certitude that we ourselves will experience an authentic foretaste of that Cosmic Coming at the moment of our own death to the world and all that passes:  a moment, the occasion, of our entry into the eternity of God’s infinite mercy, Jesus’ saving sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit’s life-giving embrace of love, or else of the dread doom of reckoning and retribution for those who deliberately rejected or ignored the Father’s will to save, and so crucified the Saviour He actually sent to live with and die for us.

As it was in the days of Noah so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.  Therefore, stay awake for you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  Be sure of this: you must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

Jesus used ‘Son of Man’ when speaking of Himself as endowed with a most solemn and sublime mission, whereas ‘your Lord’ is much more personal and intimate, and I think we can legitimately see there the motive for Catholic adults’ adult celebration of Christmas harmonizing so well with the celebrations they share with their children.  The children’s joyful welcoming of Jesus is, as it were, the first flowering of their family’s Catholic faith; the parents’ own humble awareness and hopeful expectation of Jesus’ constantly renewed coming into their own hearts and minds are more mature and more beautiful blossoms of the same Catholic and Christmas faith. However, the Second and universally public Coming-of-the-Son-of-Man, will herald the ultimate fulfilment of all their hopes and aspirations, which, having arisen from Jesus’ saving Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, now evoke the utmost love and glory for His Most Holy Name that saved mankind can offer.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Advent is meant to help both parents and children prepare more fully for truly Catholic-and-Christian Christmas joy!  Advent invites and urges us all to become more truly children of God; let us, therefore, close our present considerations by recalling today’s Alleluia antiphon:

                Show us Lord Your love; and grant us Your salvation!













               






Friday, 22 November 2019

Christ the King Year C 2019


CHRIST THE KING (C)

(2 Sam 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43)

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There was a time when Jesus asked His disciples what people were thinking about Him:



Who do men say that I am?



They answered Him saying that people thought Him to be one of the former prophets back on earth.  Shortly afterwards, however, at His crucifixion, there was, as we heard in the Gospel reading, a public proclamation, made by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, representative of the Roman Emperor and sole custodian of  executive political and military power in the land, a statement intended to ‘hit back’ at the Jewish Sanhedrin leaders and Temple authorities – such experts at political chicanery and religious hypocrisy – a  declaration for all ordinary Jews and visiting pilgrims  to read, concerning the identity of Jesus:



An inscription was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.



The distinguishing mark for membership of the Jewish nation was, of course, circumcision, or so the Jews of Jesus’ time thought; St. Paul, however, most insistently tells us (Philippians 3:3) that circumcision of the flesh is not the true circumcision:



We (Christians) are the (true) circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.



Traditional Jewry, showed the failure of their fleshly, racial, circumcision by their rejection of Jesus, their God-sent Messiah and religious King.   Do modern-day Christians then, who are of the true circumcision as St. Paul assures us, recognize Jesus as their King?



Jesus knew Himself to be a King, of that there is no doubt:



Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" So, Jesus said to him, "It is as you say." (Matthew 27:11)



But there is some doubt today – among ever-so-modern and worldly-sensitive believers -- about whether or not He is really their King; indeed, do all of us practicing Catholics and sincere Christians fully accept Him as our King?

What does that word “King” mean for people these days?  Catholics and Christians have traditionally used the same word as was used in Jesus’ times, but have those who like to consider themselves as sensible, up to date, believers got the meaning of that word right?  Are they aware of, and even more important, are they willing to accept in their lives, the full meaning of “King” when, in today’s celebration and Creed we say “Jesus is our King”?

Well, we are all aware, of the splendour and power of kings, and Jesus yields to no one in that regard; listen to St. Paul telling us of Jesus’ power and splendour (Colossians 1:15-17):

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him; He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

We traditional Catholics can indeed be proud of, can glory in, Jesus our King; no earthly king could ever compare with Him.  On that account, we certainly are proud to claim that “Jesus is OUR King”.

