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, 22 February 2019

7th Sunday Year C 2019

7th. Sunday of Year (C)

(1Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38)


My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, when we seek to understand our Blessed Lord, we must always bear in mind that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.  Consequently, we should beware lest we foist our own attitudes and ideas onto Him; and, if we should ever think it might be necessary to understand His words in any way other than that of their clear and obvious meaning, then we must always have a reverential fear lest we betray His holy wisdom by indulging our own partiality.  Indeed, we must always suspect, and therefore inspect, our own sinfulness and prejudices before we say anything that might seem to lessen the force of His words and the integrity of His intentions.

That said, it is a fact that Jesus, at times, did seem to speak in such a way as to shock His hearers into thinking about, not just hearing, what He was saying.  Sometimes He seems to have deemed it necessary to provoke, or even offend, His listeners – as in last Sunday’s Gospel passage for example -- in order to make them seriously think about His teaching, rather than just passively listen to His words.

The Gospel reading we have just heard may have induced such passivity in some who might, perhaps, be inclined say that today’s reading was very nice.  Indeed it was ‘nice’ as regards expressing some beautiful aspirations or thoughts; but did it not also contain  some words that might seem to be as equally disturbing, if not shocking, as His words at His home-town synagogue, or the ’woes’ in last Sunday’s gospel?   For example, what is one to think about the words:

Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back?

In order to understand Jesus aright we must turn to Mother Church, our guide and support along the Way.  For she, together with our Gospel reading, also set before us today King David in the first reading, who gave us an admirable example of loving our enemy.  And yet, for all that David reverenced Saul as the Lord’s anointed King, he in no way trusted Saul as a person, and he had no intention of falling into the hands of that person, which is why he took great care to protect his own life by putting a considerable distance between the King and himself before revealing his presence:

(he) stood on the top of a hill afar off, a great distance being between them.

Only at such a distance did David think it safe to make Saul aware of what had, and what had not, just happened.  Notice too that although David reverenced Saul as God’s anointed, nevertheless he roundly accused him of his personal, evil, actions:

Why does my lord thus pursue his servant? For what have I done, or what evil is in my hand?  Now therefore, please, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant: If the LORD has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering. But if it is the children of men, may they be cursed before the LORD.

David was showing truly Christian love in his dealings with Saul but in no way was he willing to put himself at the mercy of Saul.

Now today there are some who refuse to accept the guidance of Mother Church: they turn to the Scriptures as the only source of teaching for Christians and will accept only the obvious and literal meaning of the words they read there, because any other understanding must, necessarily, come from some other -- and to their mind, invalid -- source.  Therefore, to remain faithful to such a Bible-only approach to Christian faith and practice they would understand Jesus’ words:

            To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also,

quite literally; and so, they might well think that, ideally, David in our first reading should not have been fleeing from Saul, but should rather have trusted in God and allowed Saul to apprehend him. 

There are many others in our modern society, and indeed they are the great majority today, who neither acknowledge Mother Church nor accept the Scriptures, and to their minds Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel passage is sheer madness:

Give to everyone who asks of you.  And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 

For, how can such words be relevant to, or applicable in, modern society, where there are so many liars and con-merchants, so many drug addicts and drunkards, so many care-free vagrants who have no scruples whatsoever.  How can a father, working hard to support his family, give to everyone who asks?   And again, from a social point of view, if people just allowed themselves to be mugged in the streets without trying to keep what was being stolen from them, where would our society be?  Thieves and blackguards, young thugs and budding bullies, would feel free to get their money from anyone they might choose to pick on in the street, with the result that there would no longer be any human society, just a modern jungle where might is considered right, cunning supplants consideration, and instinctive lies come easier than truth and its attendant difficulties.

In such a maelstrom of righteous voices, self-proclaimed Christian teaching and opinions, as well as modern politically-correct attitudes, I just want to recall to your minds how Judas Iscariot – pretending to be the super-disciple -- tried to turn Jesus’ teaching against Himself:

Then Judas the Iscariot, one (of) His disciples, and the one who would betray Him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”  He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.  So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of My burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”  (John 12:4–8)

I would suggest, dear People of God, that in our Gospel reading today, Jesus -- far from preaching madness, and far from attacking, provoking, in order to change -- is trying to guide us, lead us, into thinking through His words to His teaching, that we might perhaps, in that way, come to realize and appreciate a most important spiritual truth. 

Why does He choose to speak in that way?  Because we cannot have God given us on a platter; we have to want communion with God, that is, we needs-must come to want to understand, to want to love and to live for, Him supremely, and such blessings are only bestowed on those who desire them most sincerely and are willing to strive wholeheartedly for such communion.  Jesus is, therefore, speaking today – that is, to those who desire to know and love Him more -- not to provoke, as at Nazareth, but in such a way as  to urge them, call them, to strive, search, and pray, for ever greater understanding when things seem strangely obscure or even dark, for ever greater faith and trust when that darkness brings along with it an unwonted coldness that would  threaten the warm spark of love.

