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 May 2020

Pentecost Year A 2020

 Pentecost (A)
(Acts 2:1-11; First Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the reading from the Gospel of John should have seemed a little strange to you because Jesus first of all gave the Holy Spirit to the Apostles gathered in the upper room:

Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."   And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Jesus was preparing His Apostles, whom He was soon to send out in His Name to forgive sins and transmit a new and potentially eternal life, by giving them the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in their personal lives and public ministry.  You might ask, then, what was strange about that?

This is what was strange: after thus receiving the Holy Spirit from Jesus, the disciples did not, in fact, start preaching everywhere; actually, they went back to Galilee and to their fishing, where Jesus appeared to them once more.  Now that is strange; but it is also very instructive.

In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we were told of another, subsequent, bestowal of the Spirit, and this time a public bestowal, where the Spirit descended upon the Church as a whole:

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Let me bring out clearly for you the difference between these two occasions:

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."

On that first occasion, mentioned by St. John in his Gospel, there was only a small group gathered -- gathered in fear -- a group where not even all the future apostles were present, because we are expressly told:

Thomas, called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

Now let us reconsider the second occasion actually heard in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles:

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  

That was indeed a gathering of the whole Church, as is made clear by the emphatic words: all with one accord in one place; and it was after this public bestowal of the Spirit upon the whole Church gathered together as one that the disciples spontaneously began to praise God:

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance … speaking the wonderful works of God.

And it was only after this giving of the Spirit to the whole Church that the Apostles -- in the person of Peter -- began to carry out their individual commission(s) to proclaim and to offer salvation, through faith in the Gospel, to all their hearers:

Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.  For these are not drunk -- as you suppose -- since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh.’ Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:14-18, 36).  

The Spirit, therefore, is primarily bestowed upon the Church as the Body of Christ -- the whole Body -- not just to one part of the Body, even though that part be the college of Apostles.  Once the Spirit had been poured out upon the whole Church, the special grace and blessing the Apostles had already received became active within them, but not before.  This is what the Apostle Paul taught us in our reading from his letter to the Corinthians:

The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.

As the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ: by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks whether slaves or free -- and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.   For in fact the body is not one member but many. (1 Corinthians 12: 7, 12-14)

A false emphasis on unity has sought, in the past, to impose a strait jacket on Catholics: we are one Body, under one head, the Pope on earth, walking in conformity along the publicly approved road.  But that is not the whole of Paul’s teaching, because he tells us that “the Body is not one member, but many”; for diversity, as in natural so also in supernatural life, is best able to bear adequate witness to the inscrutable depths of the wisdom and beauty, goodness and power of God.

Today, however, whereas our political set-up seems to ape the old-church conformity through its promotion of political correctness, in the Church, on the other hand, the necessary unity under one head -- with the Pope as visible and temporal head of the Body whose supreme, invisible, and eternal Head is Jesus the Risen Lord -- is much enfeebled by individuals claiming the right to pick and choose what to believe and how to behave whilst still, paradoxically, asserting themselves to be true members of the one, universal, Body.

On this day of Pentecost, dear People of God, in our rejoicing, let us rejoice in the Truth: Variety and Unity are both essential in the Church.  She is not what the Corinthians wanted to imagine, that is, a gathering where each and every one could strive to display and develop themselves and their personal egos:

You are still carnal: for where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?   (1 Corinthians 3:3)

On the other hand, neither is Mother Church like some marble obelisk that abides untouched by the passage of time; it is essential for her to grow and develop because the Spirit has been given to provoke change by gradually leading her into the fullness of truth.

If there were only liberal-lefties in the Church, she would be like that herd of Gadarene swine that went off in a wild and unrestrained rush and drowned in the waters of Galilee.  Were there none but died-in-the-wool traditionalists -- more conservative than Rome and more papal than the Pope -- she would be like a lifeless bulk held fast and immovable by its own inertia, impervious to the gentle breathing of the Spirit of Life ever seeking to prepare her gradually for what will be her heavenly fulfilment.

