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, 26 December 2020

The Holy Family Year B 2020


Sermon 59: The Holy Family (B)   

(Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:22-40)


Today’s feast and the readings chosen for it by Mother Church invite us to think on the characteristics of family life from the Christian point of view: the family life of a man and woman who have dedicated their union to Christ: for His glory, and also for their own fulfilment and salvation together with that of any children the Lord may give them.  It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; a domestic church.

Notice, first of all, the absolute importance of family for us Christians: the very Son of God would not enter into this world other than by being born into a family.  One parent homes are not of God’s choosing and -- apart from special circumstances with the help of public support or by God’s special grace -- they are not able to provide the human background, understanding and sympathy that God wants for each and every child.

Joseph and Mary were never to have sex our faith teaches, but Joseph was essential for the birth of Jesus: the family for God’s only-begotten-Son-made-flesh had to be made up of a man and a woman.  ‘Families’ of the same sex are not Christian families, they can neither pretend to be, or ever hope to become, such. Notice here that God the Father, when requiring that His Son be born as man into a family made up of one man and one woman, was not just following an arbitrary rule or (Mosaic) law of His own making, He was doing it out of His over-flowing love of the future Child – His most beloved and only-begotten Son – Who to become incarnate in human flesh.   Moreover, this Child-birth was not to be just a traditional blessing for the Jewish people, for God wanted His Son to be born into the family of Mary and Joseph for the greater good and the guidance of the whole world.

This fact of the supreme importance of the family for the good of children and of society is not disputed among the great religions of the world, nor do governments of the free world dispute the Christian family’s role and function for the good of society in general.  Governments, however, yield easily to popular pressures and they seek to promote not only what is good for the people but also, and at times, primarily, what is likely to be for their own good at the next election, as we see today when they pretend that same-sex unions can be accepted as a family alongside the family of man and woman. 

Consequently we, as Catholic Christians, base our appreciation of the nature and role of the family not on any politically correct view but on the ages-long experience of human society, the inspired guidance of the Scriptures, and also the infallible teaching of Mother Church.

As in every body made up of several parts, the over-riding requirement is that of unity, for without unity such a body cannot function aright, and it will fragment.  That is why, St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians, when telling them how to give glory to God and how, in modern terms, to give good press to the Faith, spoke of that one basic and supremely important need for unity in Christian family life.  There was, of course, much else that he could have said about such family life, but at this point in his letter there was no opportunity for anything more than what was absolutely necessary, and so he wrote:

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.   Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.   Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.

I think that everyone will agree that for men in general, their weakness, their ‘Achilles’ heel’ in relations with women and in family life, is a tendency towards violence, together with an excessive love of, and absorption in, work at the expense of developing personal relationships of understanding and love.  However, when considering more particularly the question of violence between spouses, and having just acknowledged a man’s tendency towards violence, we must recognize the fact that a woman’s violence WITH HER TONGUE can often be most BITTER, and that bitterness can provoke men to resort to slap-violence.  It is essential to recognize that violence of whatever sort is wrong before God, and feminine violence with her tongue can be equally as wrong as man’s ‘slap-hand’ violence.  Legally however, woman’s violence with her tongue – her more natural weapon, though she also is known to use slaps when arguing -- is rarely considered as criminal, though the harm done by it can be enduringly hurtful, whereas a man’s violence with his hand that is, a man’s slap with his hand – his more natural weapon under provocation -- seems to be regularly condemned as criminal.

Wouldn’t it be strange then, if Saint Paul, writing in order to preserve and build up unity in the family, gave guidance to married men that is so pertinent and precise -- love your wives and do not be harsh with them -- and then was to be very far out in his prescription for women?  His words to them are, in fact, just as clear and incisive as those words of advice he gave for men, and he, in the name of Jesus, told women then, and the Scriptures still proclaim his teaching to women of today: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”  Submit, that is, to your husband’s decision as being necessary for the family, so long as it is “in the Lord”.  Endless arguing should be anathema!

Again, our everyday experience confirms Paul’s teaching in this respect.  Modern day feminists see themselves as rivals to men not as complimentary to them; and even were the man to be their husband, their love for him as a person might well be insufficient to ameliorate their confrontational attitude towards men in general.  Moreover, because they set themselves up as rivals to, and independent of, men, they feel bound, frequently, to try to prove that they can do manly work every bit as well as men, claiming the right to be boxers, miners, front-line soldiers, etc.  There is no doubt that they can, indeed, do many manly things, many brave actions, but, at times, only at the cost of a certain loss of their own femininity.  A woman can drive heavy, long-distance lorries, slug it out in a boxing ring, dig coal, fight in battles; but what sort of woman will be the result?