Continuing with this examination of the meaning of the word “King” we recognize in it not only power and majesty, but also authority … for there is no doubt that a king has always been thought to have authority over his subjects.  Do we now want to proclaim so loudly that Jesus is King over us individually?  Do we -- who so readily and enthusiastically recognize His splendour and glory, His wisdom and might – accept, with similar enthusiasm, that He has authority over us and over the way we live our lives?  Many claim to be believers -- thereby acclaiming Christ as their King -- but do they, in fact, want to bask only in His reflected glory, without considering themselves in any significant way subject to His authority?  Many so-called believers seem rather to be prepared to accept Jesus as king in the style of our own democratic monarchy: with plenty of most admirable pomp and circumstance and, indeed, not without popular support and respect, but without any real, autonomous power, or spiritual authority.  

However, that is not the style of kingship recognized in the Bible, such was not the leader that the people of Israel wanted; their king had to have authority:

The people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles. (1 Samuel 8:19-20)

And in the very beginning, at the birth of the People of God, the leaders, Moses and Joshua were not called kings, but their authority was, nevertheless, very real:

All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death.

The people of Israel said: “Wherever you send us we will go.”  ‘Wherever’ meant ‘wherever on the way to the Promised Land’, for that was what had been promised them, the Promised Land, their true homeland and ultimate resting place: wherever you command us to go as we journey towards that Promised Land we will go.

Today, however, there are so-called Christians who have no desire, let alone hunger, for the heavenly destiny offered to all who commit themselves, through faith in Jesus Christ, to the Father’s plan of salvation; they seem to have lost their longing for a promised land because passing pleasures in the desert of this present world have distracted their minds and seduced their hearts.

In ancient Israel some tribes had entered the land Promised to their forebears and into their own personal inheritance before crossing the Jordan, but they were not allowed to rest on their territory, with their families, cultivating their land and gathering their crops … no, they must cross over with all their brethren and fight with them until they too could enter into their inheritance promised by the Lord, the God of Israel.

Today, far too many Christians want to settle for what they have got now, they want to taste to the full the seemingly endless pleasures this world seems to offer them, or else they have weighed themselves down with cares that blind them and leave them without hope in their lives.  Such disciples are not necessarily against the glory and the splendour of a King they can understand and rejoice in: one appreciated and praised by all for his goodness and wisdom, his humility and sympathy in His dealings with the underprivileged of his time; indeed, many of them would accept a King who, as heavenly Lord, is able to give them spiritual comfort and joy as they participate in the holy atmosphere and liturgical splendour of His Church.  What they cannot accept, however, is One Who has everyday and immediate authority whereby He might refuse to let them rest in, or even just ‘try-out’ at times, the pleasures and plenty of earthly possessions and passions, just as the Israelites of old were not allowed to rest on the wrong side of the Jordan.  But most of all it would seem, they cannot, will not, accept as King Him Who has us pray:

            Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us!

Joshua (another form of the name Jesus) had been told by the people, ‘may the Lord be with you; only be strong and courageous’; that is, given that the Lord our God is with you, and you show yourself strong and courageous, we will follow you through whatever trials which lead into the Promised Land.  Was Jesus strong and courageous in His life and in His death?  Was the Lord, His Father, with Him in His Resurrection?  Indeed, Jesus was all that could be wanted of a leader of God’s People; and yet, despite all that, for so many modern ‘religious-minded believers’ the obedience due to the authority of Christ the King is withheld and has become the litmus test for true discipleship.

            And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. (John 12:32)

When lifted up on the Cross Jesus will draw all those whom the Father gives to Himself.  The obedience of the Cross is indeed the criterion for distinguishing true disciples, those whom the Father has called, from those who have come to Jesus, not in obedience to the Father’s call, but out of other motives -- apparently so admirable at times – but, for all that, diabolically unwilling to yield obedience to Christ as King.

People of God, Jesus is our King, and we are most proud to give true and total obedience to His kingly authority in our lives because we want to share in the splendour and beauty, power and glory, of His Kingdom.  The opportunity is there for us; the promise has been made to us; we are already equipped for the journey and indeed, we already have a beginning of its fulfilment: for today’s rejoicing in our King should give us some faint inkling of the blessed glory and glorious bliss that is to come. 

            Thy will be done that Thy Kingdom may come, Lord Jesus.


















Saturday, 16 November 2019

33rd Sunday Year C 2019


33rd. Sunday of Year (C)

(Malachi 3:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Saint Luke’s Gospel 21:5-19)



After forewarning His disciples of the trials and persecutions which lay ahead of them and would bring them to the same end as He Himself was soon to suffer, Jesus said:

            That will be your opportunity to bear witness.