And so, People of God, today we – both as a body and individually – are being offered God’s best Gift: the Spirit of Love, Truth, and Life.   To fruitfully receive what is being offered we must want, we must strive, to use God's Gift for God's purposes, and in God's way; therefore, we should always bear in mind the supreme purpose of God’s Gift offered to us this day: it is for the Glory of God, the good of Mother Church as a whole, and for the saving of souls.

The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.

We must also realize that we cannot hide away in some corner of the set-up and let somebody else do what has to be done, because (1 Corinthians 12:18-19):

God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.   And if they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.  And the eye cannot say "I am not needed"; nor again the feet, "There is no need of us”. (1 Corinthians 12:18-21)

Dear People of God, the high and mighty – even though set on high by the p rovidential purpose of God – are, maybe individually, but above all as a group, always prepared and easily persuaded to think too highly of themselves e.g. using servile language to show their obedience and devotion with regard to the Pope, a practice inviting the old charges of ‘Popery’, and so alien to the ‘feet’ and humbler members of the one Body which we all are in Christ.

On that first Pentecost, as you heard,

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance, speaking of the wonderful works of God.

Today the same Holy Spirit wills to come to us for a purpose: not frequently “to speak with other tongues” in our modern times, but certainly to lead us to “speak of the wonderful works of God” in creation, in Jesus, in Mother Church, and in our own lives.  Each and every one of us should be prepared to give humble glory to God by speaking, in his or her own way according to gifts received, of the effect which the truth and the grace of Jesus has had on our lives: the beauty our minds have been enabled to recognise and appreciate, and the joy and hope which have come to abide and hold peaceful sway in our hearts. We would fail God if we were afraid to be our humble, individual, selves in thus joyfully giving sincere and truthful witness to Him and to the Faith; for our first duty, as the angels proclaimed is to give:

            Glory to God in the highest.

However, because we are all members of the one Body of Christ, besides individual sincerity and truth there must be humility and charity in our mutual relations, because, our lives, with all their gifts and talents, are meant to serve the common dignity and common good of the whole Body, as the angels went on to declare:

            Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His People on earth.

The song once sung by the Angels at the birth of Christ has now to become a sublime and eternal chorus in which heaven and earth unite, because Jesus, having finished His mission on earth and being risen from the dead, has now ascended to heaven where He is seated at the Right Hand of Power.  And, as the Psalmist (110:1) prophesied, God the Father has embraced His victorious and glorious Son with the words:

Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool.

People of God, today, Mother Church is urging and encouraging us to join ever more wholeheartedly in that paean of praise; for the Spirit is being offered us in and through her that we might work to make the enemies of Jesus a footstool for His feet as the Father wills: that is my vocation, it is also yours, indeed it is the vocation of us all together in Mother Church.  What a privilege we have: let us get on with it, with grateful praise on our lips and trustful confidence in our hearts!


Saturday, 23 May 2020

7th Sunday of Easter Year A 2020

Sermon 30: 7th. Sunday of Eastertide (A)

(Acts 1:12-14; 1st. Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11)


Jesus, at Supper with His beloved Apostles, was speaking His last free words.  Soon His suffering would be too great, and those surrounding Him too hostile, for Him to be able to speak freely, let alone open His heart in public prayer.  So, here we have Him, surveying the whole course of His life, what had gone before and that which still lay ahead:

Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, I have glorified You on the earth, I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

From those words we can gather that the whole purpose of Jesus’ life on earth was, primarily, to give glory to His Father by completing the task His Father opened up before Him.  God the Father loved the world so much that He willed His only-begotten Son to take on human flesh.  It is true, of course, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, loved the world as One God indeed, but since the Son Who came into our world is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit  proceeds from the Father and the Son, it is quite truly and understandably said that “the Father loved the world, mankind, so much”.  When therefore the Son came into this world as man it was with the over-riding purpose of responding as divinely perfect man to His Father’s great goodness by glorifying His Father: He lived and died for us in order to glorify the Father.