What then is He wanting us, today, to fathom out for ourselves when, moved, puzzled perhaps, by His words, we are, nevertheless, urged on by His Spirit within us?

Jesus, I suggest, is trying to make us realize that His Holy Spirit must be able lead us anywhere; and therefore, that there should be no set limits in our loving and obedient response to Him whereby we might cry out ‘Thus far and no further’. 

Moreover, Jesus wants to help us appreciate that our relationship with Him, by the Spirit, is to be a relationship that is not only ecclesial, but also and always personal, and indeed, sometimes, possibly unique. That is, He does not always and necessarily ask of us the same as He seeks from others.   In the most important and essential issues, the Spirit moves the Church as the identically one Body of Christ; at other times however, He may  will – for His own specific purposes – to move, use, an individual as a distinct member of that one Body, as He has done with His saints over the ages, for example our own, modern, St. Therese of Lisieux, unique and distinct most certainly, yet loved and admired by all.

St. Paul told us that:

As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 

That is, we have to -- it is our heavenly calling to -- become like Jesus.  Now, that is not to be done by following pat formulae or human imaginations; only the Spirit of Jesus can form us, individually and personally, into a distinct likeness of Jesus.  And therefore, we have to learn to recognize and respond to the Holy Spirit, given us by Jesus in Mother Church, when He tries to move us, as individual disciples of Jesus.  Moreover, though individually distinct, we are all, also, vital members of the One Body of Christ, and it is essential for the integrity of the whole Body that the Holy Spirit be able, by His divine wisdom and grace, to move us – both as one and individually -- in such a way as to harmoniously continue and further the authentic work of salvation inaugurated by Jesus.

Tragically, there are many in Mother Church today who are afraid to follow the Guiding Spirit of Jesus in their lives: they choose to do what is popular, they seek what promises to be successful, they adopt what is politically correct; while there are others who fear too much the responsibility of trying to hear, understand, and respond to what God wants of them.  Nevertheless, we must always remember that Jesus, too, frequently pondered, prayed, and struggled, to understand and follow His Father’s will:

Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will. (Mark 14:36)

He learned from events to recognize both His Father’s working in others, and His Father’s will for Himself.  For example, when Peter, without hesitation, and in the name of all the Twelve, said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” Jesus recognized that His Father had chosen Peter and that He wanted Jesus to do the same, for which reason, Jesus answered Peter saying:

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven.   And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.   (Matthew 16:17-18)

We, likewise, have to follow Jesus and try to recognize, understand, and obey God’s Spirit at work in us, seeking to form us personally in Jesus for the Father and for the Church.  And we must also recognize that He, the Spirit, may choose to lead us, as individuals, just as Jesus taught Peter:

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?"  Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?"  Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me." (John 21:20-22)

So, in our Gospel reading today, Jesus is not saying directly and with full intent, that here are some things you must do, literally and no matter what; rather is He trying to lead us into a right attitude in our relationship with and response to, His Holy Spirit working in the Church; an attitude, that is, of unconditional surrender to the Spirit.

It is not permissible for us to set limits that would say ‘thus far and no further’ to the Spirit’s authority and inspiration; for the Spirit invites each and every one of us -- individually, as a child of God -- to follow His guidance, obey His will, and in that way allow ourselves to be formed in the likeness of Jesus for the Father, and also to be used by the Spirit for the good of the Church and for the Father’s glory.  If therefore, the Spirit does ask of you, personally, in any particular situation:

To do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you; to him who strikes you on the one cheek, to offer the other also; and from him who takes away your cloak, not (to) withhold your tunic either; (to) give to everyone who asks of you, and from him who takes away your goods  not (to) ask them back;

then, indeed recognize that He is wanting this of you now, in this particular situation, for the good of the Church and for your personal formation as a disciple of Jesus; but it is not, necessarily, what He is wanting from others, and it may not, indeed, be His permanent purpose for you.

It is immeasurably more important than any such individual, passing, actions -- meritorious though they may be -- that we learn to have a permanent attitude of listening for, and humbly responding to, the call of the Spirit.  As human beings, and as disciples of Jesus and children of Mother Church, it is not of the greatest importance that we always get things right, that we never leave ourselves open to the criticism or blame of men; far, far more important is it that we learn to listen ever better for the Spirit speaking within us; that we become more able to hear Him clearly when He does so speak, and become ever more prepared to unhesitatingly respond by following His lead along ways that give glory to God, help our neighbour, and exalt Mother Church.  Those ways are the only ways that truly lead to heaven because they are chosen for us by the Spirit of Jesus, for the purpose of forming each of us in the likeness of the ‘heavenly man’, and Mother Church herself as the perfect Bride of Christ, offering and commending His salvation to the whole of mankind.