That is, the whole wretched process of misunderstanding, rejection, betrayal, persecution, arrest and trial, would not be simply the result of blind chance, nor even, ultimately, the outcome of human perverseness or hatred.  No, threatening clouds would assemble over the heads of the disciples with God’s permission, indeed, as part of His plan for them, that will be your opportunity to bear witness.

The word ‘opportunity’ has special connotations which are most important for our thoughts on Our Lord’s meaning, because an ‘opportunity’ has to be grasped surely, must not to be missed, let slip; an opportunity is something to be welcomed and indeed be most grateful for.

Corresponding to the severity of the threat in which the disciples might find themselves would be the measure of God’s grace available to them: as the swelling waters of violence and hatred appear on every hand and mount up against them, that is when their opportunity will also be at hand, an opportunity to bear witness lifted up on the wings of God’s own wisdom, for they will not only be helped to defend the Good News of their proclamation, but Jesus Himself will, through their words, demonstrate the Gospel’s truth and power:

I Myself will give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict.

That this glorious outcome might take place the disciples must learn to forget themselves and trust completely in the Lord:

            Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence.

They must commit themselves entirely to the Spirit of God in the Church Who will give them – in a manner of His own choosing and perhaps imperceptible to themselves at the time – the necessary eloquence to utter His wisdom, despite their personal inadequacy or feelings of natural anxiety.

This belief and appreciation, that Christ is ever with His Church and, through His Spirit given to and through her, seeks to guide all her children -- living members  of His Body -- in their and her need, as indeed He is seeking to guide us personally here and now, for God’s purposes – that is an essential part of Christian self-awareness and Catholic strength, BUT it is also something not to be presumed, imitated, ‘put-on’ like show people; rather is it something to be most humbly desired, and lovingly prayed for.

In the world of classical music, it is supremely desirable for a singer to be able to sing the words and music he or she is performing ‘from the heart’, that is, without the direct supervision of mental scrutiny.

Of course, that ready, disciplined, ‘heart’ needs to have been previously formed with careful attention to the vocal techniques required, to a deeply sensitive understanding and expression of the emotions evoked by the words and music, and indeed it needs to  have an appropriate observance of current life in society and even a sharp awareness of the concert-hall atmosphere itself.  All that however, once the performance is about to begin, must be put aside, ‘forgotten’, in order that the performance might be a ‘living and heart-felt experience’ thanks to the unmistakable beauty and truth of ‘artless’ (!) spontaneity.

Now, the witness of Christians and Catholics to Christ is something of that nature.  It is not, ultimately, a matter of expressing a merely human appreciation of and response to, Jesus the Christ, and to His Church’s proclamation of His Gospel.  It is rather a matter of baring (sic) a loving and obedient relationship between disciple and Lord, between (our) God and (my) Saviour.  And the bearing (sic) of such witness is not for anybody to presume for themselves, it is promised in our Gospel reading only to those disciples who had been with Jesus throughout His public ministry and who were prepared to suffer, with Him and for Him.  That means for us today, that one can only hope to fully trust in, rely on, the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God, on the basis of a whole-hearted conversion to Christ, a life of faith not to be measured in years necessarily, but in sincerity and commitment lived with Him according to His discipline in joy and peace.

In the Old Testament we are told that the Lord had wanted Moses to go and speak not only to the People of Israel enslaved in Egypt but even to Pharaoh, the autocratic King of Egypt himself, with a message from the Lord:

But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent.  I am slow of speech and of tongue’.

Moses was painfully aware – from previous experience it would seem – of his inability to express himself with ease and fluency, and he was afraid that he might make a fool of himself before the mighty ruler of Egypt and prove to be an embarrassment for the People of Israel, and above all, that he might fail the Lord Himself most miserably.  Nevertheless, the Lord said to him:

Who has made man’s mouth?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now, therefore, go, and I will be your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.   (Exodus 4:10ff.)

Moses’ ‘opportunity’ was to be given him despite his fears, and the Holy Spirit did enable him to do what was above him for the glory of Israel’s God and the saving of His people.