Here at the Last Supper Jesus asks for the help He would need to carry out His purpose to its ultimate fulfilment:

Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

That is, “Father, I have already given You glory in my life, by my preaching, teaching, miracles, and by leading these disciples to believe in You; now give Me that final help whereby I might glorify You supremely by dying on the Cross for love of You and Your purposes for mankind, and by rising again to You in glory.”

Now, you are well aware, I trust, that Holy Mass is likewise celebrated in the first place for the glory of God.  Do you, however, understand just what that means?  It means this: Jesus, the Son of God made man, considered it His supreme calling to die for the glory of His Father’s name and for the fulfilment of His Father’s good will.  It means that when I, as a priest of Jesus in Mother Church, hold up His Precious Body and Blood saying  “Through Him, with Him, in Him; in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is Yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever”, then, I am saying on behalf of the whole Church and in the name of Jesus Himself:  “Father, You are so wonderful that we, here in Mother Church, are offering You the very sacrifice which Jesus made of Himself for love of You.  Jesus, your beloved and only-begotten Son, the glory of mankind, considered it His supreme calling and desire to die for Your Glory and for the fulfilment of Your will; and as Head of the Body which is His Church, He wills to associate His pilgrim Church on earth with Himself in that offering made once on Calvary and which He now constantly presents before You in heaven where, Scripture tells us:

He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

It is  by obeying His call to offer herself in spirit and in truth with Him, that Mother Church is thereby enabled to become more and more truly the Body of Christ – and in her, you and I are called to become other Christs (Catechism 2782) -- just as the offering of bread and wine becomes the sacramental Body and Blood of Christ.

Now, consider that since Jesus is the Son, equal in His Divine Nature with the Father, it is not the Father’s power or majesty or anything of that Divine Nature which so delight’s His co-equal Son, since He already has and shares in all that the Father has, together with the Holy Spirit.  No, it is the very Person of the Father Who is so uniquely wonderful in the eyes of Jesus His Son made flesh on earth.  And so, Holy Mass, the Eucharist, our supreme thanksgiving, is above all the confession and acknowledgement of the Person of the Father, given by the Son and His Church in power of the Holy Spirit. By His sacrificial glorifying of the Father in His human flesh on the Cross, Jesus saved us, won us freedom from the devil's power, and here, at Holy Mass we can join with Him in His unceasing offering of that sacrifice on our behalf before the Father; and that is why Mother Church both encourages and leads us to proclaim at Mass:

            Glory to God in the Highest and peace to His People on earth.

That glorifying of God with Jesus is indeed the supreme way mankind can learn both peace on earth and become -- in Him -- true, adoptive, and most loving, children of God, as St. Paul tells us:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26);

and as Mother Church teaches us in the catechism (1405): ‘Every time this mystery (of the Eucharist) is celebrated the work of our redemption is carried on.’

Father, how wonderful You are, for it is our supreme privilege and joy to be able to offer You this Eucharist Sacrifice wherein we give you divine Praise and fitting Thanksgiving and also cooperate with and share in the work of our world's salvation, through Jesus Christ, you beloved Son, our dearest Lord and Saviour!

In the second reading we heard St. Peter tell us:

If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  

There, Peter calls the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of Glory.  It was because He was totally led by the Spirit of Glory that Jesus was enabled to give glory to the Father and it is in power of the same Spirit, bequeathed to us by the Risen Lord, that we too are enabled and inspired to give glory to God.  However, we should be clear what that means and what it entails, for quite often Christians think that it is by they themselves doing something notable, remarkable, that they give glory to God. by attributing it to Him, perhaps by saying “I could not have done it of myself”, or “It was really God not me who did it.”  That however is ‘Thanksgiving’ to God, something that can, indeed, be quite beautiful, but it is not ‘Glory’ to God,  for true glory to God is only given by way of witness to the wonder of God’s own beauty, truth, goodness, power and majesty: it is not an achievement, a ‘glory’ which is first of all ours, coming from something wonderful we have done, and which we then attribute to God.                                                         

In order to be able to give true glory to God we must needs come to recognize, and be filled with awe and admiration at the wonder of His Being and the splendour of His creation, at the beauty of our world, and the worth and dignity of our brethren.  For that we must be open to, and filled with, the Spirit of glory and joy.