The assertion of women’s rights is all to the good, it is the teaching both of Mother Church and the Scriptures that man and woman are of equal dignity and worth in God’s eyes; but the demand for equal rights carried to that excess which would claim equality in every respect, will only result in a society where there are fewer and fewer true men and women, and more and more human beings of no particular character: men  without spirit and strength of character; and women lacking female charm or grace of character (other than over-stressed and exploited physical beauty), and much less able to sympathetically understand and positively guide and develop the volatile humanity of young children, and to form the bond of mutual appreciation and sympathetic help in family life, thereby promoting in a uniquely effective way social harmony and peace.

Paul’s last bit of teaching on family life concerns the young:

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.

Christian parents should never be embarrassed by this their right to obedience from their children.  Children who obey their parents gain a blessing from the Lord, because, Paul tells us, such obedience is pleasing to the Lord, and that is because it is for the good of the children.  You cannot be a good parent if you abdicate your God-given right to obedience from your children.  Children -- young people especially -- should note that they have to show obedience to their parents out of love for the Lord, “It is pleasing to the Lord”; and so there can never be any question of children obeying in what is sinful.

The last admonition is addressed by Paul to fathers because of their tendency towards violence in general, but today we know that it applies equally to possessive and domineering mothers:

Do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 

Every aspect of Christian family life is ordained towards the good of the children, the fulfilment of the parents, and to the benefit of human society: parents in their attitude towards their children are neither to spoil them by releasing them from their duty of obedience nor are they to embitter them by their own harshness.  And the personal, mutual, relationship of husband and wife is, likewise, most necessary for the good of the children, and needs to be regulated with that end in view: therefore, the husband must love his wife, and the wife must respect her husband, both of them “in the Lord”, for family unity, peace, and cohesion, requires it.  Their personal fulfilment and sanctification as disciples of Christ and children of God go hand in hand, and are to be attained through that mutual fulfilment of, and submission to, God’s will; the nostrums of modern psychological or social theoreticians can in no way sound the depths of human nature or the splendour of mankind’s destiny.  It is noticeable that whereas modern society in the West recognizes, with St. Paul, man’s tendency to downgrade love, it is unable, unwilling, or even afraid (?), to publicly accept the equally noticeable tendency for women to downgrade respect.

Finally, let us have a look at the behaviour of Mary and Joseph in the Gospel.

I will just bring out one or two points for you to note.  First of all, Mary and Joseph both teach the Child obedience by themselves being obedient to the Lord and the Law:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  

Simeon the Temple priest blessed both Joseph and Mary, but in the matter of the Child’s Personal destiny it was Mary alone he addressed: Mary’s personal dignity was not in any way lessened or compromised by her submission to Joseph in the family, for the family. 

Finally, try to imagine the joy of both Mary and Joseph when they began to see the fruit of their personal sacrifices:

The Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon Him.

The development of the Child Jesus is meant to serve as a model for the nurturing of all Christian children: they need to gradually grow in human wisdom and in their endowment of divine grace, so that their fullness of their God-given personality may develop hand in hand with their physical growth.

People of God, make every effort to bring up your children in a Christian family atmosphere in accordance with the teaching of Jesus.  A true home, both earthly and heavenly, can only be attained by walking in the power and holiness of the Spirit, along the path prescribed for our well-being by the Father Who calls us, and trodden, for our example, by His Son Who loved, died, and rose again, for us.


Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Christmas 2020


Christmas 2020


(Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; St. John 1:1-18)




Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, in the course of our Advent preparation Mother Church bade us pray: ‘Lord, as we walk amid passing things, teach us by them to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures.’


In accordance with that prayer, I would like to bring to your mind this Christmas morning a very popular character of great importance to our Christmas celebrations: Father Christmas.  Even though there will be little attention given in the media and public celebrations to the Person of the Child Whose coming is so blatantly exploited in this season, Father Christmas is, on the other hand, to be seen everywhere, feted and surrounded by wondering children, always being questioned about the gifts he is bringing … will his sack be big enough to hold, and his reindeer strong enough to carry, them all?   How the media love to plug Father Christmas and his gifts for the financial advantages such a presentation of Christmas rejoicing brings for their sponsors, and perhaps, in our present times, also for a more charitable purpose of bringing some traditional, easily-appreciated joy, to many suffering under lockdowns from loneliness and tedium!


Practicing Catholics and Christians rightly reject such a distortion of Christmas.  And yet, many of them -- while rejecting the commercial Father Christmas -- tend themselves to overlook the real Father-of-Christmas, that is, the heavenly Father of Jesus, and in so doing concoct another distortion of their own, smothering Christmas with excessive sentimentality, centred exclusively on the birth of the child and the joy of his mother.  You might have noticed that I have not emphasized ‘the child or his mother’, because those Catholics and Christians I have in mind relate to Jesus’ birth in much as they would any to other mother and baby scenario, and seem to have no doubt that their emotional extravaganza is a fitting, contemporary, expression of that spirit of devotion which drove the Three Kings across desert wastes; indeed, of that  spirit of holiness which caused the angels from heaven to burst forth into joyful chorus and filled the hearts and minds of Mary and Joseph with wonderment and joy.