Our Blessed Lord Himself, soon after having spoken to His disciples about their coming opportunity to bear witness, Himself had such an ‘opportunity’, something which, despite the accompanying circumstances of betrayal and hateful hypocrisy, He did indeed embrace whole-heartedly from His Father:

If you loved Me you would rejoice that I am going to the Father ... 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.  Get up, let us go!  (John 14: 28-31)

Thus, He left the warmth of the Last Supper to go to Gethsemane with His faithful disciples in order to grasp His own ‘opportunity’, to meet up with and face down His enemies, Judas Iscariot and the Temple police.

People of God, opportunities will come our way  and only when we have experienced and humbly accepted our own measure of helplessness and personal nothingness, only when we are dead to self-glory and truly seeking God’s will, can we and should we most confidently hope for and trust in God’s supplying grace to grasp such moments of special grace. 

Throughout the Christian life there is a most delicate balance between a God-graced mistrust of personal pride, and a like confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, and the true, exemplary, source of a life-sustaining and life-promoting balance is to be seen in Our Lord and Saviour and He assumed our lowliness in order that He might bestow on us a share in His Own divine prerogatives.

Dear People of God, we are now living in persecution times when Christians are suffering all over our world from radical fanatics, mocking unbelievers, and those whose lives are dedicated to seeking pleasure and power ‘a plenty’ or, at least, wherever they can be found.  In such times ‘opportunities’ – which can appear unexpectedly and are gone if not seized -- abound for all Christians.  We may miss some, but let us remember with holy fear that among those whom Jesus said He will deny before His Father and the angels are those who ‘are ashamed of My words before men’, those that is who never see any opportunities for them to personally witness to the Faith and Our Lord.

For all of us,  however, there is one ultimate and supreme ‘opportunity’, the moment of our death.  May we all make good use of that opportunity to give thanks to God the Father, bear loving witness to Jesus, the Son of Man and our dear Lord and Saviour, and invoke the Holy Spirit of love and truth for sincerity and peace in our final moments.

As we proceed in this Mass, therefore, let us beseech Our Lord that in Him we might share His death to the flesh and participate in His Risen Life by the Spirit. Let us receive the pledge of eternal life which He has left to us, His own must precious Body and Blood, with hearts truly humbled and contrite in the acknowledgement of our own sinfulness and poverty, and thereby sincerely opened up to, and ever more desirous of, the infusion of His most Holy Spirit into our lives, for His greater glory and our ever-greater proximity to, understanding of, and love for, the Father in Christ Jesus Our Lord. 














Friday, 8 November 2019

32nd Sunday Tear C 2019

 32nd Sunday of Year (C)
(2nd Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; 2nd.Thessalonians 2:16 – 3:5; Luke 20:27-38)



Our readings this Sunday are very topical and timely because we hear much about ‘family’ these days, not so much as a Christian institution consisting of father, mother, and their rightly born or adopted children, but about floating family-type relationships concerning one parent or two, capable of progeny or not, and one child, or several of possibly differing origins. And with the secular government trying to loudly promote itself and help, so they say, children of whatever parentage, there is a danger that people may begin to think that parentage of itself is a merely natural event and state of life, and that the secular authority can rightly legislate about all such ‘family’ matters.

We who are Christians and Catholics, however, whilst we are grateful for any real help given to strengthen the institution of married life, confess and profess that marriage is a God-gifted institution, established by Him for a spiritual and heavenly purpose bringing personal and social benefits essential for human progress in true peace and right prosperity: God’s purpose for marriage calls for life-long, mutual and exclusive love, leading to personal -- not merely sexual -- fulfilment for the spouses, and stability, confidence, and growth for the family and indeed society as a whole; while ultimately preparing for the eternal happiness and heavenly blessedness of all who dedicated their married lives to Christ, and tried to live them in the power and promise of His Spirit.

The Second Vatican Council teaches us that God Himself is the author of marriage when it declares:  The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by Him with its own proper laws.

Our Faith also tells us that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God Whose Love is the ultimate, absolute, and unfailing power which finds mankind good, very good, in all its powers and possibilities as the intention of His Creator’s thought;  and this divine love is intended to be recognized and embraced by mankind, thus enabling them, in turn, to bear fruit and find fulfilment in the work of presiding over creation:

            Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.