            Rejoice Mary the Lord is with you!

At this time, therefore, we should do as did the Apostles, of whom we were told in the first reading:

They went up into the upper room where they were staying (in Jerusalem): Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.   These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

They all joined in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Helper, the Comforter, the Spirit of Glory, promised by Jesus. We too, dear People of God, ought to most sincerely and wholeheartedly join in the prayer of Mother Church at this Eucharist for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Mother Church and into our individual hearts this coming Pentecost.  We should want what He wants to result from His coming, begging that He might reveal to us the beauty of the Father and the glory of the Risen Lord Jesus, and that He might also make Himself known to us by the peace and joy His presence gives to our hearts and the light and understanding with which He graces our minds .  In that way, we can hope that we may ultimately come to regard it as life's supreme blessing to be able to offer ourselves in sacrifice with Jesus to the Father.

Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Ascension of Our Lord 2020

ASCENSION OF OUR LORD                 

 Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-2

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. 

All power and authority has been given to Jesus; but He is going away, He is not going to use it Personally in the sight of the world.  The glorious work of making disciples of all nations is to be accomplished by His disciples, His glory is to be theirs, that of His Church, not His own so far as the world will be able to see.

This is in accordance with a consistent practice of Jesus:  after having taken our sins upon Himself, He gives us His Own Spirit to help us confirm and extend His conquest of and dominion over, sin; He makes us adopted children of the Father Who sent Him; yes, He consistently seeks to glorify us and, apparently, let Himself disappear somewhat into the background:

On that day you will ask in My name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you.  For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have come to believe that I came from God. (John 16:27)
He does seem to be living-out the words He spoke to His Father (John 17:10):

            All Mine are Yours and Yours are Mine and I am glorified in them.  

Indeed, Jesus even went so far on one occasion to speak of the Spirit and of the Father with respect to us, omitting Himself altogether:

 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)

However, ironically enough, His Personal humility and love for us is the reason why the world hated Jesus and, indeed, still hates Him and His.  It is not because of Jesus Himself -- His human personality and character are universally admired by unbiased students of His life --  no, the world’s great trouble with Jesus, so to speak,  is that He loves us too much: having taken upon Himself the burden of  our humanity, He now wills to share His divinity with us, to make us divine in Himself, that we might thus know and experience something of the transcendental, all-embracing and totally self-giving love, which is Divine LIFE.

Having made mankind in His own likeness, that is, having endowed him with spiritual freedom, God wills to free us from that which could alone destroy our likeness to Himself, namely sin.   He therefore sent His Son-made-flesh, that He might offer us a choice, that He might re-enable us to use our spiritual freedom to reject the Devil’s ‘toffy-apple of sin’ and lovingly choose to acknowledge the goodness, and give thanks for the great beauty, of our original creation.

But then, even more wondrously still, He wants to enable us to deliberately and whole-heartedly embrace the eternal promise and sublime fulfilment of our being which is in Jesus -- perfect Man and perfect God -- Who, having most innocently shared our humanity to the full, even, indeed, to tasting the deepest dregs of its suffering-for-sin, nevertheless, still willed to draw us back to Himself, as members of His Body able  -- by the power of His Spirit -- to share in His divine glory and  become adopted and true children of the heavenly Father.

Now, the gracious and glorious climax of this divine drama takes place in the Ascension of Our Blessed Lord … Alleluia!   And the supreme question now, as we prepare to celebrate His Ascension, is of course, what sort of relationship can we– you and I personally -- have with the Risen and Ascending Jesus?

First of all, notice that the Risen Jesus is glorious in the Spirit, and today He ascends to His Father in the power of the same Spirit Whom He, Jesus, bestows, as He promised, upon us for our salvation!