Now, whilst that extravaganza might possibly be considered acceptable piety for many who are preoccupied with the cares and distractions of the world around them, it is certainly not satisfactory for those disciples of Jesus who have the desire to find a deeper spiritual appreciation of the wonder and the beauty of this joyful season.


Father Christmas …. Father Christmas … I repeat the name, the title, the sobriquet, because I am sure the world will not fail to remind you of it no matter how many Christmas seasons may lie before you, and I want to draw some help for you NOW from that very worldly fact, that will, indeed, cause you to love more truly the things of heaven, by impressing upon your Catholic mind and Christian sensitivity the real, indeed the vital, connection between Father and Christmas


As in the beginning the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of creation, so still today -- for God’s chosen ones -- the Spirit of God can be appreciated hovering over the world to which He originally gave being and which is still recognizable as His creation for us believers, a creation ever ‘eager’ to bear witness to its Creator and Inspiration, despite the fact that a majority of its inhabitants in our modern Western part of the world are no longer willing or able to recognize it as such, and consequently find themselves unable to admire and learn from a wondrous beauty they still feel, somehow, drawn to celebrate this season.


What is the essential character of Christmas?


Those sentimental Catholics and Christians to whom I earlier referred would say that the beauty of Christmas, its ‘pulling-power’ so to speak, is centred on the beauty and innocence of the Child, which disarms all who are aware of sin in themselves and in the world around.  However, if we know ourselves well enough, we must admit that many other pictures of tranquil beauty and unstained innocence -- be they pastoral scenes, or even perhaps pictures of wide-eyed puppies or playful kittens -- can stir up in us fleeting emotions of a somewhat similar nature.  The essence of Christmas must therefore lie deeper, indeed it must be something other, than such openly emotional, short-lived, worldly, sentiments.

We are told, by the evangelists Matthew and Luke, of some who came in a spirit of joy and wonder to see the new-born Child:


The wise men set out, and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the Child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they knelt down and paid Him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

When the angels had left and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”  So, they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Child lying in the manger.  When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this Child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

However, the Wise Men and the shepherds, on leaving that scene of innocent and yet solemn beauty, seem to have returned to their former lives, for they are not to be encountered again in our Gospel story.  They admired, wondered at, the fact of Christ’s advent but did not realize its full significance, were not able to appreciate its depth of meaning and purpose.  We have, therefore, to find somehow a way that will lead us deeper into the beauty and peace of that manger scene, towards the eternal wisdom and divine truth hidden in the silent embrace of the as yet speechless Child and His adoring mother.

I remember when I was training to become a classical singer that those audiences who burst out into immediate applause as soon as a musical item came to an end were not appreciated half so much as others audiences who – at the end of a performance -- were seemingly beauty-bound by a gossamer web of silence, and only reluctantly broke that spell by giving place to applause which was felt, at that moment, to be an almost unworthy sign of appreciation.  On such occasions, the audience were more than listeners, they had become fellow travellers, sharing with the artist in a beautiful musical experience.


Now let us turn to St. Luke’s observation of Mary and Joseph at the Birth of the Lord:

Mary treasured all these words (that is, all that had happened) and pondered them in her heart.


I suggest, and I have no doubt that you will agree, that Mary’s attitude of awe-inspired reverence and total loving-commitment penetrates most surely and deeply to the essential significance of the Christmas mystery, while it most truly and fully rejoices the heart of the Father in heaven.


Moreover, we find that same attitude to the Incarnation of God’s Son in the Gospel of John, who, as you will remember, took Mary to his home in obedience to the dying words of Jesus.  For John, when speaking of the Birth of the Messiah paints no emotionally moving picture, but simply says:


God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (3:16)

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. (1:14)


On both occasions, however, notice that he brings the Father into prominence; and from that basis goes on to develop his teaching:


In this is love … that (God) loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins … (yes, God) sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.   (1 John 4:9-11)


Dear People of God, the wonder of Christmas is indeed found in the Child but not if we see the Child merely as a child of disarming beauty and innocence.  Such a child can most certainly stir us emotionally but has neither Personal character nor prospective  teaching to which we can relate or respond.   Christmas is only to be appreciated aright when He, the Child, is seen as the One Who is potentially the fullest possible manifestation, and Who, indeed, is already a sublimely beautiful expression, of the Father’s love for us; He is the absolutely unique One through Whom the Father’s love is preparing to touch, change, and save, all of us.

If we recognize the Child as the Father’s Gift, then we will be ever on the alert for the Good News the Child brings, we will watch Him grow up, desiring to know from Him ever more of the Father’s love, and how we can learn to embrace and respond to that love in and with Him, the only-begotten and well-beloved Son.  All in the spirit of those words spoken with regard to John the Baptist:


“What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with Him.