Man and woman themselves were originally created for one another, they are divinely complementary, and Jesus showed that Christian marriage -- requiring a sacred-and-lovingly-unbreakable union of husband and wife -- eminently manifests this divine intention, when He authoritatively recalled that in the beginning the Creator’s plan had been:

            That they are no longer two, but one flesh.

Sin however, entered into the world and now, especially in our modern times of Western betrayal, everyone experiences evil all around, openly portrayed and promoted by the media, and also from within his or her own life-experience.  And yet, the order of creation persists, even though men and women now know life as seriously disturbed and disturbing.  To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need anew and so very urgently the help of grace that God in His infinite mercy will never refuse them.  However, it is a grace originally won and supremely exemplified by Jesus Christ Who was willing to suffer Personally in order that His love might triumph in our sinful world, and without a like willingness to embrace suffering that His love might triumph in us and through us in our experience of life and living-together, men and women cannot achieve that inspiring union of their lives for which God created them in the beginning.

Jesus had a great respect for the institution of marriage as we see from the fact that, on the threshold of His public ministry He performed His first miracle – at His mother’s request – during a wedding feast.  In the course of that ministry, Jesus taught unequivocally the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning: the matrimonial union is indissoluble: God Himself has determined it:

            What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

No matter what the trendy press may print, no matter what public figures may do, no matter how much off-course human rights activists may agitate against it, marriage is a Christian institution for man and woman only and exclusively, and it cannot be terminated or broken by any civil authority. 

From these two principles we should begin to see something of the seriousness of marriage and the dignity both of the marriage bond itself and of the man and woman who together enter into that bond.

Let us now, in the light of Jesus’ teaching in the Church, have a short glance at today’s readings.  Let us begin with the Gospel reading.  You can see how the stiff-necked people whose hearts were hard, and who had forced Moses to wrongly allow them to divorce, came to regard matrimony; for the attitude of the Sadducees with their story of the seven brothers who died and the one wife who survived them all, shows neither reverence for what is holy, nor awareness of what is spiritual.  For them marriage was carnal and functional, nothing more.

However, Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees gives us guidance with regard to another and more modern error.  Marriage is not an end in itself nor is it eternal.  Marriage is, however, a pre-eminent means God has established and uses for the sanctification of people; and those who live their married life aright are thereby helped to become worthy, as Jesus said: of a place in the other world as children of the resurrection and sons of God.

But, an overly sentimental and predominantly emotional view of married love can very easily lead the partners to expect too much from it, and demand too much from each other, thus they can, quite tragically, become unforgiving in their attitude to each other.

Finally, let us have a short look at the first reading, for here is an example and a teaching which is certainly much needed today.   What a wonderful woman was shown us in that reading: she did indeed live the role marriage had brought her, that of a mother.  She taught her sons, she disciplined her sons, by the very love she had for them.  Let me just recall for you how she disciplined, by love, her youngest son:

In derision of the cruel tyrant, she leaned over close to her son and said in their native language: “Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age. I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things; and in the same way the human race came into existence.   Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.”  

You who are mothers should recognize that YOU have, from God, the key to your children’s hearts, and that you and your husband have also God-given authority over and for your children.  Use those gifts with humility, prayer, and confidence.  Do not let your children do whatever they may want, but guide them, comfort, and discipline them, with love; realize that your children are gifts to you from God and bring them up as children of His whom He has entrusted to you; do not leave them to guide themselves, or follow the example of those who have neither faith nor morals.

Parent and child are meant to thank God eternally for each other: mothers, you teach your children,  to respect their father; fathers, teach your children to love their mother.  Parents both, don’t fail in your responsibility before God, because you are meant to be the first and surest teachers and exemplars about God for your children ... don’t lose that heavenly glory which will, most surely, be yours by loving and respecting each other, and together, serving, calmly loving and trusting God, in all the joys and vicissitudes of life.

May I close on a note of surprise and sorrow now seeing how little parents, religious parents, parents following the teachings of Moses, Mohammed, and Jesus, do not witness together – along with other religious people -- for the common well-being of their children against state incursions on their teaching.  As a Catholic, I can say that our Bishops are meant to guide and lead us in the ways of Jesus, but parents can also act of themselves if need be, and the question of the Christian well-being of our children is most certainly of human as well as religious concern.  All believers in the sovereignty of God in our lives should be able co-operate together when necessary for that sovereignty in the formation of their children’s lives.