Secondly, notice the  fact that ‘Jesus is risen’ means that sin -- through which came death upon mankind -- could not hold Jesus dead; it means that Jesus – by rising -- destroyed sin’s power over humankind, and over the humanity of those who will believe in Him, and in the-God-Who-raised-Him.  Such a living relationship with Jesus now means that sin has no power over us who believe, and that we, authentic disciples of Jesus, need not give in to, cannot willingly yield ourselves to, sin again.

Finally, of course, it means that Jesus is ascending longingly to His Father in heaven, and that we who want to be His true disciples can most delightedly embrace those Easter words of St. Paul:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.   When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4)

Are we able to trust such a Jesus totally with our future, are we willing to love Him in and above our present experience of life on earth -- visibly beautiful indeed, and so satisfying according to men and women of all sorts ostensibly searching for worldly fulfilment, some of whom are already proclaiming themselves to have found in sensual pleasure, personal power and plenty, all the happiness and well-being they need or want?

Here, Saint Paul’s prayer in our second reading is so beautifully appropriate:

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a (S)spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him … that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe, in accordance with the exercise of His great might which He worked in Christ.

Dear People of God, there Paul is telling us that the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus is the model and power-centre for our own rising with Him to the Father Who originally called us.    How, is that holy power to be activated in our lives for us?

We cannot, like Magdalen -- clinging to the Jesus of her earthly memories -- be ever seeking and asking of Him earthly blessings and psychological satisfactions in our passage through life; we have now to learn, with her, how to love Jesus aright as our Ascended Lord, for did not Jesus say to her:

Stop holding on to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ (John 20:17)

Yes, dear People of God, the key to activating the power of Jesus’ Ascension in our own lives is perfectly simple, as unquestioning Mary Magdalen found, namely, obedience to Jesus the Risen Lord and to His Spirit in Mother Church and in our Catholic and Christian conscience!! And that requirement of obedience is the ultimate reason for the world’s hatred of Him: for despite the fact of Jesus’ sovereign love for us and the eternal salvation He offers us, it all -- of its very nature -- involves our obedience; and human, ultimately devilish, pride is at the root of all our spiritual weakness, waywardness, and sinfulness.

Behold I am sending the promise of My Father upon you, stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.   (Luke 24:49)

Let us subsequently trust not in ourselves, for the work of salvation is ever on-going and it calls on us who attend, try to participate in and live-out-to-the-full, Mother Church’s Liturgy, to pray most sincerely for the coming of God’s Gift of His Most Holy Spirit on Mother Church anew that she might receive in yet greater fulness heavenly wisdom and power for the service of Jesus’ Light and Truth against the darkness and deceit threatening the world.

Let us also invoke the Holy Spirit of Jesus into our own hearts, to help each of us learn to better say ‘no’ to ourselves and to all sin; and – in the measure of His unstinting goodness and in accordance with His own good time -- to guide us, lead us, form us for closeness, yes, even intimacy, with Jesus our own Flesh-and-Blood Lord and Saviour, and for love of the heavenly Father Who sent Jesus to us and calls us to Him in the loving bond of His most Holy Spirit.


Friday, 15 May 2020

6th Sunday of Easter Year A 2020

6th. Sunday of Easter (A)
(Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1st. Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21)

In our Gospel reading we heard Jesus make this promise to His disciples:

I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever -- the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you.

"You know Him for He dwells with you":  as Divine Providence, the Holy Spirit had thus far guided the apostles individually to the Person of Jesus and formed them as a body of disciples living with and serving Him as Lord, and publicly witnessing to Him as Messiah.

However, that same Spirit of Truth, Jesus went on to say:

            Will be in you.

For Jesus promised that, having ascended to heaven, He would ask the Father to send another ‘Helper’ for the disciples Who -- as God’s Gift -- will be with them collectively as Church,  and also in them individually, forming them as loving disciples of, self-sacrificing witnesses to, Jesus for the glory of the Father; and thus the Spirit of Life and Love will ‘Help’ Mother Church  bear ‘fruit that will last’: adopted children of God in the likeness of Jesus, the Beloved and only-begotten Son of the Father:

Because I live, you will live also.