Looking exclusively and emotionally on the child makes Christmas into an occasion when we can pour out our feelings and affections upon Him and for His mother.  However, when -- like all children He grows up -- then, in adult situations, and needing at times to speak hard words and warn of dire punishment, He will, of necessity, lose much of that which so charmed us in His Nativity, with the result that the Gospel’s most treasured message will be for us but the recollection of His past Infancy, and the Christmas season a time for us to re-savour it as much and for as long as we possibly can  before the memory inevitably fades as we have to face up to the more bleak reality of His subsequent life and death.


On the other hand, seeing the Child as the expression of the Father’s supreme and astounding love leads us to forget ourselves in immediate and heartfelt gratitude to the Father; whereupon, turning to the Child with gratitude and joy, we then experience a deep longing for and anticipation of His future manhood that will reveal to us more of the deep, mysterious depths of the Father’s ‘incredible’ love for us, the hidden wonders of the Child’s Personality and Being, and the unimaginable destiny God has in store for us.

The greatest moments of the Christian life are not times in which we do something for God or get something for ourselves, rather are they moments when, first and foremost, we humbly receive, before subsequently trying gratefully and patiently to appreciate, God’s marvellous gifts and inconceivable goodness.  Ultimately, no human being could ever have found God; we have only come to truly know and experience Him because He has graciously revealed Himself to us, and when we, with spiritual peace of mind and humility of heart, have been able to welcome and embrace Him.   Consequently, since a supremely significant step in God’s self-revelation to mankind is made here in the Incarnation, this Christmas is a time, an occasion, to be lived in company with, and in imitation of, Mary.

God originally created us out of love; in Adam we sinned, becoming subject to Satan, sin and death, and allowing chaos and disruption to enter the beautiful garden that had been entrusted to our care: thereby we involved the whole of God’s ‘good’ creation in the consequences of our own fall and failing. Now the great mystery of Christmas is that God -- having originally loved us enough to create us -- showed us, even after such a betrayal in the Garden, yet greater love by sending His only-begotten and most-beloved Son as One-like-us-with-us to redeem us.

And that, that wondrous and mysteriously overflowing love, is the ‘pulling-power’ of Christmas today, for, it is still being offered us anew, still at work, in this Christian year of celebration 2020!   For those who are mature enough to appreciate Mother Church’s yearly celebration of the Child’s coming, Christmas recalls the Father’s love to our minds and offers us grace to open up our hearts to it and Him anew; the liturgical year in its subsequent progress will invite and enable us to grow with the Son-made-flesh in that reverence and love, and to respond to it by the power of His Spirit to be poured out upon us!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Christmas is, supremely, a time for gratitude to the Father of Jesus -- the real Father Christmas -- and of hope in the Child … what indeed will this Child of such Love become, what will He show us, what will He teach us, where will He lead us???

Father Christmas … Heavenly Father of Christmas, thank You for the Infant Jesus! Help me to follow every stage of His life and teaching that I might learn from Him how to know and love You, because Jesus said that that was the purpose of His coming: He had come to make Your name known!   Father, You give us Jesus, You offer Him anew to us this Christmas … give us, likewise, to Jesus, for He Himself again said that none can draw near to Him unless You, Father, send them, give them, to Him.  Father, give me to Jesus this Christmas, that in Jesus, by the Spirit of Jesus, I might become like Him a true child of Yours!

Saturday, 19 December 2020

4th Sunday of Advent Year B 2020


 4th. Sunday of Advent (B)

(2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-12, 14a, 16; Romans 16:25-7; Luke 1:26-38)



Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all our readings this week-end speak about what God is going to do.

David, you heard, planned to build a temple for the Lord:

When the LORD had given King David rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.”

However, it was God Who would build the temple He wanted when the time was right,  therefore, He sent Nathan back to David with this message:

Go, tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build Me a house to dwell in?  When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm.  I will be a Father to him, and he shall be a son to Me.  Your kingdom and your house shall endure forever before Me.’

In those words there is a most important point for us to recognize and appreciate:  whatever good work we do for God is essentially dependent upon the intention we have in mind when doing it; but, even when our work and our intention are both good, the attitude in which we do it can be of great importance.  David was adopting a somewhat condescending attitude to God, therefore the Lord answered him:

            Should you build Me a house to dwell in?

God sensed a trace of that original pride which had led to Adam and Eve’s disregarding of God’s authority and providence, in David’s attitude, and any trace whatsoever of that original catastrophic evil left uncorrected would quickly sour David’s present zeal for the glory of Israel’s God and gratitude for His goodness; therefore, the prophet was instructed to make it clear to David just Who was leading and guiding, protecting and saving.