People of God, let us learn from the Apostles just how important is the Gift of the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus promises, the Spirit, the Helper, we are now expecting with devout anticipation:

When the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.    For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.  

As living members of Mother Church and the Body of Christ we are in the constant process of being guided and formed by the Holy Spirit living with us all and in each one of us.  And yet, every day, we are being shown that our society and indeed our world, for which we are meant to be both sanctifying salt and guiding light, are becoming alienated, are alienating themselves, ever more deeply from God; and indeed, to such an extent that we are inevitably led to question the witness that we ourselves are giving to Jesus, and to look and pray ever more deeply and humbly for a renewed ‘gifting’ of the Spirit of Truth this Pentecost, in order that He, the Helper as Jesus called Him, might indeed help us prosecute more effectively the work for which we have been chosen: the work of witnessing to the beauty and proclaiming the truth of Jesus to all mankind.  Not only to continue the work He Himself initiated during His life among men, but indeed, do even greater works by spreading the Gospel with its offer of salvation to the whole of mankind as He Himself said:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to My Father.

In the beginning, after man had sinned, we read that:

The Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide (strive, contend) with man forever, for he is indeed flesh.” (Genesis 6:3)

Weak, recalcitrant, flesh, indeed, because mankind became the plaything of the spirit of deceit (1 Kings 22:19-23):

Then Micah (the prophet) said, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left.   And the LORD said, 'Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?' So, one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner.   Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, 'I will persuade him.'   The LORD said to him, 'In what way?' So, he said, 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And the LORD said, 'You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.'    Therefore look (Ahab, rebellious king of Judah!) the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you."

Because of the sinfulness of Israel, because of their rejection of God and their service of demons -- epitomized in their king Ahab -- God allowed them to suffer under the very spirits they had chosen to follow.   And surely, People of God, we can see that same thing happening all around us today, where deceitful spirits are manifestly at work leading multitudes astray: harassing, driving, directing them along ways that can never lead to peace or happiness.

As disciples of Him of Whom the prophet foretold (Isaiah 42:2):

He will not cry out nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street,

we cannot always be condemning the world; nor, as disciples of the same Jesus of whom the prophet went on to say:

            A bruised reed He will not break and smoking flax He will not quench,

can we always be arguing: be it with youngsters who are misguided and largely ignorant, or with older sinners become blasé and nonchalant, having long ago turned their backs on God.

Today we are in a situation very much like that in which the first Christians found themselves in the pagan society of the Roman Empire and to whom Peter wrote in his first letter, saying:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope which is in you, but do it with courtesy and respect.

That is, guard against the poisonous atmosphere of much of today's popular thinking, preaching, boasting and practice, lest it corrode the strength and beauty of your relationship with Jesus. We should not, however, in mistaken zeal, attempt to push our faith onto others; neither, as I have already said, can we be constantly condemning or complaining; rather, as Peter advises, let us be supremely positive:


Pentecost is God’s offer to come anew among us as Church and into us personally as disciples; we should therefore learn from such a Gift, such a Helper, to entrust, commit, ourselves more confidently to His abiding presence with Mother Church, more gratefully to His isHworking-presence in ourselves, and with more appreciation for His gracious presence in-and-among our fellow Catholics and Christians;

Too often we can so easily adopt worldly ways -- gaining men’s praise or a measure of self-satisfaction -- and thereby close ourselves somewhat to the Spirit of Truth, with the result that He cannot work effectively either in us or through us:

The Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide (strive, contend) with man forever, for he is indeed flesh.”

We can so easily live as children of the world: yielding to vanity, refusing to accept unpleasant truths, speaking wild words from emotional upset, uttering calculated lies to avoid what we fear, using words as weapons for aggression rather than as channels of truth for mutual understanding; and in doing such things we allow our enemy, the spirit of deceit -- of whom the prophet Malachi spoke -- to attempt to shackle the work of the Spirit within us.