David subsequently lived long enough before God to gladly look forward, in his restored humility and hope, to prepare for the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise through his son Solomon, who did, indeed, eventually build an earthly Temple for the Lord in Jerusalem.  However, that first Temple would be destroyed by the Babylonians after some 350 years  and was not replaced until a second and truly splendid Temple was later built by the wicked King Herod, who produced a wonderful structure which amazed the world of that time but was in no way pleasing to God in so far as it had been built with the wrong intention, not indeed for God’s glory -- as with David and Solomon before -- but for the personal glory of Herod and the renown of his kingdom under the watchful eyes of his imperial overlords in Rome.  And fittingly enough, it was the Romans who -- as Jesus foretold -- not only destroyed, but indeed totally obliterated, that symbol of Herod’s glory before one hundred years had passed. 

And so, we can see that God’s word to David by the prophet Nathan was looking over and beyond Solomon, for it envisaged Jesus Himself Whose risen, glorious, Body would become the ultimate Temple of God among men: a temple not built by human hands, a Temple wherein Jews and Gentiles without distinction would have access to the Father by the one Most Holy Spirit:

The Jews said to Him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.’   The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’  But He was speaking about the Temple of His body.   (John 2:18-21)

Consequently, our Gospel was all about God choosing when (in the fullness of time), by Whom (His own Son), and through whom (the virgin Mary of Nazareth), salvation would ultimately be offered to the human race:

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But she was greatly troubled at what was said, and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall name Him JESUS.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ 

It is God alone Who gives salvation and works wonders.  However, we are not excluded from His purposes, indeed, we are graciously called – in Jesus -- to share in and contribute to His work.   Although the Lord did not allow David himself to build the Temple in Jerusalem, his desire to do so was most pleasing to Him, and therefore He allowed him to help his son’s preparations, and rewarded David himself with great blessings, the greatest of which being that He, the Lord, would build David a house, and from that house the Messiah Himself, Israel’s supreme King, would eventually come. 

Now Mary had always wanted to give her utmost for the God of Israel, and therefore she had longed to devote herself completely by offering her virginity to Him.  However, such a gesture was almost inconceivable among the Jewish people who held marriage and childbirth in such great honour, but it was the only way Mary could think of that would give full expression to her consuming desire to belong entirely to, and to glorify totally, Israel’s God.  Therefore, she said in response to the angel Gabriel’s good news:

How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?

Here, as in the case of David, her desire itself was most pleasing to God, and it would be most sublimely fulfilled in the way God wanted: Mary could, indeed, remain a virgin; notwithstanding that, she would bear a child, God’s Child, the very Son of God.

We find this pattern so often among the great saints, People of God:  Francis of Assisi longed to be a martyr for Christ, he even went to preach Christ among the Muslims.  Though God had His own plans for Francis, He did make him great and He even gave him the signs of Jesus’ own martyrdom: the stigmata!  Again, St. Therese of Lisieux most ardently desired to become a martyr, or else a missionary; indeed, she did not know how to satisfy her manifold and ardent desires for God’s glory.  God, however, wanted her in the solitude of an enclosed convent where she was to serve Him with whole-hearted love in each and every one of the minutely regulated, and very ordinary, details of her life as a nun.   For all that, He did love and respect her ardent desires, as is shown by the fact that He had her proclaimed as the heavenly patroness of all those living, working, and dying in the mission fields of Mother Church today.

My dear people, it is a fact that God alone does the work of salvation, for to Him alone is the glory and power.  Nonetheless, as I have just said, He actually wills us to be associated in the work His own dear Son accomplished in His human flesh and blood, to the extent that even the bread and wine we offer Him at daily Mass must be, and must be declared to be, made by human hands.  And God does not use human beings like tools; for, in Jesus, we are called to co-operate with Him as true children trying to glorify their Father, and that is the attitude we should always have as we work to do His will for His glory; and it is through such work that we are enabled to receive, by the Holy Spirit, a personal share -- in Jesus -- of God’s infinite holiness and eternal blessedness.

Since, in the work of God, there is absolutely nothing any of us can do of ourselves, therefore, none of us can excuse ourselves by complaining that we are less talented than others.  Whereas our natural physical powers and mental abilities are individual and strictly limited, our spirit, on the other hand, is capable of being tuned into the infinity of God Himself, but this can only come about, if we diligently and perseveringly exercise our freedom -- won for us by Jesus -- to love good and reject evil.

The true criterion for a faithful servant of God is, therefore, the nature and the depth of that person’s desires and intentions. What do you desire most sincerely and, ultimately, above all else?   Do you, in all truth, want to make something of your life with and for God, to serve Him faithfully and supremely?  Do you want with most sincere desire to become a true Child of God in Jesus?  If you can say “Yes” to such questions, and if you can keep on aspiring to serve Him even though you may think you see little of worth in your life … if you will keep on telling God of your desire even though He never seems to hear you, then you will indeed be used by Him for His purposes -- be they secret or manifest -- and you will become a disciple after Jesus’ own most sacred heart, and in Him, a true child of the heavenly Father.