But, dear People of God, we must never forget that a recognized enemy is no deadly threat for those who sincerely seek God, for by embracing the promise of Jesus’ Spirit coming to us anew at Pentecost we can indeed turn the tables on the deceiver, we can mock him, indeed, put him to scorn, for Jesus' promise to His disciples still holds for you and me, dear fellow Catholics and Christians, in our world today.

We are called and enabled by the Spirit of Jesus to continue Jesus’ work; indeed, as Jesus Himself said, we are called to do even greater works for Him.  Let us therefore prepare, pray, for the coming anew of His Spirit among and within us by opening ourselves up in greater love to the beauty and truth so richly available to us: in the doctrinal and spiritual teaching of Mother Church, in our own ever-deeper prayerful communion with Jesus, and in all sorts of cooperative relationships with our brothers and sisters working in and for society and the world of today.  In that way may we be made truly ready and prepared to:

Give a defence to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in (us);

that stupendous hope which is summed up in those very few words of Jesus:

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.



Friday, 8 May 2020

5th Sunday of Eastertide Year A 2020

             Fifth Sunday of Eastertide (A)

(Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7; 1st. Letter of St. Peter 2:4-9; Gospel of St. John 14:1-12)


With the Gospel passage we have just heard we are introduced into what might be called the ‘Holy of holies of the New Testament’.  These intimate words after the Last Supper which Jesus had so ‘eagerly desired to eat with His disciples’ contain what is, in effect, the last manifestation of His deeply sympathetic understanding of and Personal concern for those whom the Father had specially given to Him, and whom He had long cherished and come to love so very dearly, before Himself being given up to death – a death He not only freely accepted but also most lovingly embraced, ‘entering willingly into His Passion’, as the second Eucharistic Prayer puts it. 

Jesus had already gathered the Apostles round Him for their Paschal meal in the course of which He told them – to His great distress and theirs – that one of them would betray Him; whereupon they were left anxiously wondering who it could be since Jesus did not publicly name Judas Iscariot.  The atmosphere in the room was depressed, even somewhat tense, but Judas then went out -- apparently on a mission confided to him, but in fact into the night and under the powers of darkness -- whereupon the general sense of despondency among the Apostles was lifted and they were free again to respond to Jesus’ words of exultation:

          Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. (John 13:31)

This stark transition from recent depression and foreboding to present joy and expectation affected Peter most of all for, when Jesus went on to say:  

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come’,

He, Peter, could not accept the thought of any such limitation to his zeal for and attachment to Jesus:

          Master, why can’t I follow You?  I will lay down my life for You!

Whereupon Jesus thought it necessary to warn him that, despite his present, and most sincere, feelings, he would soon deny Him three times.

However, Jesus -- having just intoned ‘Gloria’ to God in the highest -- did not want His private words to Peter to further dismay His disciples, and so He hastened to encourage and confirm them in their Gospel faith by advising them how to attain something of that peace and joy which awaited them in heaven, however much threatening clouds here on earth might gather around them and against Himself at this decisive moment:   

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me.  In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 

He says the same to His Catholic people today, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled!’  Difficulties will inevitably arise, for the devil is most manifestly hard at work in this sinful world around you, and indeed, he is at work, perhaps most seriously of all in Mother Church, provoking scandals even among those specially consecrated to the glory of God’s Name.

So, dear People of God, although the world is our dwelling-place it is most certainly no home for us today; and although Mother Church -- infallible in her teaching and unique in her plenitude of heavenly grace – needs the purifying support of your prayers and witness to the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus which she alone proclaims in its necessary integrity; and although, even in your very own loving hearts and faithful minds, the devil is ever trying to tempt and disturb you,  Jesus’ words of true wisdom offer you both human comfort and heavenly strength:

Do not let your hearts be troubled! Have faith in God -- He is Lord and Master of all -- have faith also in Me, for I have promised to be with you in My Church until the end of time.

People of God, it is a sign of true love for Jesus  -- I say ‘true love’, because it is a virtue, a work of self-committal  and self-sacrifice for God, which is totally unappreciable to unbelievers -- when we refuse to allow our hearts to be weighed down, our minds wearied and worried, at the devil’s instigation, by the cares of this world. 

Jesus continued speaking to His disciples, opening His Sacred Heart to them and to us more and more, when He added:

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be. 

Here Jesus tells all who -- together with the Apostles -- long for that supreme blessedness of ‘being with Him’, that it cannot be achieved by our own efforts; ultimately, we can only be truly and fully ‘one with Him’ by His coming to us and our allowing Him to take charge of our lives. 

          I will come back again and take you to Myself.

Not that Jesus will do everything, of course, because He came down among us that we might rise to newness of life in Him and learn to work with Him and by His Spirit for the Father’s glory and mankind’s salvation; and so, He immediately calls on the Apostles and on us to prepare ourselves:

           Where I am going you know the way.

The way, that is, already proclaimed by the Good News of the Gospel and the witness of the Apostles, the way along which all who believe in Jesus must walk towards the Father’s heavenly home.  Let us therefore prepare ourselves to start immediately with both confidence and humility, sure in the knowledge that we will ultimately reach our destination if we walk steadfastly on in company with Jesus.  That is why Jesus will return: to take us with Himself along the Way:

I will come back again and take you to Myself.  I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

At that moment, in our Gospel account, Philip came up with a question that no doubt astonished his fellow Apostles -- how could Philip have asked such a question at such a time and in their name! -- and Jesus Himself:

          Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us!

This both astonished Jesus and it hurt Him!

Have I been with you for so long a time, and you still do not know Me, Philip?  

That question, I say, hurt Jesus because it showed that Philip was not fully content to be with Jesus; it showed that he did not, as yet, really love Jesus enough, and that was because he did not, as Jesus said, truly know Him.  Whatever Philip wanted, it showed that Jesus was not, as yet, enough for him.  It would seem that he wanted the worldly certainty of sight rather than the obscurity of divine faith  and that meant that Philip was not yet content to be with Jesus in faith; he wanted what he thought was more, what was better: to see the Father with his own eyes.   How foolish!!  Would the Father appear other, better, than Jesus appeared?

It was clear-- embarrassingly clear even to his fellow Apostles and, of course, painfully clear for Jesus – that He, Jesus, was not yet, Philip’s all; there was so much of Philip not yet given to Jesus, so much of Philip still wanting for Philip!

In this respect there is a Franciscan tradition of special interest:

St. Francis is reported (Ivan Gobry) to have said, ‘The Order and the life of Friars Minor are like a little flock that the Son of God requested of His heavenly Father saying, “Father, I would like You to form and give Me a new and humble people, different from all those that have gone before … a people that will be content to possess Me alone.”’

Let us learn even from this, dear People of God: Jesus knows our ingratitude, our selfishness, and yet He will lead us, if we are of good-will, ever further on as He eventually led Philip to die for love of Him and the Gospel.

And how many of us -- as Catholic believers -- like Philip want to see something, have something for themselves, other than the ordinariness of life with and for Jesus, when we should be thinking how we can give best witness to our faith and best glory to God for His  great mercy and goodness to us, having given us the privilege and joy of being a Catholic Christian in today’s world where people are led wildly astray by their passions and ambitions, their fears and anxieties, their greed and selfishness.  That is, we all should be thinking and praying how we can best give thanks for the privilege of being a Catholic called to lead  a life of  steadfast faith and calm joy in and with Jesus, and give thereby a sure sign both of our confident hope in His promise of heaven to come, and of our desire to share ever more in His Spirit of love for His Father and for all men and women of good will.

Dear People of God,  Catholic companions and Christian friends in Jesus, that is our vocation in these terrible times of trial, overweening pride, and 'free range' search for love and pleasure: to give heartfelt thanks to God for offering us the great privilege of living a life of humble obedience and loving commitment to Jesus Christ, His Son and our Saviour and -- in the Spirit of Them both -- a life also of humble service and patient  companionship with and for all our fellows.