Of course, that is not easily done nor can it done quickly, it is a life-time’s work.  Today people expect to see results come post-haste: that is part of the character of modern Western society; and when, in the spiritual life, things do not seem, are not seen, to come quickly, the temptation for many is to give up the attempt to live a truly religious life.  The advantages resulting from sin in the world are more easily, quickly, and intensely, experienced than the blessings accruing to us through devotion to God and constancy in the Faith; and consequently, though the wages of sin are ultimately pernicious, their passing pleasures can cloud over God’s eternal and sublime blessings for those who prefer the present delights of earthly solicitation to God’s promise of eternal fulfilment in Jesus, as beloved children of His in heaven.

There are other ways of succumbing to sin and the world, however, than by openly falling away from the practice of the Faith.  Some, yielding to pride, try, by subtle or by blatant means, to make themselves appear holy, to put on for themselves what they cannot wait to receive from God, seeking to establish a reputation in the sight of men rather than humbly persevering before God Who might seem to be ignoring them. Those, however, whose mind is centred on God, though they may, at times, be made painfully aware of their own nothingness, do not become thereby downcast or disheartened, precisely because their mind is always occupied with desires, intentions, for His good-pleasure and glory, and they are, consequently, always looking forward and hoping in Him rather than despairing of themselves. 

People of God, our readings today reveal to us something of the secret of Christmas joy and peace.  Let us welcome Jesus anew into our lives this Christmas; let us seek to serve Him, not condescendingly, but humbly as King David needed to be taught: allowing Him to guide and rule not only our intentions but also our attitude in life.  Mary, our Mother, urges and encourages us to follow her own most perfect example in our Gospel reading: by giving herself wholeheartedly to God’s intentions for her, abandoning worries about herself and her standing before men, and in her attitude before God, as she explained in her response to the angel He had sent her:

Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord! May it be done to me according to your word.

Than that, there is no surer way to experience the unique quality of Christian, Christmas, joy, which derives from a divine fulfilment of our human potential: a joy that bathes us in a uniquely peaceful and soul-satisfying truth, through our Spirit-blessed human fellowship with Jesus our Brother, and in Him as faith-committed disciples of the heavenly Father’s only-begotten Son, sent to an alienated world for the salvation of all those of good will, destined and called to become, in Him, members of God the Father’s family in heaven.






Friday, 11 December 2020

3rd Sunday of Advent Year B 2020


 3rd. Sunday of Advent (B)

 (Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1: 6-8, 19-28)






The great prophet Isaiah spoke most assuredly about God’s coming work of salvation in Israel, and in today’s reading he tells of figures yet to come:

I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for He has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.

Who was Isaiah foreshadowing there?  Who would be able to speak like that?  Surely, only Our Lord Jesus Christ, speaking of His humanity.

Isaiah then went on:

            Like a bride bedecked with her jewels.

He speaks there of Mary of Nazareth, bedecked with the blessings of her Immaculate Conception.

And the ultimate reason for all this rejoicing?  It is indeed a most sublime reason, pre-eminently worthy of such rejoicing, because it fulfils and answers both the loving purpose of Our God, and mankind’s deepest longing since being cast out of Eden and away from God’s presence:

            The Lord God will make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

And yet, when that promised Coming One -- Son of the Virgin Mother -- was about to begin His work of making ‘justice and praise spring up’, the greatest of all the prophets, John the Baptist who was uniquely close to our Blessed Lord Jesus on the very cusp of Israel’s fulfilment, found himself confirming Isaiah’s prophecy by making use of much more sober language in order to reveal with all clarity a truly disconcerting reality:

I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord; for there is One among you Whom you do not recognize, the One coming after me, Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.

That is the setting for our Advent preparations to welcome the Lord coming to His spouse -- Mother Church – this Christmas to make her more like ‘a bride bedecked with jewels’.

Dear People of God, look all around you this Advent time at the great majority of Christmas celebrations and you will have no doubt about the truth of the Baptist’s words:

            There is One among you Whom you do not recognize.

Why is Jesus not recognized today by those, so many of them, who were formerly professing Catholics or Christians?  It is, to a certain extent, because many have succumbed to the lure and enticements of popular sin, or have fainted or despaired under the burden of personal and worldly cares.

There is, however, another cause for Jesus being unrecognizable for too many of our fellows, be they nominal Catholics or Christians or just present-day unbelievers, and that is because they have long been out of touch with, and have become unaware of and insensitive to, the Jesus of Mother Church’s teaching and tradition.

Dear Catholic People of God, as Catholics we are the original Christians, members of the original body established by Jesus as His Church on the foundations of His Personally chosen and endowed Apostles, to whom He uniquely said:

I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told YOU everything I have heard from My Father.    (John 15:15)

Moreover, He promised those original Twelve:

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

Those original Apostles are thus the source of Mother Church’s doctrinal teaching and traditions, and it is absolutely necessary that those Apostolic memories of Jesus’ words, addressed Personally and directly to them as His friends for the good of further friends to come through their ministry, that those Apostolic traditions learned from Jesus’ very actions and attitudes witnessed by their own eyes and heard by their own ears, remain intact and appreciated in Mother Church today.  No one -- not even Pope -- can sever us from Jesus’ love and guidance handed down through the ages in those Apostolic doctrines and traditions.

There are difficulties today for a faithless generation wanting to justify itself and confirm its worldly popularity: it tries to confuse issues by subtly ‘updating’ texts, by teaching in accordance with modern preferences while, on the other hand, simply trying to consign to oblivion what cannot be thus ‘updated’.

This is due to the fact that (as Jesus Himself said, John 14:17):

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, and He will be in you.   

The world cannot receive the Spirit of Truth because it does not, will not, believe in Jesus: 

And when He (the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth) comes, He will convict the world in regard to sin, because they do not believe in Me.   (John 16:8–9)

The Apostles, on the other hand, know the Spirit of Truth, because He already abides with them as the future Catholic (universal) Church of Jesus, and will be in them individually, as faithful disciples of and witnesses to Jesus their Lord, their Master, and their Saviour.

The season of Advent is a time of great expectancy, because we are looking forward to the coming of Our Lord and Saviour; and, being certain that His coming anew this Christmas will be for our blessing, we beseech His most Holy Spirit to prepare us to welcome Him with hearts and minds authentically attuned to Him in the Apostolic purity of Mother Church’s teaching and traditions.

We are also aware that at the appointed time -- we do not know when -- He will come in glory to judge the world, to triumph over all His enemies and cast out Satan; and then, after having ultimately established the Kingdom of God, He will lead all His faithful ones to worship, and rejoice in, the supreme Lordship of His Father. This is what St. Paul explained when writing his first letter to his converts in the great Greek seaport of Corinth:

As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.   But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.  Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.  For, He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet; the last enemy that will be destroyed is death, for, "He has put all things under His feet."  (1 Corinthians 15:22-26)

This season of Advent is, consequently, a time of joyful expectancy, because the true disciple of Jesus, although being fully aware of his human weakness, ignorance, and personal sinfulness, nevertheless, most assuredly hopes and trusts that he will ultimately be purified of that sinfulness and called to share in His Lord’s heavenly glory and experience with Him eternal blessedness in His Father’s Kingdom, for Isaiah (40:10) rightly spoke of the Lord God coming to His People with an abundance of blessings:

Behold, the Lord God will come with might; behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him.

And therefore, even now this very day, all true disciples of Jesus can share, take part in -- with all confidence and simplicity, humility and sincerity -- that blessing enshrined in Isaiah’s great oracle: 

I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my GOD IS THE JOY OF MY SOUL.


Friday, 4 December 2020

3rd Sunday of Advent Year B 2020


2nd. Sunday of Advent (B)                  

(Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; 2nd. Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8)



John came baptizing in the Jordan and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins to those members of God’s Chosen People who were sufficiently religious and humble to want to hear him.   This was his message:

One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of His sandals. I have baptized you with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets of Israel -- indeed, as Jesus said, the greatest of all those born of woman -- was sent to immediately precede Jesus and personally introduce Him to His People, and John fulfilled that commission by proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, Saviour, and the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  And that, People of God, is what makes us Christians and Catholics: the fact that, having believed in and been baptized into Jesus, we have received from Him the gift of His Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit within us Who subsequently enables us to cry out to God, “Abba”, “Father”.  The true Christian is one who already shares, in some measure even here on earth, the life of the Most Holy Trinity; because the true Catholic is, through faith and baptism, a living member of the Body of Christ, the Son of God; and, being in Jesus, the faithful soul is moved by the Holy Spirit of Jesus to recognize and cry out as a child to God the Father.

John the Baptist was brief and to the point, in a few words giving us the essential characteristic of the coming Messiah Whom he, John, would point out:

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

The person of John the Baptist is no longer with us, but his call still resounds.  He was given the privilege of preparing God’s People for the coming of the Saviour by the God Who never repents of His gifts; so, though John no longer pours water from the Jordan over those coming to hear him, nevertheless his words remain valid for all time as the only preparation whereby we can fittingly receive the Lord into our lives, “Repent”:

John (the) Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

And Jesus Himself, on beginning His public ministry, took up John’s call for repentance in His very first words, as St. Mark tells us (1:14-15):

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Now, there are many who regard that call to repentance proclaimed in Mother Church today as over the top and excessive: there is, they say, a danger of making ourselves paranoid by constantly looking for sin, for fault, for guilt, in all aspects of our lives?  Should not our lives as Catholics and Christians rather be a manifestation of joy in the Lord?

Yes, there can be a danger of becoming paranoid in an ill-advised and ‘over-the-top’ search for sin in ones’ life, and we have heard of some such cases from the past.  Nevertheless, paranoia is no true fruit of authentic Catholic teaching or practice, nor does the possible danger of ill-advised and excessive attempts at spiritual purification in any way condone, let alone require us, to tolerate sin in our lives, for sin is the most certain evil, and the most harmful influence, in our lives.  Again, it is true, that our lives should bespeak our joy in the Lord, but such witness is not one that can be ‘put on’ in a clap-happy, pumped-up, display of emotionalism.

For the authentic Christian understanding and practice of repentance, we need to look closely, very closely, to our readings today in order to appreciate Mother Church’s teaching in this matter.   What was it that John the Baptist said?  What did Isaiah proclaim? 

John said ‘repent’ first; and then, to Andrew and another of his disciples, ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ just as Jesus was passing by.

That is the composite nature of conversion: first turn from sin, then turn to the Lord.

Turn from sin, try to correct the ravages it has caused in your life; which is what Isaiah proclaimed in those words:

A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!   Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.

Such indeed is the first requirement of repentance in our lives, turn away from sin in all sincerity; and do that in order to turn to the Lord:

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.   

Were would-be-Catholics to simply apply themselves to turning from sin without turning to the Lord, then, that could lead to paranoia.  Were they, on the other hand, to simply proclaim the glory of the Lord without any serious endeavour to reject and avoid sin, such praise would be hypocritical, not what ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken’.  The prophecy of Isaiah is one, entire, and whole:

In the desert prepare the way of the Lord … make it straight, level, and plain … then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Notice too, People of God, that Isaiah’s prophecy provides us with a sure way to test the quality of our repentance: is the glory of the Lord being revealed to you?  Do you, as you grow older, see and admire in Jesus more and more of the glory, that is, of the beauty, the goodness, the truth, and the wisdom, of God?  Do you, as the years pass by, become ever more grateful to the Father for His goodness in calling and guiding you to Jesus?  Do you find yourself gradually more willing to trust Him completely, to trust Him alone?  Do you aspire, more and more, to know, love, and serve Him with your whole being?  If you can say “Yes” to questions such as those then, indeed, you are both sincerely repenting, and truly seeking the face of the Lord; and, moreover, I could confidently say that the glory of the Lord is, indeed, being gradually revealed to you and in you.

But what if -- as the years go by, when you seriously look at yourself and sincerely question yourself before God -- you recognize that you are thinking less and less of Jesus because you are increasingly absorbed in worldly interests and aspirations; that you are more and more preoccupied by cares about money and people’s opinions or attitudes in your regard, and less and less attentive to God speaking through your conscience or drawing upon your heart-strings?  Do you feel yourself obliged to respond in kind for every little benefit you receive from others, a Christmas card for a Christmas card, an invitation by an invitation, a gift for a gift, and yet never think that you owe a debt of gratitude to God for all the many blessings He has bestowed on you throughout Hyour life?  Are you gradually becoming tolerant of failings you are aware of -- you might like to call them ‘mere peccadillos’ -- in your daily living?

All these things are quite possible where Christian people are found no longer looking to God, for God, but looking at others, and looking after themselves.

People of God, let us briefly recall all three of our Scripture readings today: first of all we heard the prophecy of Isaiah made over 2500 years ago; then, in the Gospel, John the Baptist more than fulfilled that prophetic desire by preparing the way for the coming of the Lord  Who would baptize in the Holy Spirit; and we also heard  St. Peter telling us that that Holy Spirit of Jesus is at work in us today preparing us for the ultimate and glorious manifestation of Our Lord; and assuring us most emphatically that many intervening years should in no way dishearten us, for:

With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.

Therefore, no matter what might be the state we find ourselves in at this moment, advent is the season when we are urged by Mother Church to aspire once again to welcome Jesus into our lives to renew them: that His truth might enlighten us, His love inspire us, and the Gift of His most Holy Spirit might protect, guide, and sustain us along His way to the Father.   Time is irrelevant to God, it of this world, not of His heavenly Kingdom, our future home.  What is essential for us, therefore, is that here and now, we have the will to prayerfully aspire to the blessings He prepares for us, and the humility and fortitude to forget our self-solicitude, and by our daily prayer and Christian experience, learn to rejoice as He gradually makes them real for us.

Dear People of God, may your Advent preparations and Christmas celebration thus lead you to fulfil, in all things and at all times, St. Peter’s injunction:

Waiting for the coming of (Our Lord and) God, you ought to be (found) conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion; eager to be found at peace, without spot or blemish before Him.